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Frequently asked questions—Cape York Peninsula World Heritage project

What is World Heritage?

World Heritage sites are places that are considered to have either natural and/or cultural values that are internationally important. Only unique and exceptional places around the world are listed.

Australia currently has 19 World Heritage sites. Some of these are; Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, The Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park and Fraser Island.

Sites are declared World Heritage when a State Party to the World Heritage Convention (Australia) proposes an area to be placed in the World Heritage List. As a party to the Convention Australia has obligations to identify, protect, conserve and transmit to the future generations the values of these areas.

How is Australia involved in World Heritage?

Australia has long recognised the importance of preserving its rich and diverse natural and cultural heritage, and was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention in 1974. Australia’s World Heritage properties are protected under State legislation and also under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, an Act recognised as world’s best practice for protecting World Heritage values.

What will be the government's approach to gaining Traditional Owner consent?

The government has sought advice on best practice approaches to consent and possible consent frameworks. This information has put the department in a good position to work with Traditional Owners towards an approach that is mutually agreeable and adaptable to this project.

It will be essential that the government seeks consent from the people who can speak for country at the Traditional Owner group level.

Initially the government will be inviting interested Traditional Owner groups and stakeholders to start a conversation on the potential World Heritage listing for their county.  The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection will then consult with groups to establish their interest and consent requirements for their involvement in the World Heritage process.

Once these areas have been identified the department will work with the Traditional Owners and landholders to develop a World Heritage Tentative List submission. This will then be provided to the Australian Government to submit to the World Heritage Committee. A tentative listing indicates the World Heritage criteria against which the area will be assessed. Following a tentative listing a full nomination dossier, including boundaries, is then developed. In this stage there will be full consultation with the broader community.

What areas of Cape York Peninsula will be included?

Areas of Cape York will only be included in a World Heritage nomination based on the consent of the relevant Traditional Owners and where the values for which a listing would be sought are of Outstanding Universal Value (the standard required by the World Heritage Convention).  

Only areas that Traditional Owner groups and landholders choose to be included will be considered for World Heritage nomination. Once the level of interest is known, consideration will be given to how these areas could come together to form a viable World Heritage nomination. Therefore the final World Heritage boundaries will be determined by both consent and the values of the areas.

Traditional Owner groups are invited to contact the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection at any time to express interest in their involvement in this process:

The government will work in partnership with Traditional Owners and landholders to prepare a World Heritage nomination dossier for areas that have the full endorsement and consent of these groups.

What is the plan for future management following World Heritage listing?

The government is committed to working with Traditional Owners to develop management and governance arrangements that are supportive of traditional governance and to ensure a potential World Heritage area supports the region’s living cultural values.

Governance is about how decisions will be made. There is scope under UNESCO and Australian guidelines for World Heritage governance arrangements to be tailored to the specific needs of a Cape York Peninsula World Heritage area.

Management is about what actions will be taken to protect the natural and cultural values of an area. As such management arrangements cannot be determined in advance, but will form part of the dialogue about the values of the area that will support a World Heritage nomination, and what the gaps in management are for protecting those values. 

World Heritage doesn’t mean a whole new approach to management. Many Cape York Peninsula communities already have management plans and are using their traditional knowledge to manage country. World Heritage can help to offer the opportunity to update, extend or develop new plans to incorporate World Heritage values, and provide opportunities to coordinate management with other communities.

Will the Government be funding Country Based Plans?

A number of communities have community plans, some of which were developed through Country Based Planning processes in the past. Others have been developed with other funding or through community initiative. Communities whose land overlaps with National Parks have undergone initial planning to develop Management Statements. Some communities already know their position on World Heritage or have a good basis on which to make a decision. However, a number of groups found that they needed further information, particularly around the future governance and management of a potential World Heritage area. The Government is committed to working with Traditional Owner groups, to develop agreement around elements of an approach to future governance and management. Once more clarity has been reached on this question, it may be decided that Country Based Planning is required for some groups to give them the time and resources to consider their position on World Heritage in light of this information.

Does World Heritage listing affect tenure?

No. World Heritage listing does not affect tenure; tenure remains as it was before nomination and state and local laws still apply. World Heritage properties do not become Commonwealth property, nor does ownership pass to any international organisation.

What tenures can World Heritage apply to?

World Heritage areas can include all sorts of land tenures, including pastoral leases, national parks, conservation parks, freehold, Aboriginal land, unallocated crown land and council reserves. However it is important to note that in order for a property to be assessed as favourable for World Heritage listing, it must have adequate management system to recognise and protect its values.

Will World Heritage listing change what can be done on a property?

For the most part, activities occurring on the land can continue when it is listed as World Heritage. Any existing activities that are considered a risk to the World Heritage values will be discussed before a nomination goes ahead.

What are the benefits of World Heritage listing?

A World Heritage listing for Cape York Peninsula would recognise this important area internationally. The listing will provide significant benefits to the local community, including improved management and protection of the local environment and a potential boost to the local economy through increased tourism if supported.

How does listing happen?

If there is support from Traditional Owners and the community a short submission is provided to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for inclusion on Australia’s World Heritage Tentative List.

A nomination is then developed by the relevant party (in this case the Queensland Government) after a community consultation period.

A nomination is submitted to the World Heritage Committee by the Australian Government.

The nomination is assessed by the World Heritage Committee and a decision is made as to whether the proposed property has Outstanding Universal Values.

The World Heritage Committee, after favourable consideration, inscribes the nominated property and/or its extensions, onto the World Heritage List.

Contact and more information

You are invited to register your interest to receive updates regarding the consultation process, or send an email to world.heritage@ehp.qld.gov.au.

More information is available on the World Heritage criteria.

Last updated
12 August 2016