1.         Purnululu National Park (Australia) (N 1094)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2003

Criteria  (vii)(viii)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1094/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1094/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Mining,

b) Adequacy of funding and staff,

c) Land tenure.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1094/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

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. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the World Heritage Committee should commend the State Party for its progress in addressing land tenure issues by extending the Purnululu Conservation Reserve with 46,875 ha of pastoral lands, thereby increasing the size of the property’s buffer zone. They also note that the State Party has taken steps to support traditional Aboriginal communities in this buffer zone. Despite the complexity of the issues involved in native title cases, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the finalization of the new management plan should be a priority, in order to give due consideration to the property’s indigenous cultural values. Traditional landowners’ concerns could be addressed by imposing strict regulations on tourism access to culturally significant sites. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the World Heritage Committee welcome the State Party’s efforts to manage fire and feral cattle populations and also urge the State Party to collaborate with local NGOs in identifying Cane Toad response strategies. Furthermore, they note that any mining proposals adjacent to the property should be subject to the highest standards of environmental assessment, including consideration of the likely impacts of these activities on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. 

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.9

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.8, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Commends the State Party for the progress made in addressing land tenure issues by integrating pastoral lands into the buffer zone, thereby enlarging it and increasing the protection of the property, and notes the steps taken to support traditional Aboriginal communities within this buffer zone;

4. Encourages the State Party to develop an interim management plan, in order to give due consideration to the property's indigenous cultural values while the native title case is ongoing, and to address traditional landowners' concerns, by considering potential stricter regulations on tourism access to culturally significant sites;

5. Also notes that there are a number of threats, including fire, feral cattle and invasive species, that could potentially impact wilderness values that are relevant to the property's Outstanding Universal Value in relation to criterion (vii), and requests the State Party to address these issues by continuing the application of prescribed fires to reduce hot fires at the end of the dry season, continuing to actively reduce the population of feral cattle, and collaborating with NGOs to explore and enhance invasive species response strategies;

6. Further requests the State Party to ensure that all mining operations adjacent to the property should be subject to the highest standards of environmental impact assessment, including consideration of the likely impacts of these activities on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

7. Also requests the State Party to keep the World Heritage Centre informed on the progress made in implementing the above.