House of Representatives Committees

Managing Australia's World Heritage


Monitoring and reporting requirements

5.1 Requirements for the monitoring and reporting of properties on the World Heritage List were added to the Operational Guidelines in the annual revison of February 1995. The Operational Guidelines state that one of the essential functions of the World Heritage Committee is to monitor the state of the conservation of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List and to take action thereupon. [1]

5.2 The Operational Guidelines include a framework for systematic monitoring and reporting for all sites, not just those sites that are threatened. A distinction has been made between systematic monitoring and reactive monitoring. Systematic monitoring and reporting involves the continuous observation of the conditions of world heritage sites with periodic reporting on their state of conservation, whereas reactive monitoring is used to assess the state of conservation of world heritage sites that are under threat.

5.3 Under the Operational Guidelines the objectives of systematic monitoring and reporting are directed at four levels in world heritage management:

5.4 It is the responsibility of the States Parties, in consultation with site managers, to put in place on-site monitoring arrangements as an integral component of the day-to-day conservation and management of the sites. Managing agencies are urged to record the condition of world heritage properties every year and report to States Parties. [3] The reporting requirements of systematic monitoring as specified in the Operational Guidelines are as follows:

5.5 DEST explained that the five year program for systematic monitoring and reporting is to allow the nominated sites to be re-examined. This requires a review of the information on which the nomination was made, a review of the state of conservation of the values for which the property was listed, and an adjustment of the statements of significance attached to the justification for listing against the criteria. In the Department's view this is 'very constructive because over the years the criteria under which properties have been listed have evolved'. [5] DEST also commented on the appropriateness of a five-year timetable for systematic monitoring in Australia.

5.6 The ACIUCN supported a systematic process of monitoring of world heritage areas.

5.7 Reactive monitoring occurs when world heritage values are considered to be under threat or when other issues regarding the conservation of world heritage properties arise. States Parties are required to submit to the World Heritage Committee specific reports and impact studies each time exceptional circumstances occur or work is undertaken which may have an effect on the state of conservation of the site. [8] The Committee did not receive evidence to indicate that reactive monitoring had occurred in Australia.

5.8 The World Heritage Committee can respond to reactive monitoring of world heritage values under threat by taking no further action or recommending that the State Party take measures to restore the property. If the values of the property are seen to have seriously deteriorated to the point where it has irretrievably lost the characteristics which determined its inclusion in the list, the World Heritage Committee has the power to delete the property from the World Heritage List. However, the World Heritage Committee states its concern in the Operating Guidelines that all possible measures should be taken to prevent the deletion of any property from the World Heritage List. The World Heritage Committee offers technical cooperation as far as possible to States Parties to prevent deletion of properties. [9]

Monitoring Australian world heritage properties

5.9 Monitoring of the condition of world heritage properties is currently carried out by various Commonwealth and State management agencies. DEST explained the monitoring process in Australia:

5.10 Australia's own policy on monitoring does not conform with either five-yearly systematic monitoring nor reactive monitoring. DEST submitted that it has been a world leader in monitoring the state of conservation of world heritage areas. [11] Since 1992 it has provided monitoring reports to the World Heritage Committee on an annual basis:

5.11 As part of its monitoring process, DEST issued a monitoring report on Australia's world heritage properties for July 1992-June 1993. It provided an update on the management, research, and presentation being carried in each of the world heritage areas, based on material provided on a voluntary basis by each managing agency.

5.12 The then Commonwealth Department of Tourism conducted some monitoring relevant to tourism in world heritage areas. It commented that one of the issues likely to affect the planning, development and management of ecotourism is the impact of tourists on the areas. Monitoring tourist impacts assists in decision-making and the effective management of the resources used in ecotourism. [13] In 1993-94 the Government committed $10 million over four years to the then Commonwealth Department of Tourism's National Ecotourism Program (NEP) for the development of ecotourism. This program provides support for baseline studies and monitoring projects to assess and contribute to the management of changes to natural environments caused or likely to occur as a result of ecotourism activities. NEP funded the following monitoring projects in world heritage areas:

5.13 The Committee received information about the monitoring carried out at specific world heritage areas. The WTMA, for example, monitors forest clearing which is considered to be the greatest threat to the integrity of the area's natural heritage values. [15] It also records visitor use patterns and monitors the biota of the area. [16] The GBRMPA has a research and monitoring program which collects information on the health of reef organisms and communities to assist in the effective management of the Park. The GBRMPA is constructing a database of all long-term monitoring programs that have been operating since 1975. Monitoring programs carried out during 1994-95 included assessments of:

The GBRMPA, with the help of other agencies, is in the process of producing the first state of the reef report, which will summarise the results of all existing monitoring programs. [18]

5.14 The State management agencies monitor and report on the state of world heritage areas for which they are responsible. For example, the Queensland's DEH has recommended in its draft management framework for CERRA that guidelines and actions be established to monitor the status and condition of the national parks of the scenic rim - the prominent mountain ranges to the south and west of Brisbane. The management framework states:

5.15 The Western Australian Fisheries Department is responsible for managing fisheries in the Shark Bay world heritage area. The Shark Bay world heritage area draft management plan for fish resources made 100 recommendations designed to protect and conserve fish resources and to maintain world heritage values. Various monitoring programs were included among the recommendations. [20] In its submission, the Fisheries Department requested ongoing financial support from DEST so that long-term monitoring programs can be put in place. [21]

5.16 The Shark Bay 1994 marine reserves management plan foreshadowed an integrated program of survey, research and monitoring to aid the marine reserves' management by:

It is planned to monitor visitation, including numbers of visitors and boats, types of recreational activities and patterns of use. [22]

5.17 Relatively little information was obtained during the inquiry about the quality of the monitoring and reporting carried out. The Committee was impressed that the Commonwealth is reporting annually to the World Heritage Committee on the status of its properties, as this puts pressure on managing agencies to perform better than they might otherwise. However, the Committee notes DEST's comments that these reports:

5.18 In a report on the management of world heritage properties in Australia, Professors Boer and Fowler recommended that the annual monitoring reports could be expanded by the World Heritage Unit to include a more standardised monitoring and reporting system across all world heritage properties. In addition, an overall statistical analysis of the properties, published on a regular basis, would be useful when management approaches and funding needs are being considered. [24]

5.19 Participants at the Committee's workshop commented on the expense associated with carrying out effective monitoring programs. They promoted the involvement of users of world heritage areas, such as landholders, tour operators and the general community, in monitoring. They believed that at least some of the users of world heritage areas would be prepared to make a contribution to monitoring programs without being paid and so alleviate some of the expense needed to implement monitoring plans. The Alliance for Sustainable Tourism also suggested that the tourist industry could cost-effectively monitor impacts on world heritage areas because tour operators are in the field on a daily basis. [25]

5.20 As shown above, managing agencies monitor various issues concerning world heritage areas. All managing agencies have a role to play in checking on the condition of world heritage values. The Committee considers that monitoring is essential and is best performed by the local managing agencies or local users who are familiar with the area's world heritage values and are on-site to perform monitoring tasks. Further, the Committee is of the view that the Commonwealth has the responsibility to coordinate a monitoring program across all world heritage areas, playing an overseeing and guiding role while other bodies, including state, industry and non-government bodies, carry out the monitoring.

Guidelines for monitoring and reporting

5.21 The Committee's attention was drawn to a number of factors that contribute to an effective system of monitoring, recording and reporting on the state of conservation of world heritage areas. Firstly, the world heritage values of the site to be monitored must be well identified, an undertaking that has been discussed in more detail in Chapter 4. This was pointed out by a representative of ICOMOS to a World Heritage Committee meeting in December 1994. If values have been well defined, it is possible to assess how far they remain intact over time. [26] If, in addition, standards have been set for the conservation of these values, the information gained from monitoring can be used to guide the future management of the area where the values are situated. As Atherton and Atherton observed, 'site managers must be given guidance in the conservation standards expected of them and monitoring can be meaningful only when these standards are set'. [27] If standards are not set, substantiated judgements cannot be made about the outstanding universal values of a world heritage area.

5.22 Dr Kay from DEST mentioned two more important elements of effective monitoring systems; systems must be tailored to the particular characteristics of individual world heritage areas, and the requirement to monitor must be written into management plans.

5.23 Participants at the Committee's workshop also emphasised that monitoring programs should be implemented when management plans are first drawn up and information derived from monitoring programs should be fed back into the development of management plans. They claimed that, in the past, monitoring had been a 'poor cousin' when it came to putting management plans in place. The World Heritage Committee has also stressed the need for monitoring methodology to be flexible and locally appropriate. [29]

5.24 Guidance on how monitoring should be carried out and reported are important if monitoring is to be used to maximum advantage. The format that has been proposed for reports to the World Heritage Committee is set out in paragraph 5.5. Furthermore, at its meeting in December 1994, the World Heritage Committee invited the World Heritage Secretariat, in collaboration with the advisory bodies, to 'develop a format for monitoring reporting as an aid to the States Parties and to facilitate the processing of the reports and the information contained in them through a computerized data base'. [30] As for the annual reports from managing agencies to the Commonwealth, there are no formal requirements for what should be included at this stage but, as noted above, a best practice model is being developed. The Committee considers this to be a topic that deserves attention.

5.25 In addition to monitoring and reporting on the status of world heritage, it was suggested to the Committee that the way in which managing agencies expend government funds should also be tracked. The Committee noted, for instance, the concerns expressed by the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and The Wilderness Society (Tasmania) that:

5.26 As the ACIUCN pointed out, the Commonwealth is the obvious body to perform monitoring on world heritage areas because of its responsibilities and duties under the Convention. However, it maintained that monitoring should be done in a consultative and cooperative way that involves all groups with interests in the world heritage property. It also suggested that bodies such as the ACIUCN, which is independent of both government and non-government spheres, could carry out some of the monitoring. [32] The use of spot audits would also be a useful way to monitor the conservation status of world heritage areas.

5.27 The Committee supports the use of monitoring to assess the status of world heritage values and assist with their management. It acknowledges the usefulness of including monitoring and reporting requirements in management plans and the need to develop performance indicators and appropriate standards for world heritage value conservation for each property, within an established overall framework. It considers that DEST is the appropriate agency to manage the coordinated framework for monitoring and reporting, as required on an annual basis under the Convention. This enables DEST to act as the watchdog that ensures that standards are maintained, although both it and the managing agencies are to be encouraged to work with other groups that have an interest in world heritage protection.

5.28 The Committee recommends that:


[1] UNESCO, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, February 1996, paragraph 3(ii).

[2] UNESCO, Operational Guidelines, paragraph 69.

[3] UNESCO, Operational Guidelines, paragraph 70.

[4] UNESCO, Operational Guidelines, paragraph 71.

[5] Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, transcript, 27 November 1995, p 323.

[6] Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, transcript, 27 November 1995, p 324.

[7] Australian Committee for IUCN, transcript, 1 November 1995, p 156.

[8] UNESCO, Operational Guidelines, paragraph 75.

[9] UNESCO, Operational Guidelines, paragraph 54.

[10] Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, transcript, 27 November 1995, p 323.

[11] Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, submission (number 62) p 8.

[12] Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, transcript, 27 November 1995, p 323.

[13] Commonwealth Department of Tourism, submission (number 68) p 2.

[14] Commonwealth Department of Tourism, submission (number 68), appendix D.

[15] Wet Tropics Management Authority, Annual Report 1994-95, p 23.

[16] Wet Tropics Management Authority, Annual Report 1994-95, pp 10,19.

[17] Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, 1994-95 Annual Report, pp 53-5.

[18] A summary of the report is available in State of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area Report, Technical Workshop Abstracts and Program, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, November 1995.

[19] Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, Parks of the Scenic Rim - Draft Management Framework, August 1994, p 21.

[20] Fisheries Department of Western Australia, Shark Bay World Heritage Area Draft Management Plan for Fish Resources, Fisheries management paper No. 72, November 1994, pp 3-11.

[21] Western Australian Fisheries Department, submission (number 67) p 4.

[22] Department of Conservation and Land Management, Shark Bay Marine Reserves Draft Management Plan, 1994, pp 121, 123.

[23] Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, submission (number 78), p 5.

[24] Ben Boer & Robert J Fowler, The Management of World Heritage Properties in Australia: A Report to the Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Part II, undated, issued May 1996, pp 127-8.

[25] Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, submission (number 84), p 2.

[26] Papers from 18th session of World Heritage Committee, Thailand, 12-17 December 1994, pp 13-14.

[27] Trudie-Ann Atherton & Trevor C. Atherton, 'The power and the glory: national sovereignty and the World Heritage Convention', The Australian Law Journal, vol 69, August 1995, p 642.

[28] Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, transcript, 27 November 1995, p 324.

[29] Papers from 18th session of World Heritage Committee, Thailand, 12-17 December 1994, p 13.

[30] Papers from 18th session of World Heritage Committee, Thailand, 12-17 December 1994, p 15.

[31] Tasmanian Conservation Trust and The Wilderness Society (Tasmania), submission (number 21), p 2.

[32] Australian Committee for IUCN, transcript, 1 November 1995, pp 155-6.

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