Kikori River Basin / Great Papuan Plateau

Date of Submission: 06/06/2006
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Department of Environment and Conservation
State, Province or Region:
Gulf, Western and Southern Highlands Provinces
Ref.: 5060

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The property is a mixed cultural and natural site covering over 6% of the landmass of PNG.  The Kikori River Basin / Great Papuan Plateau encompasses over two million hectares.  There are few landscapes in Melanesia as dramatic with features including the extinct volcano of Mt Bosavi, cockpit and needle karst of the extensive Darai limestone, remarkable Hegigio Gorge and the spectacular Wassi and Wawoi waterfalls.  The Kikori basin / Great Papuan Plateau contains one of the largest remaining tracts of undisturbed forest in the Southern Hemisphere. The catchment spans across nearly all forest types found in PNG, from alpine and montane forests in the north, to increasingly rare intact lowland forests in the south, to the largest block of mangrove forest in the Pacific. The region has about half the bird species richness of the entire North American continent. Included is a rich assemblage of birds-of-paradise species as well as the world's only underground roosting bird. Many species occur nowhere else in the world.

The region represents three Centres of Plant Diversity, two endemic bird areas, and important segments of the G200 New Guinea Central Range Montane Rainforest and the Southern Lowland Rainforest Ecoregions. Ramsar listed Lake Kutubu - part of the Lakes Kutubu and Sentani ecoregion - is the most unique lacustrine habitat in the New Guinea-Australia region and provides the entire habitat of 12 endemic fish species. Equally Mt Bosavi and the Darai Limestone Karst are of particular importance with high levels of endemism, unique geological formations and extensive cave development.

Over 60,000 people of the Kikori catchment belong to at least 16 different ethnic groups who depend largely on the natural world for subsistence and livelihoods. The forest has significant economic value for timber, ecotourism and non-timber forest products such as the recent discovered valuable fragrant resin eaglewood (also know as agarwood or aloeswood). Lake Kutubu and Mt. Bosavi are host to a number of cultural significant archaeological sites including important burial caves and cave paintings.  The unique longhouse cultures of Mt Bosavi and Lake Kutubu are extensively recorded in anthropological literature.  Collectively, these natural and cultural resources put the Kikori Basin on the map as an exceptional global treasure.

The Basin is also the site of PNG's first major oil development. A partnership between the oil consortium and WWF has led to the declaration of over 86,000 ha of protected areas. These include the Lake Kutubu Wildlife Management Area (24,057 ha), Neiru WMA (3,984 ha), Libano WMA (8,250 ha) and Sulamesi WMA (49,800 ha). Further interest has been lodged by communities to establish protected areas within the Kikori River Basin.  Development will commence this year on PNG's largest industrial development, a USD 3.5 billion-gas pipeline from the Southern Highlands to Queensland. Proposed road development will place extreme pressure on the environments of the Basin.  Many of these threats can only be addressed through coordination under the context of a catchment management programme now being initiated by WWF with key partners. A partnership of NGOs, government, corporate interests offers a possibility for sustainable finance for effective management of the region.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Natural systems remain in remarkable good condition with only a few limited areas of human habitation.  A World Heritage listing would reinforce efforts for catchment management and conservation of the natural, biological and cultural integrity and human survival through sustainable management of resources.  Presence of culturally significant sites in the Kikori River Basin also gives an added reason for the protection of the area. A World Heritage listing will provide a focus for efforts to conserve biologically important areas and promote sustainable economic opportunities such as tourism and forest product harvest.

Comparison with other similar properties

World Heritage Area protects some species that are shared with this region but there are significant differences in species composition, ecosystems, climate and geology.