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Proposal for Port Stephens-Great Lakes World Heritage Estuary

Often advertised by local tourist organisations as the Blue Water Wonderland, the Port Stephens/Myall Lakes region, located on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, is one of the most important estuary systems in Australia. 


The Port Stephens/Myall Lakes Estuary is an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of unique terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals. The estuary’s uplands and saltmarshes support an extraordinary diversity of animals and plants. At least 229 species of birds, 658 species of plants and over 28 kinds of reptiles – including dozens of plant and animal species considered to be threatened by state and national authorities – inhabit the region. Port Stephens also supports a large dolphin and sea turtle population and supports the largest area of mangroves in New South Wales, which is listed on the National Estate Register.


Although nearly 95% of the estuary now receives some form of protection, concern over long-term management for this critical natural resource, including its near-coastal watershed, has prompted the Marine Parks Association to take a “whole estuary approach” to the area’s future.

Preliminary studies have strongly indicated that over 3,000 square kilometres of this region meets the criteria for inclusion into UNESCO’s World Heritage Program. The Marine Parks Association is now announcing its active commitment towards that long-term goal. We propse to name the new World Heritage area the Worimi World Heritage Estuary. The core area of this protected property is approximatly 142,800ha.


For more information, please contact Marine Parks Association chairman, Mr. Frank Future at 0412 689 798 or conservation biologist, Terry Domico at 

What are World Heritage sites?
A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance. The World Heritage Convention aims to promote cooperation among nations to protect cultural or natural places of 'outstanding universal value' that its conservation is important for current and future generations. World Heritage sites are places that are important to and belong to everyone, irrespective of where they are located. They have universal value that transcends the value they hold for a particular nation.


World Heritage status is a high accolade that brings with it responsibilities and international scrutiny. World Heritage sites that are nominated for World Heritage listing are inscribed on the list only after they have been carefully assessed as representing the best examples of the world's cultural and natural heritage.


Australia has a total of 19 UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, which include some of the oldest rainforests on earth and around one-third of the world's protected marine areas. Many of Australia's iconic destinations are World Heritage-listed sites such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics of Queensland, which includes the Daintree Rainforest; the Greater Blue Mountainsin New South Wales; the Northern Territory's Kakadu and Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Parks; and Western Australia's Purnululu National Park in the Kimberley.


Implications of World Heritage Listing


Australia's World Heritage properties are a clearly identifiable part of our heritage. The benefits of being listed on the World Heritage List can produce many benefits for Australia, and in particular, for local communities.


In the case of properties such as the Tasmanian Wilderness, Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef, World Heritage listing has featured in promotions that have resulted in greatly increased tourist visitation from overseas and within Australia.


Local communities benefit from possible increases in employment opportunities and income, as well as improved planning and management of the region. The Australian Government has focused on assisting World Heritage properties by providing resources for strengthening management and improving interpretation and visitor facilities.


World Heritage listing also promotes local and national pride in the property and develops feelings of national responsibility to protect the area.


World Heritage listing does not affect ownership rights. Ownership remains as it was prior to nomination, and State and local laws still apply. World Heritage properties in Australia do not become Commonwealth property, nor do they become the property of any international body or foreign power.


Australia's World Heritage properties comprise a wide variety of land tenures including freehold, perpetual lease, pastoral lease, town reserve, State forest, national park, nature reserve, Aboriginal reserve and recreational reserve.


The Australian Government has an international obligation to protect and conserve World Heritage properties, but there is no impediment to existing land uses unless they threaten any of the outstanding universal values of the property.


Experience shows that listing does not necessarily limit the range of activities that can be carried out on a property. For instance, grazing occurs in the Willandra Lakes Region, NSW, and Shark Bay, Western Australia, and there is recreational and commercial fishing in the Great Barrier Reef.

What Would World Heritage Status mean to us?


• Assured long-term conservation of natural values of region including protection of estuary headwaters and feeder creeks.

• Comprehensive environmental management mandate for multiple and often competing jurisdictional agencies. (National Parks, Marine Parks, Councils, DPI, Waterways, etc.)

• Local, State & National “Pride of Place”.

• Regional control over development.

• Better management of agriculture & aquaculture enterprises.

Make a Donation

The Marine Parks Association is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organisation and is dependant on financial memberships, grants and community donations.


Make a donation that will help the Marine Parks Association's bid for World Heritage listing for the Port Stephens/Myall Lakes region. Your donations will help fund educational materials, community events and cover operational costs associated with our application to achieve World Heritage status for the Worimi World Heritage Estuary. Any donations are greatly appreciated and carefully spent. Thank you.

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