Four new marine parks mark launch of landmark Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy.
In one of the most significant environmental initiatives in Western Australia’s history, the State Government today announced the formation of the Kimberley Wilderness Parks, including the State’s largest interconnected system of marine and terrestrial parks covering more than 3.5 million hectares of one of the world’s last great wilderness areas.
Created under the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy, Premier Colin Barnett said the new parks would include four new marine parks, a new national park and additional conservation reserves.
“The creation of the Kimberley Wilderness Parks will almost treble the area of marine parks and reserves in WA, from 1.5 million hectares to 4.1 million hectares,” Mr Barnett said.
“The Kimberley Wilderness Parks will cover an area of land and sea which is more than half the size of the state of Tasmania.
“The north-west Kimberley is one of the most pristine areas remaining in the world and the Government is committed to protecting the natural character of the Kimberley wilderness for future generations.
“Last year we gave a commitment to establish a marine park at Camden Sound, added to this will be three new parks in the North Kimberley, at Roebuck Bay and Eighty Mile Beach.
“I am proud to say that the Kimberley Wilderness Parks will contain more than half of the known terrestrial bird and animal species found throughout the Kimberley and will protect many unique animals including six species of rare and endangered turtles, Australian snubfin dolphins, Humpback and Minke whales, dugongs and sawfish.”
The Premier said the move would also better protect significant animals including the Northern Quoll, the world’s smallest known rock-wallaby, the endangered Golden-backed Tree Rat, the Scaly-tailed Possum and the rare Rough-Scaled Python.
Mr Barnett said Camden Sound and North Kimberley marine parks would be managed together as the Great Kimberley Marine Park.
“The Great Kimberley Marine Park will extend from Montgomery Reef in the south up to Cape Londonderry in the north and will cover more than 17 per cent of WA waters making it Australia’s second largest marine park in coastal waters behind the Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park” he said.
The Great Kimberley Marine Park will include two sanctuary zones which are designated no-take areas, that will exclude extractive uses such as commercial and recreational fishing; shell collecting; aquaculture; seismic survey and mineral or petroleum exploration; drilling and production.
“Sanctuary zones are special areas that are only host to no-impact or low-impact activities such as nature appreciation, scientific research, customary Aboriginal hunting and fishing and wildlife interaction,” the Premier said.
“Permanent moorings will also be developed in sanctuary zones and other vulnerable areas to protect the habitat, particularly coral reefs, from boat anchors while still maintaining access to the public.”
Mr Barnett said it was appropriate to be making the announcement on Yawuru country, as the marine park in Roebuck Bay would be the first in WA to be managed jointly with the traditional owners.
“These four new marine parks will create opportunities for Aboriginal involvement in park management and employment as park rangers,” he said.
“Together, the four new marine parks will protect the largest Humpback whale calving area in the southern hemisphere, some of the nation’s largest mangrove communities, significant turtle nesting areas, extensive coral reefs, sponge gardens and the area’s outstanding scenic values.”
The Premier said that the Kimberley Wilderness Parks would include WA’s 99th national park, with the spectacular Prince Regent Nature Reserve upgraded to a class A national park.
“Prince Regent National Park will be one of the State’s largest national parks and contains more than half of the known bird and animal species in the Kimberley,” he said.
Kimberley Wilderness Parks will also:
· create a conservation reserve corridor reaching across the remote north Kimberley linking Prince Regent National Park in the west with Drysdale River National Park in the east Kimberley through voluntary partnerships
· protect the Kimberley’s most environmentally significant islands as parks through partnerships with traditional owners.
Environment Minister Donna Faragher said the four new marine parks would be the first along the Kimberley coast.
“The Liberal-National Government has recognised that the Kimberley marine environment is worthy of increased protection and is making the largest single increase to marine parks in WA’s history,” Mrs Faragher said.
“Today, I am also pleased to release the indicative management plan for the proposed Camden Sound Marine Park and invite the community to have their say on how the park will be managed.”
Mrs Faragher said it was significant that the proposed marine park would protect the largest humpback whale nursery in the southern hemisphere.
“The current proposal for Camden Sound Marine Park is almost twice the size of the proposal originally envisaged by Government, and the total area of sanctuary zones in the park are the largest of any marine park in WA,” she said.
“People can make submissions until February 1, 2011 on how Camden Sound should be managed, while indicative management plans for the other three marine parks announced today will be prepared in consultation with traditional owners and other interested parties and made available for public comment next year.”
Mrs Faragher said consultation with the community would be an important part of the planning process for the Camden Sound Marine Park.
“For example, as the Camden Sound Marine Park will be multiple use, the proposal will allow for the needs of the fishing, pearling, aquaculture, resources and tourism sectors,” she said.
Recreational fishing will be allowed in marine park waters, with the exception of sanctuary zones, however lower bag limits and a requirement to consume fish on site will apply in the wilderness fishing zone.
Commercial fishing will be allowed to continue except for within the sanctuary zones and wilderness fishing zones, and the exclusion of trawling from the whale protection zone.
Commercial fishers who have lost revenue as a result of the marine park zoning will be compensated in accordance with the Fishing and Related Industries Compensation
Marine Parks) Act 1997.
Limitations on commercial fishing in the other marine parks will be determined through the indicative management plan and management plan process, which includes stakeholder consultation.
Mrs Faragher said joint management with traditional owners will be central to the creation and future of these new conservation reserves.
The State Government will also invest $10million over four years in partnerships with traditional owners, pastoralists, conservation groups and other land managers.
Mrs Faragher said the community had overwhelmingly called for better management of fire, feral animals and weeds to protect the Kimberley’s unique flora and fauna, including the northern quoll and Gouldian finch as well as critical habitat within the many remnant rainforest patches.
“These are threats that need to be managed at a ‘whole of landscape’ scale across property boundaries, in co-operation with landholders and the Government has allocated $10million over four years to achieving this through partnerships with various groups,” she said.
“These voluntary partnerships will reach beyond park borders to protect the region’s biodiversity against threats particularly bushfire, feral animals and weeds.”
Partnerships and joint management initiatives for the new marine and terrestrial parks will create significant new opportunities for local Aboriginal people to be employed working on country.
The Government will also invest $2.7million in nature-based tourism to improve visitor facilities in Kimberley parks. This will include improvements to visitor facilities in the Geikie Gorge national and conservation parks, Windjana Gorge National Park and Tunnel Creek National Park. This will complement developments under the Government’s NatureBank program elsewhere in the Kimberley.
The Premier said the Government would release further initiatives under the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy over the coming months, following further discussions with traditional owners, landholders and the community.
More information about the Kimberley Wilderness Parks and the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy is available at http://www.dec.wa.gov.au/kimberleywildernessparks
Office of the Premier - 9222 9475
Office of the Minister for Environment - 9213 7250
Video link - Premier's website.
Video link - Enironment Minister's website.