Publications archive

Department of the Environment and Heritage annual report 2004-05

Volume two
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005
ISSN 1441 9335

Legislation annual reports 2004-05 (continued)

Operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

3. Managing heritage and protecting significant areas

Listing and managing heritage places in Australia

The Australian Government's new heritage system, which commenced on 1 January 2004, provides protection for national heritage places as a matter of national environmental significance, complementing the existing World Heritage provisions within the EPBC Act. Separately, 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 was appointed in February 2004 with responsibility under the EPBC Act to assess the values of places nominated for the National Heritage List, the Commonwealth Heritage List and the Register of the National Estate, and to advise the minister on conserving and protecting listed values, including making recommendations regarding the listing of places.

During 2004-05 the Australian Heritage Council made considerable progress in meeting its responsibilities under the new heritage system. As at 30 June 2005 the council had received 88 nominations for the National Heritage List (48 in 2004-05). Eleven places had been included in the list and 11 places had not been included, with the remainder being assessed or awaiting decision. The council had also received 25 nominations for the Commonwealth Heritage List (11 in 2004-05), with three of these being included and the remainder being assessed.

The council has provided statutory advice to Australian Government agencies and private individuals wishing to make changes to places with national or Commonwealth heritage values. The council has also begun working with Australian Government agencies as they develop heritage strategies for Commonwealth heritage places, which is a requirement of the new heritage system.

World Heritage

The 16 properties inscribed on the World Heritage List receive the full protection of the EPBC Act, enhancing the protection and management arrangements of each property. At the twenty-eighth session of the World Heritage Committee held in Suzhou, China, between 28 June and 7 July 2004 the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Melbourne was inscribed on the World Heritage List. During the year the Australian Government undertook consultations for the development of a number of possible future nominations, including the Sydney Opera House.

Progress in developing management plans for World Heritage properties

During 2004-05 the Australian Government took part in consultations over, and funding of, reviews of management plans and strategic plans for the Willandra Lakes, Tasmanian Wilderness, Shark Bay, the Wet Tropics of Queensland and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage properties. A comprehensive review of the Kakadu World Heritage Management Plan commenced, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2005.

The Australian Government continued to liaise with the Victorian Government and the City of Melbourne in preparing a management plan for the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens World Heritage property.

The Australian Government provides assistance to state-managed World Heritage properties to ensure their protection and promotion is consistent with undertakings under the World Heritage Convention. Activities funded include agreed on-ground priority projects and strategic management support projects including community consultation and coordination. Australian Government direct funding from the Natural Heritage Trust to state-managed World Heritage properties in 2004-05 totalled $8.2 million.

Stakeholder consultation through community, technical and scientific, and Indigenous committees plays an important role in protecting and promoting the values of World Heritage properties. The contribution of committees is particularly significant where properties include a number of tenures and their effective management may impact on the interests of a range of parties. The recommendations of committees may also feed into consideration of referrals under the EPBC Act. For example, the views of the Three Traditional Tribal Groups of the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area have been considered in assessing the impacts of research proposals on the area's listed Indigenous values.

National heritage

In 2004-05 representatives of the Gunditjmara people celebrated the inclusion on the National Heritage List of two Indigenous places near Lake Condah in Western Victoria. The two places, Tyrenadarra and Mount Eccles-Lake Condah, were the first places entered on the National Heritage List and are collectively known as the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape.

As at 30 June 2005 the minister had included 11 places in the National Heritage List. The other nine listed places are:

As at 30 June 2005 the Australian Heritage Council had 42 places under assessment for the National Heritage List, all nominated by the public. Information on places under assessment is publicly available on the heritage public notices database at www.deh.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/heritage_ap.pl.

The Australian Heritage Council must fulfil its functions within prescribed timeframes unless the minister decides to extend the period. Although most assessments are progressing well and will be completed within their 12-month deadlines, the council was given extensions by the minister in 11 cases. Details of these, including the reasons for the minister's decision to extend the assessment periods, are available online at www.deh.gov.au/heritage/laws/index.html.

Provisions in the EPBC Act enable the minister to directly include in the National Heritage List a place that the minister believes may have national heritage values which are under threat. During 2004-05 the minister received requests for the emergency listing of 24 places in the National Heritage List. One request was subsequently withdrawn. As at 30 June 2005 one place (Kurnell Peninsula, NSW) had been emergency listed and subsequently re-assessed. Following assessment part of the place was removed from the list, limiting the national heritage listing to Kurnell Peninsula Headland. One place (Alpine National Park, Vic) had been emergency listed and was in the process of being re-assessed by the Australian Heritage Council, two places were being considered by the minister, and 19 had been rejected. Requests for emergency listing and reasons for the minister's decisions are available on the heritage public notices database at www.deh.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/heritage_ap.pl.

Progress in developing management plans for national heritage places

To ensure the ongoing 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 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 Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage is responsible for preparing management plans for national heritage places in Commonwealth areas. Guidelines are being developed on the preparation of management plans for national heritage listed places.

During 2004-05 the Australian Government was involved in consultations over the development of plans for the national heritage listed Lark Quarry Dinosaur Stampede National Monument in Queensland, and the Mount Eccles-Lake Condah Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape in Western Victoria.

The May 2005 Budget provided for a new four-year $10.5 million funding programme, the National Heritage Investments Initiative, to conserve places of outstanding heritage value to the nation. Building on the establishment of the new National Heritage List, this initiative will provide funding to help ensure that the national heritage values of listed places are protected. It will also support projects to protect other important heritage places around the country.

Commonwealth heritage

The Commonwealth Heritage List includes natural, Indigenous and historic heritage places, or groups of places, in Commonwealth land and waters or under Australian Government control, identified by the minister as having Commonwealth heritage values.

As at 30 June 2005 the Commonwealth Heritage List included 337 places, including:

As at 30 June 2005 the Australian Heritage Council was assessing 14 places nominated for the Commonwealth Heritage List, including 12 public nominations and two instigated by the council. Places under assessment for the Commonwealth Heritage List include the Canberra School of Art, Cocos Island Catalina Wreck, and nine Queensland places including Green Hill Fort on Thursday Island, Low Islets Lightstation and Victoria Barracks in Brisbane. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra was also nominated and is being considered by the minister for listing. Values tables for 292 Commonwealth heritage places were prepared and entered in the Australian Heritage Database. Information on nominations to, and places listed in, the Commonwealth Heritage List is available online at www.deh.gov.au/heritage.

Provisions within the EPBC Act enable the minister to directly include in the Commonwealth Heritage List a place that the minister believes may have Commonwealth heritage values which are under threat. During 2004-05 the minister received two requests to emergency list seven places in the Commonwealth Heritage List. As at 30 June 2005 no places had been emergency listed. Requests for emergency listing and reasons for the minister's decisions are available on the heritage public notices database at www.deh.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/heritage_ap.pl.

Progress in developing management plans for Commonwealth heritage places

The department continues to provide advice and work with Australian Government agencies on their responsibilities to prepare management plans for Commonwealth heritage places under their ownership or control. Australian Government agencies must make a plan for managing a Commonwealth heritage place and may seek to have the plan endorsed by the minister. Once the minister has endorsed a plan, the agency is not required to seek advice from the minister about taking an action associated with that place, where the action is provided for or taken in accordance with the 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 will not be required.

To 30 June 2005 the department had received 10 draft management plans for review, including those for Mount Stromlo Observatory (Australian Capital Territory), Woomera (South Australia) and the National Gallery of Australia. Before an agency makes a plan, it must invite members of the public, Indigenous people with rights and interests in the place and, where relevant, a state or self-governing territory to comment on the draft plan. Of the draft management plans referred to the department for review, six were sufficiently progressed to be made available for public comment. To 30 June 2005 no management plans for Commonwealth heritage places had been endorsed by the minister.

Progress in preparing heritage strategies for Commonwealth heritage values

Australian Government agencies that own or control one or more places must prepare, within two years from 1 January 2004, a written heritage strategy for managing the places to protect and conserve their Commonwealth heritage 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 EPBC Regulations, including the period within which the agency must prepare management plans for its Commonwealth heritage places, and a process for identifying and assessing the Commonwealth heritage values for all the places it owns or controls. The department continues to build strong partnerships with other Australian Government agencies through one-to-one briefings to ensure that obligations in the preparation of heritage strategies are understood. The department's publication titled Heritage strategies-a guide for Commonwealth agencies has been updated to provide a more comprehensive understanding of requirements.

Many Australian Government agencies have commenced preparation of their heritage strategies using internal resources and through commissioning consultants to provide assistance where required. To 30 June 2005 the department had received four draft strategies for review and comment. Of the four, the heritage strategy prepared by the Department of Defence had been provided to the Australian Heritage Council for advice. The department's own heritage strategy is currently in preparation and will cover significant properties including the Mawson's Huts Historic Site in Antarctica.

Wetlands of international importance

No additional sites were designated as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention during 2004-05. However, a number of nominations are currently being progressed around Australia for under-represented wetland types. The Australian Government is also progressing nominations for under-represented wetlands on Commonwealth land.

In 2004-05 the Australian Government continued to assist in the development and review of management plans for Ramsar sites across Australia. Under the EPBC Act all Ramsar sites in Commonwealth areas are required to have, and do have, management plans. To 30 June 2005 50 of the 64 listed Australian Ramsar wetlands had management plans or draft plans in place.

During 2004-05 draft management plans for Blue Lake (NSW), Forrestdale and Thomsons Lakes (WA), Becher Point Wetlands (WA) and Bool and Hacks Lagoon (SA) were assessed for consistency with the Australian Ramsar Management Principles established by the EPBC Act. It is expected that these management plans will be finalised in 2005-06.

Section 336 of the EPBC Act allows the Australian Government to provide assistance for the protection or conservation of a Ramsar wetland. No direct assistance was provided under this section of the EPBC Act in 2004-05. However a number of projects have been funded under the national component of the Natural Heritage Trust to assist the conservation and management of Ramsar wetlands in Australia. This includes funding to develop descriptions of the ecological character of a number of Ramsar wetlands in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, Tasmania and several Marine Protected Areas. These projects will help to inform future management of the wetlands and decision-making under the EPBC Act.

Biosphere reserves

During 2004-05 Barkindji Biosphere Ltd submitted a nomination to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for consideration under its Man and the Biosphere Programme, which was deferred pending formal endorsement from the New South Wales and Victorian state governments. The nomination was subsequently revised and resubmitted to UNESCO in May 2005 for reconsideration with a clearer demonstration of support from the New South Wales Government. The Man and the Biosphere Bureau, at its meeting in June 2005, approved the Barkindji Biosphere Reserve.

No financial or other assistance was provided under section 341 in 2004-05 beyond the provision of technical and other advice to a number of organisations and groups involved in biosphere reserve development.