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Minister rejects industry calls for World Heritage moratorium

The Federal Environment Minister, Senator John Faulkner today rejected calls by five industry groups for a moratorium on nominations of areas for World Heritage listings.

Senator Faulkner said as a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, Australia is obligated to identify, nominate and protect Australian places of outstanding universal value.

"World Heritage areas account for only about one per cent of Australia's land area, but they are the real jewels in our crown. They house much of Australia's extraordinary biodiversity and make a significant contribution to the economy through tourism."

"The ultimate responsibility for complying with Australia's international obligations under the World Heritage Convention rests with the Federal Environment Minister and I will not shirk that responsibility."

"The Government is committed to the consultative process set out in the 1992 InterGovernmental Agreement on the Environment. There has been and will continue to be wide consultation with all stakeholders, but I will not accept the proposition that management arrangements for these areas should be subject to veto by industry groups."

"Where industry activity is compatible with the protection of world heritage values, I support the continuation of those activities, subject to appropriate controls. But any activity which is not compatible with the protection of world heritage values will not be allowed to occur."

"For example fishing continues in Shark Bay, grazing continues at Willandra Lakes, tourism continues in all of our world heritage areas, but logging has been banned on Fraser Island and in the Wet Tropics."

The Minister said the Commonwealth is committed to ensuring that management plans for all Australian properties on the World Heritage list were in place as soon as possible."

The Prime Minister's 1992 Environment Statement committed $2.25 million over four years to establish and fund a World Heritage Unit in order to develop and implement more consistent arrangements for the management of Australia's World Heritage areas.

Media Inquiries: Carolyn Betts, 06 277 7640 or 015 296 248

BACKGROUND ON WORLD HERITAGE PROPERTIES

CONSISTENT MANAGEMENT ARRANGEMENTS

The UNESCO Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention (February 1994) note that State Parties like Australia are "... encouraged to prepare management plans for each site nominated".

Accordingly management plans are being prepared for nominated properties that do not yet have management plans in place, such as Shark Bay, Willandra and the Wet Tropics. These are being prepared in broad cooperation with the States and relevant stakeholders, including industry groups.

The Commonwealth Government is establishing processes of community participation for both the identification of potential World Heritage values and preparation of nominations. The preparation of any nomination from Australia involves an assessment of the adequacy of existing management arrangements and the establishment of a consultative process to develop a management plan to protect the identified World Heritage values into the future.

The World Heritage Unit has to date concentrated on:

1. Working with the States to develop management plans focusing on the protection of World Heritage values in all environment of increasing public use of the areas

2. Improving the management arrangements for the Willandra Lakes Region while closely monitoring the management of all Australia's World Heritage areas

3. Working with the Queensland Government and the relevant local government authority (the Douglas Shire Council) to develop and implement the Daintree Rescue Package

4. Reviewing existing intergovernmental management agreements.

A Workshop for on-ground managers of Australia's ten World Heritage properties was held in Canberra in December 1993. This was the first time that such a group had ever come together to address practical World Heritage management issues in Australia. The recommendations drafted at the managers' Workshop are being discussed with the relevant States and Territories with the objective of developing a package of management arrangements that officers consider suitable as a basis for Ministerial level discussions.

A second Workshop for on-ground managers of Australia's ten World Heritage properties was held in November 1994 . The outcomes of the Workshop will further assist the development of consistent management arrangements for World Heritage Areas in Australia.

For the first time the Government has provided funding in the 1994/95 Budget for all ten of Australia's World Heritage properties.