World heritage and scale: how politics is trumping ecology (16150)
Boundaries are often the outcome of heritage and conservation processes with implications for access, resource allocation and legal requirements. Quite often the position of the boundary is a primary focus of heritage conflicts. The world heritage listing of the Ningaloo Coast in the northwest of Western Australia for its outstanding natural values took place between 2001 and 2011. The sparsely populated region is the location of Australia’s longest fringing coral reef, which forms the basis for important tourism industries in a remote, arid region with few other viable industries. The administrative and consultative process of world heritage listing produced three boundaries that progressively decreased in size. As outcomes of political processes that mediate between different interests and ideologies, alternative or shifting boundaries indicate changing power structures driven by new discourses and/or relationships between interest groups. Hence boundary disputes and outcomes both express an existing political ecology and set important parameters for future political ecologies. The purpose of this paper is to interrogate the shifting and contested relationships between politics and ecology both before and within the Ningaloo world heritage listing process that produced these boundaries. Two elements are more broadly relevant to considerations of political ecology and heritage: the ways tourism has influenced the ecology of the region, and how changes in World Heritage Committee priorities are altering the boundaries of natural heritage region designation.