Boundary maps for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area

The Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area is about 894,420ha of mostly public land, the majority of which is held in national park tenure.

The length of the boundary is about 3000 kilometres and stretches for about 450 kilometres from just south of Cooktown to north of Townsville. There are about 2,500 properties neighbouring the World Heritage Area.

History of the World Heritage Area boundary

The finalised boundary for the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area was produced from transparencies made by the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group of the 1:100000 cadastral map series published by the Queensland Department of Mapping and Surveying. It contains an area of about 8990 square kilometres, and was proclaimed in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 15 December 1988.

The finalised boundary took into account a six month public review that was undertaken in 1987 which resulted in the elimination of a number of elements that did not significantly contribute to the overall values of the site, including some freehold land, recently cleared land, some eucalypt forests and areas with exotic plantations. Another boundary review was also carried out in 1988 by the Department of the Arts Sport the Environment Tourism and Territories. A report outlining the amended boundary was submitted to the World Heritage Committee Secretariat in September 1988. This review essentially confirmed that, from a scientific point of view, the previous boundaries were basically correct and only minor trimming resulted. Two major areas considered for excision under the review (Mount Windsor and Paluma) were not eliminated as both these areas contribute substantially to the nomination. A total of 67 smaller areas were studied in depth with the conclusion that 31 of these were excised, 8 were added and 28 were retained.

The Wet Tropics Management Authority developed a more detailed description of the final boundary on newly created 1:50000 scale plans in 1991-92, referred to as WTQ maps. These plans do not alter the alignment of the gazetted boundary - they merely provide a more detailed and clearer description of the boundary. They were formally approved by the Wet Tropics Ministerial Council, and accepted by both Commonwealth and State Governments on 14 October 1992. They were then lodged with UNESCO in Paris. Whilst the final boundary for the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area was proclaimed as about 8990 square kilometres (about 899000ha), a more precise figure of 894420ha has since been determined from the WTQ maps. This figure is used in official Authority documentation.

WTQ maps were used as a basis to form zone boundaries and maps developed for the Wet Tropics Management Plan 1998. These were produced in May 1998 and do not affect the description or definition of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area boundary.

See a chronology of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area for more details.

Boundary issues

The areas included within the current World Heritage Area boundary were based on available scientific, cadastral and topographic information, and influenced by prevailing political and community attitudes at the time when listing was being hotly contested. As a result there remain a range of management problems and anomalies:

  • Cadastral boundaries and topographic boundaries such as ridges and rivers often divide vegetation and animal communities on either side of the boundary.
  • There are areas with the potential to be listed as World Heritage which lie outside the boundary of the Area. These include rare vegetation types, ecotonal areas, coastal vegetation communities, habitat for rare and threatened species such as the mahogany glider and superlative natural phenomena.
  • A few landholders protest the inclusion of their land within the Area, since the land is used for activities such as agriculture or grazing and appears to have minimal World Heritage natural values. Other landholders seek the inclusion of their properties within the Area.
  • Some areas having limited World Heritage significance are important to ensure the integrity of the Area and enable rehabilitation or improved management of issues such as fire, weeds and wildlife.

From both a conservation and management perspective, it is preferable to use biological and landscape information as the basis for delineation of natural boundaries. The Wet Tropics Board supports a review of the World heritage Area boundaries. The Board and Traditional Owners have also indicated support for a renomination of the Area based on cultural values. A successful cultural renomination of the area may also result in boundary changes. However, any major change to the World Heritage listing or World Heritage Area boundaries can only be achieved through a renomination of the entire area to the World Heritage Committee by the Australian Government.

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