Case study 4: Henbury Station— a new model for conservation management
Bruce Breaden, traditional owner, Environment Minister Tony Burke and Peter Cochrane, Director of National Parks. (Daniel Griffiths)
At over half a million hectares, Henbury Station in Australia’s arid centre is the largest single land purchase supported by the National Reserve System program to date. The Australian Government supported the $13.5 million purchase for inclusion in the National Reserve System with a $9.2 million Caring for our Country grant.
Located about 130 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs, Henbury Station increases the protection of the under-represented Finke bioregion from 4.4 per cent to 9.75 per cent and the MacDonnell Ranges bioregion to 17.42 per cent. The station is well connected to other protected areas, sharing its northern border with the Finke Gorge National Park and Owen Springs Conservation Reserve. It also contains the Henbury Meteorite Crater and Illamurta Springs conservation reserves and contributes to the Territory Eco-link, a 2 000 kilometre conservation corridor from Arnhem Land to the South Australian border.
While Henbury has previously operated as a cattle station, 70 per cent of the 527 300 hectare station remains largely in its natural condition. It is a significant addition to the National Reserve System, not just because of its strategic location and large size, but also through its significant biodiversity values.
It contains more than 100 kilometres of the Finke River, which crosses the property from west to east, along with several other permanent waterholes which provide critical refuges for the threatened Palm Valley palm and Finke River goby (a small fish). The property is incredibly diverse, extending south from the rugged McDonnell Ranges with its springs and gorges, out on to vast open red plains dotted with isolated ranges and hills. It improves the protection of desert oak woodlands and ancient arid floodplains scattered with coolibah and red gum. Henbury provides habitat for a number of threatened species including the endangered Slater’s skink and vulnerable Latz’s wattle and minnie daisy.
The project has strong support from the Northern Territory Government while the Central Land Council has been talking with the owners, R.M. Williams Agricultural Holdings, about the role they could play in the property’s ongoing management.
As part of the ongoing conservation of Henbury the owners are looking to pilot the capturing of carbon by managing the natural recovery of the property’s vegetation and using the sale of the resulting carbon credits to support the long-term management of Henbury. If successful, this may provide a guide for other protected area managers as well as pastoralists who are interested in managing part of their properties for conservation while generating carbon-based income to supplement or replace earnings from farming activities.
The innovative conservation and carbon project taking place on Henbury Station will be of considerable interest to many organisations. As a condition of the agreement’s support, the owners are required to provide regular public updates on the progress of the project so all parties can benefit from this exciting ‘learning by doing’ project.
Bruce Breaden, traditional owner, Environment Minister Tony Burke and David Pearse, R.M.Williams Agricultural Holdings. (Parks Australia)