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Department of the Environment and Water Resources annual report 2006–07

Volume two
Department of the Environment and Water Resources, 2007
ISSN 1441-9335

Legislation annual reports 2006–07 (continued)

Operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (continued)

3. Managing heritage and protecting significant areas

Listing and managing heritage places in Australia

The Australian Government's heritage system provides protection for national heritage places as a matter of national environmental significance, complementing the world heritage provisions within the EPBC Act.

The Australian Heritage Council Act 2003 established the Australian Heritage Council as the Australian Government's principal advisory body on heritage matters. The Australian Heritage Council has responsibility under the EPBC Act for assessing the heritage values of places for the National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage List.

Amendments to the EPBC Act and Australian Heritage Council Act 2003, which came into effect on 19 February 2007, introduced some changes to the nomination process and the role of the Australian Heritage Council. The amendments also introduced a process under which the minister makes an annual call for public nominations for the lists and decides on a finalised priority assessment list of nominations which the council will assess in the forthcoming year. The council provides its assessments to the minister who makes the decision on whether places are listed.

World heritage

There are 17 Australian properties inscribed on the World Heritage List. The Sydney Opera House was inscribed on the World Heritage List on 28 June 2007.

Under the EPBC Act, the Australian Government must use its best endeavours to ensure that a plan for managing a world heritage property is prepared and implemented cooperatively with the state or territory in which the property is situated. The plan should be consistent with Australia's obligations under the World Heritage Convention and the Australian World Heritage Management Principles.

Fifteen of the 17 Australian properties in the World Heritage List have management plans. A number of management plans for Australia's world heritage properties were prepared before EPBC Act requirements applied. In 2006—07 work was undertaken to bring several of these plans into line with EPBC Act requirements as they become due for renewal under state statutory timeframes and processes. They include:

Serial nomination of convict places to the World Heritage List

The Australian Government is currently preparing an Australian convict sites world heritage nomination. The proposed serial listing includes 11 places from around Australia. Two are already in the National Heritage List (Port Arthur and Fremantle Prison). As of 30 June 2007, the Australian Heritage Council has assessed eight others:

The remaining place (Brickendon and Woolmers, Tasmania) is still under assessment by the Australian Heritage Council. The intention is to submit the nomination to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2007.

Most of the management plans for the individual places are in the process of review or preparation. In 2006—07 the department provided $20,000 funding to update the conservation management plan for Woolmers Estate and committed approximately $70,000 for a management plan for Brickendon Estate.

The department provided comments on management plans being prepared for the Cascades Female Factory in Hobart and the Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area on Norfolk Island, and contributed to the management plan for the Fremantle Prison currently in preparation.

List of Overseas Places of Historic Significance to Australia

The 2007 amendments to the EPBC Act established the List of Overseas Places of Historic Significance to Australia. This list provides for symbolic recognition of overseas places which are of outstanding historic significance to Australia. The minister subsequently entered Anzac Cove, Turkey; the Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea and Howard Florey's laboratory, United Kingdom in the list.

National heritage

As at 30 June 2007 there were 59 places in the National Heritage List, with 28 places added to the list in 2006—07 following assessments by the Australian Heritage Council. These include 16 places added to the list following new legislative provisions that allow the inclusion in the National Heritage List of places in the World Heritage List. These places were:

The other places added to the National Heritage List in 2006—07 were:

The minister decided not to include seven places in the national list in 2006—07.

Under the EPBC Act prior to 19 February 2007, the Australian Heritage Council was requested by the minister to undertake 54 new assessments of places for the National Heritage List. Following the amendments, 23 nominations were forwarded to the Australian Heritage Council for consideration for inclusion in the first proposed priority assessment list under section 324JA. As at 30 June 2007 the council had completed a total of 97 assessments for the National Heritage List (21 in 2006—07).

Provisions in the EPBC Act enable the minister to include in the National Heritage List a place that the minister believes may have national heritage values which are under threat. In 2006—07 the minister received requests to emergency list six places in the National Heritage List. As at 30 June 2007 no places were emergency listed, two had been rejected, and four had been withdrawn or had not proceeded.

One of these emergency listing requests related to the Burrup Peninsula. The request was to include the entire Dampier Archipelago in the list. The minister declined the request. However, under the standard listing provisions of the EPBC Act, the minister included the Dampier Archipelago, including Burrup Peninsula, in the National Heritage List on 3 July 2007 ensuring protection of Indigenous heritage without compromising the viability of nationally important industries.

Progress in developing management plans for national heritage places

To ensure the protection of a national heritage place, the EPBC Act provides for the preparation of management plans which set out how the significance of the site will be protected or conserved. Where a national heritage place is not entirely within a Commonwealth area and is in a state or territory, the Australian Government must use its best endeavours to ensure that a management plan is prepared and implemented in cooperation with the relevant state or territory government. The minister is responsible for preparing management plans for national heritage places in Commonwealth areas.

Many of the places included in the National Heritage List have management plans prepared under state or territory legislative arrangements which may not fully satisfy the requirements of the EPBC Act. Sometimes multiple plans exist for the same place, often because of the different institutional owners involved. A study commissioned by the department and completed in December 2006 (Management Plans for National and World Heritage Properties) noted that most national heritage places had some form of management plan in place. However, as the great majority of management plans pre-date the Act, most plans do not meet its requirements. The study also found that while a management plan may not meet the requirements of the Act, a number were effective in complying with current conservation planning best practice and were likely to lead to the conservation of national heritage values.

As a result of the study, and the development of a priority list for the development of management plans, the Australian Government provided financial assistance (in accordance with section 324ZB of the Act) towards the development of management plans for Richmond Bridge (Tasmania), Batavia Shipwreck Site and Survivor Camps Area 1629 — Houtman Abrolhos (Western Australia), the Dirk Hartog Landing Site 1616 — Cape Inscription Area (Western Australia) and Recherche Bay North-east Peninsula (Tasmania).

Work began on two management plans for the Point Nepean Defence Sites and Quarantine Station Area after the place was added to the National Heritage List. The Quarantine Station is also on the Commonwealth Heritage List. The plans, prepared by Parks Victoria, the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, and the Point Nepean Community Trust, include an integrated management plan for the entire area and a conservation management plan for the Quarantine Station. The plans address the requirements of the Act for national and Commonwealth heritage listed places. It is anticipated that the plans will be finalised by the end of 2007.

In 2006—07 the department was involved in consultations over the development of plans for other national heritage places: Mawson's Huts Historic Site (Australian Antarctic Territory), Recherche Bay North-east Peninsula (Tasmania), and Old Parliament House (Australian Capital Territory).

National Heritage List communications themes

One of the objectives of the National Heritage List is to achieve greater protection through promoting greater public awareness and understanding of Australia's heritage and its importance to Australia's national identity. A branding framework and four-year communication strategy have been developed to help the long-term protection of places on the National Heritage List by increasing Australians' involvement in, understanding of, and commitment to Australia's heritage. As part of this strategy, additions to the National Heritage List have achieved extensive media coverage of the list and individual sites.

The first half of 2006—07 saw the completion of the 2006 national heritage theme, 'coastal and maritime heritage'.

The Australian Government sponsored part of the voyage of the Duyfken (a replica of a small Dutch ship which in 1606 landed on the western side of Cape York) to mark the 400th anniversary of the first documented European contact with and mapping of Australia. The voyage also served as the centrepiece of the government's coastal and maritime heritage theme for 2006. The Duyfken stopped in 25 ports around Australia, and was open for tours by the public and schools in each port. It is estimated that 80,000 people toured the ship over the 10-month period, and 376 media stories and interviews featured in metropolitan and regional media.

The second half of 2006—07 saw the development and implementation of the 2007 annual national heritage theme, 'the Australian spirit'. The objective was to honour the people, events, and places significant to all Australians using three sub-themes: ingenuity, courage under adversity, and unique lifestyle.

Activities included:

Commonwealth heritage

The Commonwealth Heritage List includes natural, Indigenous and historic places in Commonwealth areas (land and waters owned or leased by the Commonwealth) identified by the minister as having Commonwealth heritage values.

Amendments to the EPBC Act which came into effect in early 2007 also changed the nomination and assessment process for the Commonwealth Heritage List. The changes are similar to changes to the national heritage listing process, with the exception that there is no provision for a statutory theme for the Commonwealth Heritage List.

By 30 June 2007 the Commonwealth Heritage List included 340 places. One place was added in 2006—07: the Tasmanian Seamounts.

In 2006—07 three places were nominated for inclusion in the Commonwealth Heritage List. Two nominations were in response to the public call for nominations. These were for the RAAF Williams Base, Laverton, Victoria, and for the Eastern ACT Grasslands. The third nomination came in before the amendments were passed; it is for the Officers Mess, Glenbrook RAAF Base, New South Wales. All are being considered by the Australian Heritage Council for inclusion in its first proposed priority assessment list.

Provisions in the EPBC Act enable the minister to directly include a place in the Commonwealth Heritage List when the minister believes it may have Commonwealth heritage values which are under threat. In 2006—07 the minister received no such listing requests.

Progress in developing management plans for Commonwealth heritage places

The department continued to advise and work with Australian Government agencies on their responsibilities to prepare management plans for Commonwealth heritage places under their ownership or control. Before an agency finalises a plan, it must invite members of the public, Indigenous people with rights and interests in the place and, where relevant, a state or territory to comment on the draft plan.

If plans are already in place and are consistent with the new Commonwealth heritage management principles prescribed in Regulations to the EPBC Act, a new plan may not be required.

In 2006—07 the minister advised the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the National Capital Authority that their management plans for two places under their responsibility satisfy Commonwealth heritage management principles. The places are CSIRO's Building 101 (Entomology) at Black Mountain, and the National Capital Authority's High Court—National Gallery Precinct.

The department consulted with Commonwealth agencies on draft management plans for Lady Elliott Island in Queensland; the National Gallery of Australia, Old Parliament House Gardens, Old Parliament House, and York Park in the Australian Capital Territory; the Perth General Post Office and Kalgoorlie Post Office in Western Australia; the Defence Explosives Factory at Maribyrnong, and Point Nepean Quarantine Station in Victoria; Mawson's Huts Historic Site in the Australian Antarctic Territory; and Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area on Norfolk Island.

Progress in preparing heritage strategies for Commonwealth heritage values

Australian Government agencies that own or control one or more places with Commonwealth heritage values must prepare a written heritage strategy for managing the places to protect and conserve their values. The principal objective of a heritage strategy is to outline a strategic approach for the agency to effectively manage places which it owns or controls for the long-term protection and conservation of their Commonwealth heritage values. Before developing a heritage strategy, the agency is required to consult the Australian Heritage Council and take its advice into account.

A heritage strategy must address the matters set out in the Regulations under the EPBC Act. In 2006—07 heritage strategies for the National Library of Australia, the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General, and Parks Australia were completed. The Australian Heritage Council provided advice on heritage strategies for the Australian National University and the Australian Customs Service. The department provided comment on draft heritage strategies for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Film Commission, the Department of Parliamentary Services and the National Gallery of Australia. Twelve agency heritage strategies have been completed.

The department also held discussions with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the High Court of Australia and the Office of Australian War Graves about the preparation of their heritage strategies.

By 30 June 2007 the department had reminded all Australian Government agencies of their obligations under the EPBC Act to prepare heritage strategies.

Wetlands of international importance

Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance listed through an Australian Government nomination on the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (the Ramsar Convention).

The department continued to assist in the development and review of management plans for Australian Ramsar sites. Under the EPBC Act all Ramsar sites in Commonwealth areas are required to have, and do have, management plans. To date 55 of the 64 listed Australian Ramsar wetlands have management plans or draft plans. The management status of Australia's Ramsar sites including their management plans is currently under review.

In December 2006 the department notified the Ramsar secretariat of a change in the ecological character of the Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Ramsar site, in accordance with Article 3.2 of the Ramsar Convention.

Section 336 of the EPBC Act allows the Commonwealth to provide assistance for the protection or conservation of a Ramsar wetland. No direct assistance has been provided under this section of the Act. However, projects have been funded under the national and regional components of the Natural Heritage Trust and the Coastal Catchments Initiative to assist the conservation and management of Ramsar wetlands in Australia, including descriptions of the ecological character of a number of Ramsar wetlands. These projects will inform future management of the wetlands and EPBC Act decision-making.

The details of these projects are in the section on water strategies in the chapter on land and inland waters in the first volume of this set of annual reports.

Biosphere reserves

A biosphere reserve is a unique concept which includes one or more protected areas and surrounding lands that are managed to combine both conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. 'Biosphere reserve' is an international designation made by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The department is the focal point for biosphere reserves in Australia, while the Australian National Commission for UNESCO has overall responsibility for UNESCO activities.

The EPBC Act allows the minister to cooperate with states and territories on biosphere reserves while the Regulations contain principles for the management of biosphere reserves.

A nomination for a new biosphere reserve in Noosa was submitted in 2006—07. The Noosa nomination was considered at the International Advisory Committee for biosphere reserves meeting in June 2007 with a final decision due to be made by the International Coordinating Council of Man and the Biosphere meeting in February 2008. The international Man and the Biosphere Programme is a UNESCO initiative.

Technical advice was provided to community and other organisations and groups involved in biosphere reserve development.

Commonwealth marine reserves

The Australian Government establishes and manages an estate of marine protected areas that are Commonwealth reserves under the EPBC Act.

The Cod Grounds Commonwealth Marine Reserve was declared on 28 May 2007 to protect a key aggregation site for the critically endangered grey nurse shark. The reserve is located off the coast of northern New South Wales near Laurieton.

The South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network, comprising 13 individual reserves, was declared on 28 June 2007 and will take effect 3 September 2007. It is the world's first network of temperate deep sea marine reserves.

For more information on the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network and the marine bioregional planning process, refer to the chapter on coasts and oceans in the first volume of this set of annual reports.

In accordance with the February amendments to the EPBC Act, new Commonwealth reserves will be managed under approvals issued by the Director of National Parks until management plans are developed and come into operation following a period of public consultation. The interim management arrangements commence when the network comes into effect. The management plan for the network will be developed in accordance with section 176 of the EPBC Act, and is expected to take approximately 12 months to prepare.