Overarching protection of such values falls under national legislation.
A federal Environment Department spokeswoman said staff had been in ongoing discussion with Queensland counterparts but had not heard from UNESCO, which has been contacted for comment.
“The extent and impact of the fires on specific attributes listed … will not be understood until the fires are under control and it is safe to access the area and conduct an analysis of the fire damage to [these],” she said.
“[We] will provide information to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre once we have an analysis from the Queensland government.”
Only two properties, Germany’s Dresden Elbe Valley and the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman, have been removed from the list since the World Heritage Convention was established in 1972.
The scale of K’gari’s ancient coastal dune-based rainforest is labelled “unique” in its listing, with the island also featuring half of the world’s perched freshwater dune lakes.
University of Queensland ancient ecology expert Patrick Moss has said while large areas of the island were fire-adapted, the rainforests around the Valley of the Giants and Central Station, along with the perched lakes, were of most concern.
“That’s where it could do long-term damage,” Professor Moss said.
On Wednesday, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services incident controller Superintendent James Haig said the downhill and low-intensity arrival of one fire into the Valley of the Giants was hoped to ensure it went through “gently”.
Fire conditions on Thursday offered crews involved in the joint firefighting response, including professional and volunteer firefighters, Queensland Parks and Wildlife and the Butchulla traditional owners, a brief reprieve before the return of northerly winds from Friday.
Aircraft have now dropped more than 1.86 million litres of water and gel-retardants on the three fires since Saturday, which have burned a combined 82,000 hectares.
The Kingfisher Bay Resort and Village remains subject to a “prepare to leave” alert, though a QFES spokeswoman said crews had “successfully steered” the fire to the east.
A Queensland Environment Department spokeswoman said efforts were focused on the threat to both life and property, along with environmental and cultural values.
These would be assessed once the fires were contained.
“Inappropriate fire” is laid out among the key threats to the island by UNESCO listing, which include degradation caused by visitors, invasive species and climate change.
A conservation outlook published by the World Heritage Convention’s official advisory body this month found said climate change could both reduce the window for fuel-reduction burns and boost the frequency of higher-intensity fires.
Matt Dennien is a reporter with Brisbane Times.