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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

New Protection for Shark Bay World Heritage Values


12 September 1997
(105/97)

The World Heritage values of Western Australia's Shark Bay will receive a higher level of protection following an agreement between the State and Federal governments.

WA Environment Minister Cheryl Edwardes and Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today signed a new administrative agreement for the Shark Bay World Heritage Property.

The agreement ensures that the management of Shark Bay will be consistent with the protection, conservation and presentation of the property's outstanding universal values.

It also clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of both the WA and the Commonwealth Government in relation to management of the area.

Senator Hill has praised the new agreement saying it will provide a model for Commonwealth- - State management of all world heritage areas.

"The most important aspect of the agreement is that management plans for Shark Bay must be consistent with the World Heritage Convention. It therefore will ensure a high level of protection for Shark Bay's world heritage values."

"All Australians have a vital interest in the protection of this unique area."

Mrs Edwardes said that the Agreement provided for a cooperative management approach which clearly defined the respective roles of the Commonwealth and Western Australian governments.

"The Agreement recognises both the interest of the Commonwealth in discharging Australia's obligations under the Convention and the fact that Western Australia has primary management responsibility for the Shark Bay World Heritage Property.

"It also provides for continuing involvement by the local community in the management of Shark Bay."

A key feature of the Agreement is that it expressly provides for the accreditation of State management plans by the Commonwealth where such plans ensure the protection of world heritage values.

Other key features in the new agreement include:

The Agreement also sets out an agreed process for addressing the issue of whether petroleum exploration and extraction is compatible with the protection of world heritage values in the Shark Bay.

Mrs Edwardes has announced she will be asking the WA Environmental Protection Authority to conduct an assessment of the potential impacts associated with petroleum exploration and development in Shark Bay. The EPA will provide policy advice under section 16(e) of the WA Environmental Protection Act 1986, which includes an extensive public consultation process.

Mrs Edwardes says the Commonwealth would be a part of the process.

"The process is very much a joint process. The Commonwealth will be fully involved in key aspects of the process, including settling terms of reference. The outcomes of the assessment conducted under section 16(e) of the WA Environmental Protection Act 1986 will be referred to the Ministerial Council for a decision on petroleum activities in the Shark Bay World Heritage Property.

"Shark Bay is an area of international conservation significance and I share the community concern that this unique environment be protected and managed effectively."

Shark Bay was inscribed on the World Heritage List for its outstanding natural values. It contains important natural habitats for many rare, vulnerable or threatened species of plants and animals, including five of Australia's endangered mammals. It is also an outstanding example of earth's evolution and contains superlative natural phenomena, such as the Hamelin Pool stromatolites which represent the oldest form of life on earth.

Media contacts: Minister Edwardes, Diana Russell Coote, 9421 7777; 018 906 948
Senator Hill, Matt Brown, 02 6277 7640; 0419 693 515

Commonwealth of Australia