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The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Marine Protected Area: valuing local perspectives in environmental protection

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The Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Queensland, Australia, is one of the most recognisable coral reefs in the world. In 1981 the reef was listed on the World Heritage List, to be preserved as an environmental asset of global significance for all people in perpetuity. The GBR is also a landmark Marine Protected Area (MPA) under the World Heritage Marine Programme. Yet management of this iconic property is not without controversy and in recent years a number of impacts, including coastal developments, increased shipping traffic and global warming, have all threatened the reef. Any breach of Australia's World Heritage obligation to protect and conserve the property may yet result in the GBR being placed on the World Heritage List in Danger. In light of the persistent controversy surrounding GBR management, this paper gives voice to the perspectives and values of stakeholders located in and around one site of controversy, Gladstone Harbour, in the southern section of the GBR World Heritage Area. We present the views of users directly exposed to the controversial port expansion development at Gladstone Harbour in the southern GBR to shed light on the importance of community perspectives in marine park management. Our findings show that local views act to reinforce the global environmental protection narrative which underpins the World Heritage (WH) system. In this study local and global values collide and, we argue, that overlooking the perspectives of users has potential deleterious consequences for WH marine site management.
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Keywords: Gladstone Harbour; Great Barrier Reef; World Heritage Area; marine park area; stakeholders

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Sydney, Australia

Publication date: April 3, 2014

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