One of the world’s last great wilderness areas will be protected under the State Government’s new plan for the Kimberley.
Premier Colin Barnett today released the Government’s bold vision for the region’s long-term conservation - the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy.
“Today, I am pleased to announce the completed strategy, along with an investment of $63million over five years to deliver conservation outcomes,” Mr Barnett said.
“The strategy is one of the most significant conservation initiatives in Western Australian history, befitting of a region of such international significance.
“The Kimberley is a spectacular place, renowned for its natural and cultural significance as well as its raw beauty. It holds a special place for many people, locally, in WA, Australia and across the world.
“The Liberal-National Government has delivered a strategy that recognises the Kimberley’s significance, the challenges facing the region and its economic importance, and has set a path to conserve the important natural and cultural values.
“This major investment in conserving the Kimberley will provide opportunities for Aboriginal involvement and employment in land management, and will promote nature and culture-based tourism.”
The Premier said the strategy was founded on the major themes raised through an extensive community consultation process led by former Senator the Hon Chris Ellison.
“The strategy will be delivered through partnerships with traditional owners, landholders, industry, government and non-government organisations. I welcome interested groups and individuals to play a part in protecting this magnificent region,” he said.
“A centrepiece of the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy is the Kimberley Wilderness Parks, which I announced last October. The Kimberley Wilderness Parks will include the State’s biggest interconnected system of marine and terrestrial parks.
“Four new Kimberley marine parks are proposed: at Camden Sound; North Kimberley; Roebuck Bay; and Eighty Mile Beach. These parks will protect 48 per cent of Kimberley coastal waters, and almost treble the area of marine parks and reserves in WA, from approximately 1.5 million hectares to 4.1 million hectares. Significant progress has been made in planning for the establishment of these parks, and I look forward to making a further announcement in the next few months.”
New Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy initiatives worth more than $41million include:
· $14million Kimberley marine science program, to increase knowledge of the region’s unique marine habitats and wildlife
· investment of a further $7.7million in landscape scale fire, feral animal and weed control partnerships. This will support voluntary partnerships underpinning the conservation reserve corridor linking the Prince Regent and Drysdale River national parks, the establishment of island conservation reserves to protect the most significant island refuges along the Kimberley coast, and other new conservation partnerships
· $1.2million investment in partnerships with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy to deliver conservation projects in collaboration with traditional owners, including indigenous jobs and training
· a major boost to nature and culture-based tourism with new funding of $7million for upgrades to visitor facilities at popular sites; the promotion of tourism corridors including four-wheel drive trails; promotion of the aerial highway to link major attractions by air; and assistance for Aboriginal communities to develop opportunities in tourism
· $1.8million to return barramundi to Lake Kununurra through a restocking program and to establish a marine education program for recreational fishers and charter operators
· $200,000 online science portal to make information on the region more accessible
· $3million geochemical and geophysical survey program to improve knowledge of the region’s geology and inform and complement land use planning, science and conservation.
“Further funding will be committed as the strategy progresses,” Mr Barnett said.
Environment Minister Bill Marmion said the State Government had met the challenge of conserving the Kimberley for generations to come.
“This strategy sets a long-term vision but is action-oriented, with many initiatives ready to commence immediately and be funded into the longer term,” Mr Marmion said.
“The Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy has a ‘connectivity conservation’ approach. This means managing threats, such as fire, feral animals and weeds, co-operatively across property boundaries to increase the resilience of ecosystems across the whole landscape.
“I’m pleased to report that seasonal fire management, feral animal and weed control projects have already commenced on the ground with the increased investment under the strategy. It is our strong intention that these programs be carried out in partnership with traditional owners, Aboriginal rangers and pastoralists, to maximise conservation outcomes across different land tenures.
“The resources available for this landscape conservation initiative have been increased to a total of $21.5million over five years, with ongoing funding of $5.5million per year.
“Substantial progress has also been made in implementing some key initiatives, including the creation of Prince Regent National Park - WA’s 99th national park. This new class A national park provides the highest level protection to this internationally-recognised area, home to more than half of the mammal and bird species found in the whole Kimberley region and more than 500 species of plants.
“Site improvements have also commenced at Geikie Gorge and Tunnel Creek national parks, with support from the Bunuba people, to upgrade visitor facilities at these popular attractions.
“Works to protect the Mermaid Boab Tree through the construction of a boardwalk have already been completed with assistance from the Uunguu rangers.
“The involvement and employment of Aboriginal people in conservation and land management is central to the strategy. The State Government has submitted legislation to Parliament to allow for joint management of land between the Department of Environment and Conservation and other parties, including traditional owners.
“I look forward to making further announcements as we implement the strategy in collaboration with our partners.”
The full Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy is available at: http://www.dec.wa.gov.au/kimberleystrategy
Premier’s office - 9222 9475
Environment Minister’s office - 9220 5000