It is clear that, the need to conserve the environment has become a crucial area of focus to many communities, governments and stakeholders across the globe. The paper will carefully look at various aspects on heritage and intangible assets at Kakadu National Park, which is on the world heritage list.
Kakadu's Heritage Assets
Kakadu National Park is rich in one of the park, which has been significant in maintaining the environment in the northern part of Australia. The park has numerous cultural and natural values. As a result of its many major landforms, river systems, Aboriginal cultural sites, the park is on the world heritage list (Morse & Bartlett 2005). Based on the above, it is clear that, the park has several heritage assets, which should be conserved at all lengths. Further, Kakadu is also rich in minerals, notably uranium deposits in notable sites such as Narbalek, Koongarra, Jabiluka and Ranger. A result, there is an enormous urge to carry out mining, for economical reasons such as revenue generation to the Australian economy and job creation among others.
According to Porter (2004) heritage assets can be termed as part of tangible elements, which are characterized by artistic, historical, aesthetic, architectural, technological, scientific, environmental or geophysical feature. They are kept and controlled for undefined duration by the public, governments or third parties, in order to be made available for current as well as future generations. Further, Rowles (1992) defines heritage assets as non-current assets which cannot be replaceable and held in perpetuity, government aims to preserve the heritage assets forever since they are unique, historical and environmental attributes. Mostly the useful life of the heritage assets are more than 100 years, it can includes classified buildings, heritage collection in museum, or other collections. In most businesses among other organizations, heritage assets are only accounted in a distinct category. This is due to the fact that, it is unlikely for their values to be reflected fully in terms of price or financial value (Rowles 1992). Further, many of the heritage assets are highly unique, an indication that, their values can increase instead of depreciating, even if there is deterioration of the present physical (Porter 2004). As argued by Morse & Bartlett (2005) natural and cultural heritage is kakadu national parks main attraction where kakadu has been recorded on the world heritage list for this reason. Without doubt there are numerous of heritage assets in Kakadu as indicated below:
- Aboriginal art (rock carvings and cave paintings)
- Archaeological sites
- Landforms and habitats
- Biodiversity of Kakadu National Park (Morse & Bartlett 2005).
It is clear that, all these heritage assets cannot be sold, as they are mostly declared inalienable and they are physically irremovable from this park as doing so would make them significantly lose value. As indicated by Aversano & Christiaens (2011) due to their nature, heritage assets are only able to absorb wealth, though not by generating this wealth in financial terms. Therefore, heritage assets can be appropriately be categorized as liabilities or be termed as facilities and indicated separately. This is due to the fact that, the term facilities entails all assets acquired in order to transfer resources (social benefits) to the communities, which they are located. There are various techniques, which are used to value heritage assets at Kakadu National Park. This includes replacement cost, net present value, reproduction cost, and deprival value among others.
Valuing the Intangible and Heritage Assets
As argued by Cohen (2011), accounting for intangible assets remains a controversial issue, therefore Australia companies, has benefited significantly from the recently introduced international standards pertaining intangibles. These requirements in regard to reporting and accounting of most intangible assets can be found in AASB 138 Intangible Assets (Cohen 2011). In Kakadu National Park, some of the intangible assets include:
- The economic benefits from visitors go to visit
- The cultural and natural value of the area
- National significance to the Australian people
- Recognition on the UNESCO World Heritage List
- Experience from visiting the national park (Woinarski, Milne & Wanganeen 2001).
In contrast to the tangible assets like mineral especially uranium, fauna and flora, archaeological sites, wildlife and Aboriginal art, intangible assets (stated above) in Kakadu National Park, highly lack any physical form. As earlier indicated (in question 1), there has been a pressure to allow mining of uranium at Jabiluka, an area which is surrounded Kakadu, though not a legally part of it (Woinarski, Milne & Wanganeen 2001). Despite being on the world heritage list, preservation in Kakadu can significantly be hampered by the inability to value heritage and intangible assets Cohen (2011). First, it is clear that, the overall cost of maintaining heritage assets can be significantly high, and their duration may be in hundreds of years. On the other hand, by allowing mining of Uranium in Kakadu, there will be huge economic benefits as the revenue generated will steer economic growth, as well as enable creation of jobs in Australia (Morse & Bartlett 2005).
As argued by Aversano & Christiaens (2011), the impossibilities of selling heritage assets in the open market as well as the social reasons they are mostly held, significantly hinders accountants from getting relevant and reliable valuations or from indicating the value of potential services, which they encompass. This indicates the impossibilities of getting a recommendable method of evaluation to be employed for these goods, which usually meets the aim of financial reporting. For instance, it would be hard to quantify the value of aboriginal art, biodiversity as well as the national significance of Kakadu National Park to the Australian people, in terms of monetary value, unlike that of mining. Further, wildlife, landforms and habitats, cannot be easily be valued in dollars, a factor which can greatly hamper the ability of the stakeholders to advocate for conservation of the park, now and in the near future (Morse & Bartlett 2005). Though the value of the heritage and intangible assets at Kakadu National Park cannot be quantified, there is the need for the stakeholders concerned to realize the urgency of conserving the environment. Through environmental conservation, the sustainability of both flora and fauna is enhanced, thus preventing issues such as global climate change among other vices threatening our very own existence. For instance, the intangible values brought about by conserving Kakadu National Park is estimated to be $ 435 million, 234.5% higher than present value of the proposed mine. Therefore, it is obvious that, the need to conserve this park far much surpasses the need to conduct uranium mining in the area (Aversano & Christiaens 2011).