World Heritage Centre Statement on the Greater Blue Mountains Area
The World Heritage Centre has taken due note of the concerns expressed by various stakeholders concerning the Western Sydney Airport project, located in the vicinity of the World Heritage property ‘Greater Blue Mountains Area (Australia) and appreciates their commitment to the safeguarding of World Heritage.
In the framework of the 1972 World Heritage Convention, and in line with its Operational Guidelines, we have been following this matter since early 2015, in close collaboration with the relevant Australian authorities, notably the Department of Environment and the Permanent Delegation of Australia to UNESCO.
The World Heritage Centre was informed that before making a final decision on this project, the Australian authorities carried out a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which was finalised in September 2016 and took into consideration the concerns expressed during the public consultation process. The EIS concluded that ‘there would be no direct impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage property associated with the construction and operation of the airport. Potential indirect impacts from aircraft overflights (Noise, air quality and visual amenity) are considered to have a low impact on the World Heritage property as the distance from the airport and predicted emission levels are not considered to pose a threat to the Outstanding Universal Value.’*
The Australian authorities shared the EIS with the Centre, along with further documentation, and we forwarded all documentation to IUCN, an Advisory Body to the World Heritage Committee, for review and comments. The Centre understands that following a review of the project by the Australian Minister for the Environment in November 2016, 42 environmental conditions for the project were established. The Australian authorities further informed us that the Australian Minister for Urban Infrastructure approved the project in December 2016, and that the aforementioned environmental conditions have been adopted.
While the Centre reserves the right to bring the potential impacts of this project to the attention of the World Heritage Committee at any point, should the situation warrant it, we wish to commend the Australian authorities for keeping the Centre informed of the progress accomplished with the EIS and the approval process, in line with the Operational Guidelines, and thanks the State Party for doing its due diligence in this regard.
As this project remains a national matter, we kindly invite any interested parties and other stakeholders to contact their national authorities, should they wish to highlight any issues or express concerns.
Finally, please rest assured that the World Heritage Centre will continue to follow up on this matter with the Australian authorities.
* Letter to the Centre from the Department of the Environment and Energy, 2 December 2016.