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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Department of the Environment and Heritage Annual Report 2002-03

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003
ISSN 1441 9335

Review of performance - outcome one: Environment (continued)

Heritage

Identify, conserve and protect natural and cultural heritage

The Department is responsible for Australia's national and international heritage obligations, and also administers a range of place-related cultural heritage grants.

The Department's World Heritage responsibilities include advising the Commonwealth Government on the implementation of the World Heritage Convention within Australia and internationally; identifying natural and cultural areas of World Heritage value and nominating them for inclusion on the World Heritage List; and ensuring proper management of existing World Heritage properties, including support for implementation of the World Heritage provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

At 30 June 2003 Australia had 14 properties on the World Heritage List and a further two areas scheduled for nomination.

In 2002-03 the Department worked to identify and protect Australia's natural, historic, and cultural heritage through the following programs:

Rural and regional historic hotels program

(Administered item)

Objective

To provide one-off assistance, on a matching basis, for the preservation and restoration of rural and regional hotels across Australia, giving priority to hotels with strong community significance and works which would provide socio-economic benefits for those communities.

Result

In 2002-03 the Rural and Regional Historic Hotels Program administered 158 grants and provided just over $2.3 million to support these projects. As at 30 June 2003, all but 50 projects had been completed. All the completed projects have successfully restored and conserved significant historic features of the hotels. They have also provided economic and social benefits to the regional communities including employment during the projects and increasing the hotels' capacity to support community activities and tourism.

Federation Fund - St Paul's Anglican Cathedral

(Administered item)

Objective

To conserve and adapt nationally significant heritage places across Australia.

Result

In 2001-02, the Australian Government appropriated $2.5 million for the conservation of the two southern spires of St Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Melbourne. In 2002-03 $1.25 million of this money was spent. It is expected the project will be completed in 2003-04.

Grants-in-aid to the National Trusts Program

(Administered item)

Objective

To support the National Trusts' activities to increase public awareness, understanding and appreciation of Australia's cultural heritage, enhance and promote its conservation, and assist the Trusts to support and work for the preservation and enhancement of the National Estate.

Result

Work completed in 2002-03 included improved management of heritage places, including those in the Trust's care; training and development of Trust volunteers; and continued support for Trust activities and publications which assist and educate the community on heritage conservation practices and raise the profile of heritage amongst the community.

Goondiwindi Serpentine Water Park

(Administered item)

Objective

To protect Boobera Lagoon, an important Indigenous heritage site.

Result

The project provided $5 million in 2001-02 to the Goondiwindi community for an alternative facility for water sports. At 30 June 2003 the major civil engineering work had been completed. A small remaining amount of infrastructure work is due to be completed later in 2003.

Management of World Heritage properties

(Departmental output 1.5)

Objective

To protect and manage Australia's World Heritage properties, consistent with the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act; and to provide management plans to meet World Heritage obligations.

Result

Management arrangements for Australia's World Heritage properties continued to be developed by the Department in cooperation with Commonwealth and state property managers. As at 30 June 2003, Australia had 14 properties on the World Heritage List. They are the Tasmanian Wilderness; the Great Barrier Reef; the Wet Tropics of Queensland; Shark Bay; the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh and Naracoorte); Kakadu National Park; Willandra Lakes Region; Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park; the Lord Howe Island Group; the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (Australia); Fraser Island; Macquarie Island; Heard and McDonald Islands; and the Greater Blue Mountains Area.

The World Heritage values of Australia's World Heritage properties are protected by the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Protection provided by the Act includes regulation of any proposed actions that have, will have, or are likely to have a significant impact on the World Heritage values of a declared property and the Australian World Heritage Management Principles, which prescribe principles for the management of natural and cultural heritage. Additional protection is provided by statutory and non-statutory management plans and management strategies.

In 2002-03, $7.1 million from the Natural Heritage Trust was provided for the management of Australia's state-managed World Heritage sites. Projects supported included management of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area ($2.7 million) and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area ($4.3 million).

Progress was made, in cooperation with relevant state and territory governments, in developing strategic management plans for the Shark Bay and Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage areas.

A joint working group of Commonwealth and Queensland officers was set up to assess the appropriateness of extending the boundaries of the Fraser Island World Heritage property to include the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park, Queensland. The working group is currently preparing its recommendations.

Implementation of the World Heritage Convention in Australia and support for the Asia-Pacific region

(Departmental output 1.5)

Objective

To meet Australia's obligations under the World Heritage Convention, including the identification of potential Australian World Heritage properties.

Result

Australia maintained its leadership, commitment and involvement in international activities for implementation of the World Heritage Convention, including meetings of the World Heritage Committee, expert workshops for World Heritage and UNESCO's periodic reporting process for Asia and the Pacific.

The Asia-Pacific Focal Point for World Heritage, hosted by Australia on behalf of the regional network of World Heritage managers, continued to be an integral part of Australia's contribution to implementation of the World Heritage Convention, both regionally and globally.

Consistent with the Australia-UNESCO memorandum of understanding, Australia consulted with UNESCO on cooperation for World Heritage in Asia and the Pacific, facilitated access to Australia's World Heritage expertise and provided assistance through the Asia-Pacific Focal Point to regional neighbours, including Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Fiji and Vanuatu, for conservation and best practice management of their cultural and natural World Heritage values.

As a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, Australia is required to provide a report to the World Heritage Centre every six years on the condition of its World Heritage properties and on Australia's compliance with the convention. In April 2003 Australia submitted to the World Heritage Committee the first periodic report it had been required to produce, covering all properties listed in or before 1994. Heard and McDonald Islands (listed in 1997), Macquarie Island (1997) and the Greater Blue Mountains (2000) are not covered in this report.

In response to international and Australian concern about the impact of the conflict in Iraq on World Heritage and other heritage sites in Iraq, the Minister in May 2003 established a Cultural Heritage Reference Group for Iraq to advise the Australian Government on practical support Australia may be able to provide the Iraqi people to assist with the recovery and protection of their cultural heritage. Members of the reference group included Australian specialists with expertise in international heritage and the cultural heritage of Iraq, assisted by representatives of key government agencies with responsibilities for heritage management and cultural institutions. The reference group consulted with key professional organisations in developing its final report, which was submitted to the Minister in June 2003 and is under consideration by Government.

The nomination of Purnululu National Park in Western Australia for inclusion on the World Heritage List was progressed during 2002-03. Following a detailed assessment and reporting by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the International Council on Monuments and Sites a decision by the World Heritage Committee on whether Purnululu should be inscribed on the World Heritage List will be made in July 2003.

In December 2002, the Australian Government nominated the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Melbourne for inscription on the World Heritage List, for outstanding universal cultural values, as the best example of the few surviving remains of a significant period of history, the international exhibition movement of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The nomination will be assessed by the International Council on Monuments and Sites in late 2003, and a decision regarding listing is likely to be made by the World Heritage Committee in July 2004.

Preliminary consultations with traditional owners, rock art experts and state agencies commenced in March 2003, to assess the potential for developing a serial nomination of Australian rock art sites. Aboriginal rock art properties that may have World Heritage values have been identified. If traditional owners are in agreement, the Australian Government will formally seek the cooperation of states and territories in preparing a World Heritage nomination.

Historic Shipwrecks Program

(Departmental output 1.5)

Objective

To ensure the protection of maritime archaeological sites while encouraging responsible public access.

Result

The program administers the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 in cooperation with the Minister's delegates in each state, the Northern Territory and on Norfolk Island. In Australian waters over 6500 wrecks have been identified, the majority of which are protected by the Historic Shipwrecks Act.

Achievements in 2002-03 included the launch of the National Shipwreck Database through the Department's web site. This database contains information about known shipwrecks in Australian waters, based on information collected by the state historic shipwreck agencies. Other achievements were the continued development of a National Maritime Heritage Strategy, and the provision of policy and technical advice on the implementation of the Act. The Department coordinated meetings of the Minister's delegates and shipwreck conservation practitioners in Townsville and via teleconference.

Financial assistance totalling $390 704 was provided to the state and territory agencies that assist the Commonwealth to administer the Historic Shipwrecks Act and to the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology. Projects selected for funding included community education programs and publications, wreck investigation work, register development and historic research. All projects selected were consistent with the mission and goals of the Historic Shipwrecks Program.

Protection of Indigenous heritage programs

(Departmental output 1.5)

Objective

To preserve and protect areas and objects that are of particular significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from injury or desecration.

Result

Seventeen applications were received under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 seeking protection from threats of injury or desecration to ten areas. The applications came from New South Wales, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. The claimed threats of injury or desecration related to mining in four areas, infrastructure development in two areas, urban development in two areas and removal of heritage in two areas. There were also a number of ongoing applications that were received prior to 30 June 2002 that required administration.

Most applicants mentioned lack of adequate consultation with the relevant Indigenous parties as an important reason for seeking protection under the Commonwealth Act. Two applications were withdrawn, one of these following an agreement between the applicants and the mining company.

There is currently a two-year declaration of protection for Boobera Lagoon in northern New South Wales, effective from 1 May 2002 to 30 April 2004. The declaration prohibits the use of boats powered by an engine and water-skiing on the waters of the lagoon. The Commonwealth is assisting with the development of an alternative site for power boating and waterskiing at Goondiwindi (see Goondiwindi Serpentine Water Park for further details). The Commonwealth has been active in the enforcement of this declaration, installing signs at the lagoon, liaising with local police and operating a toll-free enquiry number.

Commemoration of historic events and famous people

(Departmental output 1.5)

Objective

To commemorate people, events and places of national historical significance.

Result

The program provides funds primarily to care for the graves of former Australian prime ministers, including erecting plaques where appropriate. The scope of the program has grown to include other kinds of commemorative monuments, exhibitions, surveys of historical sites and other projects, all of national significance.

In 2002-03 six grants totalling $20 000 were approved. Projects funded were the commemoration of Chinese settlement at Beechworth, commemoration of the 1956 Olympic Torch Relay, further restoration of the gravesite of Sir Joseph Lyons, a memorial to Lord Bruce, preservation and display of memorabilia of Sir Earle Page and conservation of the Ossie Merrett Gate at Manly.

Cultural heritage projects program

(Departmental output 1.5)

Objective

To support the conservation of places of cultural significance including Indigenous heritage places.

Result

The Cultural Heritage Projects Program funds conservation works for historic places on the Register of the National Estate and its interim list or state heritage registers, as well as projects to identify Indigenous heritage places for appropriate listing or conservation planning. Through providing grants, generally with some matching component, the program offers tangible incentives and rewards to private owners and local communities in recognition of the importance of their role in the conservation of Australia's heritage at the local level. The program continues to attract a high level of popular interest and demand.

Of the 90 grants approved in the first two rounds of funding, 61 were completed and fully acquitted as at 30 June 2003 (35 in 2002-03), with the remainder due to be completed by 31 December 2003. There were just under 280 applications for a third round of the program from which 64 grants valued at $3.6 million were approved in November 2002, with all but three of the third round grants signed up under a formal deed of agreement by 30 June 2003.

The program delivered positive results in 2002-03, with solid conservation achievements and socio-economic benefits from the 35 projects completed during the year. One example is the significant boost to tourism resulting from the completion of priority conservation works at the Old Macaroni Factory in Hepburn Springs, Victoria. Similarly, works completed at Hambledon Cottage have enhanced the visitor experience in the historic precinct of Parramatta. Works to rectify damage caused by natural disaster, such as the repair of the Pugin Tower to the landmark St Patrick's Cathedral in Parramatta, also provided much-valued support to communities throughout Australia.

New heritage legislation program

(Departmental output 1.5)

Objective

To introduce legislation into the Parliament which will establish a new heritage regime for Australia.

Result

On 27 June 2002, the Australian Government introduced new heritage legislation into Parliament that will identify, conserve and protect places of national heritage significance, provide for the identification and management of Commonwealth heritage places, and establish an independent expert body to advise the Minister on the listing and protection of heritage places.

The package of Bills consists of the:

The House of Representatives debate on the Bills concluded on 14 November 2002. Debate on the Bills in the Senate will recommence during the spring session of Parliament in 2003.

The Bills were originally introduced into Parliament in December 2000 and were before the Senate awaiting debate, but lapsed when the 2001 election was called. Since that time, the Bills have been amended to allow for the listing of heritage places overseas and to implement the Government's election commitments in relation to the Register of the National Estate and adopting best practice heritage management by Australian Government agencies.