The Observer of Australia informed the Bureau that based on the concern that clearing may have occurred within the World Heritage property, the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment appointed a senior officer from the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) as an inspector under the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act (1983). This official would determine the nature of any vegetation clearance that may have occurred on private properties within the World Heritage area.
The investigator reported three cases of clearing, two of which were within the World Heritage area. Based on the advice of the inspector, the Minister for the Environment determined that World Heritage values were not at risk and that no further action was required in relation to these incidents.
The Bureau was satisfied to note that the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area Plan of Management would come into effect on 1 September 1998. The Plan, by removing the ability of land management agencies like Local Councils and the Queensland Department of Natural Resources to clear vegetation without scrutiny from WTMA, and by developing better co-ordination between actions of agencies, will help to prevent the any future clearings within the World Heritage area.
The Bureau noted IUCN’s acknowledgement that it receives a large volume of reports and statements concerning threats to many of the thirteen World Heritage sites of Australia and that it does not have the capacity at its Headquarters in Switzerland to evaluate all of them. The Bureau welcomed the offer of the Australian Committee of IUCN, made in November 1997, to undertake annual assessments of a selected number of properties and to provide reports to the annual sessions of the Committee.
The Bureau recommended that IUCN in co-operation with its Australian Committee, establish a mechanism for assessing, in a timely manner, the continuous stream of information received by the Centre on the state of conservation of Australian natural World Heritage sites. This would ensure that up-to-date state of conservation reports on the Great Barrier Reef, Shark Bay and the Wet Tropics of Queensland are submitted to the twenty-second session of the Committee.