National Geographic Traveler
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November/December 2006
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World Heritage Destinations Rated: Australia and New Zealand

Introduction    Africa (sub-Saharan)     Asia      Australia & New Zealand

    Middle East & North Africa   North America & the Caribbean  

South and Central America

Panelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality during the rating process. These lightly edited excerpts offer a glimpse of panelists' varied points of view and the reasoning behind each score. They are not the views of the National Geographic Society.

Australia: Great Barrier Reef
Score: 64

"One of the world's extraordinary natural experiences. Management practices of tour operators are of high quality, with high-level cooperation and coordination with government agencies. An authentic experience supported by high levels of research and planning."

"Very vulnerable to oil spills, pollution and sediment from mainland rivers and coral die-back. Environmental and ecological quality is being constantly compromised. The future is unlikely to be sustainable."

"The potential for ecological decline seems to be more related to global warming killing off the coral than to immediate impact from locals or tourists, but it is becoming noticeable. The coastline opposite the reef is becoming overly developed."

"The management regime and its coterie of more than 150 scientists (including social scientists as well as marine biologists!) is an exemplar for World Heritage management. Its zoning scheme, which determines the locations and level of a range of activities, has recently been modified, and as a result is stronger in terms of conservation."

"The socio-cultural life of the gateway Cairns and other towns has totally changed. They are vibrant but affected by and dependent on tourism. The traditional Queenslander houses have given way to modern architecture and high-rise hotels."

Australia: Greater Blue Mountains Area
Score: 72

"Scenery is fantastic—gorges, waterfalls, huge eucalyptus forests like from another planet. The area is, however, heavily built up."

"A breathing ground for Sydney. The major problem is the pace of urban development as Sydney continues to expand westward."

"Development now well controlled, but pressures need to be contained in the future."

"Wonderful conservation of the eucalyptus forests, and excellent conservation interpretation services, which more and more are run by the local community, including Aborigine groups who are rather well-empowered in this area."

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Australia: Uluru (Ayers Rock) and environs
Score: 75

"A blend of cultural and aesthetic experiences. The interpretative signage was the best I have seen, and you feel you understood the culture in a superficial way even after violating the desires of that same culture by climbing the rock. That paradox still saddens me and I regret to this day setting that first step up the ladder to the top."

"The Uluru Park itself is well managed, but it has limited experiences and limited focal points—many sites experience such high levels of visitation that the experience does not accord with an ancient and deeply spiritual landscape. The gateway community (the Ayers Rock Resort) is quite large and quite ugly with an inappropriate ambience of loud music and fast food. The larger central Australian area needs comprehensive visitor and conservation planning."

New Zealand: Te Wahipounamu—western parks and gateway towns (Mt. Cook, Fiordland, et al.)
Score: 80

"The mountains and coastline of New Zealand appear well protected and the parks had good information about environmental stewardship. There was little evidence of the story of the Maori in the parks."

"Beautiful area with impressive rain forests and mountains." 

"There is no issue with local people not protecting it, they are all active protectors. All tourists need reminding that they are entering an exceptional place, that it is a privilege to be there."

"Hiking up the glaciers in Fiordland was one of the most exhilarating things we've done.  When hunks of the glacier would fall, it put into greater perspective the magnitude of these great, but diminishing natural resources. Perhaps most shocking is how much the glaciers had receded."

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