Wet Tropics of Queensland

Wet Tropics of Queensland, proposed by Australia as a best practice, is interesting as a case study for the following aspects: usual practices, innovative research, community consultative committee, active program of communication, Cassowary Awards for community achievements, community survey.

Summary provided by State Party

The successful management of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area over the past 20 years can be attributed to several inter-related factors that represent best practice. Prominent among these are:

  • Design and implementation of a comprehensive property-specific management regime that integrates and coordinates the interests of the State and Commonwealth governments and the role of various land management agencies and entities
  • Establishment of a regionally based independent management authority for the Area with statutory roles. This ensures effective regional leadership, a close connection with the regional community and continued advocacy for the Outstanding Universal Values of the Area
  • Strong and continuing interest and policy support from successive Commonwealth, State and local governments
  • Establishment and implementation of a property-specific regulatory regime for the Area that applies over all tenures within the Area
  • A system of complementary legislation and regulation that supports conservation of the Area in the wider landscape
  • Sophisticated and well-resourced systems of community engagement for the Area, ensuring that regional communities are aware of its OUV, have a direct and influential say in its management and can contribute to its conservation
  • A strong focus on the rights and interests of the Indigenous peoples of the Area with the objective of ensuring their participation contributes to community well-being
  • Strong partnerships with the regional tourism industry to ensure high standard of presentation of the Area while ensuring tourism development is sympathetic to the effective protection and conservation of the Area
  • An extensive program of management oriented research, building relevant knowledge about the Area and generating information that has application in other protected Area landscapes.

A particular feature of the management regime for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is that the World Heritage status of the property remains a primary driver of management, communications and engagement. Most importantly, the World Heritage status of the Wet Tropics and its outstanding universal values are widely recognised and supported in the Australian community. This is a result of the communications and engagement efforts of the Wet Tropics Management Authority and other Commonwealth and Queensland Government agencies, with strong support from environmental NGOs. This strong foundation is remarkably important in implementing regulatory frameworks, attracting public investment and ensuring alignment in management of the Area.

While recognising that international differences in culture, legislative system, patterns of land ownership and financing capacity must be taken into account, many of the best-practice aspects of the management regime for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area are transferable. Possibly the most important transferable aspect is that of putting people at the centre of the management system and supporting and empowering their contributions.

One-off Initiative for the recognition of best practices

The World Heritage Capacity Building Strategy, adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 2011, responds to the identified needs of a diverse and growing audience for capacity building for World Heritage conservation and management activities. Development of resource materials such as best practice case studies and communication tools are among the activities foreseen by the strategy to improve these capacities.

An example of an innovative capacity building initiative is the recently concluded Recognition of Best Practice in World Heritage Management. This initiative, requested by the World Heritage Committee and carried out within the framework of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2012, solicited applications from World Heritage properties which had demonstrated new and creative ways of managing their sites. Twenty-three submissions were received and evaluated by a 10-member international selection committee which included the representatives of the Convention’s Advisory Bodies, ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN. The Historic Town of Vigan in the Philippines was chosen as a best practice achieved with relatively limited resources, a good integration of the local community in many aspects of the sustainable conservation and management of the property and with an interesting multi-faceted approach to the protection of the site.

Management practices recognized as being successful and sustainable can include everything from involving local people in site management, to creating innovative policies and regulating tourism. There are sites that include students from local schools in the management of the site (Slovenia), train local inhabitants as tour guides (Peru), or even put up nylon fences to protect villagers from straying tigers from the Sundarbans National Park (India). Sharing these practices helps other sites find solutions that work.

This initiative provides incentives for States Parties and site managers to reflect on their management practices and explore improvement possibilities.