On 28 January 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides information on land tenure and management issues raised during previous reporting cycles, and refers to correspondence between the World Heritage Centre and the State Party regarding the threat of Cane Toad to the property.
a) Land tenure and cultural values
The State Party, in 2005 and 2008, reported its commitment to extend the Purnululu Conservation Reserve (PCR), to the north and west of the property, by adding 61,817 ha of pastoral lands upon expiration of pastoral leases in 2015. In its current report, the State Party confirms that 46,875 ha have been incorporated and are now managed by the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) in line with the objectives of the PCR. Another 15,583 ha of pastoral lands are scheduled to be incorporated in 2015. Hence, a total of 62,458 ha will be added to the PCR. The State Party also reports that 1,318.8 ha were excised from the Ord River Regeneration Reserve (ORRR) to serve as living areas for local Aboriginal communities.
The State Party reports that the indigenous cultural values of the property will be an important part of its new management plan. Completion of the new management plan is taking longer than expected due to the complexity of the property’s values, its remoteness, and the legal and administrative requirements of an on-going native title case, as part of which the property’s indigenous cultural values are documented. The State Party emphasizes that native title cases in Australia can extend for many years, due to the complexity of issues involved. It reports that the timeframe for the property’s native title case is uncertain, and expresses its intention to report to the World Heritage Centre when the case is resolved.
b) Adequacy of funding
The State Party acknowledges that Purnululu National Park is not funded to the same level as other World Heritage properties on its territory. This is attributed to the resilience of the geological and aesthetic values of the property and the low level of visitation. In line with Committee’s Decision 32 COM 7B.8, the State Party considers that in the above context, the sustainable finance for the management of the property and its surrounding areas is adequate. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that it is not possible to assess the adequacy of funds allocated to the property in the absence of information on the budget.
c) Other conservation issues
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note with concern the statement on Tusk Mining’s website (http://www.tuskmining.co.za) that the company has applied for mining rights near Purnululu, and proposed to develop an opencast coal mine only six kilometres from the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN urge the State Party to ensure that any proposed mining activities within or adjacent to the property are subject to the application of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and the highest standards of environmental assessment. They highlight the need to ensure that any mining operations adjacent to a World Heritage property should not impact its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).
They welcome reports from the State Party that the DEC, since taking over management of the ORRR in 2006, has taken action to reduce threats to the property’s integrity by applying prescribed fires to reduce hot fires at the end of the dry season, and has been actively reducing the population of feral cattle.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have received reports that the property’s traditional owners are increasingly concerned about a lack of regulation of tourist access to culturally significant sites, and that tour operators do not always seek appropriate permission to enter such sites. The State Party is urged to address traditional landowners’ concerns by considering potential stricter regulations on tourism access to these sites in the new management plan.
They have also received reports that the threat of invasion of Cane Toad is imminent. They note that Cane Toad invasions have already affected other World Heritage properties in Australia, including Kakadu National Park, and that this invasive species is increasing its range towards western Australia. The World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party, dated 26 October 2010, requesting more information, to which the State Party responded in a letter dated 3 November 2010, noting that the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities is developing a national threat abatement plan for Cane Toad. Furthermore, the Western Australian Government is implementing a strategy to minimise the impact of cane toads and provide long term management solutions.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that fire, tourism and Cane Toad invasion could affect the wilderness values that are relevant to the property’s OUV in relation to criterion (vii). They welcome the State Party’s efforts to manage fire, and encourage the State Party to address traditional landowners’ concerns regarding inappropriate tourism access to culturally significant sites. They note that NGOs have expressed their interest in collaborating with the State Party to explore and enhance Cane Toad response strategies, and encourage the State Party to seek this collaboration.