CONF 204 IV.B.21
Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
At its twenty-first session (Naples, 1997), the Committee was informed by the Australian authorities of the rigorous environmental conditions set for the development activities in the Hinchinbrook region and of other measures implemented to strengthen the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef. At its twenty-second session (Kyoto, 1998), the Committee noted that the Australian authorities had acted on the findings of the financial review of the GBRMPA (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) to further strengthen the conservation of the site. In addition, the Committee requested the Centre to transmit the reports from the Australian Committee of IUCN (ACICUN) and other Australian NGOs to the State Party for review and comments and recommended that IUCN provide an up-to-date state of conservation report for the twenty-third session of the Bureau.
IUCN underlined that the ACIUCN has started a process for monitoring Australian sites. The aim is to bring IUCN members together to discuss key issues at each site and recommend actions. This process, although not perfect, has to be encouraged. In the ACIUCN report that IUCN transmitted to the Centre and has been forwarded to the State Party for review and comment, are a number of key points:
(a) the scale and complexity of this World Heritage site has to be recognized as a key issue relating to assessing management effectiveness;
(b) the range of threats, including catchment management and impacts from on-shore activities on the adjoining reef complex needs a co-ordinated approach to management between a range of different stakeholders and agencies;
(c) the need for an effective and representative system of protected areas within this very large World Heritage site; and
(d) the importance of a strong, effective and dedicated authority for management.
ACIUCN indicated strong support for the GBRMPA but noted that the organization needs to have organisational stability and long-term adequate funding. IUCN noted a number of other threats, including fishing, oil spills and oil shale mining and noted that ACIUCN recommended that no oil shale mining and prospecting should be permitted within the GBR World Heritage area and adjacent zones. IUCN recognizes that the GBRMPA has a challenging, complex and very difficult task in managing the Reef. IUCN feels that the state of the GBR World Heritage area should be looked at in conjunction with the IUCN report and the implementation of the strategic plan for the GBR. IUCN feels that the state of the GBR World Heritage area should be looked at in conjunction with the IUCN report and the implementation of the strategic plan for the GBR. IUCN supports stakeholder-Government consultation as part of the periodic reporting process.
The Bureau noted that the Australian authorities had submitted their comments on the ACIUCN Report entitled: “Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area: Condition, Management and Threats”. They have annexed a description of recent management initiatives addressing threats to the integrity of the GBR World Heritage Area to that letter. The letter and the annex were transmitted to IUCN for review. Furthermore, the Centre also received a copy of the letter from Mr. Victor Kuss, to the Executive Director of ACIUCN, expressing his disagreement concerning the recommendation of the ACIUCN report on oil shale mining in the World Heritage area and in the adjacent inter-tidal zone (Recommendation No: 22 of the ACIUCN report).
The Bureau welcomed the two-step process adopted by IUCN to review the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef for the purpose of its reporting to the Bureau, i.e. an initial in-depth review by ACIUCN in full consultation with all stakeholders to report to IUCN Headquarters, followed by an IUCN Headquarters review of the ACIUCN report and other relevant information to provide inputs to the Centre’s preparation of the working document on the state of conservation of World Heritage sites.
The Bureau requested ACIUCN and the State Party to review the 29 recommendations listed in the ACIUCN report, to elaborate a more focused set of recommendations and a detailed plan for implementation and monitoring those recommendations. Such a plan should, to the extent possible, be built on consensus view of all stakeholders concerned with the long-term conservation of the GBR World Heritage area. This plan should be provided to the Centre and IUCN before 15 September 1999 so that a report can be submitted to the twenty-third session of the Committee to be held in Marrakesh, Morocco, from 29 November to 4 December 1999.
The Australian Observer agreed with the recommendation of the Bureau and made a set of observations on the ACIUCN report’s recommendations and proposed follow up actions. The full text of the statement made by the Australian Observer is included in Annex III.