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Media release
Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders

10 March 2006

Commonwealth funds help open new Shark Bay World Heritage Centrer


Federal Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Heritage the Hon, Greg Hunt MP, today joined in the official opening of the Shark Bay Interpretive Centre, developed in partnership between the Australian and Western Australian Governments.

"The thousands of Australian and international visitors who visit the Shark Bay World Heritage Area each year can now visit a new information centre to learn and appreciate more about this unique area, which has been built with the assistance of $1 million in funding from the Australian Government's Department of Environment and Heritage and $759,000 in funding from the Department of Transport and Regional Services.

"Shark Bay is one of the jewels in Australia's remarkable World Heritage crown, and also one of the sites that makes up our national story.

"I congratulate the Federal Member for Kalgoorlie, Mr Barry Haase and Senator for Western Australia, Dr Alan Eggleston for their commitment to seeing this project come to fruition," Mr Hunt said.

"It is very appropriate, given the coastal and maritime heritage focus for the year recently announced by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, for the Centre to now be available to visitors.

"The Shark Bay World Heritage Area has played a significant role in the development of our nation, associated with almost four hundred years of charted exploration of our coastline.

"The site is even more significant from an international perspective, it is a hotspot of biological diversity that reveals information about the earth's evolution as a whole, through the site's extraordinary 'living fossils' - the stromatolites of Hamelin Pools that represent the first forms of complex life on earth.

"Without the stromatolites which formed more than 3,500 million years ago, life on earth as we know it, could never have existed. The stromatolites excreted oxygen into the otherwise lethal atmospheric mix of methane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

"Today Shark Bay is home to some of the world's best examples of biodiversity, including dugongs, several turtle species, hump-backed whales and the world's most diverse group of seagrass.

"I encourage all visitors to this important place to take time to come to the Centre and learn more about Australia's and the world's unique heritage places," Mr Hunt said.

Australia has a total of 16 places on the World Heritage List. For more information go to http://www.deh.gov.au/heritage/worldheritage

Media enquiries:
Kristy McSweeney 0415 740 722 (Mr Hunt's office)

Commonwealth of Australia