The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef ecosystem on earth and one of the best managed marine areas in the world. At 348 000 square kilometres, the reef is one of the richest and most diverse natural ecosystems on Earth. The unique qualities of this property were recognised in 1981 when it was inscribed on the World Heritage List.
World Heritage Committee decision
Australia is committed to ensuring the Great Barrier Reef retains the values for which it received its world heritage listing.
The World Heritage Committee oversees the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area’s heritage listing. At its last session in June-July 2012, the Committee considered the Great Barrier Reef, and made a decision on the state of conservation of the reef.
In its decision, the Committee requested that the Australian Government undertake a range of measures to ensure that the outstanding universal value of the property is not compromised. As part of that decision, Australia was requested to provide the Committee with an updated State Party Report on the state of conservation of the reef by early 2013.
The full decision handed down by the World Heritage Committee is available on the UNESCO web site:
Australia has been working hard over the last six months to address the issues raised in the Committee’s most recent decision and the recommendations of the joint monitoring mission that visited the reef in March 2012.
On the 1st February 2013 Australia submitted a detailed State Party Report to the Committee outlining:
- the nature of the threats to the reef
- what the Australian Government is doing to improve the resilience of the reef, and
- how the outstanding universal value of the property is being managed and protected.
The report demonstrates Australia’s progress on a wide range of work including the Great Barrier Reef comprehensive strategic assessment, development of the North-East shipping plan as well as important research projects and ongoing adaptive management activities.
The World Heritage Committee will consider the report at its 37th session in Phnom Penh, in June 2013. The 2013 report updates the information that Australia provided to the Committee in its 2012 report.
- State Party report on the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (Australia) 2013
- State Party Report on the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (Australia) 2012
- Media release: Labor protects the Great Barrier Reef - 1 February 2013
Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone
As part of the Australian Government's response to the 2012 decision of the World Heritage Committee regarding the ongoing protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage property, the Australian Government has committed to an Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone.
The review will consider the impacts of approved developments and operations in the Port of Gladstone on the outstanding universal value of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. This will include impacts to fish health, seagrass, turtles, dugongs and other relevant concerns.
Many of the Committee’s concerns will also be addressed through the comprehensive strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef and adjacent coastal zone which is being undertaken by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Queensland Government.
The strategic assessment will ensure the continued long term protection of the unique environment and heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and also ensure that development within and adjacent to the World Heritage Area is sustainable.
The strategic assessment is on track to be completed by the end of 2013 and will be considered by the World Heritage Committee in 2015.
For more information see:
Joint monitoring mission
In March 2012 a joint monitoring mission made up of representatives from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) visited a number of locations within the Great Barrier Reef. They met with a broad range of stakeholders including government, industry and non-government organisation representatives and Traditional Owners. The brief was to assess the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
Reporting to the World Heritage Centre
On 31 October 2011, the department notified the World Heritage Centre of all proposed developments being assessed as Controlled Actions for potential impacts on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) (EPBC Act):
The department has since developed an agreed administrative procedure to notify the World Heritage Centre on a regular basis of proposed developments in all of Australia's world heritage areas: