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Frequently asked questions—extension to the Fraser Island World Heritage area

In 1992, Fraser Island was inscribed on the World Heritage List, maintained by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), for its unique natural values. Adjacent areas including Cooloola were included in the original nomination but were not listed at the time due to insufficient justification of the areas “Outstanding Universal Value’ and unresolved tenure issues. As a result of further work and assessments confirming the significance of the values, the Great Sandy Region, Cooloola and the Great Sandy Strait were added to the World Heritage Tentative List in 2010.

The Department of Environment and Heritage is now seeking the support of communities and the consent of Traditional Owners to extend the recognition of the unique natural values of adjacent areas to the Fraser Island. 

What is World Heritage?

World Heritage sites are places of such outstanding significance that their qualities make them universally unique and worthy of protection for future generations. The World Heritage Convention seeks to identify, protect, conserve and transmit to future generations sites of cultural and natural heritage considered to be of outstanding universal value to humanity. The full title of the international treaty is the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (better known as the World Heritage Convention). To date, 186 countries have ratified the Convention.

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. Fraser Island is one of 19 World Heritage properties in Australia, making this unique environment internationally renowned.

Why extend the Fraser Island World Heritage area?

The combination of proposed areas for extension with Fraser Island better protects and recognises the outstanding universal value for which Fraser Island was listed as World Heritage. The Fraser Island World Heritage area’s phenomenal sand dune system extends into Cooloola, and is therefore a natural and logical extension to Fraser Island. The extension area is sufficiently large, diverse and free from disturbance to provide for significant on-going ecological and biological processes which will allow the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.

Which areas are being considered for inclusion in the extension?

It is proposed to extend the Fraser Island World Heritage area to include the Cooloola section of Great Sandy National Park, Breaksea Spit to the north of Fraser Island, the Great Sandy Strait/Tin Can Bay Ramsar Area and Wide Bay Military Reserve.

A map of the area being considered will be available before the consultation begins.

What are the World Heritage values of the proposed extension to Fraser Island?

The natural World Heritage values of the existing and proposed extension are:

Superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.

Stunning lakes, rivers and passages, massive dunes, long wide beaches, giant forests, coloured sands, wide plains of heath showcase areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.

As a superlative natural phenomenon together Fraser Island and Cooloola represent the largest unconsolidated coastal sandmass and dune chronosequence in the world.

The magnificent tall closed rainforest growing on pure sand are believed to be a phenomenon that is unique to Fraser Island and Cooloola.  

Outstanding example of the major stages of the Earth’s history, including the record of life, significant ongoing geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.

The Great Sandy National Park region tells the story of the dunes, their formation and colonisation, and the formation of lakescapes and ecosystems. The long-term chronosequence represents successive stages of dune building over more than 700,000 years and is one of the most complete in the world.

Cooloola represents perhaps the most complete sequence of soil profile development on a single parent material (quartzose sands) yet recorded. The sequence includes progressive steps in development from sands to podzols.

Fraser Island and Cooloola contain over half of the world’s freshwater dune lakes. These perched lakes are highly diverse with each one being unique in both shape and colour. They preserve in their organic sediments a record of changes to the Fraser Island and Cooloola’s island's water table and the nature of the surrounding dune stabilising vegetation through glacial and interglacial cycles of the Quaternary period, up to the present.

Outstanding examples representing significant ongoing ecological and biological process in evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.

The development and evolution of highly specialised ecosystems within a low nutrient, acidic, sandy environment and adaption of specialised plants and animals are a remarkable example of the on-going long-term relationships between soil development and ecosystem composition and structure.  These ecosystems include rainforest on sand, freshwater lakes and patterned fens in which unique animals such as the acid frog has adapted.

More information is available on the World Heritage criteria.

What are the benefits of World Heritage listing?

An extension to the Fraser Island World Heritage area will recognise this important area internationally. The extension 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.

How does listing happen?

  • An area is identified to have Outstanding Universal Value.
  • A short submission is provided and approved by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for inclusion on Australia’s World Heritage Tentative List (the extension to Fraser Island was added to the Tentative List in 2010).
  • A nomination is 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.
  • The World Heritage Committee, after favourable consideration, inscribes the nominated property and/or its extensions, onto the World Heritage List.

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

In recognition of Traditional Owners rights and interests the government will be engaging with Traditional Owners on the consent on the World Heritage nomination to extend Fraser Island World Heritage. The government will seek consent from Traditional Owners with rights to speak for country. The government is committed to identify best practice approaches to consent and will explore options for a consent framework with Traditional Owners and their legitimate representatives.

How will Traditional Owners be affected?

Traditional use of the proposed World Heritage area extension will not be affected, and existing or future native title claims can still be submitted for properties that are World Heritage listed (this is currently the case for the Fraser Island World Heritage area where the Butchulla people have a Native Title determination). Traditional Owners will still have native title rights and the Native Title Act 1993 is the final determinant in these matters.

Will World Heritage listing affect local landholders?

World Heritage listing will not affect ownership rights and there will be no impediment to existing or planned land uses, unless they threaten the World Heritage values of the property. The inclusion of private land will only be considered at the specific request of the landholder.

As most of the proposed area is already a national park and subject to the Nature Conservation Act 1992, World Heritage status is unlikely to impose any additional constraints on using the area.

Will World Heritage listing change the commercial activities allowed on the proposed extension area?

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

Will people still be able to use the region for recreation?

Yes. Just as on Fraser Island, World Heritage listing will not affect current recreation activities. The adjacent area including Cooloola and the Great Sandy Strait will continue to provide recreational opportunities such as camping, surfing, swimming, four-wheel driving, bushwalking, nature appreciation, hang gliding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and photography. These opportunities will remain available to all visitors whether they are independent tourists or with a commercial operator.

When would the nomination be considered?

Providing there is consent from Traditional Owners and support from the community , a nomination dossier will be prepared and provided to the Australian Government after June 2017. As the State Party to the World Heritage Convention, the Australian Government submits the nomination to the World Heritage Committee.

For further information on Australia’s World Heritage, visit the DoE website.

Consultation

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) will be continuing the work undertaken in 2010-11 after the proposed extension was placed on the World Heritage Tentative List. This work includes seeking further community input into the proposed extension through targeted stakeholder meetings and a public consultation process.

The Department will also seek consent from the Traditional Owners with rights to speak for country over the proposed areas.

Public notices will be published in The Courier Mail and regional papers and targeted consultation will be undertaken with groups who have an interest in the World Heritage area nomination process, including Fraser Island World Heritage advisory committees, Fraser Coast Regional Council, Gympie Regional Council, and Sunshine Coast Regional Council.

Contact and more information

You are invited to register your interest to receive updates regarding the consultation process, or send an email to:

Last updated
12 August 2016