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Decision : 27 COM 8C.11
Purnululu National Park (Australia)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Recognizing the outstanding universal cultural and natural value of Purnululu National Park, Australia, and the importance of the relationship and interaction between the Traditional Owners and the natural environment of the property,;

2. Inscribes the property on the World Heritage List on the basis of natural criteria (i) and (iii) as recommended by IUCN:

Criterion (i): The Bungle Bungles are, by far, the most outstanding example of cone karst in sandstones anywhere in the world and owe their existence and uniqueness to several interacting geological, biological, erosional and climatic phenomena.

The sandstone karst of Purnululu National Park is of great scientific importance in demonstrating so clearly the process of cone karst formation on sandstone - a phenomenon recognised by geomorphologists only over the past 25 years and still not completely understood, despite recently renewed interest and research. The Bungle Bungle Ranges of the Park also display to an exceptional degree evidence of geomorphic processes of dissolution, weathering and erosion in the evolution of landforms under a savannah climatic regime within an ancient, stable sedimentary landscape.

Criterion (iii):  Although Purnululu National Park has been widely known in Australia only during the past 20 years and it remains relatively inaccessible, it has become recognised internationally for its exceptional natural beauty. The prime scenic attraction is the extraordinary array of banded, beehive-shaped cone towers comprising the Bungle Bungle Range. These have become emblematic of the park and are internationally renowned among Australia's natural attractions. The dramatically sculptured structures, unrivalled in their scale, extent, grandeur and diversity of forms anywhere in the world, undergo remarkable seasonal variation in appearance, including striking colour transition following rain. The intricate maze of towers is accentuated by sinuous, narrow, sheer-sided gorges lined with majestic Livistona fan palms. These and the soaring cliffs up to 250 m high are cut by seasonal waterfalls and pools, creating the major tourist attractions in the park, with evocative names such as Echidna Chasm, and Frog Hole, Piccaninny and Cathedral Gorges. The diversity of landforms and ecosystems elsewhere in the park are representative of the larger region, and lack a unique aesthetic quality, but provide a sympathetic visual buffer for the massif.

3. Defers consideration of the inscription of the property under cultural criteria;.

4. Requests that the State Party:

(a) ensure that any mining activities outside or adjacent to the World Heritage property, including within catchments that flow into the World Heritage property, would be subject to the application of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and the highest standards of environmental assessment, planning, management and monitoring,;

(b) give priority to incorporating the Purnululu Conservation Reserve into the park and expanding the park into the surrounding pastoral country to add important natural and cultural assets, and to provide better buffering and boundary delimitation,;

(c) significantly increase funding and staffing for the property, in order to improve natural and cultural heritage management; to minimize the impacts of grazing animals and invasive species; to upgrade staff and visitor facilities; and to continue negotiations that will lead to improved access to the park, while taking great care to avoid undesirable impacts from increased visitation on the natural and cultural values of the property,; and

(d) Update the management plan of the Park, including:

  • Clearer arrangements for the governance of the nominated property, particularly in relation to sustaining traditional Aboriginal communities in the Park, 
  • An approach to ways of sustaining intangible qualities,; and
  • An appraisal of approaches to ethnographic, sociological and oral recording of intangible and tangible cultural traditions;.

5. Requests the State Party to report back to the World Heritage Committee at its 29th session in 2005 or earlier on their efforts to address the recommendations made by IUCN and ICOMOS in their evaluations of the property (WHC-03/27.COM/INF.8A and WHC-03/27.COM/INF.8B).

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
Focal Point: APA
States Parties: Australia
Year: 2003
Decision Code: 27 COM 8C.11