Australia’s population is 27.7 million (ABS 2020) and is likely to continue to grow slowly and steadily (see the Urban chapter). Where Australians choose to live and how they choose to live, as well as the increasing population, create various pressures on Australia’s natural and cultural heritage. The key population-related pressures on heritage in Australia are: urban development and providing supporting services leisure activities, which are increasingly travel oriented and nature based diseases and invasive species, due to both a mobile population and industry movement. It is difficult to quantify the current impacts of population on Australia’s heritage, as this is not specifically measured for heritage (although some data are available for the natural environment) (see the Biodiversity, Land and Marine chapters). Expert assessment undertaken for this report ranks population pressures as a low to medium threat to natural heritage overall (Figure 26). Invasive species, seen as a major threat to natural heritage, are the exception. Population growth and recreation are seen as moderate threats to geoheritage, with other pressures being considered as low to minimal. Population pressures are also ranked by expert assessment (McConnell 2021a) as a low to medium threat to cultural heritage overall compared with other pressures (Figure 26; see also Figure 24). Population pressures generally were ranked as moderate to minimal threats to Indigenous heritage. In relation to historic heritage, the various population threats are seen as low to minimal, except for urban renewal and peri-urban development, which are seen as moderate to major threats. Figure 26 Population pressures considered to have the highest impact on Australian heritage, 2020 Expand View Figure 26 Population pressures considered to have the highest impact on Australian heritage, 2020 Note: Figures are based on aggregating the survey respondents’ 5 pressures identified as having the greatest impact for each heritage type. A value of ‘1’ was allocated to each pressure. Source: McConnell (2021a) Download Go to data.gov Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Assessment Population-driven pressures on heritage 2021 Somewhat adequate confidence 2016 Population pressures on heritage come mainly from land-use changes arising from population growth and movement, including the densification and expansion of urban areas, broadscale land clearance, the development of services, greater biosecurity issues, and increased recreational activity. All these pressures are increasing, which will lead to increased heritage loss and damage unless protections are improved. The ongoing lack of public understanding of heritage and heritage conservation can also be viewed as a population-related pressure. However, population-driven pressures overall are seen as having less of an impact on heritage than climate- or industry-driven pressures. Related to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal targets 8.9, 11.3, 11.4, 11.6 Legend How was this assessment made Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Assessment Population pressures on Indigenous heritage 2021 Somewhat adequate confidence The ongoing circumstance of colonisation and the resulting impacts on the environment and environmental management have high impacts on Indigenous heritage. New development and recreation also impact Indigenous sites. Assessment Population pressures on natural heritage 2021 Limited confidence Invasive flora and fauna species are having a significant widespread impact on species, habitats and ecosystems. Land development and use generally, including for leisure, but primarily through vegetation clearance, are also impacting natural heritage in a variety of ways. This is expected to worsen with increased population and movement. Assessment Population pressures on geoheritage 2021 Limited confidence Population growth has driven land-use change and development, which is impacting geoheritage in a variety of ways. New development is the most significant population pressure. Recreation and leisure activities are having increasing direct and indirect impacts, as these activities have significantly increased. Assessment Population pressures on historic heritage 2021 Somewhat adequate confidence Significant cultural landscapes and large numbers of historic heritage places are being destroyed or damaged by large-scale urban redevelopment and peri-urban development, and the provision of services. Increased impacts are forecast, given the ongoing erosion of protections for historic heritage. Increased recreational activities have increased direct impacts on underwater cultural heritage. Assessment Population pressures on World Heritage 2021 Somewhat adequate confidence Invasive species and an increased focus on visitor access and amenities are adversely impacting several Australian World Heritage properties. Assessment Population pressures on National Heritage 2021 Somewhat adequate confidence Invasive species and an increased focus on visitor access and amenities are adversely impacting several National Heritage properties. Urban development The growth of urban areas, primarily Australia’s cities and larger regional centres, is the most evident area of population-related change (see the Urban chapter). Although these changes can potentially adversely impact heritage of all types, they are likely to mostly affect the historic heritage of these areas. Cultural landscapes, especially historical urban landscapes, are also at risk from development (see Pressures on, and management of, historic heritage). Urban development was noted as a pressure on heritage in the first state of the environment report in 1996 (Purdie et al. 1996) and in subsequent reports. The impact of urban development and redevelopment on geoheritage and natural heritage at present is significantly less than previously, since these values will already have been substantially impacted by earlier development. There may be remnant or isolated preserved geoheritage and remnant surviving significant flora and fauna in areas such as cemeteries or parkland, and these continue to be adversely affected. The impacts from urban redevelopment and peri-urban development impact many aspects of Indigenous heritage, most especially because they continue to degrade Country. Likely impacts on Indigenous heritage include: destruction of, or damage to, Indigenous archaeological sites and sites of Indigenous significance (e.g. government homes, sites of significant protest movements) decreased access to places of traditional and historical importance changes at and near places of importance that adversely affect Indigenous social values. Such impacts harm Indigenous communities through diminished wellbeing, threats to cultural continuity and inability to fulfil custodial responsibilities. Services Increasing population in any area requires increased services such as transport, freshwater and energy supply, and sewerage and waste removal. In urban areas, archaeological heritage is likely to be most threatened by new services. Except in greenfield developments, the ability to use or expand existing services may reduce the impacts. Outside urban areas, the situation is likely to be different, particularly in high-quality natural areas where services such as water supply or energy-generating infrastructure are located. This is particularly the case for freshwater supply, which requires inundation of large areas or river diversion to acquire water. New dams may have a significant impact on geoheritage and natural heritage. There is also potential for such development to adversely affect Indigenous heritage, since areas to be dammed will be more likely to have undisturbed archaeological sites (including rock art sites), and better preserved traditional resources and cultural landscape values. An example is the raising of the Warragamba Dam wall on the edge of the Greater Blue Mountains. Impacts on historic heritage are likely to be less than on natural and Indigenous cultural heritage; nonetheless, historic heritage in the areas to be inundated for water storage will be lost (most typically historical water supply, mining and rural heritage). For energy generation, wind farms have major potential to adversely impact significant avifauna. Services include major connection corridors for transport, and power and water supply. New roads, road upgrades, creation and maintenance of electricity transmission lines, water supply pipelines and gas pipelines can affect heritage of all types. Corridors through high-quality natural areas will have high levels of impact. Transport and supply routes can also contribute to reduced habitat connectivity, and can be a major vector for the introduction and spread of pests and diseases (e.g. Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease). Other services that support or protect population areas can have heritage impacts. For example, hazard mitigation, including fire mitigation, has the potential to affect natural and cultural heritage. Where ground disturbance is likely to occur, these activities can damage or destroy Indigenous and historic heritage sites and places. Invasive species and disease Invasive species and diseases primarily affect the natural environment, and can have a significant adverse impact on biological heritage values. Impacts include reductions in, and potentially loss of, particular species, or degradation of plant communities and animal habitats (see the Biodiversity, Land and Marine chapters). Direct impacts on geoheritage and cultural heritage occur (e.g. damage to rock art or buildings from feral animals), but are extremely limited compared with impacts on natural heritage. Invasive species that are adversely impacting natural heritage include feral cats, pigs, goats, deer, rats (see case study: Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Project) and yellow crazy ants. For the marine environment, the Pacific oyster and the northern Pacific seastar are impacting natural heritage (see the Biodiversity and Coasts chapters). There are also invasive plant species (e.g. buffel grass) that adversely impact native ecosystems. Invasive grasses can result in more intense bushfires. Disease is also having a significant impact on natural heritage. For example, chlamydia is one of the main factors threatening the long-term survival of the koala (see case study: The koala – protecting an iconic species as part of natural heritage management), amphibian chytridiomycosis (chytrid fungus) affects frogs, and Austropuccinia psidii (myrtle rust) and Phytophthora cinnamomi impact native plant species (see the Biodiversity chapter). Human disease is unlikely to have a direct negative impact on Australian heritage values. However, as can be shown by the COVID-19 pandemic, major disease outbreaks can create indirect economic pressures on cultural heritage sites and potentially protected areas through reduced site and government income. Governance Poor governance can be seen as a significant pressure on heritage (see Management) and can include: prioritisation of economic benefit over heritage protection lack of recognition of Indigenous approaches to Indigenous heritage management inflexible approaches to heritage management, leading to restrictive definitions of heritage in the protective context (e.g. reluctance in most jurisdictions to provide for intangible heritage protection) poor operationalisation of legislation poor decision-making about heritage due to inadequate expertise resistance to evidence-based adaptive management limited resourcing for heritage conservation and management in all jurisdictions a lack of leadership in resolving heritage conservation and management in Australia (see Leadership and partnerships). Poor governance at the government level leads to poor outcomes for heritage. This is occurring largely as a gradual degradation of heritage across Australia, which is largely unmeasured and thus invisible. It is, however, occasionally evident in: highly publicised protection failures such as the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rockshelters rare performance audits (e.g. the review of Commonwealth National Park Management, see The Auditor-General 2019) rare published accounts, such as that for Mount Field National Park, Tasmania (Kiernan 2018). Lack of public understanding of heritage and heritage conservation can also be viewed as a pressure. Where people are unaware of what heritage is or its value to current and future communities, or are unaware of the vulnerability of heritage to various pressures, this can cause heritage to be invisible in management. Poor protection from inappropriate and damaging actions, including overuse, can lead to degradation of heritage values. Assessment Governance pressures on heritage 2021 Somewhat adequate confidence The lack of a cohesive and effective framework for heritage protection and management across all heritage types is contributing to the loss and damage of heritage across Australia. An apparent unwillingness to address many of the contributary issues, and a lack of leadership and resources to improve this are putting Australia’s heritage at further significant risk. Driving some aspects of poor governance is an ongoing interest in the perceived greater benefits of development compared with conservation, and an increased government interest in the utilitarian uses and concomitant economic benefits of heritage. The situation is not helped by the minimal obligation for independent agency performance auditing. Indigenous heritage continues to be highly impacted by management practices that impede self-determination. Indigenous involvement in decision-making is growing, but the standard of free, prior and informed consent is lacking. Related to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal target 11.4 Legend How was this assessment made Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Assessment Indigenous heritage 2021 Somewhat adequate confidence Indigenous heritage continues to be highly impacted by management practices that impede self-determination. Since 2016, there is more evidence that Indigenous communities are beginning to be better included in established heritage organisations, and separate Indigenous organisations are emerging. However, Indigenous heritage continues to be catastrophically damaged, access to Country is often limited, and legal frameworks do not adequately protect Indigenous rights to heritage. Assessment Natural heritage 2021 Somewhat adequate confidence Limitations of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act), including poor operationalisation, and slowness in implementing strategic and site adaption planning for key pressures are contributing to the loss of natural heritage values. Government has continued to actively seek to remove barriers and facilitate new uses and development that are damaging to natural heritage. Assessment Geoheritage 2021 Somewhat adequate confidence Inaction on developing and implementing a national protection framework for geoheritage is the key governance pressure for geoheritage. In addition, government has continued to actively seek to remove barriers and facilitate new uses that are damaging to geoheritage. Assessment Historic heritage 2021 Limited confidence Government continues to actively seek to remove barriers and facilitate new uses and development that are damaging to historic heritage, including by eroding statutory protections and promoting visitor use. Inadequate inclusion in broader environmental assessment and accounting is also contributing to historic heritage loss and damage. Assessment World Heritage 2021 Limited confidence Limitations of the EBPC Act, including poor operationalisation and reliance on states and territories to undertake the bulk of the management obligations unassisted, are putting World Heritage at risk. If ongoing, this risks cumulative impacts. Assessment National Heritage 2021 Limited confidence Limitations of the EBPC Act, including poor operationalisation and reliance on states and territories to undertake the bulk of the management obligations unassisted, are putting World Heritage at risk. If ongoing, this risks cumulative impacts.