Protecting the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

Australia is committed to ensuring the Great Barrier Reef retains the values for which it received World Heritage listing.

The World Heritage Committee has requested Australia to undertake a number of initiatives to ensure the long-term protection of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area as it faces a number of pressures, including growth and development along the Queensland coast.

During the World Heritage Committee's June 2011 meeting, concern was raised about the impacts of development on the Outstanding Universal Value of the Great Barrier Reef. This was prompted by the approval of the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) developments on Curtis Island near Gladstone, which sits within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The Committee passed a decision that requested Australia:   

  • Undertake a comprehensive strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, identifying planned and potential future development that could impact on the Reef's Outstanding Universal Value to enable a long-term plan for sustainable development
  • Report to the World Heritage Committee its intention to undertake or to authorise any new development that may affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property
  • Invite the UNESCO World Heritage Centre / International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) monitoring mission to consider the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef, and to contribute to the strategic assessment process   
  • Provide a "State Party Report" to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2012, on the course of action taken in response to this decision for consideration by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.
On 30 August 2012 the GBRMPA's terms of reference were approved by the Federal Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. These set out the requirements for undertaking the Great Barrier Reef Region Strategic Assessment.