History of listing

The Wet Tropics of Queensland was listed as World Heritage amidst great controversy. The listing was opposed by the Queensland Government of the day and many within the local community who saw it as a threat to the timber industry and  their livelihoods.

Many campaigns were waged in both directions including blockades, protests, legal cases and petitions. Some of the key struggles, setbacks and gains are detailed below.

The need to protect Australia's rainforests in tropical North Queensland was identified back in 1966 but the process of formally listing them as a World Heritage Area took until December 1988.

The Wet Tropics Management Authority has a detailed chronology of the listing of the World Heritage Area and its subsequent management. The role of non-government organisations in the campaign for listing has also been thoroughly documented by the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre.  

You can also read numerous stories about the journey for World Heritage listing in From the Heart which was produced to celebrate 20 years of World Heritage listing.


Dr Len Webb from CSIRO writes a paper on 'Identification and Conservation of Habitat Types in the Wet Tropics Lowlands of North Queensland'. A committee of enquiry into the National Estate stresses the importance of conserving Australia's rainforests.


The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) develops the World Heritage concept and defines World Heritage values.


Conservation groups nominate a number of areas for listing on the National Heritage Register. They include Kennedy National Park, Seaview Range, Downey Creek, Palmerston National Park, Malbon Thomson Range, Mossman Gorge and all areas north of the Daintree.


The Australian Heritage Commission lists a number of northern rainforest areas in the Register of the National Estate.


Sam Dansie, Forester with the Qld Forestry Dept, presents a paper at a closed Forestry Conference in Gympie showing that rainforest logging in north Queensland is a one cut, unsustainable operation. The Queensland Conservation Council obtains a copy of the paper and releases it publicly.

Conservationists picket Mt Windsor logging operations; 13 people are arrested.

12,000 Queenslanders sign a petition to protect the area, and the petition is presented to State Parliament.


The Cape Tribulation Management Plan, formulated by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Cape Tribulation Community Council, is launched and presented to the Douglas Shire Council, including a proposal for permanent protection of the Cape Tribulation to Bloomfield area as a primitive zone free from industrial impact.

'The Vegetation of the Humid Tropical Region of North Queensland' by Geoff Tracey is published.


Bulldozers begin clearing a road through the Daintree rainforest to connect Cape Tribulation and the Bloomfield River. Conservationists begin a blockade which draws national attention to the area.

Aboriginal Development Commission takes court action which places an injunction on Cape Tribulation to Bloomfield Road construction but this is only temporary.


The House of Representatives Environment Committee visits north Queensland and recommends creation of the Greater Daintree National Park.

Federal Minister Barry Cohen establishes the National Working Group on Rainforest Conservation after a meeting in Cairns. This leads to the National Rainforest Conservation Program launched in 1986 but doesn't attract Queensland participation.

Australian Heritage Commission engages the Rainforest Conservation Society of Queensland (RCSQ) to evaluate the international conservation significance of the Wet Tropics between Townsville and Cooktown. RCSQ concludes that the region is one of the most significant regional ecosystems in the world and adequately fulfils World Heritage criteria. The Commission subsequently recommends to the Australian Government that the tropical rainforests are nominated for the World Heritage list of properties of "outstanding universal value".

Protests and arrests continue at Cape Tribulation.

IUCN's General Assembly passes a resolution recognising the value of the Wet Tropics region.


The Commonwealth Government establishes the $22.5 million National Rainforest Conservation Program.


The Commonwealth Government goes to election with a policy to list the Wet Tropics as a World Heritage site and halt logging - sparking controversy in north Queensland. After winning the election, the Government proceeds with the World Heritage nomination despite objections from the Queensland Government that it is an infringement of state rights. The Queensland Government begins proceedings in the High Court of Australia.


In January, the Commonwealth Government bans commercial logging in the proposed World Heritage Area.

In April, a team of experts inspect the area on behalf of the IUCN. Shire councils make a submission against the listing.

In June, two Aboriginal representatives fly to Paris to voice directly to the World Heritage Bureau their objections to their land being included on the World Heritage list without their consent. Representatives also meet Commonwealth Minister Graham Richardson to try to renegotiate World Heritage boundaries.

In December, World Heritage listing is approved and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is born. The Commonwealth Government approves $75.3 million to be spent on job creation and business compensation.


A new Queensland Government is elected and one of its first actions is to withdraw the High Court challenge against World Heritage listing.


In a new era of cooperation the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments agree to jointly fund and manage the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, signing an agreement which sets out a structure for the area's management, to be run by a small agency based in Cairns, the Wet Tropics Management Authority.

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