Greater Blue Mountains Area is a World Heritage Site in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. Spread across eight adjacent conservation reserves, it constitutes one of the largest and most intact tracts of protected bush land in Australia.
It also supports an exceptional representation of the taxonomic, physiognomic and ecological diversity that eucalypts have developed: an outstanding illustration of the evolution of plant life. A number of rare and endemic taxa, including relict flora such as the Wollemi pine, also occur here.
The property, which includes eight protected areas in two blocks separated by a transportation and urban development corridor, is made up of seven outstanding national parks as well as the famous Jenolan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve.
These are the Blue Mountains National Park, Wollemi National Park, Yengo National Park, Nattai National Park, Kanangra-Boyd National Park, Gardens of Stone National Park and Thirlmere Lakes National Park.
The geology and geomorphology of the property, which includes 300 metre cliffs, slot canyons and waterfalls, provides the physical conditions and visual backdrop to support these outstanding biological values.
The property includes large areas of accessible wilderness in close proximity to 4.5 million people. Its exceptional biodiversity values are complemented by numerous others, including indigenous and post-European-settlement cultural values, geodiversity, water production, wilderness, recreation and natural beauty.
All World Heritage properties in Australia are ‘matters of national environmental significance’ protected and managed under national legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
This Act is the statutory instrument for implementing Australia’s obligations under a number of multilateral environmental agreements including the World Heritage Convention. By law, any action that has, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on the World Heritage values of a World Heritage property must be referred to the responsible Minister for consideration.
Substantial penalties apply for taking such an action without approval. The major management challenges identified in the Strategic Plan fall into six categories: uncontrolled or inappropriate use of fire; inappropriate recreation and tourism activities, including the development of tourism infrastructure, due to increasing Australian and overseas visitor pressure and commercial ventures; invasion by pest species including weeds and feral animals; loss of biodiversity and geodiversity at all levels; impacts of human-enhanced climate change; and lack of understanding of heritage values.
The first documented use of the name Blue Mountains appears in Captain John Hunter’s account of Phillip’s 1789 expedition up the Hawkesbury River. Describing the events of about 5 July, Hunter wrote: “We frequently, in some of the reaches which we passed through this day, saw very near us the hills, which we suppose as seen from Port Jackson, and called by the governor the Blue Mountains.”
During the nineteenth century the name was commonly applied to the portion of the Great Dividing Range from about Goulburn in the south to the Hunter Valley in the north, but in time it came to be associated with a more limited area.
The main natural disasters to afflict the area are bush fires and severe storms. In recent years the lower mountains have been subjected to a series of bush fires which have caused great loss of property but relatively little loss of life.
The upper mountains had not had a major fire for some decades until December 2002 and November 2006 when an extensive blaze in the Grose Valley threatened several communities including Bell and Blackheath (the Lawsons Long Alley Fire).