The Bureau, at its twenty-first extraordinary session in November 1997, requested that the Australian authorities provide specific information on the results of the financial review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). The Bureau noted that the Minister for the Environment of Australia has informed the Centre that the financial review of the GBRMPA has been completed, and that more detailed information on the recommendations of that review would be made available to the Centre as soon as the Government has considered those recommendations and has taken relevant decisions. (See Annex IV).
The Observer of Australia, informed the Bureau of measures taken to address other potential threats to the site which had been brought to the attention of the Centre and the Chairperson of the Committee by several Australian NGOs. In doing so, she pointed out that the expressed concerns of the NGOs in their December 1997 letter were extremely vague, with no supporting evidence and that therefore they were difficult to respond to. However, she outlined the following steps which had been taken and indicated that she had in fact previously commented on most of these issues.
- rigorous environmental conditions have been put in place on the development activities in the Hinchinbrook region. The Government of Australia considered them to be adequate to ensure the continued protection of the World Heritage values of the Reef; a regional development plan has been developed;
- a special protected area had been established to conserve dugong populations and habitats;
- there are no proposals at present to mine oil shale anywhere near the Great Barrier Reef; the construction of a pilot-plant for investigating the viability of recovery from oil shale near Gladstone has undergone an EIA, but there are no plans to proceed with a full scale production facility in the foreseeable future; any future proposals to proceed towards a commercial facility will be subjected to a comprehensive impact assessment and the Commonwealth Government has made it clear that mining will not be allowed where it could have a detrimental affect to the Great Barrier Reef. World Heritage legislation in Australia would override any such proposals from the states;
- significant conservation measures have been taken as part of the regional planning process to ensure that fisheries management in the Reef is consistent with Australia’s World Heritage obligations and to protect threatened species, and
- recently, a review of the values of the Great Barrier Reef was conducted by Mr B. Lucas. The review report augments information on the values of the Reef and confirms that they are well conserved, and makes some useful recommendations for future planning.