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Venice, Ningaloo: How Much Does World Heritage Listing Count?

  • July 12th, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

venice-unesco.jpgThe last month has seen an appeal to UNESCO, to take Venice off its protection list, because it is suffering too much through lack of protection.

ningaloo-coast.jpgAt the same time conservation interests are hoping the newly acquired status of the Ningaloo Coast of Western Australia, as the latest property on the World Heritage List, will help them in legal action  against an oil company.


The conservation group Italia Nostra, founded in 1955, committed to cultural and environmental care of the country, has suggested to the United Nations body, 6.7.11, that its Heritage Listing of Venice might as well be dropped.

It says the depredations of mass tourism, and in particular constant visits by huge cruise ships, have made the preservation of the  beautiful city and the lagoon a lost cause.

Venice and its buildings, most notably the Renaissance merchant palaces and churches, and their art works, are under long term threat from the encroaching sea; but encroaching humans are seen now as a much more urgent problem.

The story has fascinated travel writers worldwide: the thought of the loss of Venice would give some stimulus, and the pointing of a finger of blame at one’s own numerous readers might provide even more.

Venice and the Lagoon were Heritage listed in 1987.


The listing is available to states that accede to a treaty for the recognition of valued inheritances form the past, universally regarded.

unesco-logo.jpgUNESCO states: “The World Heritage List includes 936 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. These include 725 cultural sites, 183 natural sites and 28 mixed properties in 153 States Parties. As of June 2010, 187 States Parties had ratified the World Heritage Convention.”


wet-tropics-qld.jpgThe Convention, (see the document at, can have import in political and legal disputes over heritage properties, as in the case of the Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia, in 1988.

The Australian government of the day, under Prime Minister Robert Hawke, wanted to Heritage list the North Queensland jungle area in recognition of its conservation values.

The Queensland State government of that day, dominated by conservative agrarian interests, had other ideas, wanting all zones available for conventional industrial development, subject to local-based controls under a “states rights” agenda.

Hawke was able to acquire power to protect the region, by virtue of bringing it under an international treaty — as such a matter for the federal government of Australia.

A sidelight of the affair was the intervention of his predecessor as a Labor Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam (1972-5),  then the Australian Ambassador to UNESCO and representative at the Heritage committee.

Perhaps nostalgic for some rough-house politics, he had  noticed the presence in Paris of a Queensland State Minister, sent to speak against recognition; and was a party to the agenda item being brought on a day early at the committee, wrong-footing the State man, who complained, with no success.


The latest, and the 19th Australian listing is the Ningaloo Coast, announced 24.6.11, a marine park running along a great expanse of Australia’s North-western coastline.

UNESCO’s statement:

“The 604,500 hectare marine and terrestrial property of Ningaloo Coast, on the remote western coast of Australia, includes one of the longest near-shore reefs in the world.

“On land the site features an extensive karst system and network of underground caves and water courses.

“Annual gatherings of whale sharks occur at Ningaloo Coast, which is home to numerous marine species, among them a wealth of sea turtles.

“The terrestrial part of the site features subterranean water bodies with a substantial network of caves, conduits, and groundwater streams. They support a variety of rare species that contribute to the exceptional biodiversity of the marine and terrestrial site.”

shell-logo2.jpgThis month permission was granted to the Shell company to drill for natural gas at sites close to the border of the new park – appx. 50 km.

The federal government proposed that the commodity, gas was not obnoxious to the region as oil might be.

Conservation  interests signalled they would mount a campaign against the drilling, as being  too close to Ningaloo, and would be looking for any legal basis for a court challenge, to do with protecting a World Heritage property.


Jayne Clark, “Under siege by tourists, Venice faces catastrophe if visitor limits aren’t imposed:, USA Today, Tyson’s  Corner, VA, 11.7.11., (11.7.11).

Italia Nostra (Our Italy), (home), In primo piano:
Venezia: Italia Nostra scrive all’Unesco
, (Main featuire: what ‘Our Italy’ is wiring to UNESCO), 9.7.11., (11.7.11).

Nick Squires, “Venice ‘risks losing its soul due to mass tourism’”, Travel (Daily Telegraph), London, 11.7.11., (11.7.11).

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Paris, “World Heritage Centre: The List”., (11.7.11).

UNESCO, Paris, “UNESCO World Heritage Convention: Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage”., (11.7.11).

Pictures   Italia Nostra, Qld. govt., UNESCO, WA govt.