The Commonwealth Heritage List, established under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), comprises natural, Indigenous and historic heritage places which are either entirely within a Commonwealth area, or outside the Australian jurisdiction and owned or leased by the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth Authority; and which the Minister is satisfied have one or more Commonwealth Heritage values.
The List can include places connected to defence, communications, customs and other government activities.
Amendments to the EPBC Act in February 2007 established a more strategic process for listing Commonwealth heritage places and introduced an assessment cycle. The assessment cycle will allow priorities and work programs focussing on those places most likely to the have Commonwealth heritage values to be set.
Anyone can nominate a place with significant heritage values for the Commonwealth Heritage List. Each year the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (the Minister) invites nominations. Nominations are available from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. The nominated places are assessed by the Australian Heritage Council against a set criteria and a recommendation made to the Minister. The final decision on listing is made by the Minister.
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When a place is nominated to be included on the Commonwealth Heritage List, the Australian Heritage Council assesses the heritage value of that place against nine criteria, and significance thresholds.
Places that are included in the Commonwealth Heritage List are protected under the provisions of the EPBC Act.
To protect the heritage values of Commonwealth Heritage Places they own or lease, Australian Government agencies are required to develop heritage strategies, a heritage register, and management plans for places on the Commonwealth Heritage List in accordance with the Commonwealth Heritage management principles.
Values of places on the Commonwealth Heritage List might be protected under more than one provision of the Act. For example, a Commonwealth Heritage Place might also be on the National Heritage List or the World Heritage List.
Where this is the case, the Act may prescribe additional management requirements and/or principles. A plan for managing a Commonwealth Heritage place can be in the same document as other plans that the Act or another Commonwealth law requires or permits (s.341W).
To avoid duplication, agencies must not make a plan for managing a Commonwealth Heritage place that is in a Commonwealth reserve and covered by another plan under the Act. A similar provision applies to the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands (s.341U).