Part 2: Implementation of the Methodology

2.1 Identification of Australian thematic contexts and themes of outstanding universal value (Step A)

The specific tasks undertaken by the Panel in relation to Step A of the methodology included:
  • provision of advice on the identification of significant themes relating to World Heritage natural or cultural values for all terrestrial areas of Australia;
  • assessment of these themes in their global context in order to provide advice to Governments on which themes are of outstanding universal value; and
  • identification of the subset of outstanding universal themes relevant to forested areas in Australia.

In undertaking these tasks, the Panel identified major thematic contexts which relate to the development of the Australian continent and the shaping of its unique landscapes, biota, and human cultures. These were then used to develop the themes of outstanding universal value.

The process of developing themes of outstanding universal value has been described by Domicelj et al. (1992) as a complex one. The process involves, in practice, a certain amount of stepping backwards and forwards between theme and expression of theme in terms of values and places. In undertaking its work, the Panel often found itself moving back and forth between thematic contexts, themes and various aspects of these construed as sub-themes or exemplars of the themes, as well as examples of places that might best represent the themes or sub-themes.

At this stage of the identification process, the Panel worked within the broader context of all terrestrial areas of Australia. This was seen to be important to ensure that the themes of outstanding universal value which are relevant to Australia were identified in the appropriate context of the whole continent. It would also avoid any possibility that places might be mis-identified or over-represented as a result of working in too narrow a context. The Panel's discussion also referred to places in other parts of the world as well as in Australia. This was done to determine whether places within Australia were potentially outstanding examples at a global scale.

Thematic contexts, themes of outstanding universal value and one or more sub-themes or exemplars for each theme identified in relation to terrestrial areas of Australia were recorded by the Panel. The sub-themes or exemplars were also defined with an explanatory sentence. The thematic contexts, themes and sub-themes are summarised in Attachment 5. For simplicity, subsequent references to `theme' will also refer to `sub-themes' unless specified otherwise.

The Panel also advised on the themes most likely to be directly relevant to forested areas (eg `Rainforest') , and those which require further work to establish whether they are best expressed in such areas.

The Panel considered that the themes which it identified had outstanding universal value and that it was possible that the places which best express them lie within Australia. It stressed that all steps of the methodology (Steps B - E) must be undertaken before a decision could be made on whether the places are of outstanding universal value. Themes relevant to forested areas of Australia are listed in Attachment 6.

2.2 Future development of the themes and sub-themes of outstanding universal value.

The issue of whether the themes of outstanding universal value might be subject to future change was discussed by the Panel its meeting on 14, 15 and 21 October 1997. It was agreed that the methodology should not be viewed as static, and that the themes and their sub-themes may need to be adjusted as knowledge and understanding of the world's cultural and natural heritage increases.

The capacity for possible change was also seen as important in the global context of the application of the methodology, recognising that additions and, possibly, changes to the themes of outstanding universal value would be a likely part of any broader application of the approach embodied in the methodology and involving countries other than Australia.

In this context, the Panel emphasised the following:

  • Themes identified at its meeting on 13 and 14 June 1996 are global themes which were identified in the context of their relevance to terrestrial Australia, as part of the application of Step A of the methodology.
  • The global themes are representative and adequate in terms of their coverage of Australia's cultural and natural world heritage, as known and understood at the present time.
  • There may be other themes of outstanding universal value, as yet unidentified, which have relevance to places other than terrestrial Australia. These other global themes would be likely to become evident in contexts other than the Australian continent.

It was also agreed that additional sub-themes could be added at this time provided they were demonstrated, within the context of current knowledge and understanding of Australia's cultural and natural world heritage, to be necessary to provide a full and adequate representation of this heritage. The Panel indicated that the additional sub-themes would need to be identified within the context of the previously-agreed themes of outstanding universal value.

2.3 Additional sub-themes of outstanding universal value.

Issues related to the existing sub-themes, and to the possible need for additional sub-themes, were discussed by the Panel at its meeting on 14, 15 and 21 October 1997. These issues were identified based on discussion during previous meetings of the Panel, and also as a result of issues raised in response to the Panel's previous work.

Land barriers as historical frontiers

The issue of land barriers and their significance was discussed in some detail, and its global context as a possible sub-theme was explored. Land barriers were identified as an important aspect of a number of major colonisation events on different continents.

It was agreed that land barriers should be included as a new sub-theme. This sub-theme was defined, in the context of the theme of "European expansion of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries", as "Land barriers as historical frontiers". The Panel's discussion explored the Blue Mountains as an Australian expression of the new sub-theme. This discussion is reported in detail in Part 3 of this report.

Approaches to the conservation of outstanding natural areas

The issue of approaches to the conservation of outstanding natural areas was considered by the Panel, particularly with regard to its possible merit as an additional sub-theme. The gazettal of the Royal National Park near Sydney in 1879, which created the world's second national park, was discussed as an important Australian manifestation of an early approach to the conservation of natural areas.

The evolving nature of concepts and purposes underlying the conservation of natural areas was recognised. The Panel noted that reservation of natural areas had had a primary recreation focus in the last century, and that Royal National Park, on the edge of Sydney, had been created for this purpose. The development of areas of the Park for recreation, including the introduction of deer and trout, were canvassed in support of this view. The motivation to conserve natural areas then shifted during the twentieth century towards the protection and conservation of natural values.

The important and innovative role played by the conservation movement in Australia in relation to this issue, associated both with the developing concept of reservation for conservation, and with the concept of "wilderness" as a conservation value, was discussed. The point was also made that there are alternative views concerning these concepts that need to be considered. For example, the concepts of reservation and "wilderness" do not recognise the views of indigenous people.

The international context for conservation of natural areas and the growing momentum of this issue in recent decades were also recognised, but the Panel was not convinced that the issue could be considered as having outstanding universal value at this time. Discussion highlighted the need for further work to explore and document this issue in its global and national contexts. It was decided that the issue should not be included amongst the sub-themes at this time.

Aesthetics

Representation of aesthetic values within the agreed themes and sub-themes was considered by the Panel at its October 1997 meeting. This issue had been canvassed at both previous meetings.

The importance of aesthetic values in a World Heritage context was noted. Aesthetic values are included amongst the World Heritage Criteria. For example, paragraph 44 (a) (iii) states that sites nominated on this criterion should "contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance" (Criteria for the inclusion of natural properties in the World Heritage List, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, revised February 1997, p. 11).

In its discussion of aesthetics, the Panel emphasised the following points:

  • The themes and sub-themes identified at the 1996 meeting are based on the World Heritage Criteria. Although the themes and sub-themes do not explicitly reiterate the values in each Criterion, they are designed to be used to identify places with outstanding universal values under the World Heritage Criteria.
  • Application of the World Heritage Criteria within the international community has usually involved a consideration of aesthetic value in combination with other values, rather than in isolation.
  • The agreed themes and sub-themes are adequate to identify places in Australia with outstanding universal value, including those places of outstanding universal value for their aesthetic qualities.

2.4 Identification of places where further work is needed to determine whether they represent the themes and sub-themes of outstanding universal value (Step B).

The methodology and the list of themes of outstanding universal value relevant to terrestrial areas of Australia identified by the Expert Panel in implementing Step A were accepted by the Western Australian Government and the New South Wales Government. The Expert Panel was asked by governments to carry out the next step of the methodology (Step B) for these states at its meeting of 14, 15 and 21 October 1997.

The Panel was also asked to consider forested areas of Queensland together with the reports of its previous meetings to ensure the appropriate continent-wide context for completing its work in implementing Step B of the methodology for Australia.

The tasks undertaken by the Expert Panel in relation to Step B of the methodology included:

  • provision of advice on which, if any, of the subset of outstanding universal themes for forested areas identified in Step A are relevant to Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland; and
  • provision of advice on whether there are forested places in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland which need to be further investigated, as part of the RFA process, as to whether they represent the best global expression of these themes.

The Expert Panel considered the list of themes and sub-themes relevant to Australia's forested areas (outlined in Attachment 6) and identified those which are relevant to these three States. This was achieved by determining which of the outstanding universal themes and sub-themes, or aspects of these, are likely on a global scale to be best expressed within forested areas of these States.

In undertaking this process, the Panel worked between themes, sub-themes and potential places. In so doing, it developed a list of places in forested areas of Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as part of the comprehensive regional assessment to determine whether they are the "best of the best" in the world in representing the themes.

The list of places identified by the Panel as warranting further investigation included places likely to be:

  • a best global expression of a theme or sub-theme, on a stand-alone basis;
  • a best global expression on a serial basis; that is, as one of a series of places that, together, provide a best global expression of the theme or sub-theme; or
  • a place that warrants further investigation as a possible addition to an existing World Heritage area.

The Panel also discussed places which have exceptional heritage values in relation to a theme, but which are not quite in the class of a best global expression on a stand-alone or serial basis. The Panel recognised the importance of these impressive values in a World Heritage context, and considered that they may contribute to the World Heritage significance of a place. Places in this category were formally identified as having associative value. The Panel considered that a place would need to be identified as a likely best global expression under another theme before these associative values could be taken into account in assessing World Heritage significance.

Although the Panel formally excluded places with associative value from warranting further investigation in relation to a particular theme, it emphasised that associative values would need to be considered in any further investigation of places identified as best global expressions under other themes. It also noted that some places were identified as having associative values under several themes.

As part of its work in developing the list of places, the Panel eliminated some places as not globally-significant. Although these places were recognised as having values that may be highly significant in national, state or regional contexts, they were excluded if they were judged as not outstanding in a global context and therefore not amongst the "best of the best" in representing the themes. These places were subsequently excluded from further assessment in the application of the methodology in the RFA process.

Places not directly associated with forests (non-forest areas) were also excluded from further assessment in the RFA process. Exclusion of places that lie outside forested areas does not mean that they do not have outstanding universal value.

The relationship of places of "exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance" (paragraph 44 (a) (iii) (Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, op.cit., p.11) to the previously-agreed natural themes was discussed. The Panel considered the previously-agreed themes were adequate to identify such places.

The Panel's discussion concerning each of the themes relevant to Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, and the potential forested places which warrant further investigation as possible best expressions of the themes, are summarised in Part 3 of this report.

Themes, sub-themes and potential forested places warranting further investigation that the Panel identified in relation to Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland are summarised in Tables 16, 17 and 18.

In developing the themes of outstanding universal value, the Panel also considered whether Australia's listed World Heritage Areas may be best global expressions of these themes. Australia's listed World Heritage Areas which represent best global expressions of particular themes and sub-themes are summarised in Attachment 7 (Table 19).