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Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Page: 4199


Ms PARKE (3:28 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts. How is the government fulfilling its commitment to protect the Ningaloo coast?


Mr GARRETT (Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts) —I thank the member for Fremantle for her question. I know that she has a very keen interest in conservation issues in Western Australia. It is the case that the government takes very seriously the protection of our environment, including those areas of high conservation and cultural value. There is no higher level of recognition than World Heritage listing. The Australian government submitted a World Heritage nomination for the Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia in January of this year and also included Ningaloo on the National Heritage List as well. I was particularly pleased to be able to deliver on this important election commitment of the Rudd government.

I want to note that the Australian and Western Australian governments reached agreement on an appropriate boundary for the Ningaloo Coast nomination in early January this year. We wanted to submit a dossier that had the strongest chance of success and it was particularly important for us to work closely with the Western Australian government. I want to acknowledge the cooperation of the Premier of that state and the full support of the Western Australian government through this process. The Western Australian environment minister and I announced the submission of Ningaloo Coast to the World Heritage centre and also the gazettal of Ningaloo Coast as well.

The nomination package includes a strategic management framework for the Ningaloo Coast and that sets out the management arrangements for all areas covered by the nomination, and that again is submitted to the World Heritage Centre on 28 January. In March I was pleased that the World Heritage Centre confirmed that the nomination met all the technical requirements, and so was in good shape to be evaluated over the coming year.

The fact is that the world renowned Ningaloo fringing reef stretches hundreds of kilometres along a very arid coastline. The nomination reflects that it is a significant international area for the protection of an exceptional number of marine and terrestrial species—over 500 marine species. The incredible whale shark, whales, turtles, dolphins and over 200 coral species make it truly a landmark environment here in Australia.

The fact is that World Heritage recognition is generally considered to be a kind of Nobel prize recognition for the high values that these places have. A recent study of the economic value of Australia’s World Heritage places found that they generate some 120,000 jobs and economic benefits of around $12 billion per annum. This is a very significant economic contribution to Australia, and this contribution was particularly in our minds when we supported heritage projects as part of the Jobs Fund. In fact, I recall that we provided some $1.8 million for the Fremantle Prison main cell-block conservation project. Again, the member for Fremantle will recall this. It was a great boost to employment for those who were repairing Fremantle Prison, and important because Fremantle Prison makes up one of the 11 convict sites that Australia has for World Heritage nomination. I think that our prospects of success for that nomination are also very good.

That fact is that Australia is mightily blessed to have a number of outstanding world heritage properties. Kakadu in the Northern Territory; the wet tropics and the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, and Uluru are important places which reflect high cultural values and important environmental values but, significantly, deliver significant economic benefits to Australians. This government is committed to their recognition, their protection and their ongoing good management.