The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area was established in late 2000. In 2002 we undertook the production of the interpretation plan for the Greater Blue Mountains in collaboration with Ian Brown.
The most enduring and fundamental outcome from the interpretation plan process was the decision to refer to the world heritage area the basis of its four natural geographic divisions as reflected in its landscapes, rather than on the basis of the eight conservation reserves that legally comprise the site.
The four relevant sectors were then named on the basis of significant Aboriginal-named landscape features contained within them: Mellong, Monundilla, Kedumba and Colong.
This decision had profound implications for the planning as it meant that the lead agency - the National Parks and Wildlife Service - effectively gave up much of its brand identity in terms of referring to the area under the "national park" label.
The agency instead supported the innovative overall goal of the interpretation plan as being to ensure that: "anyone visiting or residing in the GBMWHA and its environs has a sense of being in a special place - a place where the broader mountains community has taken custodianship of the GBMWHA to the extent that it becomes a unifying motif for the region and a cultural asset in its own right."
The interpretation plan for the Greater Blue Mountains WHA hence quite simply sought to transfer the sense of ownership and custodianship for the area directly to the local communities that fringed the region - to invite these communities to identify with and promote the region as their own.
This approach had significant consequences just four years later, when the Blue Mountains Tourism organisation gained $0.5m funding to implement the Greater Blue Mountains Drive project. To deliver this project we were appointed as project managers, interpretation planners and graphic designers with the assistance of a three person management team comprising marketing, digital and photography / creative writing specialists.
The overall success and innovative qualities of this project were recognised the following year when it received the Australian Tourism Award for New Tourism Development.