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The Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve—known as the Western Port Biosphere Reserve for short—was declared by UNESCO in 2002, following nomination by the community, and state and local governments.

What is a biosphere reserve?

UNESCO biosphere reserves aim to keep special places—like Western Port—special by fostering conservation and sustainable development.

They encourage the community to develop better ways to meet social and economic needs, while conserving natural processes and biodiversity. They support this through research, monitoring, education and information exchange.

Biosphere reserves include urban, industrial and agricultural areas as well as conservation reserves, and participation by landowners is voluntary. For management purposes, they are structured into three zones:

  • Core—Conservation areas that are legally protected (e.g. national park).
  • Buffer—Areas surrounding the core, where activities compatible with conservation occur.
  • Transition—Other areas, e.g. private land, farms, industrial and urban areas, where sustainable practices are developed and promoted by the community.

There are over 500 biosphere reserves around the world.

Western Port Biosphere Reserve

Western Port was chosen as a biosphere reserve because it has outstanding natural values, including a Ramsar wetland of international importance, on the fringe of the expanding city of Melbourne. Challenges include rapid urbanisation, port development and climate change.

Officially, the biosphere reserve covers approximately 2100 square kilometres, including the Mornington Peninsula, Western Port and the southern part of the Western Port water catchment. This area, known as Stage 1, was nominated to UNESCO in 2002.

In future, following community consultation and government approval, it is proposed to nominate the balance of the Western Port catchment as Stage 2 of the biosphere reserve. This would increase its area to about 3400 square kilometres.

In the meantime, for management purposes, the five local governments around Western Port have agreed to operate as if the biosphere reserve extends to their boundaries, which together cover most of the Western Port catchment. They include Mornington Peninsula Shire, City of Frankston, City of Casey, Cardinia Shire and Bass Coast Shire—see map.

Further information about the biosphere reserve:

Biosphere Foundation

The non-profit Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation Ltd—known as the Biosphere Foundation for short—was established in 2003.

The Biosphere Foundation works with the community and UNESCO to create a sustainable future for Western Port—environmentally, socially and economically. It does this through research, education, community engagement, partnerships and on-ground conservation efforts.

Its board, led by independent chair Rob Gell, includes representatives from the broad community, Victorian Minister for the Environment, Parks Victoria, and five local governments.

The board is advised by an advisory panel of eminent experts in fields relevant to the environment and sustainable development, and a research committee with strong links to scientific and educational institutions.

The Biosphere Foundation's executive officer, project officers and volunteers are based at its office in Hastings. The foundation also hosts the secretariat of the Western Port Catchment Committee—a community/agency liaison group with an interest in the sustainability of the region—at its Hastings office.

Biosphere Foundation members meet through local community roundtables, each of which appoints a director to the board.

The Biosphere Foundation receives funding from the councils of Mornington Peninsula Shire, City of Frankston, City of Casey, Cardinia Shire and Bass Coast Shire. It also receives project funding from a number of sources, including the Federal Government, Melbourne Water, Parks Victoria and Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority.

It has tax-deductibility status as an environmental organisation. Donations of $2 or more are tax-deductible.

Further information on the Biosphere Foundation:

On this page


Location of Western Port Biosphere Reserve

Thumbnail map of Western Port Biosphere Reserve

Larger version of this map

What is sustainable development?

"Development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Report), United Nations, 1987.

Sustainable development has economic, environmental, social and cultural dimensions.