The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is concerned about the loss of “mountaintop arcs of ancient biodiversity” (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is concerned about the loss of “mountaintop arcs of ancient biodiversity” (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

United Nations keeping an eye on our burning forests

THE United Nations is seeking a 'please explain' from Australian authorities as world heritage rainforests continue to burn.

The "Gondwana Rainforests of Australia", inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1986 (extended in 1994) consists of about 40 separate reserves, spread between Newcastle and Brisbane, including large tracts of forest to the west of Coffs Harbour in the Dorrigo and New England areas.

The world heritage area includes the largest areas of subtropical rainforest on the planet, some warm temperate rainforest and nearly all the world's Antarctic beech cool temperate rainforest.

The forests are considered a living link to the vegetation that covered the southern supercontinent Gondwana before it broke up about 180m years ago.

Nature Conservation Council ecologist and local man Mark Graham has been warning of the loss of these significant forests for months now as he actively works to defend a number of properties he owns in the region.

He has already lost a cabin at Billys Creek and yesterday photographed burning leaves raining down on his property at Hernani.

Mark specialises in fire and biodiversity and says the situation is a "a global tragedy".

"I don't think that's over-egging it," Mark said.

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Until a week ago Barrington Tops and the New England national park were the two largest blocks of Gondwana that had not been affected by fire but that changed after lightning strikes sparked fires in those areas; with rain over the weekend making little impact.

"Because these forests have been permanently wet and have never burnt right through, they're like mountaintop arcs of ancient biodiversity."

Now the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage centre has revealed it's keeping a close eye on the situation.

"The World Heritage Centre is currently verifying the information with the Australian authorities, in particular regarding the potential impact of the fires on the outstanding universal value of the property," a statement on its website says.

"The centre has been closely following-up on this matter and stands ready to provide any technical assistance at the request of Australian authorities."

 

Year 4 Bishop Druitt College student, James Quolding, addresses the crowd outside Pat Conaghan's Coffs Harbour office at the Bushfire Solidarity Sitdown last week.
Year 4 Bishop Druitt College student, James Quolding, addresses the crowd outside Pat Conaghan's Coffs Harbour office at the Bushfire Solidarity Sitdown last week.

The office of the environment minister, Sussan Ley, has confirmed the government had received correspondence from the World Heritage Centre about the current fires and the Department of Environment and Energy is working with state agencies to prepare a response.

Last week local students staged a Bushfire Solidarity Sitdown protest at Cowper MP Pat Conaghan's Coffs Harbour office.

It was part of a national day of action to demand the Federal Government increase support to fight fires and take urgent action on climate change.

James Quodling, a year four student at Bishop Druitt College, urged Federal politicians like Mr Conaghan to "recognise and realise that climate change is exacerbating these bushfires.

"At this very moment, many catastrophic bushfires are burning uncontrollably across our nation," James said.

"I am shocked that politicians repeatedly ignore climate change, and how it worsens bushfires."

At 2pm on Wednesday afternoon (December 4) there were 116 bush and grass fires burning in NSW with 60 not contained and seven at Watch and Act status.