Fire is perhaps the greatest challenge for the management of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA), particularly in the context of a changing climate.
With the September 2020 release by the Parks and Wildlife Service of a range of discussion papers for public comment, we were pleased to see belated progress towards the development of a Fire Management Plan for the TWWHA, as recommended by the 2016 report by Tony Press (Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Bushfire and Climate Change Research Project) and prescribed by the 2016 TWWHA Management Plan. We commented on these fire issue discussion papers in a detailed submission.
The Draft Fire Management Plan for the TWWHA was released in August 2021. Our reservations regarding this draft plan relates less to its contents than what was omitted. Much crucial information is contained in subsidiary plans and other documents (e.g. Reserve Value Fire Protection Plans) which are not published, or do not even exist yet, in the case of the Cultural [Aboriginal] Burning Policy.
A broader concern is the absence of strategic guidance on the optimal future fire regime for the TWWHA. The vegetation of the TWWHA is the outcome of millennia of Aboriginal fire management, followed by two centuries of extremely variable fire regimes and, in recent decades, the influence of climate change. The plan’s objectives include ‘Avoid loss of fire-sensitive vegetation’ and ‘Maintain natural values through appropriate fire regimes’ and to apply ‘cultural burning’. But the plan fails to acknowledge that there is no consensus on how these potentially conflicting objectives are to be achieved.
We appreciates there are good reasons for many of the omissions but the Fire Management Plan needs to include greater acknowledgement of this and provide more detail of how these issues are to be resolved, particularly a commitment to public consultation in the development of key plans/policies and publishing final outcome.