UNESCO World Heritage Bid Project

​The Adelaide Hills, Alexandrina, Barossa, Mt Barker, Onkaparinga, and Yankalilla Councils are collaborating with the University of Adelaide and Regional Development Australia Barossa to pursue Stage One Commitment to the National Heritage listing of the Mount Lofty Ranges region. Pursuant to the success of a National Heritage listing of the affected region, the councils will consider lobbying the State and Federal Governments to lodge a World Heritage Site (WHS) bid with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The World Heritage list seeks to encourage the identification, protection, preservation and promotion of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. Stage One of the process has taken five years to complete (albeit we are still awaiting the decision of the Federal Government in this regard), and Stage Two (the WHS bid to UNESCO) will take another three to five years. This is an iterative process, meaning that the six abovementioned councils have the ability to reconsider whether or not to continue with the WHS bid project at any stage of the process. Formal public and stakeholder consultation is a crucial part of this project and commenced in 2014.  Members of the public who wish to provide comments or ask questions about the proposed project may send an e-mail to Council at mail@ahc.sa.gov.au

Grounds for a UNESCO World Heritage listing
The Mount Lofty Ranges region is considered to be worthy of listing for its working agricultural landscapes and historic settlements on the basis of its unique history and continuing culture and practice.

South Australia was the first place in Australia to be planned and developed by free settlers without the use of convict labour. It is also the first place in the world to apply the principles of 'systematic colonisation' developed by Edward Gibbon Wakefield, John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. The region's link to this unique philosophical movement of universal significance, as well as the continuing reflection of these ideas in the modern landscape and land use, would form the basis of a future World Heritage bid.
The area to be included in the bid is yet to be defined, but could stretch from the Fleurieu Peninsula in the south to the Barossa Valley in the north. A feasibility report and Economic Impact Study has been developed and endorsed by the four original councils (namely Adelaide Hills, Barossa, Mount Barker and Onkaparinga) to support the proposal. The reports present the argument and rationale for WHS listing and can be accessed at the project website.

 The original four councils had the Economic Impact Study peer reviewed in order to:

  • Assess and review the assumptions made, methodology applied, and conclusions made by the author; and
  • Determine whether the report's findings are 'in the ball park' with regard to the potential economic impacts and benefits arising from a World Heritage bid/listing. 

In short, the peer review concluded that the Economic Impact Study report meets the requirements of the brief and provides a sound methodological approach to providing a quantified measure of the potential benefits of heritage listing of the Adelaide Hills region. Furthermore, the methodological approach adopted in the assessment provides an appropriate order of magnitude assessment of the potential benefits of the World Heritage listing, while recognising that the outcomes are dependent on:

  • The probabilities of the alternative scenarios proposed occurring; and
  • Alternative employment-generating activities to those driven by agriculture and tourism are not constrained by heritage listing.

Impact on the region
The feasibility report details how World Heritage listing could bring economic, social and cultural benefits to the region's communities, including the Aboriginal communities. This could include increased investment, new business opportunities and potential 'provenance premiums' for local products, improved natural resource management as well as an enhanced sense of local pride, place and identity.

Council support
Several councils support this project as it is considered that it will:

  • Result in significant economic development opportunities for the region, primarily in the agricultural and tourism sectors;
  • Solidify and entrench the goal to protect high value agricultural lands for this purpose;
  • Have many potential positive spin-offs for both the agricultural and tourism sectors of the local, regional and state economies;
  • Put the region on the 'world stage' and give it global prestige;
  • Strengthen the branding and marketing of local produce and products which will benefit farmers and tourism operators within the region;
  • Result in increased investment, new business opportunities and potential 'provenance premiums' for local products; and
  • Enhance the sense of local pride, place and identity within the region.

The project is consistent with one of the seven priorities of the South Australian Government, namely "Premium food and wine from our clean environment". It also supports policies to make South Australia a more attractive place to live, work, visit and invest.

Potential economic benefits
The Economic Impact Study details the potential benefits to agriculture, wine and food production, and tourism for the regions as a result of WHS over a 10 year period, against three growth scenarios (high, medium and low). The study has demonstrated that even under a low growth scenario the economic benefits are significant.  However, under a high growth scenario WHS could inject $214m (2012 figures) to gross regional product, add 1,937 new jobs and boost household income by $94 million.

Potential social, cultural and environmental benefits
In addition to the potential economic benefits to agriculture, wine and food production, and tourism, studies of existing WHS sites around the world suggest that sites and associated regions can expect substantial impacts in the following social, cultural and environmental areas:

  • Enable the early South Australian story to be told in more detail from both sides (i.e., colonialists and Aborginal groups);
  • Investments, grants and funding in appropriate local infrastructure;
  • Unique and high-quality architecture and landscape design;
  • Branding opportunities and 'provenance premiums' for communities and local products;
  • Catalyst effects for entrepreneurial business opportunities;
  • Enhanced coordination for more sustainable transport policies;
  • Integrated planning, recreation and environmental policies;
  • Protection of aesthetic values, heritage and wildlife habitat;
  • Education, learning, community and cultural benefits; and
  • Partnerships for economic and cultural development.

Potential impacts on farmers and tourism operators
It is considered that there are many potential positive benefits from achieving WHS for farmers, tourism operators and business in the region. Most notably these include:

  • Increased international interest in authentic local food and wine, and tourism experiences;
  • Increased investment in product development (for food, wine and cosmetic products as well as tourism products and services);
  • Significant marketing and branding opportunities;
  • Opportunities to gain 'the edge' on any competitors as a result of WHS listing;
  • Value-adding to all links (producers and processors) in the food and beverage chain;
  • Commodity pricing benefits (for example in 2011, co-operatives in the Cinque Terre World Heritage-listed agricultural National Park were buying organic lemons for €2.50 (£2.10) per kilogram, compared with a commodity price of €1.70-€1.80 (£1.46 – £1.55) for the same product outside the WHS/National Park – a 68% premium); and
  • Increased levels of support from community and government for farming and tourism enterprises.

World Heritage Site (WHS) status will not prevent farmers from continuing their agricultural pursuits. WHS for a working, evolving agrarian landscape is not "heritage listing" in the traditional sense and does not freeze the area in a moment in time. Rather it is a pro-growth strategy afforded to a working agrarian (agricultural) landscape that enables farmers, food and beverage processors, and tourist businesses to market the region and brand its produce as coming from a World Heritage area. The values on which WHS is formed and evaluated (e.g. ongoing agricultural production reflecting the colonial settlement of South Australia) would be established in consultation with the communities involved. WHS status embraces working, evolving, changing agricultural communities. Producers can still shift crops, change practices, build new buildings and take down old ones, subject to obtaining council approval where required pursuant to the current planning and development legislation.

Although World Heritage listing comes under the federal government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, it does not add another layer of planning control or red tape to the area for ordinary development applications. Rather WHS is awarded on the basis of existing planning and zoning regimes. Assessment processes for the vast majority of development applications will not change. WHS can, however, propel councils and communities to update their existing development plans and economic development projects to support the community's agreed WHS values and objectives. Conversely, should any community decide that a large project (such as a mine, airport, or major housing development) that triggers the (EPBC) Act is more valuable to them than maintaining World Heritage Site status, they can always decide to modify the project to accommodate the World Heritage values, or to opt out of WHS listing entirely.

Public and stakeholder consultation
Formal community and stakeholder consultation has been undertaken at various times during the past few years and will continue during the course of the project at relevant stages. The collaborating councils consider that public and stakeholder consultation is crucial to the success of this project and will consult with a number of groups including but not limited to:

  • Farmers, producers and processors;
  • Farming industry representatives (e.g. South Australian Farmers Federation, Grape Growers', Apple & Pear Growers', Cherry Growers' associations, agricultural bureaus and wine industry bodies, to name a few);
  • Tourism operators within the region as well as tourism industry bodies and the South Australian Tourism Commission
  • Local business community representatives who may also benefit from the listing; and
  • Aboriginal groups, environmental groups and the general communities of the respective council areas.

Should you have any further queries in relation to this project, please contact us.

Council acknowledges that we conduct our business on the traditional lands and waters of the Peramangk and Kaurna people. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging as the Custodians of this ancient and beautiful land.
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