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Wednesday, 26 June 1996
Page: 2237

Senator McGAURAN —My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment. I note that earlier today you announced that Australia has nominated Macquarie Island, Heard Island and McDonald Island for world heritage listing. Will the minister explain why the Australian government decided to nominate these islands and what involvement the Tasmanian government had in relation to the nomination of Macquarie Island?

Senator HILL —I thank the honourable senator for his question. Today the coalition government is fulfilling its election commitment to nominate Macquarie Island, Heard Island and McDonald Island for world heritage listing. We made that commitment because we believe that these islands are of world significance in relation to their natural and geological values. They are places of great beauty and are, in many respects, unique.

I am particularly pleased that, in relation to Macquarie Island, which is part of Tasmania, we have developed this nomination in full cooperation with the Tasmanian government. It augers well for a constructive relationship between the states and this Commonwealth government on world heritage issues. We are nominating Macquarie Island because of its unique geological values. Macquarie Island is unique because it is the only place known where the solid outer shell of the oceanic crust of the planet is exposed above sea level. Did you know that, Senator Faulkner?

Senator Faulkner —I did.

Senator HILL —It is also the site of continuing fault line activity and is therefore an example of ongoing geological processes. Its value from a scientific and conservation point of view is therefore of universal significance. That fact was recognised in 1995 by an ICUN study of the sub-Antarctic islands, which gave Macquarie a perfect score for its geological values.

Heard Island and McDonald Island, which are Commonwealth territories, are being nominated for their natural heritage values. Those islands contain unique physical processes, particularly in relation to island formation. They are the only sub-Antarctic islands where volcanic activity is currently taking place.

We are also nominating Heard and McDonald for their outstanding biological value. Due to minimal impact of human activity, the flora and fauna of these islands remains relatively undisturbed and is of enormous ecological value. In addition, these islands are of outstanding natural beauty. They can lay fair claim, I am told, to being one of the wildest places on earth.

The nominations will be sent to the World Heritage Centre in Paris today. We expect that the process for considering these islands will take about 18 months. These nominations provide tangible evidence of this government's ongoing commitment to the aims and intents of the World Heritage Convention. They build on the nominations of former coalition governments which, as you know, include the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu stage 1, Lord Howe Island and the Tasmanian wilderness. I also commend the officials of my department for their professional skill and effort in enabling us to meet this promise so early in our first term of government.