1.         Great Barrier Reef (Australia) (N 154)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1981

Criteria  (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/154/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/154/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

March 2012: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/154/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 30 January 2015, the State Party submitted the state of conservation report for the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/154/documents/.  The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2014 (2014 GBR Outlook Report) and the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (2050 LTSP) were submitted on 29 September 2014 and 10 March 2015 respectively. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also received information from a wide range of other sources, including a range of Australian and international NGOs, scientists, community organizations and research institutions.  In addition, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN were invited to a series of consultation meetings with the State Party and one meeting of the plan’s Partnership Group.

The 2014 GBR Outlook Report concludes that climate change, poor water quality from land-based run off, impacts from coastal development and some remaining impacts of fishing are the major threats to the property’s future health. As a result of these cumulative impacts, further exacerbated by recent major storms and floods that are expected to become more frequent, key habitats, species and ecosystem processes in the central and southern inshore areas have deteriorated. Analysis confirms that biodiversity and ecosystem health in the northern third of the property is in good condition. The report further concludes that the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is “poor, has worsened since 2009 and is expected to further deteriorate in the future” and that substantial reductions of pressures are required to prevent the projected declines and improve the property's capacity to recover from the effects of climate change.

The subsequent 2050 LTSP aims to address key threats to the property. It defines a comprehensive vision for the conservation of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) over the next 35 years. The plan proposes 7 major outcomes for the property to be delivered by 2050 and sets out concrete actions that are linked to defined targets by 2020 and medium-term objectives by 2035. The plan was subject to public consultation, including a multi-stakeholder partnership group. The plan states that adequate finance will be provided and outlines proposals for an investment framework that will be established in 2015-16 to determine investment priorities and optimization of resource allocation across all partners to ensure effective implementation.  Implementation will be overseen by the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum, supported by an intergovernmental operational committee, and will be guided by a Reef Advisory Committee and an independent expert panel. The plan's performance will be subject to a 5-yearly evaluation and adaptation based on the findings of the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Reports. 

The State Party further reports progress towards the Reef Plan targets based on the latest water quality Report Card and a reduction in the scale of proposed Abbot Point port development.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The 2014 GBR Outlook report confirms the scale of major challenges facing the property, and underlines the need for a significant response to be put in place by the State Party.  It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee welcome the progress achieved by the State Party towards such a response through the 2050 LTSP, including the overarching strategy for the management of the property. The establishment of such a plan through a multi-stakeholder process at the scale of the property is in itself a major technical and policy achievement. Measures that represent significant progress in responding to key World Heritage Committee requests include:

The next phase of work needs to deliver the effective inception of the plan, and build the momentum for sustained implementation. A number of issues are still to be completed. A number of commitments within the 2050 LTSP require translation into legislation including, among others, restrictions on port development and its associated activities such as the disposal of dredged material. Sustained, adequate financing is central to the plan's performance. The proposed investment framework should be established as a matter of priority and should provide a convincing demonstration that the necessary investment to achieve the plan is being made and will be sustained.

Considering the fundamental importance of successful implementation of the 2050 LTSP and the work to be completed, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee request the State Party to submit an update on its progress for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, and taking note that if the anticipated progress is not being made this should also be reviewed by the Committee at its session in 2017.

Considering that the first set of targets of the 2050 LTSP are expected to be reached by 2020, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee requests a report on the state of conservation of the property for review at its 44th session in 2020. The report should detail the results achieved for each target and link progress to the scientific findings of the anticipated 2019 GBR Outlook. It is essential that the 2050 LTSP delivers its anticipated results in order to confirm that the property does not face ascertained or potential danger to its OUV.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7B.7

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 36 COM 7B.8, 37 COM 7B.10, and 38 COM 7B.63, adopted at its 36th (Saint-Petersburg, 2012), 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) and 38th (Doha, 2014) sessions respectively,
  3. Notes with concern the conclusion of the 2014 Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report that the overall Outlook for the property is poor, and that climate change, poor water quality and impacts from coastal development are major threats to the property’s health and regrets that key habitats, species and ecosystem processes in the central and southern inshore areas have continued to deteriorate from the cumulative effects of these impacts;
  4. Welcomes the State Party’s efforts, in consultation and partnership with stakeholders, to establish the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (2050 LTSP) that outlines an overarching vision for the future conservation of the property over the next 35 years and, in particular:
    1. The establishment of an 80% reduction in pollution run-off in the property by 2025 and the commitment of an initial additional investment of AUS 200 million dollars to accelerate progress in water quality improvements,
    2. The confirmation of protection of greenfield areas by restricting major new port development in and adjoining the property, thereby limiting capital dredging for the development of new or expansion of existing port facilities within the regulated port limits of the major ports of Gladstone, Hay Point/Mackay, Abbott Point and Townsville, excluding Fitzroy Delta, North Curtis Island and Keppel Bay from future port development and ensuring consistency with the 2003 Great Barrier Reef Zoning Plan,
    3. The commitment toward a 5-yearly evaluation of the plan performance and adaptation of its actions and targets on the basis of the results of future Great Barrier Reef Outlook reports;
  5. Also welcomes the State Party’s decision to reconsider the approval to dispose capital dredge material inside the property from the proposed Abbot Point development and the commitment to establish a permanent ban on dumping of dredged material from all capital dredging projects within the property;
  6. Considers that the effective implementation of the 2050 LTSP, supported by clear oversight and accountability, research, monitoring and adequate and sustained financing, is essential to respond to the current and potential threats to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, and requests the State Party to rigorously implement all of its commitments of the 2050 LTSP, including where necessary through their inclusion in legislation, in order to halt the current documented declines in the property, create the conditions for sustained recovery and to enhance the property’s resilience;
  7. Takes note of the State Party commitment to establish an investment framework in 2015 and also considers that this is an essential requirement for the effective implementation of the 2050 LTSP, that should be established as a matter of priority;
  8. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2016, an update on progress with implementation of the 2050 LTSP to confirm that the inception of the plan has been effective, and the Investment Strategy has been established, for examination by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, and if in their assessment the anticipated progress is not being made, for consideration at the subsequent session of the World Heritage Committee in 2017;
  9. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, an overall state of conservation report, including a 1-page summary, on the state of conservation of the property demonstrating effective and sustained protection of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value and effective performance in meeting the targets established under the 2050 LTSP, linked to the findings of the 2014 and anticipated 2019 Great Barrier Reef Outlook Reports, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.