Decision : CONF 204 X.A.1
Greater Blue Mountains Area (Australia)
Property: Greater Blue Mountains Area
Id. N°: 917
State Party: Australia
Criteria: N (ii), (iv)
Recalling the history of the nomination, IUCN informed the Committee that the Bureau at its twenty-third session had recommended deferral for the natural part of this originally mixed nomination inviting the Australian authorities to consider the possibility of a serial nomination to cover the full range of values of eucalyptus ecosystems. The Bureau had noted that although the area was nationally important, it was not considered on its own to be a significant representation of eucalyptus-dominated vegetation on a global scale. There were also unresolved integrity questions. The Bureau at the time also did not recommend inscription for its cultural values.
IUCN informed the Committee that a thorough evaluation of the additional material subsequently presented by Australia took place. The additional material did not address the question of a serial nomination to cover the full range of values of eucalyptus ecosystems. IUCN also noted that, while the information provided by the State Party had verified the international significance of eucalypt dominated vegetation, the areas to be included in a serial site were not identified and recommended again to defer the site. Now that the issue was before the Committee to decide, IUCN's advice was to defer the nomination, as recommended by the Bureau in 1999 in favour of a possible serial site and reminded the Committee of Operational Guidelines, Paragraph 19 dealing with serial sites. IUCN noted however, that this was a finely balanced case and if the Committee wished to inscribe the site, it would suggest that criterion (ii) would be a potential one. He also referred to proposed national legislation where the identification of eucalypt heritage sites could go some way to meeting IUCN's suggestion of a serial site. Possible sites could include areas in Southwest Australia and the Australian Alps, although integrity problems may need to be addressed.
The Committee discussed the issues raised by IUCN at length and supported the nomination, in particular highlighting the need to recognize eucalyptus ecosystems on a global scale. Committee members also pointed out the uniqueness of the site in relation to the recently discovered Wollemi Pine and the increase in the representation of eucalypts on the World Heritage List. They emphasised Australia's responsibility in protecting eucalypts in their original ecosystems. The Committee also considered adding criterion (iv).
The Committee inscribed the Greater Blue Mountains Area under natural criteria (ii) and (iv).
Criteria (ii) and (iv): Australia's eucalypt vegetation is worthy of recognition as of outstanding universal value, because of its adaptability and evolution in post- Gondwana isolation. The site contains a wide and balanced representation of eucalypt habitats from wet and dry sclerophyll, mallee heathlands, as well as localised swamps, wetlands, and grassland. 90 eucalypt taxa (13% of the global total) and representation of all four groups of eucalypts occur. There is also a high level of endemism with 114 endemic taxa found in the area as well as 120 nationally rare and threatened plant taxa. The site hosts several evolutionary relic species (Wollemia, Microstrobos, Acrophyllum) which have persisted in highly restricted microsites.
The Delegate of Australia thanked the Committee and IUCN for the constructive process and informed the Committee that the world's most eminent experts on biodiversity and eucalypts have stated the outstanding universal value of the Blue Mountains. Whilst the Greater Blue Mountains has been inscribed as a stand-alone site, Australia recognises that there may be other important key sites of outstanding significance representing the evolution of the eucalyptus.
He informed the Committee that the Australian Government is shortly to introduce legislation to allow listing of places of national heritage significance. These places will be protected to the same level under Commonwealth law currently provided to World Heritage sites. The national list will be compiled according to themes representing the natural, cultural and historic environment. Whilst any particular site can only be listed following a public assessment and consultation process, it is expected that the identification of places representing the evolution of the eucalyptus would be an appropriate early theme for assessment, complementing the inscription of the Blue Mountains on the World Heritage List.