Great Barrier Reef Not Added To UNESCO’s World Heritage “In Danger” List!

The UN conservation agency, UNESCO, has finally announced its recommendation that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef not be added the World Heritage “in danger” list. Inclusion on the list, which protects critically damaged world heritage locations, has been highly criticised and derided by both the Queensland and Federal governments, who have been keen to allay any fears that the listing could damage Australia’s reputation as a tourism hub.

The world famous reef...

The world famous reef

Though it is only draft decision, the UN has lambasted both state and fedearl authorities for their lack of oversight and for the grim future posed by other regional developments. Accordingly, another review process will take place in 2017 in order to determine whether any headway has been made.

Published online, the draft decision delineated the decision making process used by UNESCO.

“It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee request that [Australia] submit an update on [the progress of the Long Term Sustainability Plan] progress for review by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN and that if the anticipated progress is not being made this should also be reviewed by the Committee at its session in 2017,” the draft read. “It is essential that the [Long Term Sustainability Plan] delivers its anticipated results in order to confirm that the property does not face ascertained or potential danger to its [Outstanding Universal Values].

“It is recommended the World Heritage Committee welcome the progress achieved by [Australia] towards a [significant] response. Measures that represent significant progress in responding to key World Heritage Committee requests include commitments toward restoring water quality … restricting major port development in and adjoining the GBR World Heritage Area … [Australia reversing] its original decision to dump capital dredge material from Abbot Point inside the property and a permanent ban on dumping of dredged material from all capital dredging projects within the property.”

Queensland’s Environment Minister Steven Miles noted that his government’s plan for the area was given an implicit tick of approval. “The really good news here is that the scientists at the World Heritage Committee, the scientists at the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) have looked at our plan and said this will protect and improve the Great Barrier Reef,” he explained.

Meanwhile, conservation groups have been more measured in their response to the news. WWF’s Richard Leck said that the decision did not bode well for the future of the reef.

“It puts Australia on probation to say if you do not do what you’ve said and adequately fund what you’ve promised, then you’ll have to come back before the committee and the reef is most likely going to be listed “in danger” at that point,” he told the ABC.

Similarly, Greenpeace Australia CEO David Ritter says that the decision only delays what many see as inevitable.

“UNESCO has very clearly signalled that our beautiful Great Barrier Reef continues to be in deep trouble,” Mr. Ritter said. “They’ve clearly signalled that it’s not safe in Tony Abbott’s hands, and they’ve put the government really on probation.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has redoubled its lobbying efforts to ensure that international member states of the UN committee eventually sign-off on the safety of the Great Barrier Reef.

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