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A joint international expert mission to the World Heritage property of Great Barrier Reef by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is taking place from 5 to 14 March 2012.

The World Heritage Committee, at its 35th session in June 2011 (Paris) examined the state of conservation of Great Barrier Reef (Australia), inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981. The Committee noted with extreme concern the approval of Liquefied Natural Gas processing and port facilities on Curtis island within the World Heritage property. The Committee further requested the Australian Government invite a reactive monitoring mission to visit the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage site.

 The objective of this monitoring mission is to assess the overall state of conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Great Barrier Reef; and to assist the Australian Government with the strategic assessment they are undertaking to provide for the long-term sustainable conservation of the World Heritage property.

The mission will visit not only the pristine and iconic areas of the Great Barrier Reef, but also the adjacent urban, industrial and port areas that are fundamental to Queensland and Australia’s future economic and community development. The World Heritage Centre, IUCN and both the Australian and Queensland governments are working in close collaboration to plan and coordinate the mission. Opportunities will be provided for the mission to meet with the Australian authorities at both the federal and state level, leading Australian scientists who contribute their valuable knowledge to managing the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding environments.  These scientists will provide an independent perspective on the status of risks to the site.  The mission will also meet with a range of key stakeholders including environmental groups, local governments, Traditional Owners and industry groups.

The WHC and IUCN experts are expected to prepare a joint report which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its next session which will take place in June/July 2012 in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation. The state of conservation of the property has been included on the agenda of the 36th session of the World Heritage Committee.

Press queries: Leanne O’Rourkes

Leanne.O’Rourkes@environment.gov.au