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Gondwana Rainforests of Australia

Australia
Factors affecting the property in 2023*
  • Fire (widlfires)
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Ground transport infrastructure (proposed cableway) (issue resolved)
  • Unprecedented fires that affected more than half of the property
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2023
N/A
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2023
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2023**
N/A
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 1 December 2022, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/368/documents/ and reports the following:

  • Following the unprecedented bushfires of 2019–2020, some areas of the property and particular plant and animal species appear to be recovering well, while other areas experienced high to catastrophic ecological impacts from the fires;
  • Monitoring has been put in place to track the ongoing health and recovery of areas and species impacted by the 2019–2020 fires, including a new assessment methodology to incorporate the use of remotely sensed spatial data. Additional monitoring and research are required to assess the impact of fire and climate change on other species;
  • Recovery actions and adaptive management strategies are in place to strengthen the resilience of the property against future natural disasters. These reflect a strong collaborative effort by the Australian, New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland governments in partnership with other stakeholders and rightsholders, including First Nations peoples and local communities. First Nations communities are involved in on-the-ground fire management through cultural burning;
  • The national Threatened Species Action Plan 2022–2032 has been released, which sets out a pathway for recovery of threatened species and threatened ecological communities over the next ten years, including species which occur in the property;
  • Surveys on the impact of Myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) found its symptoms and damage in all survey sites in fire-affected areas of the property;
  • Implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the National Natural Disaster Arrangements is underway, with progress reported on the National Emergency Management Agency website;
  • The flooding events of early and mid-2022 along the east coast of Australia, following similar events in previous years, caused further landslides, tree falls, flood debris, and major repeated damage to facilities and infrastructure including roads, fire trails, bridges, causeways and walking tracks across the property, particularly in NSW, which resulted in property-wide and local closures for visitor safety. Damage is still being assessed in more remote areas. Implementation of some of the bushfire recovery actions has been delayed as a result of the flooding also;
  • Australia has increased its commitment to action on climate change including strengthened climate ambition through legislated targets as an enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement to reduce Australia’s emissions by 43% on 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve zero net emissions by 2050.

On 17 March 2023, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party to verify information received from a third party concerning a water mining license reportedly granted to extract water from the vicinity of Springbrook National Park, a component of the property, which might negatively impact the property's Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). On 20 April 2023, the State Party replied to inform that under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), any action that will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on the OUV of a World Heritage property must be referred to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment for a decision. The State Party notes that at this stage the water mining license proposal has not been referred but that it is quite common for proponents to progress approval processes at the state level before referring an action to the Australian Government, and the Australian Government will advise the World Heritage Centre if this proposed action is determined to require assessment for potential significant impacts on the OUV of the property in accordance with the Operational Guidelines.

On 23 May 2023, the State Party sent a letter to the World Heritage Centre to provide updates, including publication of updated climate variability assessment of World Heritage properties in Australia and a climate change toolkit for Australia’s World Heritage property managers to undertake comprehensive climate change adaptation planning.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2023

Continued collaborative efforts in post-fire monitoring and recovery actions by the Australian, NSW and Queensland governments and other stakeholders and rightsholders including First Nations peoples are appreciated. However, the impacts on the OUV of the property as a result of the 2019-20 bushfires remain of utmost concern, particularly considering that the property contains sensitive ecosystems which are not adapted to fires. Whilst it is encouraging that some areas of the property and particular species appear to be recovering well, it is concerning that high to catastrophic ecological impacts from the fires have been observed in some other areas of the property.

It is recalled that the State Party was requested to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN, an update on the process of assessing the impacts of fires on the OUV of the property and its recovery prospects. The information regarding recovery of species that contribute to the OUV of the property, including the brush-tailed rock-wallaby (Petrogale penicillata), as well as efforts to understand the impacts of the fires on other species such as the Nightcap oak (Eidothea hardeniana), and promote their recovery is noted. It is of concern that symptoms and damage caused by Myrtle rust, a plant pathogen that causes severe die-back in species of the Myrtaceae family, were found in all fire-affected survey sites in the property.

Acknowledging that some recovery activities have been delayed due to the flooding in the wider region and recalling the commitments of the State Party in its immediate management response to the bushfires, the State Party should be encouraged to continue the management actions to support the recovery of the property. These actions should include the monitoring of ongoing health and recovery of areas and species, including those that require additional research to understand the impacts of the fires and climate change, as well as recovery actions and adaptive management strategies.

Furthermore, it is important that the recommendations of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements are implemented in order to strengthen emergency management as well as climate and natural disaster risk reduction. It is welcomed that the lessons learned from the 2019–2020 bushfires, including cultural fire management by First Nations communities, are made available through the reports and weblinks to promote knowledge exchange on fire management strategies for other States Parties facing similar threats to their World Heritage properties, as well as the publication of the updated climate variability assessment and climate change adaptation toolkit for the site managers.

As climate change is an increasing threat to this and other World Heritage properties in Australia, the Committee should welcome the continued efforts of the State Party to build understanding of projected changes resulting from climate change in relation to the property’s OUV, and request that knowledge and understanding gained through these processes are used to guide adaptive management strategies to strengthen the climate and disaster resilience of the property.

The response of the State Party on the third party information concerning the granting of a water mining license to extract water from the vicinity of Springbrook National Park is noted and it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to inform the World Heritage Centre once the Australian Government has received the proposal referral and determined whether the proposed activity will be subject to further impact assessment in relation to the OUV of the property.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2023
45 COM 7B.79
Gondwana Rainforests of Australia (Australia) (N 368bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examinedDocument WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 44 COM 7B.89 adopted at its extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) session,
  3. Noting with appreciation the State Party’s continued collaborative efforts in post-fire monitoring and recovery actions, expresses its utmost concern about the negative impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires to the attributes of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), in particular species that are vulnerable to the impacts of fire;
  4. Also recalling that the State Party initiated an immediate management response following the fires including assessment of impacts, planning and funding commitments to ensure long-term recovery, takes note that some recovery efforts have been delayed due to the recent flooding in the region, and encourages the State Party to continue management actions to support the recovery of the property, including the monitoring of ongoing health and recovery of areas and species, as well as recovery actions and adaptive management strategies;
  5. Notes with concern the impact of Myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) across fire-affected areas of the property, requests the State Party to continue monitoring to address its impact on the property’s OUV;
  6. Welcomes the continued efforts of the State Party to develop an understanding of projected changes resulting from climate change in relation to the property’s OUV, also requests the State Party to utilise the knowledge and understanding gained through these processes to guide adaptive management strategies to strengthen the climate and disaster resilience of the property;
  7. Further requests the State Party to continue implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements in order to strengthen emergency management as well as climate and natural disaster risk reduction; and also welcomes the development of an updated climate variability assessment methodology and climate change toolkit for the World Heritage properties;
  8. Appreciates the efforts of the State Party to share the lessons learned with other States Parties to the Convention facing similar threats, promoting knowledge exchange on fire management strategies at World Heritage properties;
  9. Also noting the information that the approval process for the granting of a water mining license to extract water from the vicinity of Springbrook National Park is not completed, requests furthermore the State Party to inform the World Heritage Centre once the Australian Government has received the proposal referral and determined whether the proposed activity will be subject to further impact assessment in relation to the property;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2024, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 47th session.
Draft Decision: 45 COM 7B.79

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 44 COM 7B.89, adopted at its extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) session,
  3. Noting with appreciation the State Party’s continued collaborative efforts in post-fire monitoring and recovery actions, expresses its utmost concern about the negative impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires to the attributes of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), in particular species that are vulnerable to the impacts of fire;
  4. Also recalling that the State Party initiated an immediate management response following the fires including assessment of impacts, planning and funding commitments to ensure long-term recovery, takes note that some recovery efforts have been delayed due to the recent flooding in the region, and encourages the State Party to continue management actions to support the recovery of the property, including the monitoring of ongoing health and recovery of areas and species, as well as recovery actions and adaptive management strategies;
  5. Notes with concern the impact of Myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) across fire-affected areas of the property, requests the State Party to continue monitoring to address its impact on the property’s OUV;
  6. Welcomes the continued efforts of the State Party to develop an understanding of projected changes resulting from climate change in relation to the property’s OUV, also requests the State Party to utilise the knowledge and understanding gained through these processes to guide adaptive management strategies to strengthen the climate and disaster resilience of the property;
  7. Further requests the State Party to continue implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements in order to strengthen emergency management as well as climate and natural disaster risk reduction; and also welcomes the development of an updated climate variability assessment methodology and climate change toolkit for the World Heritage properties;
  8. Appreciates the efforts of the State Party to share the lessons learned with other States Parties to the Convention facing similar threats, promoting knowledge exchange on fire management strategies at World Heritage properties;
  9. Also noting the information that the approval process for the granting of a water mining license to extract water from the vicinity of Springbrook National Park is not completed, requests furthermore the State Party to inform the World Heritage Centre once the Australian Government has received the proposal referral and determined whether the proposed activity will be subject to further impact assessment in relation to the property;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2024, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 47th session.
Report year: 2023
Australia
Date of Inscription: 1986
Category: Natural
Criteria: (viii)(ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2022) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 45COM (2023)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.