Annual Report 2010-11 - Corporate overview and financial summary
© Director of National Parks, 2011 | ISSN 1443-1238
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Following the 2010 Australian federal election and a subsequent change in ministerial responsibilities, the Hon Tony Burke MP was appointed Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities on 14 September 2010, with responsibility for the Director of National Parks. The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP served as Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts, with responsibility for the Director of National Parks from 1 July 2010 to 13 September 2010.
The Minister's responsibilities in relation to the Director include; assessing proposals for establishing Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999; approving management plans for Commonwealth reserves; establishing and appointing members to boards of management for Commonwealth reserves jointly managed with Aboriginal owners; resolving disputes between the Director and boards of management; and approving Commonwealth reserve use fees and other charges.
The Director of National Parks
The Director of National Parks is a corporation sole established under Division 5 of Part 19 of the EPBC Act, and a Commonwealth authority for the purposes of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act). The corporation has a single director - the person appointed to the office named the Director of National Parks.
The current office holder is Peter Cochrane, who was first appointed as Director in October 1999 and was reappointed to the position by the Governor-General on 12 December 2008 for a period of five years.
Environment Minister Tony Burke with Hezekial Jingoonya and visitor services officer Tim Rogers talking in Kitchen Cave. Visitors to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park can learn more about the cave during the Mala Walk, one of the most popular walks in the park
The EPBC Act requires the Director to perform functions and exercise powers in accordance with any directions given by the Minister, unless the Act provides otherwise. The Minister responsible for the CAC Act may, via a General Policy Order, also notify the Director under the CAC Act of general government policies that apply to the Director. No General Policy Orders were issued to the Director in 2010-11.
The EPBC Act provides for the proclamation and management of Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones. The term 'Commonwealth reserve' includes all areas proclaimed under the EPBC Act with names such as national parks, marine parks, national nature reserves, marine national nature reserves, marine reserves and botanic gardens. This report generally uses the term 'reserves' to encompass all parks and reserves under the EPBC Act.
The Director of National Parks is responsible under the EPBC Act for the administration, management and control of Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones. The Director is assisted by staff of Parks Australia - a division of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. In this report, reference to Parks Australia means the Director of National Parks and Parks Australia staff members.
The Director is responsible for the administration of Divisions 4 and 5 of Part 15 of the EPBC Act (Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones) and regulations made for the purposes of those divisions.
The functions of the Director as set out in subsection 514B(1) of the EPBC Act are to:
- administer, manage and control Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones
- protect, conserve and manage biodiversity and heritage in Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones
- contribute to the protection, conservation and management of biodiversity and heritage in areas outside Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones
- cooperate with any country in matters relating to the establishment and management of national parks and nature reserves in that country
- provide, and assist in the provision of, training in knowledge and skills relevant to the establishment and management of national parks and nature reserves
- carry out alone, or in cooperation with other institutions and persons, and arrange for any other institution or person to carry out research and investigations relevant to the establishment and management of Commonwealth reserves
- make recommendations to the Minister in relation to the establishment and management of Commonwealth reserves
- administer the Australian National Parks Fund
- undertake any other functions conferred on the Director under the EPBC Act or any other Act
- do anything incidental or conducive to the performance of any of the functions mentioned above.
As at 30 June 2011 seven Commonwealth terrestrial reserves (national parks and botanic gardens), 26 Commonwealth marine reserves (marine parks, marine reserves and marine nature reserves) and two conservation zones (the Coral Sea Conservation Zone and Heard Island and McDonald Islands Conservation Zone) were declared under the EPBC Act and were the responsibility of the Director.
Terrestrial reserves are managed by staff of Parks Australia. In 2010-11, under delegation from the Director, staff of the department's Australian Antarctic Division managed the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve while Marine Division staff managed the remaining 25 Commonwealth marine reserves. The locations of the Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones are shown in Figure 1.
In addition to managing Commonwealth reserves, the Director is in a partnership with Tourism Australia to identify and promote National Landscapes which capture the essence of Australia and offer distinctive natural and cultural experiences. Parks Australia's interest in the program is to enhance and promote the role of protected areas in the social and economic wellbeing of regional Australia.
The Director has also been delegated functions and powers by the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and the Secretary of the department for programs that complement the Director's statutory functions. Under these delegations, the Director administers the National Reserve System Program and the Indigenous Protected Areas Program, both of which are significant components of the Australian Government's Caring for our Country initiative.
The Director also manages the Australian Biological Resources Study and the development of Australian Government policy on management of Australia's genetic resources, including regulating access to such resources in Commonwealth areas. The Director provides coordination and leadership in meeting Australia's commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity. The outputs of these non-statutory functions are reported in the department's annual report.
A surplus result was achieved for 2010-11 due largely to the recognition of assets for the first time as part of the triennial asset revaluation process. In addition project preparation and planning delayed asbestos rehabilitation works in Kakadu and Uluru. Lower than expected depreciation expenditure primarily due to unusual weather conditions in the Northern Territory delayed some projects, also contributing to the surplus.
Overall, income for 2010-11 was up by 17.5 per cent against budget and expenditure was down by 6.5 per cent against budget. An analysis of the variances is in Table 1.
Table 2 summarises income and expenses information for the Director of National Parks. Audited financial statements are in Chapter 6 of this report.
Management of marine protected areas is undertaken by the Marine Division and the Australian Antarctic Division under delegation from the Director.
Table 3 shows a five-year overview of financial, staffing and area information for Commonwealth terrestrial and marine reserves and Table 4 provides an overview of individual reserves for 2010-11.
An Agency Resourcing Statement was introduced to Portfolio Budget Statements for government departments in 2008-09 to provide information about the various funding sources that CAC Act agencies draw upon during the year. An Agency Resourcing Statement that reconciles to cash reserves in the financial statements for the Director of National Parks is provided at Appendix A.
Table 1: Analysis of variance against budget 2010-11
Table 2: Overview of financial results 2010-11
Table 3: Five-year overview of terrestrial and marine Commonwealth reserves
Table 4: Overview of individual reserves in 2010-11 (click to enlarge)
Overview of the Director of National Parks' responsibilities
Joint management of nationally significant protected areas
Parks Australia has a long and proud history of working with Indigenous Australians in the joint management of protected areas. The Director, together with traditional owners, jointly manages three national parks - Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta national parks in the Northern Territory, both World Heritage listed, and Booderee National Park in the Jervis Bay Territory.
Traditional owners maintain strong links to their country in these parks, links that are demonstrated through their cultural and spiritual beliefs and traditional use and management of their country. Parks Australia supports traditional owners in maintaining their living culture and incorporates traditional land management practices into park management.
Kakadu National Park is an Aboriginal living cultural landscape. A strong relationship exists between Bininj and their country in ongoing traditions, cultural practices, beliefs and knowledge. An estimated 15,000 rock art sites and innumerable artefacts and sites of cultural, archaeological and historic significance in the Kakadu region contribute to archaeological evidence indicating that people have lived continuously in the region for at least 50,000 years.
Kakadu contains almost an entire major tropical river catchment (the South Alligator River catchment) and large representative examples of the wet-dry tropical ecosystems of northern Australia. The park is ecologically and biologically diverse, encompassing the sandstone plateau and escarpment, monsoon forests and extensive areas of savanna woodlands as well as riverine environments such as billabongs and floodplains. The entire park is listed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention and many species in the park are protected under international agreements.
In June 2011 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee included Koongarra, a 1,200 hectare site within the boundaries but never under the protection of Kakadu National Park in the Kakadu World Heritage Area. The incorporation of Koongarra into the park will ensure it has full protection under the EPBC Act (see case study).
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is the physical and metaphoric heart of Australia. This living cultural landscape is a world class visitor destination, a key part of Australia's iconic Red Centre and, along with Kakadu, was one of the first areas identified as part of a National Landscape. Parks Australia works with the Anangu traditional owners to protect, conserve and document the cultural and natural heritage of the park using Tjukurpa as a guiding influence. Located in the Greater Sandy Desert bioregion, which includes parts of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, the park contributes significantly to long-term biodiversity conservation in the region. The park has a particularly rich and diverse suite of arid environment species and supports populations of a number of relict and endemic species.
Case study: World Heritage for Koongarra - a traditional owner's battle
Environment Minister Tony Burke and Djok traditional owner Jeffrey Lee
For more than two decades, Kakadu traditional owner Jeffrey Lee has refused to consent to uranium mining on his traditional lands of Koongarra, a 1,200 hectare site within the boundaries but never under the protection of Kakadu National Park.
Koongarra is a stunning woodland area overlooked by Nourlangie Rock, one of Kakadu's most popular visitor destinations with ancient rock art galleries, first settlement paintings and stunning views and walks. With burial sites and its own rock art, Koongarra faces east to Lightning Dreaming, home of the powerful creation ancestor Namarrgon or Lightning Man, who is responsible for the dramatic electrical storms on the Arnhem plateau.
Koongarra was excluded from the park boundaries in 1979 because of its potential uranium resources - and from later inclusion by UNESCO in the Kakadu World Heritage Area. A subsidiary of the French mining company Areva holds outstanding applications for exploration permits and mineral leases over the property - but under Aboriginal Lands Right law, has not been able to explore or mine without Aboriginal consent.
Jeffrey is the last surviving member of the Djok clan, the key traditional owners of Koongarra - although other clans have traditional responsibilities in the area.
Two years ago through the Northern Land Council, he and other traditional owners wrote to then Environment Minister Peter Garrett, saying they wanted the threat of mining removed forever by making Koongarra part of Kakadu National Park. The national newspaper, The Age, reported it as a generous offer - a gift casting aside possibly huge mining royalties and asking no compensation.
Jeffrey Lee's plea was answered in the 2010 election campaign, with a commitment by the Gillard Government to incorporate Koongarra into Kakadu - a commitment supported by the Coalition shadow minister and the Northern Territory Government.
Over the past year Jeffrey Lee has continued his fight with some frustration at the impediments he has had to overcome.
He has watched while the Government and the Director of National Parks have carefully afforded Areva natural justice while moving through the legal steps towards Koongarra's incorporation. The company has so far reserved its right for legal action to protect its interests.
So in June 2011, when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee was to consider including Koongarra as part of the Kakadu World Heritage Area and Areva threatened legal action, Jeffrey took action again.
In a recorded video message he successfully petitioned Environment Minister Tony Burke to support his travel to Paris to put his story to the World Heritage Committee.
"I want to ensure that the traditional laws, customs, sites, bush tucker, trees, plants and water at Koongarra stay the same as when they were passed on to me by my father and great-grandfather, " Jeff told the committee.
The World Heritage Committee included Koongarra in the Kakadu World Heritage area.
Jeffrey's battle is not yet over. He is now working with the Government and the Northern Land Council on what he hopes are the final steps - the incorporation of Koongarra into Kakadu National Park, with all the protection the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 offers.
Booderee National Park at Jervis Bay is of great significance to its traditional owners, the Wreck Bay Aboriginal community, who are increasingly involved through a unique and evolving joint management model in running and servicing the park. Jervis Bay is one of the major biogeographic nodes in Australia and contains a variety of relatively undisturbed marine and terrestrial habitats. The park protects most of the bay's southern Bherwerre Peninsula, Bowen Island and the waters and seabed in the southern part of the bay.
Booderee staff work cooperatively with the adjoining New South Wales Jervis Bay National Park and Jervis Bay Marine Park to protect the region's biodiversity. Intensive control of foxes and other invasive species has led to the recovery of species such as the endangered eastern bristlebird. This has paved the way for the planned reintroduction of several species of small mammals long extinct in the area.
Parks Australia's relationship with Indigenous communities in the jointly managed parks continues to develop. Staff are building business models and providing opportunities for Indigenous employment and enterprises in these parks, moving towards self-management by the traditional owners. In building a knowledge-based approach to management, Parks Australia is committed to ensuring that traditional knowledge is used effectively.
Parks Australia works with the Northern Territory Government, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations in implementing the Australian Government's Northern Territory Emergency Response and the Closing the Gap initiative. The jointly managed parks in particular support Indigenous owned and operated enterprises and provide opportunities for Indigenous communities and residents to be involved in training and employment.
More information on Commonwealth jointly managed reserves, including performance results for 2010-11, can be found in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/10-11.
Protecting unique island ecosystems
Parks Australia manages three national parks in Australia's ocean territories. Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean and Norfolk Island in the Pacific Ocean are home to unique and fragile endemic flora and fauna that have evolved over a long period in isolation. These remote island parks have immense scientific, educational and conservation value and Parks Australia is working to develop more holistic models for their management.
Christmas Island supports a wide range of unusual species and habitats, some found only on the island, and is of great international conservation and scientific interest. Although the island has been mined for phosphates since the late 1890s, most of its rainforest ecosystem remains intact and Christmas Island National Park now protects about two-thirds of the island environment, including two wetlands recognised as internationally important under the Ramsar Convention.
The island has an extraordinary diversity and abundance of land crabs, especially red crabs which are the island's 'keystone' species as they influence the structure and species composition of the island's rainforest. Red crabs are renowned for their annual wet season migration, when up to an estimated 50 million march to the sea to spawn. The island also provides the last remaining nesting habitat for two threatened seabird species (Abbott's booby and the Christmas Island frigatebird) and supports many endemic plant and animal species.
The island's geology, unique rainforest and spectacular views are well represented in the park. Establishing the park has not, however, prevented the continuing incursion of exotic species, disrupting the functioning of the island's natural ecological processes. Yellow crazy ants have severely reduced numbers of red crabs and pose a significant threat to many other species. A major control program is in place and has been accelerated, with some encouraging results.
The presumed extinction of the endemic pipistrelle bat in 2009 focused attention on the need for a more integrated approach to managing the island's biodiversity. The final report of an expert working group appointed in 2009 was released in September 2010 and stressed the need for measures such as improved quarantine procedures to avoid further extinctions. A response to the report's recommendations is being prepared.
North Keeling Island is an isolated coral atoll in the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and its relatively untouched environment is a valuable biological resource. It is one of the few tropical islands in the Indian Ocean to have largely escaped the damaging effects of human settlement.
Pulu Keeling National Park consists of North Keeling Island and its marine area extending to one and a half kilometres from the shore. The park is listed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. It is an internationally recognised seabird rookery and supports one of the world's largest remaining populations of the red-footed booby. Pulu Keeling's forests and other flora are examples of the original vegetation of the region and include a number of species now not found elsewhere in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The park's waters are one of the last areas of pristine reef systems in the world.
Norfolk Island National Park is jointly proclaimed under Commonwealth and Norfolk Island legislation. Set in the south-west Pacific Ocean, the Norfolk Island Territory provides a link between tropical and temperate oceanic island environments and is home to unique flora and fauna.
The park covers 13 per cent of Norfolk Island and comprises remnant areas of subtropical rainforest and viney hardwood forest that once covered the island before human settlement. The park is habitat for a range of threatened plants, birds and other species. Neighbouring Phillip Island, which is included in the park, is free of damaging introduced species such as cats and rats and is home to large numbers of nesting seabirds.
Management of Norfolk Island National Park is strongly focused on habitat restoration through controlling invasive species, planting native vegetation and controlling erosion. The park and adjacent Norfolk Island Botanic Garden also provide educational, scientific, cultural and recreational opportunities for Norfolk Island residents and visitors and are a valuable resource for the Norfolk Island tourism industry.
More information on the management of Commonwealth island national parks, including performance results for 2010-11, can be found in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/10-11.
Conserving Australia's biodiversity through a National Reserve System
The National Reserve System is Australia's network of protected areas and aims to conserve examples of the full range of Australia's terrestrial ecosystems. It represents the collective conservation effort of Australian, state, territory and local governments, non-government organisations, the business sector, private and Indigenous landholders and catchment and natural resource management bodies to formally protect biodiversity in perpetuity.
Parks Australia manages the National Reserve System element of the Caring for our Country initiative. The program supports the acquisition and covenanting of properties to establish protected areas to be managed for nature conservation as part of the National Reserve System, targeting under-represented and vulnerable areas.
During 2010-11 Caring for our Country contributed over $22.2 million to the National Reserve System towards the purchase of 19 properties, covering more than 772,280 hectares, and over $1.4 million to strategic projects for establishing protected areas on private lands.
A particular highlight was the addition of Henbury Station, a 527,295 hectare property located in Australia's arid centre, to the National Reserve System. The Caring for our Country initiative assisted the purchase of Henbury by the pastoral company RM Williams Agricultural Holdings which will manage the property for nature conservation and generate income through carbon sequestration (see case study page 22).
Protected areas managed by Indigenous people make an important contribution to the National Reserve System. The Indigenous Protected Area element of Caring for our Country supports Indigenous communities to manage their land for conservation, so that the biodiversity and heritage of this land are protected for the benefit of all Australians. The program helps Indigenous communities develop plans to manage their land's natural and cultural values and provides ongoing support for controlling threats such as weeds, feral animals and wildfire.
The Finke River runs through Henbury Station in Australia's Red Centre providing permanent waterholes - refuges for plants and animals in an otherwise arid environment
From left, traditional owner Bruce Breaden and Environment Minister Tony Burke at the launch of the Henbury Conservation Project. Photo: Daniel Griffiths
Case study: Henbury Station - a stunning new model for conservation management
When Marina Walkington and Tim Bond visited Henbury Station just after the wet summer of 2010, they knew that the hard work ahead to add the Central Australian property to the National Reserve System would be well worth it.
"It's just a fantastic property," says Marina who heads up the team charged with assessing potential properties for addition to the National Reserve System. "It's large and it's diverse; the colours in the landscape are stunning; and the whole place was exploding with life following recent heavy rains."
The Henbury Conservation Project is the brainchild of R.M.Williams Agricultural Holdings which is pioneering a new approach to produce carbon credits to fund ongoing nature conservation. With Caring for our Country support, the company purchased the $13 million pastoral property where, after the removal of cattle, it will actively manage fire, water, weeds and feral animals to support the regeneration of native vegetation.
Home to two large rivers and a host of threatened plants and animals, Henbury is now part of the Northern Territory Ecolink wildlife corridor and will be managed forever as a conservation property in the National Reserve System.
At over 500,000 hectares the station is the largest land purchase yet supported by the Australian Government - enabling the link between nature conservation and the emerging carbon economy to be explored in a practical way. As an innovative pilot for carbon farming - an Australian first - it has had a long gestation from initial concept to its launch by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke some two years later.
"This addition took an immense amount of work by many people. There were long nights and long negotiations - there were business people involved, government agencies, biologists, lawyers, auditors, Indigenous people, photographers," Marina says. "But it's visionary and it's a 'first', so it was important to get it right.
"The Northern Territory government has long been aware of the conservation value of this property. Their biologists had flagged the property as significant - with one of the most important features being the Finke River which flows through it leaving a number of permanent waterholes that provide refuges for ancient and threatened species. The National Reserve System was interested because of its biodiversity, condition and location in the very poorly reserved Finke bioregion."
A battered metal sign at the Henbury homestead commemorates Indigenous people's long association with the property - they were amongst its earliest workers.
"The new owners have guaranteed access for traditional ceremony and hunting," Marina says. "And they're talking with the Indigenous community about the role they might play in the property's ongoing management."
On a cool July morning at the property's beautiful Three Mile Waterhole, Environment Minister Tony Burke launched the Henbury Conservation Project describing it as 'the great opportunity for environment protection the world's been looking for - a model where carbon markets drive magnificent biodiversity'.
Five new Indigenous Protected Areas, totalling 2.36 million hectares, were declared in 2010-11. They included Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area covering 343,797 hectares at the northern tip of Western Australia's Kimberley, a biologically important zone that supports populations of small mammals (see case study this page), and Apara Makiri Punti Indigenous Protected Area (around 1.1 million hectares) on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands in northern South Australia, which includes the western end of the Musgrave Ranges and extensive sand dune and sand plain country studded with small hills and rocky outcrops.
Outputs of the National Reserve System and Indigenous Protected Area programs, including performance results for 2010-11, are reported in the department's annual report.
Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area on the spectacular Kimberley coastline. Photo: Peter Morris
Traditional owner Sylvester Mangolomara says the declaration of Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area will help his people manage their country. Photo: Peter Morris
Case study: A conservation milestone in the Kimberley
Stretching over more than 3,400 square kilometres of spectacular north Kimberley coastline, Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area was formally declared in May 2011.
The Wunambal Gaambera people made the declaration just after the Federal Court of Australia granted them native title over 26,000 square kilometres of the Kimberley. Hundreds of traditional owners travelled across the Kimberley for the historic ceremonies.
Senior Wunambal man Sylvester Mangolomara said the declaration made his people proud.
"Country is important for us because if you just walk away from it, it will all die and the spirits will go to another place where people will look after them. This country is life to us people. We gotta keep looking after the land otherwise it most probably won't take care of us," he said.
Uunguu means 'living home' and the area abounds with significant and threatened species including dugong and marine turtles, sand goanna, bush turkey, euro and rock wallabies.
There are countless significant rock art sites in the region forming one of the most stunning open air art galleries in Western Australia.
The declaration of an Indigenous Protected Area is the first step of a 10-year healthy country plan which traditional owners have been working on since the 1990s. The plan and its priorities are guiding the Uunguu rangers in their daily work, managing fire, weed and feral animal control, fencing, visitor management, cultural heritage conservation and monitoring the health of plants and animals.
The Australian Government has invested $740,000 over three years to help the rangers manage this Indigenous Protected Area. Male and female Uunguu rangers are also supported through the Australian Government's Working on Country program and an historic 10-year agreement with Bush Heritage Australia. The Kimberley Land Council is working with the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation to help develop their healthy country management.
The traditional owners aspire to make most of their country granted under native title an Indigenous Protected Area. Their neighbours in Dambimangari country are also working towards declaring an Indigenous Protected Area - potentially creating a Kimberley wildlife corridor stretching for more than 53,000 square kilometres, and making a significant contribution to the Kimberley National Landscape.
There are now 45 Indigenous Protected Areas across Australia covering nearly 26 million hectares. In 2010-11 the program added 2.36 million hectares to the National Reserve System - Australia's most secure way of protecting habitat for future generations.
Figure 2: Acquisitions under the National Reserve System program and declared Indigenous Protected Areas as at 30 June 2010 (click image to access interactive map)
The Director is also responsible for managing Calperum and Taylorville Stations, adjoining pastoral leases located near Renmark in South Australia, comprising over 300,000 hectares of predominantly open mallee bushland and Murray River floodplains. The two stations form part of the Riverland Biosphere Reserve. They include wetlands recognised as internationally significant under the Ramsar Convention and large areas of intact mallee which are habitat for several nationally endangered species. Both properties are deeded to the Director of National Parks and are managed by Austland Services Pty Ltd (a company established by the Australian Landscape Trust) under contract to the Director.
More information on the management of Calperum and Taylorville Stations, including performance results for 2010-11, can be found in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/10-11.
Protecting the marine environment
Commonwealth marine reserves
Australia's vast coastal waters and oceans contain some of the greatest arrays of marine biodiversity on Earth. Australia is the world's largest island, with a coastline stretching over 32,000 kilometres. Australia's marine jurisdiction is larger than the mainland and covers 14 million square kilometres of ocean.
The Director is responsible for a network of 26 Commonwealth marine reserves and two marine conservation zones that have been declared under the EPBC Act. The reserves extend from southern sub-Antarctic waters through temperate southern waters to the tropical north.
Management of the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve is delegated to the Australian Antarctic Division, in recognition of the division's responsibilities for the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Territory and its expertise in working in the remote sub-Antarctic environment. The remaining Commonwealth marine protected areas are managed by the department's Marine Division under delegation from the Director.
A conservation zone is an interim protection measure while an area of land or sea undergoes a thorough assessment to determine the need for permanent protection. Two conservation zones have been declared in Australia's oceans and are being assessed for possible inclusion in marine reserves. The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Conservation Zone was declared in 2002 and complements the marine reserve; the Coral Sea Conservation Zone was declared in 2009 and covers 972,000 square kilometres east of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
More information on the management of Commonwealth marine reserves, including performance results for 2010-11, can be found in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/10-11.
Marine bioregional planning
The Australian Government is conducting a marine bioregional planning process in Commonwealth waters from the edge of state/territory waters three nautical miles from the Territorial Sea Baseline and extending to the outer limits of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone, 200 nautical miles from the Territorial Sea Baseline. Marine bioregional planning focuses on building knowledge of Australia's oceans and improving conservation and sustainable use of marine resources to improve management of whole marine ecosystems, including the interactions of people and industry with marine environments and species.
Marine bioregional planning is underway in Australia's five marine regions - South-west, North-west, North, East, and South-east. Bioregional planning will help improve the way decisions relating to protecting marine biodiversity and sustainable use of our oceans and their resources by marine-based industries are made under national environment legislation.
As part of the marine bioregional planning process, new Commonwealth marine reserves are being identified. These reserves will play an important role in the long-term conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity in our oceans. The new reserves will also meet Australia's international and national commitments to establish a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas by 2012.
More information on marine bioregional planning can be found in the department's annual report.
Understanding and studying Australia's biodiversity
Commonwealth botanic gardens
Parks Australia is the custodian of three botanic gardens - the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Norfolk Island Botanic Garden and Booderee Botanic Gardens.
The Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) is a major national scientific, educational and recreational resource located in Canberra. The ANBG was one of the first botanic gardens in the world to adopt the study and display of indigenous species as a principal goal. The living collection currently contains one-third of the nation's known flowering plant species which makes the ANBG the custodian of one of the largest collections (in terms of species) of Australian plants with an emphasis on threatened species.
The ANBG provides a diverse range of education and public programs to raise awareness of the value of Australia's unique flora. In October 2010 the ANBG celebrated its 40th anniversary with events including an open day that attracted 5,000 people, a gala dinner and several exhibitions.
Norfolk Island Botanic Garden maintains a living and herbarium collection of Norfolk Island's flora and contributes to raising awareness in the local community and for visitors to the island through education and interpretation programs.
Formerly an annex to the ANBG and now part of Booderee National Park, Booderee Botanic Gardens represents the regional biodiversity of south-east coastal New South Wales with a strong focus on the relationship between plants and the park's Indigenous owners, the Wreck Bay Aboriginal community.
More information on the work of these botanic gardens, including performance results for 2010-11, can be found in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/10-11.
A knowledge bank of Australia's biodiversity
Parks Australia's work on enhancing and sharing knowledge of Australia's biodiversity is delivered via the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research and the Australian Biological Resources Study.
The Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, formerly the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, is a joint venture between the ANBG and CSIRO Plant Industry. Its principal function is to document the identity, origin, occurrence, distribution and human impact of Australia's native and introduced plant species. The centre's cornerstone is the Australian National Herbarium which houses approximately 1.2 million plant specimens, documenting the diversity of Australian flora and providing voucher specimens for research, environmental studies and for the ANBG living collection. The herbarium is a major contributor to national projects aiming to disseminate biodiversity information, notably Australia's Virtual Herbarium and the Atlas of Living Australia, as well as international projects such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
In December 2010 the agreement between the Director and CSIRO that underpins the Centre was renewed for a further 10 years. As well as a new name, a new strategic plan for the Centre was put in place and a new Director appointed in January 2011.
The aim of the Australian Biological Resources Study is to provide national support and leadership for naming and classifying species to underpin world-class science-based decision making. It pursues this aim through strategic funding partnerships that support species discovery research and invest in Australia's biodiversity collections. The Australian Biological Resources Study provides national references for species names through taxonomic publications, electronic databases and identification tools and, through the National Taxonomy Research Grant Program, provides the only ongoing source of funding for taxonomic research in Australia. It also contributes to international forums and projects including the Global Taxonomy Initiative and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and is helping address the decline in Australia's taxonomic capability through training and mentoring new scientists and supporting research.
In its second year the Bush Blitz project undertook five surveys across four states. The results will contribute to knowledge of biodiversity in the National Reserve System and help managers develop adaptive management strategies. The first Victorian survey, the first on an Indigenous Protected Area, was held on Gunditjmara-owned lands in the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape in south-west Victoria (see case study).
Outputs of the Australian Biological Resources Study, including performance results for 2010-11, are reported in the department's annual report.
Managing access to genetic resources
The Director is responsible for development of Australian Government policy on management of Australia's genetic resources including regulating access to such resources in Commonwealth areas and benefit sharing arrangements. Parks Australia also works with state and territory agencies to support a nationally consistent regulatory approach for access to and use of Australia's native genetic and biochemical resources, and to promote best practice in managing access to genetic resources. Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory have joined the Australian Government in enacting measures to implement a nationally consistent approach to access and benefit sharing.
In September 2009 a National Forum on Biodiversity, Biodiscovery and Traditional Knowledge was held to inform Australia's position on the development of an international regime of access and benefit sharing. The Minister welcomed over 130 people to the forum including leading international and Australian scientists.
Outputs of the program to manage access to genetic resources, including performance results for 2009-10, are reported in the department's annual report.
Providing national leadership
The Director is responsible for developing Australian Government policy on managing Australia's genetic resources, including regulating access to resources in Commonwealth areas and benefit sharing arrangements. Parks Australia works with state and territory agencies to support a nationally consistent regulatory approach for access to, and use of, Australia's native genetic and biochemical resources, and promotes best practice in managing access to genetic resources. Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory have joined the Australian Government in enacting measures to implement a nationally consistent approach to access and benefit sharing.
Bush Blitz graduate Berlinda Bowler with a mountain katydid - one of many interesting finds at the Lake Condah Bush Blitz. Photo: Berlinda Bowler
Spotted marsh frog - one of seven species of frogs in the Lake Condah region. Photo Julian Finn
Case study: First Victorian Bush Blitz conducted on Aboriginal-owned lands
Kate Gillespie from the Australian Biological Resources Study is Bush Blitz's field team leader:
In March 2011 I packed my swag for another two-weeks of 'roughing' it and biodiversity discovery, this time on Gunditjmara-owned lands in the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape in south-west Victoria.
Since the program began in 2009 we've conducted 10 Bush Blitz 'snapshot' surveys, and I still get excited about the new species we might discover. We know so little about the plants and animals that inhabit this vast continent that we always find something that is new to science. Incredibly, we've found around 650 species that are new to science since the program began - and we know there's a lot more to find.
Bush Blitz is a three-year, multi-million dollar partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton, Earthwatch Australia and TERN AusPlots-Rangelands to document the plants and animals protected in Australia's National Reserve System. It involves scientists from museums, herbaria, universities and other research institutions across Australia.
At Budj Bim, I was joined by a team of 40 scientists as well as Indigenous rangers and volunteers to undertake a comprehensive plant and animal survey on these Aboriginal lands - Lake Condah, Kurtonitj, Allambie, Muldoons, Vaughans, and Tyrendarra.
It was Bush Blitz's first Victorian survey and, significantly, the first on an Indigenous Protected Area. A special aspect of this survey was the chance that scientists had to exchange knowledge with traditional owners and to have the landscape interpreted through their eyes.
Aboriginal people have a long knowledge of the area's rich natural resources, and evidence of their occupation can be found in the ancient remains of stone houses and eel traps, now protected in the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape.
Lucky for our science team, much of the ground is too rocky to be useful for modern agriculture, so plants and animals have remained relatively protected and undisturbed in many of these areas - providing us with a sampling wonderland!
Scientists from Museum Victoria, the National Herbarium of Victoria, the South Australian Museum, and the University of New South Wales found an impressive range of plant and animal species - some of which we suspect are new to science.
One highlight was two species of blind cave-dwelling crustaceans, which we believe are new to science. These subterranean creatures were found in the water-filled rocky sinkholes that dot this volcanic landscape by South Australian Museum scientist Remko Leijs who specializes in this widespread and diverse, yet only recently studied, groundwater fauna.
Lake Condah is near coastal Portland, so we were particularly surprised to find a population of the large, long-horned grasshoppers known as mountain katydids (Acripeza reticulata) which are more usually found in cold high-altitude areas.
Researchers are currently going through the painstaking process of sorting and describing the thousands of specimens collected during the Bush Blitz survey. We expect their findings will be reported and published by Bush Blitz in 2012.
In October 2010, after six years of negotiations, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization was adopted at the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The protocol establishes a legally-binding framework for access to genetic resources for biotechnology research and development and other research activities. It also provides a framework for sharing any benefits from using genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge. The department has assumed responsibility from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for overseeing the signing and ratification process following the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol.
Outputs of the program to manage access to genetic resources, including performance results for 2010-11, are reported in the department's annual report.
Providing national leadership
Parks Australia is the Australian national focal point for the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Director of National Parks is the focal point for one of the key thematic areas of the convention, namely protected areas. Parks Australia, as the lead agency for the Australian Government, works to enhance Australia's reputation as a positive and strategic party to the convention. Activities such as enhancing and sharing knowledge of Australia's biodiversity and promoting nationally consistent management of access to genetic resources contribute to implementing Australia's obligations under the convention. The ANBG supports national coordination of the role of Australia's botanic gardens in conserving biodiversity through national forums such as the Council of Heads of Australia's Botanic Gardens.
The spectacular aqua blue water of Murrays Beach at Booderee National Park is sheltered by Bowen Island - creating a large natural aquarium. Photo: June Andersen
Australia's National Landscapes
In October 2005 Tourism Australia and Parks Australia formed a unique partnership to create Australia's National Landscapes. This national strategic approach seeks to differentiate Australia's iconic natural and cultural destinations, and improve the delivery of quality visitor experiences in protected areas and surrounding regions. By highlighting our tourism assets, the program aims to promote and support the conservation of some of the world's most distinct and rich environments.
Since the announcement of Australia's Red Centre as the first National Landscape in December 2006, others followed in June 2008 - the Australian Alps, the Great Ocean Road, Kakadu, Australia's Coastal Wilderness, Greater Blue Mountains, Flinders Ranges and Australia's Green Cauldron. In 2009 Kangaroo Island joined the program followed by the Kimberley in 2010, Ningaloo-Shark Bay and the Great South West Edge (Western Australia) in 2011. Candidates in Queensland and Tasmania are actively working toward recognition as future National Landscapes.
To date, National Landscapes has been instrumental in developing a new tourism conservation product in the Flinders Ranges, improved interpretation of Australia's Green Cauldron flora and fauna and stimulating formal agreement on sustainability practices in the Australian Alps. The long-term vision in each of the landscapes is for visitors and tourism operators to contribute to improving environmental outcomes. This may involve enhancing local sustainability practices, undertaking environmental accreditation, taking action to retain the scenic values and sense of place or contributing to conservation projects.
The delivery of Experience Development Strategies for each National Landscape will provide a focused tool for destination management planning to improve the stock of world class experiences and their delivery to the global Experience Seeker (international) market. Strategies have been completed for the Australian Alps and Australia's Coastal Wilderness. The National Long-term Tourism Strategy is also supporting two Experience Development Strategy pilot projects to compare application to a landscape and urban (non-landscape) environment.
Engaging visitors in the conservation of our World Heritage areas, our national parks and other protected areas improves understanding and support for conservation and protection. Parks Australia continues to work with each landscape to profile environmental and cultural values, current conservation priorities or local volunteering opportunities. In addition, Parks Australia works with conservation agencies to identify practical opportunities for conservation partnerships in National Landscape regions.