World Heritage Areas

Before being listed as a World Heritage area, a place has to be formally assessed and recognised for its outstanding universal value under the World Heritage Convention.

Outstanding universal value means “Cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is of the highest importance to the international community as a whole.”

A place must also meet at least one of 10 criteria. The Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics of Queensland are both listed for four criteria. In a condensed version these are:

1. Contains areas of exceptional natural beauty
2. Represents major stages of earth’s history
3. Contains outstanding examples of ecological and biological evolutionary processes
4. Contains important natural habitats for conservation of biological diversity

Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the globe’s most unique and biologically diverse ecosystems. Covering an area of 348,000 square kms, it is the world’s most extensive coral reef system and is so large it can be seen from space.

The World Heritage Area extends from the top of Cape York in north-east Australia to just north of Bundaberg, and from the low water mark on the Queensland coast to the outer boundary of the Marine Park, which is beyond the edge of the continental shelf.

The Great Barrier Reef was declared a World Heritage Area in 1981. For 40 years, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has managed the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Their work is guided by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 and they report to the Australian Government. Every five years they produce The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report which examines the health, pressures and likely future of the reef.

Wet Tropics World Heritage Area

The Wet Tropics is renowned for scenic views of rainforest canopy from mountain lookouts and rivers that carve through rugged gorges cascading into freshwater swimming holes, through to giant trees and ferns from ancient eras and curiosities from the animal kingdom.

It has Australia’s greatest diversity of animals and plants within an area of just 0.26% of the continent.

Many plant and animal species in the Wet Tropics are unique to the region and are not found anywhere else in the world. So it is no surprise to learn that these rich and varied habitats are home to numerous rare and threatened species.

The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area lies between Townsville and Cooktown on the north-east coast of Queensland and covers an area of approximately 8,940 km2.

The Wet Tropics of Queensland was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1988. The Wet Tropics Management Authority was set up to ensure Australia meets its obligations under the World Heritage Convention and is funded by the Australian Government and the Queensland Government.

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“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.”