Annual Report 2010-11 - Planning, reporting and performance
© Director of National Parks, 2011 | ISSN 1443-1238
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Director of National Parks strategic planning and performance assessment
This annual report is one element in the strategic planning and performance assessment framework for the Director of National Parks. Other elements are described in this chapter including a summary of performance for 2010-11.
Portfolio Budget Statements 2010-11
These documents detail Budget initiatives and appropriations against specific outcomes and outputs. The annual report completes the budget cycle by reporting on achievements for outcomes and outputs in the year under review. The Director of National Parks was included in the 2010-11 Portfolio Budget Statements for the then Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts portfolio (now the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) and contributes to the achievement of Outcome 1:
The conservation and protection of Australia's terrestrial and marine biodiversity and ecosystems through supporting research, developing information, supporting natural resource management, regulating matters of national environmental significance and managing Commonwealth protected areas.
The Director contributes to meeting this outcome through:
Conservation and appreciation of Commonwealth reserves through the provision of safe visitor access, the control of invasive species and working with stakeholders and neighbours.
A summary of performance for Program 1.1 - Parks and Reserves as identified in the Portfolio Budget Statements follows. Detailed performance information for individual Commonwealth reserves is included in the State of the Parks report (see environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/10-11).
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities strategic plan 2011-15
The department's strategic plan provides the basis for business planning at the departmental level and is reviewed annually to assess progress against priorities. Management of Commonwealth reserves in accordance with internationally agreed principles is identified as a priority in the plan.
Parks Australia Divisional Plan
This plan sets down the long-term outcomes and shorter-term outputs for the Director of National Parks against seven key result areas (KRAs), as follows:
- KRA1: Natural heritage management
- KRA2: Cultural heritage management
- KRA3: Joint management and working with Indigenous communities
- KRA4: Use and appreciation of protected areas
- KRA5: Stakeholders and partnerships
- KRA6: Business management
- KRA7: Biodiversity science, knowledge management and use.
Not all key result areas are equally relevant to all reserves. For example, KRA 3 - Joint management and working with Indigenous communities, applies largely to the three jointly managed reserves - Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Kakadu and Booderee National Parks.
Strategies to achieve the outcomes in the Parks Australia Divisional Plan and the department's strategic plan are detailed in Parks Australia branch, section, work team and individual work plans and in management plan implementation schedules.
Detailed information on performance against key result areas for individual reserves is in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/10-11.
Section 366 of the EPBC Act requires the Director (or in the case of a jointly managed park, the Director and the relevant board of management) to prepare management plans for Commonwealth reserves providing for the reserve's protection and conservation. They must state how the reserve is to be managed and how the reserve's features are to be protected and conserved.
As at 30 June 2011, the Director was responsible for managing seven Commonwealth terrestrial and 26 Commonwealth marine reserves. Three terrestrial reserve management plans are in place. A draft management plan for Booderee National Park was issued for public comment in May 2011 and draft plans are being prepared for Christmas Island and Pulu Keeling National Parks and the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Marine bioregional plans are being developed for Australia's marine jurisdiction through the department's Marine Bioregional Planning Program. In that process new Commonwealth marine reserve networks will be declared that will incorporate existing marine reserves. Following their declaration under the EPBC Act, network management plans will be developed.
Three marine reserves have management plans in place - the Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve, the Great Australian Bight Marine Park (Commonwealth Waters) and the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve.
Management plans for the remaining 23 Commonwealth marine reserves have expired and the reserves are being managed under interim arrangements consistent with Australian IUCN management principles. Interim management arrangements will remain in place until the new reserve networks and management plans are developed.
Management plan implementation schedules
Implementation schedules are part of the planning and performance assessment framework for terrestrial reserves. The schedules contain all the prescriptions (policies and actions) identified in a management plan. Each action-based prescription is broken down into projects, tasks and timeframes. Three terrestrial reserve implementation schedules are in place.
Management plan prescriptions not implemented
During the life of a management plan some prescriptions may not be implemented due to redundancy, impracticality or a lack of resources. No management plan prescriptions were identified during the year as not to be implemented.
The following summary for 2010-11 uses key result areas, outcomes and indicators identified in the Parks Australia Divisional Plan and key performance indicators and deliverables identified in the 2010-11 Portfolio Budget Statements (marked 'PBS'). Additional information on performance against key result areas is in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/10-11 and at Appendix B: Portfolio Budget Statements reporting 2010-11.
KRA1: Natural heritage management
- The Commonwealth protected area estate contributes to the long-term viability of Australia's biodiversity
- Undertake monitoring, research and conservation activities to maintain or improve the status of natural values for which Commonwealth reserves were declared and/or recognised.PBS
- Minimise the impacts of threats to natural values of Commonwealth reserves.PBS
- All Commonwealth reserves were managed in accordance with the requirements of the relevant Australian IUCN reserve management principles set out in the EPBC Regulations.
- Management plans for reserves continued to be developed and implemented in line with EPBC Act requirements. A new draft plan for Booderee National Park was released for public comment on 4 May 2011. New draft plans for Christmas Island and Pulu Keeling National Parks and the ANBG are being finalised.
- The Norfolk Island National Park and Botanic Garden Climate Change Strategy 2011-16 was finalised and adopted.
- Preparation of the draft Christmas Island Regional Recovery Plan, incorporating ecosystem and species recovery actions, continued.
Botanic gardens management
- The non-potable water infrastructure improvement project for the ANBG was completed within budget in March 2011. This has secured a more reliable and sustainable water supply for irrigating the living collection and released around 170 megalitres per year of drinking water for Canberra.
- A program for ex situ alpine plant conservation supported by a three-year partnership between the ANBG, Australian National University, University of Queensland and the Friends of the Gardens continued, focusing on how climate change will affect the reproductive ecology and demography of Australian alpine flora.
- The grassy woodlands garden at the main entrance of the ANBG was redeveloped to showcase local flora and create a sense of arrival to the gardens. The redevelopment was opened in October 2010 as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations.
- Design of an arid garden with a 'Red Centre' theme on the rehabilitated site of the old gardens nursery was initiated, with the first stage of construction scheduled to commence in 2011-12.
- Management of morning glory (Ipomea cairica and I. indica) at the Norfolk Island Botanic Garden continued.
Significant species management
- Park managers nominated 36 species across six terrestrial reserves to determine whether viable populations of selected significant species have been maintained in those reserves. Of the selected species, the populations of four are increasing, 13 remain steady, seven are decreasing, one may be extinct, two may be locally extinct and for nine species population data are deficient. Further information on species monitoring is provided in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/10-11 and at Appendix B: Portfolio Budget Statements reporting 2010-11.
- Species monitoring at Booderee National Park again focused on the effectiveness of regular fox baiting and long-term impacts of the 2003 Windermere and 2007 Cave Beach fires, particularly on long-nosed bandicoots (Perameles nasuta), threatened eastern bristlebirds (Dasyornis brachypterus) and on shorebirds. The monitoring indicated continuing positive results from fox baiting. The apparent local extinction of the formerly common greater glider (Petauroides volans) was discussed with researchers to identify monitoring approaches and a possible re-introduction plan.
- Christmas Island National Park commenced a further island-wide biodiversity survey in May 2011 that included the addition of scientifically rigorous sampling methodologies for additional native and exotic species.
- Building on the successful on-island captive breeding program for Christmas Island's declining native reptiles, the Director signed an agreement with Taronga Zoo in May 2011 to establish off-island insurance populations for the blue-tailed skink (Cryptoblepharus egeriae) and the recently rediscovered Lister's gecko (Lepidodactylus listeri) (see case study).
Case study: Christmas Island National Park - saving species from extinction
Christmas Island National Park is working with Sydney's Taronga Zoo on a captive breeding program to save the island's reptiles. Top: Christmas Island's blue-tailed skink. Bottom: Lister's Gecko.
Zoologist Mike Smith arrived on Christmas Island in November 2008, fresh from an academic career at Melbourne's Arthur Rylah Institute - and what was to prove an extremely useful post-doctorate, breeding frogs in the USA.
He found a park community grappling with the imminent extinction of the pipistrelle bat and quickly concluded that the island's reptiles were also in imminent risk of dying out.
Within weeks Mike and team members Brendan Tiernan and Dion Maple made some great discoveries. On the island's rugged far south-west tip, Mike found a Lister's gecko, thought to be extinct and Brendan discovered a coastal skink last seen in 2004. Dion found a Christmas Island blind snake on the western central plateau, another species not seen for decades.
Inspired that all was not lost for Christmas Island's threatened ecosystems, Mike and his team began devising a captive breeding program for the nationally vulnerable Lister's gecko and dramatically declining blue-tailed skink. It was no mean task on a remote island with no scientific labs, no huge hardware store and where the ships bring supplies only every month or two if you're lucky.
With remarkable ingenuity, the team scrimped and scrounged and experimented. At the rundown old mine rail station - the 'Pink House' - they took over an old gazebo, stripping back panels to mimic the dappled light of a forest habitat, fencing against robber crab attack and building cages from abandoned steel. A camelback - a camping watering bladder - provided humidity and drinking water and when that failed, Brendan 'borrowed' drips from the medicos at the island's hospital. When the old recycled metal began to deteriorate, the team designed new perspex and aluminium cages, this time waiting for supplies from the mainland.
The geckoes were easy to spot by their eyeshine, and easy to catch. But the blue-tailed skinks are acrobats, jumping high in the air - so Mike designed a sticky wand which captured them at a touch, tails intact. A second-hand shipping container became a lab and another, an insect breeding site to provide food for the lizards.
The reptiles thrived - and bred. They expanded into an old carport and a bunkhouse - but as no-one could yet control the introduced wolf-snake and centipede thought to be causing their rapid decline in the wild, they could not be safely released.
Taronga Zoo accepted the scientific challenge of working collaboratively with Parks Australia to develop a detailed captive breeding and research plan. Dozens of lizards were placed in moist paperlined containers, packed in styrofoam meat boxes and netted to prevent their escape. In April and May the lizards were flown to the waiting quarantine keepers at Taronga Zoo.
Every lizard survived the long journey. All have lived - and they are now happily breeding in Sydney, a safeguard against on-island catastrophes and a population to be eventually released into their former habitat once current threats have been understood and overcome.
Back on island, not a day goes by without the remaining captive lizards being carefully fed and monitored - at the same time as this national park team controls crazy ants, manages robber crab road kill, undertakes island-wide surveys and monitors other endangered species.
- Initial results of the collaborative project with the University of Sydney and the Territory Wildlife Park for wild release in Kakadu National Park of captive-bred northern quolls (Dasyurus hallucatus) trained to avoid cane toads, suggest this behaviour may be passed to their offspring.
- Two successful collaborative projects between Kakadu and Northern Territory agencies, involving population surveys of two species of coastal dolphins and threatened species surveys in recognised biodiversity hotspots in the Arnhem Land Plateau, were extended for one year and three years respectively.
- Kakadu's bushwalking burning program in the Arnhem Land Plateau, part of the Stone Country Fire Management Strategy, continued to be successful in reducing the incidence of broad-scale late dry season fires as well as in engaging traditional owners in implementing fire management.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park undertook the 17th vertebrate survey in October-November 2010, the first in many years to be held during a year of consistent and above average rainfall. The survey confirmed the presence of the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) which was previously thought extinct in the park. This species is of particular significance to the park's traditional owners and has been a candidate for reintroduction.
Invasive species management
- Park managers nominated 24 significant invasive species across six terrestrial reserves and have been monitoring changes in their distribution and abundance. Of the selected species, the populations of nine are increasing, three remain steady, four are decreasing and for eight species population data are deficient. Further information on monitoring of significant invasive species is provided in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/10-11 and at Appendix B: Portfolio Budget Statements reporting 2010-11.
- Approximately 300 hectares of bitou bush at Booderee National Park was sprayed in June 2011 as part of a successful aerial spraying program. Booderee also trialled a new treatment technique involving ultra-low volume ground spraying with splatter guns and spot aerial spraying, followed by selective burning in autumn. Encouragingly the impact of this technique on high-value native vegetation communities was minimal compared to broad-scale aerial spraying and broad-scale fire block burning.
- Christmas Island National Park established a successful partnership and collaborative approach for island-wide cat management, resulting in the joint funding and supporting of de-sexing programs for pet cats and the initiation of cat control in settled areas. The single known infestation of Siam weed was also successfully controlled.
- Christmas Island continued management of yellow crazy ants, including further progress on the three-year biological control research project (funded by the Director and conducted by La Trobe University). A study was also completed indicating there were no off-target impacts of Fipronil, the baiting agent used to control crazy ants.
- Kakadu National Park continued monitoring and control programs for invasive weed species including mimosa. Grassy weeds (mission grass and gamba grass) continue to be major challenges, as are aquatic weeds such as salvinia and hymenachne.
- Weed control programs in Norfolk Island National Park were completed in six and a half of the 19 coups identified in the park's weed control strategy. The park's approach to rodent baiting was revamped in response to an apparent increase in numbers.
- At Pulu Keeling National Park, about 20 per cent of introduced paw paw was treated, in accordance with previously collected baseline data on the distribution and abundance of exotic species which allows quantitative assessments of weed control work to be made.
- The Buffel Grass Management Strategy for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is now being used to prioritise control activities and included continuation of the Conservation Volunteers Australia program around the base of Uluru. The park's Vertebrate Pest Management Strategy was finalised and rabbit control was increased to reduce population explosions following good rains.
KRA2: Cultural heritage management
- Australia's cultural heritage is conserved and effectively communicated to the public
- Identify, protect and conserve cultural heritage values for which the parks were declared/recognised.PBS
- Minimise threats to cultural values.
- Work with traditional owners to assess and maintain key cultural sites.PBS
- Provide assistance to traditional owners in recording and maintaining living cultural traditions.
- Assist in the facilitation of on-country activities to encourage intergenerational transfer of knowledge.
- Provide appropriate interpretive material to the public to communicate the cultural heritage of Commonwealth reserves.
Identification and conservation of cultural sites
- All key sites at Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks were inspected as agreed with traditional owners, with various treatments undertaken as required. An inspection and treatment program is not yet in place at Booderee National Park.PBS
- With the involvement of their traditional owners, Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks continued their rock art maintenance programs. Kakadu also continued discussions with the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority and Northern Land Council about a register of sites of significance and access protocols in the park. Uluru-Kata Tjuta continued cultural site patrols and added the resulting data to its cultural site management system.PBS
Maintenance and promotion of traditional cultural values
- Booderee held over 150 cultural interpretation sessions for visiting school and special interest groups, and 71 summer holiday cultural interpretation programs. The successful Junior Ranger program also continued with Jervis Bay School.
- At Booderee examples of south coast languages - Dhurga and Dharawal - were incorporated into signage as part of the new Munjunga Dhugan (Eagles Nest) self-guided walking trail at Murrays Beach.
- Kakadu convened a two-day cultural heritage workshop in May 2011 including discussions on how best to implement the park's Cultural Heritage Strategy.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta began a successful program aimed at increasing the number of women engaged in cultural work in the park. Work includes revegetation of sacred sites, tool and medicine making and public interpretation activities.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta undertook an overnight cultural trip with Anangu and park staff to the community of Lila to help with preparations for the 25th Anniversary of Handback and facilitated the transfer of knowledge through inma (ceremony) performances at the anniversary celebrations (see case study).
Case study: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park - a turning point for tourism
Oprah spent time with Anangu during her visit to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Photo: SDP Media
Tjukurpa munu manta kunpungku kanyintjaku | Keeping culture and country strong together. Theme of the 25th anniversary of handback celebrations in October 2010.
Watching the sun come up over Uluru on the morning of the handback celebrations gave its board members, past and present, a chance to reflect on the history and future directions of the park.
The handback celebrations provided Anangu with the opportunity to come together with local businesses and visitors to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Board chair Harry Wilson said the festival offered an opportunity for Anangu to teach visitors about Tjukurpa (law) so they could better understand Anangu culture and help protect the country and its people. Hundreds of people attended on the day, watching inma (traditional song and dance), local artists and craftsmen at work and dancing to contemporary Aboriginal bands from the Northern Territory.
The celebration was one of many steps Anangu and park staff took this year to promote Uluru-Kata Tjuta as a living cultural landscape and support Anangu businesses.
Over the years many people have visited and enjoyed Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Many have also gone away learning only a little about the cultural importance of the park, about Tjukurpa and Anangu connection to the land.
This year the park is addressing this challenge through its Tourism Directions: Stage 1 strategy, released in September. The strategy provides a renewed focus on building partnerships between Anangu, government and industry to develop and maintain tourism opportunities.
Harry said that Anangu had many ideas for potential tourism developments and were keen to see tourism outcomes for Anangu.
"We've been thinking about developing tourism businesses so that in future our children and our children's children will be working. We need more jobs here. Working with key stakeholders to help get business off the ground is really important," he said.
Anangu took advantage of one such opportunity to promote their culture and businesses to an international audience when American superstar Oprah Winfrey announced she would visit the park in December.
Anangu elder Judy Trigger presented Oprah with a beautiful, handmade ininti (red bean) necklace and guided Oprah on one of the many cultural walks at the park.
"Oprah was excited to learn about our culture through the walks and talks we took her on. She was quick to learn that we don't climb Uluru and happy to respect this request from Anangu. It is a very important message for all visitors to the park," Judy said.
Oprah described her visit to the rock as 'awesome' and said she planned to return.
"Me being here is a way of paying respects to the Aboriginal people and showing respect for the land and their culture and all that this rock means to them and the continent and to the world," she said.
The Tourism Directions strategy is also focused on another major source of employment in the region - Ayers Rock Resort at Yulara.
The Indigenous Land Corporation's $300 million purchase of the resort this year could create historic Indigenous employment training opportunities.
Harry Wilson said the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board of Management was keen to develop a memorandum of understanding for how the board would work together with the resort.
"We're looking forward to seeing what ideas and projects can be developed that will complement activities at the park and the resort," Harry said.
"The memorandum of understanding is an opportunity to work with the resort to achieve outcomes that we are all interested in, including promoting Anangu culture appropriately to visitors and building opportunities for Anangu to be employed in a range of different jobs at the park and the resort."
Inspiration is coming from many directions. Anangu members of the board of management and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Tourism Consultative Committee went on a road trip to Alice Springs where they experienced first-hand some of the wonderful Indigenous tourism experiences on offer in the Red Centre.
The park's events manager Nick Ambrose said that Anangu came away with loads of ideas and were very excited by what they had seen and heard. The group also met the Red Centre National Landscape Steering Committee at the Alice Springs Desert Park and took the opportunity to provide the meeting with feedback from the trip.
A follow up meeting at Mutitjulu is now being organised to discuss the next steps forward.
Histories, prehistories and knowledge recording
- Kakadu produced a report on the life history of traditional owner, Butcher Knight. The park also commenced oral history projects recording the history of, and preparing statements of significance, for Anlarr (Nourlangie Camp), the old Jim Jim pub and Munmalary.
- Approved audio and video materials from Kakadu continued to be transferred for long-term storage and protection through the partnership agreement between the National Archives of Australia and the Director.
KRA3: Joint management and working with Indigenous communities
- Indigenous communities benefit from, and play a lead role in, the Australian Government's protected area management program.
- Activities and investments contribute to meeting Closing the Gap targets.
- Enable effective participation of traditional owners and Indigenous communities in park management.PBS
- Engage Indigenous staff and/or contractors to provide park services.PBS
- Provide opportunities for the establishment of Indigenous owned enterprises, including those which provide an Indigenous cultural experience to visitors.
- Work together with boards of management, land councils and service delivery agencies to assist in meeting Closing the Gap targets.
Indigenous staffing and contractors
- Overall the number of directly employed Indigenous staff throughout the year declined slightly in the jointly managed parks.PBS
- The number of Indigenous staff (including intermittent and irregular employees) and contractors indirectly engaged to provide services at Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks remained steady.PBS
- Anangu participation in flexible employment through the Mutitjulu Community Rangers program has remained high with a number of wati (men) and kunga (women) regularly engaged in Park activities. Anangu participating in the program are also attending the park's literacy and numeracy program which is run weekly at Nyangatjatjara College.PBS
- Parks Australia continued to support the agreement between the Mutitjulu Community and the park in employing Anangu at Uluru-Kata Tjuta, including acknowledging and recompensing senior Anangu for their traditional knowledge and skills.
- Bininj were engaged as part of the Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Program, with eight and a half full-time equivalent positions filled for the entire year plus up to an additional six temporary positions at various times throughout the year.PBS
- Workplace development coordinators, first engaged in 2010, continued to engage community, build capacity, provide training and employment and support Anangu in the region.
- Two additional Anangu trainees were employed in specified trainee ranger roles.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park employed three Indigenous trainees and Kakadu National Park has one Indigenous trainee position. Kakadu employed three Indigenous school-based apprentices.
- At Booderee, a broad range of training was provided to Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council and park staff in accordance with the training strategy.
- Booderee National Park became a host employer of student based apprentices filled by three Wreck Bay Community Year 11 students. The park hosted Kokoda Track Authority management staff to help develop asset and track management practices (see case study).
- The Junior Ranger programs at Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu National Parks continued.
- At Kakadu, Bininj staff continued certificate level studies, numeracy and workplace English language and literacy training.
- Kakadu staff convened a training and workshop forum between the park and neighbouring Indigenous Protected Areas and other Indigenous managed areas.
Contribution of Aboriginal enterprises
- Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council provided $1.9 million in cleaning, road maintenance, entry station, horticultural and infrastructure maintenance services to Booderee National Park.PBS
- The Director and Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council completed draft service level agreements for the second round of outsourcing at Booderee, including infrastructure maintenance and horticultural services.PBS
- Bininj were engaged in delivering interpretive and environmental programs at Kakadu and as part of the Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Program.
Boards of management
- At Booderee, the board met four times and completed a draft second management plan released for public comment on 4 May 2011.
- New members of the Kakadu National Park Board of Management were appointed by the Minister in September 2010 and met four times.
- Three meetings of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board of Management were held, supported by meetings of the board's consultative committees.
Case study: Booderee - helping PNG rangers safeguard the Kokoda Track
Kokoda Track Authority communication officer Pauline Riman (right) meets Australian National Botanic Gardens' ranger Rosella-Uwedo Hampshire (left). Pauline was one of several Papua New Guinea officers who spent time with Parks Australia staff at Booderee National Park and in Canberra as part of an exchange program to improve safety on the historic Kokoda Track.
Booderee National Park has become a new training home for Papua New Guinea rangers from the Kokoda Track Authority.
As part of the Australian Government's $4.9 million Kokoda Track Safety Package, over the past year two groups of rangers left their highland villages to learn how Booderee provides a safe environment for trekkers.
It has been an emotional experience for Booderee staff - an opportunity to give something back to a people who fought side by side with Australians during bloody battles along the Kokoda Track in World War II.
"My dad was a fighter pilot in Papua New Guinea so I felt a real bond with these rangers, some of whom are direct descendents of the Fuzzy Wuzzy angels who helped so many Australians during the war," acting park manager Martin Fortescue says.
"Many other park staff also had family fighting in PNG. This is a way of keeping the memories of those friendships alive and continuing to help each other."
As an award winning tourism destination and a jointly managed park with a strong Indigenous ranger program, Booderee was an ideal place for the Kokoda rangers to learn new skills and share their cultural heritage. Both places embrace local Indigenous involvement as integral to their management.
"With hundreds of thousands of people now walking the Kokoda Track, safety is a growing concern," Martin says. "So too is maintaining the cultural integrity of the remote villagers who rarely saw white people a couple of decades ago.
"For some of the Kokoda rangers, this trip was the first time they had left their highland villages, so they got a real kick out of joining us for ocean surveys of shorebirds and seals."
Booderee staff and Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community members shared experiences in building and maintaining walking tracks, controlling soil erosion, managing visitors and campgrounds, monitoring native wildlife and joint management.
Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke also took time out from a family camping trip at Booderee to meet the PNG rangers.
Chair of the Kokoda Track Authority James Enge describes the program as "invaluable - with Booderee's joint management model a great example of how traditional owners can benefit from their lands".
KRA4: Use and appreciation of protected areas
- Commonwealth reserves are valued for providing broader benefits to society such as a greater appreciation and understanding of Australia's biodiversity, unique habitats and landscapes.
- Australia's protected areas are recognised as significant contributors to tourism.
- Provide inspirational, satisfying and safe experiences to visitors to Commonwealth reserves.PBS
- Ensure visitor monitoring and reporting methods are consistent across the Commonwealth reserve estate.
- Minimise visitor impacts on natural and cultural values.
- Improve tourism and conservation partnerships.
- Facilitate National Landscape experience development strategies that promote sustainable and appropriate tourism in protected areas.
Visitor numbers and satisfaction
- Visitor surveys were undertaken at Kakadu, Booderee, Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Norfolk Island National Parks. All reserves recorded satisfaction from greater than 90 per cent of park users - Kakadu 91 per cent, Booderee 97 per cent, Uluru-Kata Tjuta 91 per cent and Norfolk Island 98 per cent.PBS
- An estimated 1.4 million people visited Commonwealth terrestrial reserves, a 3.26 per cent decrease from 2009-10. An increase in visitor numbers was recorded at the Australian National Botanic Gardens (5 per cent), while numbers were steady at Booderee, and decreased at Uluru-Kata Tjuta (11 per cent) and Kakadu (16 per cent).
- The ANBG hosted 8,958 school and tertiary students from 206 schools in education programs (73 per cent of students participated in programs run by the gardens and 27 per cent in programs run by their own teachers). Schools from every state and territory included the gardens on their Canberra excursion itinerary.
- Booderee staff delivered 150 school holiday interpretation sessions, focusing on Aboriginal cultural values and conservation themes, with over 3,000 attendees. A further 65 interpretation sessions were delivered to primary schools, high schools, universities and special interest groups, with more than 2,500 attendees in total.
- Christmas Island staff provided a range of school-based educational activities for Christmas Island District High School, visiting schools and the community.
- Pulu Keeling staff continued educational activities with the Cocos (Keeling) Islands District School and community, specifically on invasive species but also incorporating other local conservation messages.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta staff delivered free interpretive events to visitors including the daily ranger-guided Mala Walk at Uluru.
Tourism and visitor facilities
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta staff facilitated a discovery tour for Anangu board members and Tourism Consultative Committee members to visit tourist sites and venues along the Red Centre way and to learn from other Indigenous tourism business owners about starting a business.
- At Norfolk Island a new toilet block, boardwalk, lookout and picnic facilities were constructed at the Captain Cook monument.
- Norfolk Island staff have undertaken a complete review of interpretive materials and produced new material including a series of four brochures, new colour-coded track name signs to match the new walking track information brochure, new plant identification signs for the botanic gardens and new road and park entrance signs (see case study).
- At Booderee a new self-guided walking trail at Murrays Beach, including cultural and conservation information on 14 new signs, was opened. The new trail is called Munjunga Dhugan (Eagles Nest) and introduces visitors to south coast Indigenous languages.
- In November 2010 Booderee National Park won an International Responsible Tourism award for conservation of cultural heritage. This award generated a great deal of media and tourism industry interest in the park's joint management model and provided a platform for free promotional and marketing messages. The park was also runner-up in the 2010 NSW/ACT Regional Achievement and Community Events and Tourism Awards.
Case study: Norfolk Island National Park - keeping our visitors satisfied - the information challenge
Norfolk Island National Park turned 25 this year. To celebrate Norfolk Island philatelic released a stamp series featuring four endangered plants that are now on their way to recovery.
When Norfolk Island National Park Manager Coral Rowston left the mainland more than two years ago, she took with her a PhD in ecology and a background in natural resource management. Luckily for the island and its 20,000 or so annual visitors, she also has a passion for education and interpreting the natural world.
Voted this year as a 'woman of change' by a Norfolk Island Year 7 student, Coral's energy has paid off with visitors to the national park being overwhelmingly satisfied with their experience - with 98 per cent rating it as 'excellent' or 'very good' in a recent survey.
Coral has been a driving force in promoting Norfolk Island National Park and Botanic Garden as a major attraction for visitors to the island.
"Visitor surveys tell us that more than 90 per cent of people who travel to Norfolk Island spend at least some time in the park and garden," Coral says. "We also know that most of our visitors are aged between 50 and 69 years, are quite well educated, have a thirst for knowledge and want to know about the places they visit.
"To meet the needs of our visitors we've embarked on a major revamp of our communications with a swathe of new materials produced including brochures, track signs colour-coded to match a new walking track brochure, plant identification signs for the botanic garden as well as road and park entrance signs. Information panels cover features of the natural environment and the park's history.
"The feedback we're getting is really encouraging. Our last visitor survey showed an increase in satisfaction about the park - with 80 per cent of visitors rating the signage as either 'excellent' or 'very good' compared to 60 per cent in 2010", Coral says.
The national park is also using social networking to promote this natural tourism destination through facebook - with 400 friends already on board - mostly in the 35-40 years age group, a key target for tourism on the island.
To celebrate the park's 25th anniversary last January, Coral worked with Norfolk Island philatelic to bring out a commemorative stamp series featuring four endangered plants now on their way to recovery - the Norfolk Island abutilon, Phillip Island hibiscus, popwood and broad-leaved myrta. A great conservation success story!
A new interpretive centre, currently being built and due to be completed mid-2012, will also boost the quality and availability of information provided to visitors about the park's special environment and how it is managed for future generations to enjoy.
Norfolk's facebook page: facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Norfolk-Island-National-Park-and-Botanic-Garden/352922925338
KRA5: Stakeholders and partnerships
- Parks Australia is recognised as a valued partner nationally and internationally in the conservation of biodiversity and collaborative research.
- Effectively involve stakeholders and partners in park management activities.PBS
- Form new and effective partnerships with government agencies, neighbours and stakeholders.
- Co-fund research projects with other agencies under equitable funding arrangements.PBS
- Play a leadership role in targeted collaborative biodiversity research, such as through Australia's Virtual Herbarium and the Australian Seed Bank Partnership.
- Constructive partnerships in managing Commonwealth reserves continued with state government parks agencies and other relevant departments; the Australian Government's Department of Defence, Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service; the Transport and Tourism Forum and Tourism Australia, industry groups, universities, non-government organisations and community groups.PBS
- Research partnerships continued with a range of organisations including the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service, CSIRO, Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University, Australian National University, University of Canberra, Charles Darwin University and the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute.PBS
- The Australian National Botanic Gardens' 17-year partnership with CSIRO Plant Industry was renewed for a further 10 years in December 2010. A new strategic plan for the renamed Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research (CANBR) was put in place and a new director for the centre was appointed in January 2011.
- The ANBG and the CANBR entered into a partnership with the Australian Biological Resources Study and the Atlas of Living Australia to develop and manage a common taxonomic infrastructure for databases held by these organisations and to develop web services, including a species profile template for the atlas.
- The ANBG engaged a national coordinator for the Australian Seed Bank Partnership in July 2010 to coordinate national conservation seed banking efforts. Partners from across Australia met at the ANBG in November 2010 and prepared a 10-year seed collecting and research program to build the national safety net for Australian plant species. A partnership website was also launched.
- The ANBG continued membership of technical working groups under the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and Taxonomic Databases Working Group and the Australian National Herbarium continued to play a driving and coordinating role for projects undertaken by the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria.
- A partnership agreement with Taronga Zoo for conservation of Christmas Island's declining reptiles, including off-island captive breeding, was signed in May 2011.
- Christmas Island National Park worked effectively with on-island stakeholders on important conservation programs including developing a cat management partnership with government and industry and fostering stakeholder and community support for road management activities aimed at protecting red crabs during migration periods.
- At Kakadu National Park the partnership between the Australian and Northern Territory Governments continued, with joint funding and planning to advance tourism in the park. Park staff also continued to work cooperatively with the Northern Territory Bushfires Council and other Northern Territory Government agencies, West Arnhem Shire and the Northern Land Council.
- Kakadu supported community events including festivals celebrating Indigenous culture and community spirit, such as the Mahbilil Festival in Jabiru and the Stone Country Festival in Gunbalanya.
- The new Kakadu Research Advisory Committee met in May 2011, where it was agreed that research proposals should address traditional owner research priorities and facilitate traditional owner participation and on-country visits.
- Norfolk Island National Park celebrated the 25th anniversary of the declaration of the park, coinciding with release of a postage stamp recognising the park. A new Norfolk Island National Park Advisory Committee was appointed in August 2010 with revised terms of reference and operating structure.
- Pulu Keeling National Park continued to use the Home Island office to build positive working relationship with stakeholders, locals and tourists. One meeting of the Pulu Keeling National Park Community Management Committee was held during the year (see case study).
- In October 2010 Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Handback of title to traditional owners with a cultural festival and concert at Talinguru Nyakunytjaku, the park's new Uluru viewing facility.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta led the development of a literacy and numeracy program in collaboration with Anangu Jobs and the Nyangatjatjara College. The park established a relationship with Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education to provide accredited study programs in conservation and land management for the park's traditional owner staff and selected participants in the Mutitjulu Community Ranger program.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta staff attended meetings with, and provided briefings for, the new owners of Ayers Rock Resort, the Indigenous Land Corporation.
Case study: Park management - a community affair on the Cocos Islands
Pulu Keeling National Park - Australia's most remote and one of its smallest national parks - is also chief ranger Ismail Macrae's office.
Weather permitting, Ismail takes a boat across 24 kilometres of open ocean to work in his 'office', an isolated coral atoll some 1.2 square kilometres in size and a haven for seabirds which flock in their thousands to this environment which has never seen continuous occupation by people.
The national park is part of the Cocos Keeling Islands, Australia's most remote island territory lying over 2,900 kilometres north-west of Perth, a small speck in the vast Indian Ocean.
Ismail has called the Cocos (Keeling) Islands home for 26 years, ever since he returned with his island-born parents who had been working in North Borneo.
Looking after Pulu Keeling is the job of Ismail and his senior ranger, Trish Flores - with a key focus on invasive species such as weeds and yellow crazy ants.
It is also a community affair, consulting back on the main Cocos' islands with the 500 or so residents, many of them Cocos-Malay. Unlike most park rangers, Ismail and Trish spend much of their time off park, educating the local community about Pulu Keeling's ecological significance - its internationally-recognised seabird rookery. They see that raising awareness in the community about the fragility of the stunning environment around them, as an investment - creating passionate champions.
The community gets involved in looking after the Cocos' environment through initiatives such as school projects, junior rangers, care of injured birds and revegetation programs on the southern atolls.
With the help of the community Ismail and Trish are revegetating small areas of the southern atolls with Pisonia trees - favoured nesting sites for seabirds. The community has helped to plant out 350 Pisonia cuttings that were propagated from trees on Pulu Keeling National Park - the only Cocos island which still has large and original stands of these trees.
KRA6: Business management
- Robust and accurate business systems are in place which promote health and safety, maintain park infrastructure integrity and ensure work is undertaken within budget constraints.
- Parks Australia's ecological footprint is minimised through adaptive management and supporting business practices.
- Base planning and decision making on the best available information, legal obligations and government and agency policies.PBS
- Ensure expenditure does not exceed budget.
- Minimise the number of 'A' or 'B' findings from the annual Australian National Audit Office audit of Director of National Parks financial statements.
- Establish and implement robust and effective management plans for Commonwealth reserves.
- Minimise risks and the number and severity of reportable occupational health and safety incidents involving staff, contractors, volunteers and park users.PBS
- Ensure that accessible assets and infrastructure are maintained in a safe condition.
- Use adaptive management regimes that respond to new information about impacts of climate change and improved technologies.PBS
- Audit energy and water use and waste in Commonwealth reserves and implement actions to provide efficiencies and improvements.
- Management plans are in place for Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Norfolk Island and Kakadu National Parks. A new draft management plan for Booderee National Park was released for public comment on 4 May 2011 and new draft management plans are almost finalised for Christmas Island and Pulu Keeling National Parks and the ANBG.PBS
- Reserve implementation schedules are in place for Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Norfolk Island and Kakadu National Parks. Implementation schedules are not in place for the reserves with expired management plans.PBS
- A climate change strategy was completed for Norfolk Island National Park and Botanic Gardens. Policies and actions on climate change monitoring, mitigation and adaptation are being incorporated into new management plans. The climate change strategies for each park address five key objectives:
- understanding the implications of climate change
- implementing adaptation measures to maximise the resilience of Commonwealth reserves
- reducing each reserve's carbon footprint
- working with communities, industries and stakeholders to mitigate and adapt to climate change
- communicating the implications of climate change and Parks Australia's response.PBS
- Greenhouse gas emissions associated with stationary and transport energy use were estimated to be 4,718 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is a reduction of around 12 per cent compared with the average emissions over the past three years. Improvements in energy efficiency were largely from stationary sources, including new solar panels at Kakadu, Norfolk Island and Booderee National Parks. The solar panels at Booderee have generated 4,088 kilowatt hours of electricity since November 2009. The closure of a glasshouse at the Australian National Botanic Gardens for renovations reduced energy use.PBS
- Further information on greenhouse gas emissions is provided in the report on ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance at Appendix C.
Financial and business management
- The Auditor-General issued an unqualified audit report for the 2010-11 financial statements of the Director of National Parks. There were no 'A' or 'B' findings from the Australian National Audit Office audit of the financial statements.
- In response to the 2010 Staff Survey the Employment Engagement Index showed 73 per cent of employees responded favourably to questions stating they were satisfied, motivated, committed, and advocates of Parks Australia.
Risk and occupational health and safety
- There was a net reduction in the number of extreme and high risks in risk watch lists of 1 per cent from 2010-11.PBS
- Parks Australia recorded 211 occupational health and safety incidents over the year, an increase from last year (189).
- Seven major injuries were sustained by parks staff and contractors including amputated fingers. Four park visitors died (two drownings and a death due to dehydration in Kakadu and one heart attack in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park) and there were 18 major injuries to visitors (mainly fractures from slips, trips and falls).PBS
KRA7: Biodiversity science, knowledge management and use
- There is a comprehensive information base across Australia, including for the National Reserve System, that supports effective decision making, spatial management and conservation.
- Threatened native plant species occurring within Commonwealth parks and reserves are conserved in cooperation with national and international institutions.
- Provide high quality, comprehensive and current information to the Australian community through publications and enhanced websites to facilitate and foster understanding of park values and Australia's natural and cultural heritage.PBS
- Undertake research designed to engage with end users and support evidence-based decision making by environmental managers and policy makers.PBS
- Increase knowledge of Australia's biodiversity through research and training.PBS
- Make effective use of research investment in Commonwealth reserves.
- Enhance ex situ conservation of Australia's rare and threatened biodiversity, through the activities of the ANBG and targeted projects.
Websites and publications
- The Parks Australia websites (parksaustralia.gov.au and kakadu.com.au) received an almost 10 per cent increase in hits in 2011 with 593,038 visits (an average of 1,624 per day). Use of online PDF publications decreased by almost 30 per cent to 76,158 downloads as more and more publications were provided in html and smart phone friendly alternatives in line with Government Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 requirements.PBS
- The ANBG hosted a national myrtle rust workshop in March 2011 to share information on potential threats posed by this introduced fungus disease to plant collections in botanic gardens and bushland throughout Australia. A range of information and resources on myrtle rust was made available on the botanic gardens website.
- The ANBG and the CANBR participated in national and international biodiversity information management and technical infrastructure projects including the Atlas of Living Australia, the Australian Faunal Directory, the Taxonomy Research and Information Network, the Australian Plant Census, Australia's Virtual Herbarium, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, the Encyclopedia of Life and the Taxonomic Databases Working Group.
- The ANBG negotiated a contract with CSIRO to undertake work for the Atlas of Living Australia to redevelop the nomenclature and taxonomic infrastructure for Australian plant and animal species in association with the Australian Biological Resources Study. This will effectively combine Australian plant and animal names data through a common interface.
Case study: Australian National Botanic Gardens - 40 years and still growing strong
Dr Judy West, Parks Australia's Assistant Secretary Parks and Biodiversity Branch has an international reputation for her work in plant systematics and phylogenetics and conservation biology. Judy - Congress President and Chair (right) - speaking with International Botanic Congress delegates Megan Clark CEO of CSIRO and Pat Raven from Missouri Botanic Gardens in St Louis, USA.
Photo: Tim Pascoe
Dr Judy West started working with plants about the same time as the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra opened its gates - 40 years ago.
And while the Gardens celebrated its 40th birthday last October with a gala dinner, a garden party, activities for the kids and talks and walks, behind the scenes staff were hard at work.
Today as the Gardens' Executive Director Judy still 'loves working with plants' and, wearing her other hat as Assistant Secretary of Parks and Biodiversity Science, is working tirelessly to promote the Gardens as a national scientific institution.
"What many people don't realise is that the Gardens were actually developed as a scientific institution," Judy says. "A key focus over the last year has been boosting the science side of our work.
"We've managed to make substantial progress in this area and have developed and strengthened some of our key partnerships."
One of these partnerships was the renewing of the 17-year agreement between the Director of National Parks and CSIRO to form the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, which includes the Australian National Herbarium with strong links to the Gardens.
"The National Herbarium is doing critical work providing botanical knowledge for Australia," Judy says. It plays an essential role identifying plants and weeds and documenting the country's vast diversity of plant life. I'm now keen to see the herbarium working more closely with our Commonwealth parks helping out with plant surveys.
"Another milestone was our appointment of a national coordinator for the new Australian Seed Bank Partnership which the Gardens is leading, expanding our role in seed conservation.
"We have our own seedbank in Canberra, and we're now working with partners around the country to collect specimens of all plant species nationally listed as threatened or endangered. Our ambition is to have seedbanks in every state to insure against the loss of Australia's flora from threats such as climate change."
As part of its scientific focus, the Gardens also brought together Australia's leading plant and fungal scientists to explore options for managing outbreaks of myrtle rust, a newly introduced fungal disease which infects plants in the Myrtaceae family such as bottlebrushes, tea trees and eucalypts.
On the physical side of things we also made major improvements to the Gardens infrastructure," Judy adds.
The Gardens now has a drought-secure irrigation supply thanks to the completion of the non-potable water pipeline from Lake Burley Griffin which will save up to 170 million litres of Canberra's drinking water each year.
"We've redeveloped the grassy woodland at the main entrance showcasing local plants and giving a sense of arrival at the Gardens and, close to my heart, we've started work on the Red Centre Garden - a massively challenging project to develop an arid area plant display in Canberra's environment."
- The Australian National Herbarium added data for 17,199 herbarium specimens. A total of 874,478 specimens are now recorded in the database and available to the public through the internet.
- Researchers associated with the CANBR completed 12 scientific papers or publications resulting from research undertaken at the Australian National Herbarium. Areas of study included Australian Asteraceae, Orchidaceae, Amaranthaceae, Rutaceae, Myrtaceae, Malvaceae, Mimosaceae, Santalaceae, weeds and bryophytes.
- The CANBR appointed research and technical staff to undertake spatial analyses and research into the occurrence and distribution of Australian plants.
- The ANBG continued research on the ecological function, structure and small-scale dynamics of grassland communities in south-eastern Australia, using grasslands in the West Wyalong district of NSW as model systems. A paper on this work was published in the journal Global Change Biology and other papers resulting from this work are being prepared.
- The ANBG updated the Australian Plant Image Index to make 13,366 additional images accessible on the internet. The ANBG was also contracted to collect and manage images of weeds and deliver them to the department's Weeds Australia website.
- The ANBG updated data for the Australian Plant Name Index, including extensive editing of existing data and capture of new data. The ANBG also completed data collation for an agreed list of scientific names for Australian liverworts and hornworts through the national collaborative Australian Plant Census project.