Annual Report 2011-12 - Planning, reporting and performance
© Director of National Parks, 2012 | ISSN 1443-1238
Annual report links
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 2011-12.
Portfolio Budget Statements 2011-12
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 2011-12 Portfolio Budget Statements for 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, and establishing 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 in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/ annual/11-12.
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 2010-14
This plan sets out the long-term outcomes and shorter-term outputs for the Director of National Parks against seven key result areas (KRAs) as follows:
KRA 1 - Natural heritage management
KRA 2 - Cultural heritage management
KRA 3 - Joint management and working with Indigenous communities
KRA 4 - Use and appreciation of protected areas
KRA 5 - Stakeholders and partnerships
KRA 6 - Business management
KRA 7 - 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/11-12.
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 that provide for the reserves' protection and conservation. They must state how each reserve is to be managed and how the reserve's features are to be protected and conserved.
As at 30 June 2012, the Director was responsible for managing seven Commonwealth terrestrial and 26 Commonwealth marine reserves. Four terrestrial reserve management plans are in place. A draft management plan for Booderee National Park was issued for public comment in May 2011 and a draft management plan for Christmas Island National Park was released for public comment in March 2012. Both plans are in the process of being finalised, taking into account comments received during the public comment period. A draft plan is currently being prepared for Pulu Keeling National Park.
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 reserves networks will be declared that will incorporate existing marine reserves. Following their declaration under the EPBC Act, network management plans will be developed.
Between May 2011 and February 2012, the Australian Government released draft Commonwealth marine reserves network proposals for public comment for the South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East marine regions and for the Coral Sea. Final Commonwealth marine reserves network proposals will be subject to a final round of public comment during the second half of 2012 as part of the proclamation process.
As at 30 June 2012, 24 of the 26 existing Commonwealth marine reserves did not have management plans in place and were being managed under interim arrangements consistent with Australian IUCN management principles, pending proclamation of new reserves networks and development of network management plans. A draft network management plan for the South-east Marine Region is being prepared by the department's Marine Division and is expected to be issued for public comment early in 2012-13.
Of the two marine reserves with management plans in place, the Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve will be incorporated in the Temperate East Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network once it is proclaimed. The management plan for the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve expired in August 2012 and the department's Australian Antarctic Division is currently finalising a draft second plan for public comment.
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.
Summary of performance
The following summary of performance in managing terrestrial Commonwealth reserves for 2011-12 uses key result areas, outcomes and indicators identified in the Parks Australia Divisional Plan and key performance indicators and deliverables identified in the 2011-12 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/11-12.
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 Christmas Island National Park was released for public comment on 28 March 2012 and the third management plan for the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) came into effect on 29 May 2012.
- An Australian Government response to the recommendations of the Christmas Island Expert Working Group, established to address decline in the island's biodiversity, was agreed in October 2011 and released publicly. Preparation of the draft Christmas Island Regional Recovery Plan, incorporating ecosystem and species recovery actions, continued.
Botanic gardens management (see case study below)
- The ANBG continued a program for ex situ alpine plant conservation supported by a three-year partnership with the Australian National University, Australian Research Council, University of Queensland and the Friends of the ANBG. The program investigates the effect climate change will have on the reproductive ecology and demography of Australian alpine flora. Five weeks of fieldwork in Kosciuszko National Park resulted in the collection of 71 seed lots.
- The ANBG established a new volunteer program, called the 'Seedy Volunteers', to support the seed collecting program. Fourteen volunteers were recruited and trained and undertook 17 local collecting trips with botanic gardens staff.
- A myrtle rust response plan was developed, together with upgraded horticultural practices, to reduce the risk of this recently-introduced pathogen occurring in the ANBG.
- Major drainage and earthworks for the ANBG's arid-themed Red Centre Garden were completed by May 2012. This followed 18 months of research and design and the sourcing of authentic materials and plants for the site, as well as hydrological engineering and development design work.
- Management of invasive morning glory (Ipomea cairica and I. indica) at the Norfolk Island Botanic Garden continued.
Case study: Alive with innovation
The dramatic lighting display in the majestic Rainforest Gully as part of the AfterDARK tour
The Australian National Botanic Gardens is approaching the future with a brand new look and energy.
In 2011-12 the Gardens was rebranded, giving this Canberra institution a much more contemporary, upbeat look and feel. The Gardens have developed a range of visitor services and tourism products in line with their new look and put a fundraising program in place to support their future goals.
The Gardens 2012-2022 Management Plan, released in May 2012 will guide the development of the Gardens over the next 10 years and reflects the changing needs and challenges of the institution.
It's hoped that some of these needs will be addressed by a first for the Gardens - an online donation system and a bequest publication. Designed to raise further finance for the organisation, it is part of a long-term strategy to improve the Gardens' education and visitor service programs and develop areas such as horticulture and conservation research and the Gardens themselves.
Visitors are already enjoying Australian bush food and fresh produce dining experiences at the Gardens' new café - Floresco in the Gardens. After a competitive selection process, Hellenic Premium Catering were selected as the new proprietors, taking over from Hudsons who ran the cafe for many years.
With the change in proprietors, the café has had a makeover - renovations have lightened the space with an exciting menu providing high quality, affordable meals.
Living Collections curator David Taylor plants an endangered small purple pea as part of ActewAGL's offset program
As part of Canberra's Enlighten festival, a new lighting display in the Gardens' Rainforest Gully was turned on for the first time in early March 2012. With 125 LED spotlights illuminating selected trees and shrubs, boardwalk markers and a lighted handrail, the state-of-the-art display works with our misting system, immersing visitors in a unique after-dark experience of the gully's rich diversity of plants. The lighting project was jointly funded by the Director of National Parks and the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
The success of Enlighten led to the Gardens creating a permanent public program - afterDARK. AfterDARK is a night adventure featuring the lighting in the majestic Rainforest Gully. AfterDARK provides a range of experiences for visitors from spotlighting tours to exclusive dining experiences in association with Floresco in the Gardens.
In May 2012 the Gardens launched Flora Explorer - a 12-seat electric passenger vehicle to help our visitors explore its beautiful landscapes. Supported by the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, the bus helps visitors, who may be unable to walk far, to discover the Gardens' many highlights while sitting back and enjoying a one-hour guided tour.
The ClimateWatch trail launched this year is yet another innovative way to engage visitors. Aiming to inspire a new generation of young scientists it was developed in partnership with Earthwatch Australia. The trail lets those who walk it become 'citizen scientists', monitoring the effects of climate change on Australian native plants.
Visitors can record information such as flowering times and nesting patterns of birds, to help scientists understand the effects of climate change and how best to respond to it. The ClimateWatch trail has been funded by the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
In partnership with ActewAGL, a Canberrabased energy company, the Gardens propagated and grew the endangered small purple pea (Swainsona recta) in its Seed Bank laboratory and nursery.
The purple peas have been planted out on ActewAGL's 110 hectare Murrumbidgee to Googong pipeline offset site in the capital.
Significant species management
- Park managers nominated 37 species across six terrestrial reserves to determine whether viable populations of these significant species have been maintained in those reserves. Of the selected species, the populations of three are increasing, 16 remain steady, eight are decreasing, one may be extinct, two may be locally extinct and population data are deficient for seven species. (Further information on species monitoring is provided in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/11-12 and at Appendix B: Portfolio Budget Statements reporting 2011-12.)
- Species monitoring at Booderee National Park continued to focus on the effectiveness of regular fox baiting and on the long-term impacts of the major fires of 2003 and 2007. Monitoring (including the use of fauna surveillance cameras) showed that key indicator species are responding positively to low fox numbers; stable or increasing trends were observed for threatened eastern bristlebirds (Dasyornis brachypterus) and most shorebirds.
- Christmas Island National Park completed the 2011 biennial island-wide biodiversity survey which included the addition of scientifically rigorous sampling methodologies for additional native and exotic species. The survey detected a small increase in the number of red crab (Gecarcoidea natalis) burrows; there was also a significant reduction in vehicle-related mortality of robber crabs (Birgus latro) and migrating red crabs during the year.
- Christmas Island continued to maintain an on-island captive breeding program for two native reptile species and supported off-island captive breeding through a partnership with Sydney's Taronga Zoo. Biodiversity surveys confirmed that the drastic decline in wild populations of native reptiles is continuing.
- Kakadu National Park continued its collaborative project with the University of Sydney and the Territory Wildlife Park for the wild release of captive-bred northern quolls (Dasyurus hallucatus) that have been trained to avoid cane toads (Rhinella marina); initial results suggest this behaviour is passed to their offspring. As a result of this work, a larger wild quoll population was detected than was thought to exist in the area of the park where the research was conducted.
- Surveys of nesting flatback turtles (Natator depressus) on Kakadu's Gardangarl (Field Island) confirmed numbers of this threatened species remain steady (see case study below).
- 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.
- The results of the second island-wide survey for Pulu Keeling National Park, which was conducted in 2012, indicated the population of the endangered Cocos buff-banded rail (Gallirallus philippensis andrewsi) is stable. A risk assessment and initial planning were undertaken for translocation of a small population from the park to an island in the southern atoll of the Cocos (Keeling) group.
- For the first time in many years, sooty terns (Onychoprion fuscata) also known as whalebirds attempted to breed on Norfolk Island; previous breeding has been restricted to nearby uninhabited Phillip Island which is free of introduced rats and feral cats (see case study below).
- A consultant was engaged to provide advice on a sustainable forestry industry on Norfolk Island and the role of Norfolk Island National Park in such an industry. Negotiations are underway with the Norfolk Island Government to develop an agreement on future management of the park's forestry zone in light of the consultant's findings.
- At Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, annual threatened animal surveys and rare plant baseline surveys found the numbers of target species to be stable or increasing. The park's population of the threatened mala or rufous hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus) is now the largest population on the Australian mainland. The first ever survey of the park's ant fauna was conducted in a joint venture with the CSIRO. Fifty new species were recorded, many undescribed, in one of the first detailed surveys of local ant communities in central Australia.
- Monitoring to quantify the health of the waterholes at the base of Uluru and to gain an improved understanding of the cause of previous frog mortality found water chemistry and heavy metal concentrations to be within the normal ranges. A further mortality event in 2012 has sparked further research via a dedicated PhD study.
Case study: Flatback turtle surveys on Gardangarl
Flatback turtle hatchlings head out to sea off Gardangarl
Around August each year, staff and volunteers at Kakadu National Park embark on a major survey of flatback turtles on Gardangarl (Field Island).
The island lies just off the coast and forms part of the park. It provides crucial habitat for flatback turtles, which are listed nationally as a vulnerable species.
The annual survey provides much-needed data on how the turtle populations are faring. Very little is known globally about flatback turtle numbers, and it is the only marine turtle species listed globally as 'data deficient'. When the IUCN attempted to assess the conservation status of the flatback turtle there wasn't enough data to know whether turtle numbers are declining, stable or increasing, so the park's ongoing work is crucial.
Anne O'Dea is a research project officer at Kakadu and has organised the turtle surveys for the last few years.
"The turtle surveys are a real team effort," she said. "Park staff and traditional owners are joined by rangers from Garig Gunak Barlu National Park and volunteers including some overseas volunteers through Conservation Volunteers Australia - everyone pitches in help.
"We camp out on the island and work in shifts over 20 nights, watching the beach at night and recording details of the many turtles that use the island as a nesting beach.
"The number of turtles surveyed has stayed pretty steady over the last five years, with the team recording an average of three and four turtles a night. We had a small spike in 2010 when we were finding up to five or six a night, but in 2011 the numbers seem to have returned to more normal levels.
"It's great to see more than 70 per cent of the turtles successfully nesting over the survey period - that's been consistent over the last five years."
The surveys are based on a methodology developed over 40 years of turtle research in Australia. Incidental monitoring was done for nesting turtles on Field Island starting with Ian Morris and some trainees in the early 1980s, and annual surveys began in 1994.
The turtle surveys are a highlight for Kakadu staff each year and are generating important information for park management. A summary of the 2002-2005 monitoring data from Field Island concluded that the 'Kakadu Marine Turtle Monitoring Program has proven its worth by generating useful data of ever increasing quality that will be of pivotal use in monitoring flatback turtle populations at a regional and on a national scale.'
Case study: Protecting Norfolk's wildlife
The whale bird or sooty tern is a familiar sight in the skies above Norfolk's offshore islands where flocks of many thousands return to breed each year.
For the first time in many years whale birds have attempted to breed on Norfolk Island, however, these migratory seabirds are facing a number of challenges from introduced predators as well as human impacts.
Known locally as whale birds because their return to the area to breed coincides with the northern migration of the humpback whale, these birds are also known as sooty terns. While Phillip Island has long been a stronghold of the whale birds they have now been detected nesting in the Cord area of the national park.
Local residents contacted park staff early in the season with concerns that cats were killing large numbers of nesting whale birds in the Cord area.
Unfortunately, cat control is very difficult. Trapping is not very successful when there is such a huge food source available outside the traps. But we set some traps anyway - and not surprisingly, had very little success in capturing the offenders.
To try to find out more about what was happening in the breeding area and to see if we could better target our cat control, we set up a couple of remote cameras. Not only have we filmed cats, but the footage has given us a better understanding of other threats - from people, dogs and rats.
In one of the camera locations, at the start of the 10 day recording period, there were eight adult birds, two young chicks and three eggs in the viewing area. A few days later, we captured images of a cat going through the colony at night. Interestingly, the adult birds did not flinch and remained on their eggs and protecting their chicks. While we didn't observe the cat taking any birds we know they are doing some damage from the feathers in the many cat faeces collected from the area.
We're continuing to monitor what happens in the colony in the hope of improving our management of threats to these nesting whale birds.
This year we've also managed to capture a fantastic development for our park - the first recorded breeding of boobook owls in three years.
The boobook was almost extinct in the mid 1980s, with just one female bird left on the island - therefore the world. After a concerted effort to reintroduce the species by breeding it with the closely related New Zealand morepork owl, numbers grew to around 40 birds. In 2007 breeding began to drop off again and we weren't sure why. There are a number of theories we are investigating, it could be genetic inbreeding or lack of food supply due to a long dry spell a few years ago.
This year we monitored one family. What was particularly interesting was the amount of daytime activity from what is typically a nocturnal species. We caught them hunting in broad daylight which is really unusual.
We're also investigating the possibility of testing the owls to see if they have retained their Norfolk Island characteristics. The story of the birds' activity has renewed a lot of interest in them and their conservation story, both on Norfolk, and with interest and offers of help coming in from New Zealand and Australia.
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 12 are increasing, three remain steady, three are decreasing and population data are deficient for six species. (Further information on monitoring of significant invasive species is provided in the State of the Parks report at environment.gov.au/parks/publications/annual/11-12 and at Appendix B: Portfolio Budget Statements reporting 2011-12).
- Approximately 125 hectares of remote infestations of bitou bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera) at Booderee National Park were sprayed in June 2012 as part of the park's successful aerial spraying program, which has resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in high-density infestations since 2004. Following the success of trials last year, a further 48 hectares of bitou bush were treated by spraying with splatter guns and 45 hectares by ground spraying, with the intention of patch burning the treated areas in autumn. This technique has minimal impact on high-value native vegetation communities compared to the earlier technique of broad-scale aerial spraying and broad-scale fire block burning.
- Christmas Island National Park continued to facilitate and support the successful partnership with the Shire of Christmas Island, Australian Government agencies and Phosphate Resources Limited for island-wide cat management. At least 300 feral cats have been removed from settled areas of the island since the partnership was initiated in mid-2011, and this has led to a noticeable improvement in the breeding success of red-tailed tropicbirds (Phaethon rubricauda) at the Settlement breeding colony.
- Christmas Island continued management of yellow crazy ants (Anoplolepis gracilipes), with the focus on preparations for a further aerial spraying campaign later in 2012 and continued support for the three-year biological control research project being conducted by La Trobe University. The single known infestation of Siam weed (Chromolaena odorata) remains contained and monitoring did not detect any other outbreaks across the island.
- Kakadu National Park continued monitoring and control programs for invasive weed species including Mimosa pigra; grassy weeds and aquatic weeds continue to be the major challenge. A limited feral animal control program was implemented in May-June 2012 with 47 buffalo and 1,065 feral pigs shot. The program was restricted to approximately one-third of the park, primarily in the northern wetland areas.
- Weed control programs in Norfolk Island National Park were completed in five of the 19 coups identified in the park's weed control strategy. Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), a relatively recent introduction to the island, were detected in the botanic garden for the first time. The colony was treated and initial monitoring suggests that the early treatment has been successful.
- Bait stations and monitoring cameras were installed in Pulu Keeling National Park and visual impact surveys were conducted in response to the potential entry of rats from a shipwrecked suspected illegal entry vessel in June 2012; preliminary investigations found no evidence of rats, but further monitoring will be undertaken (see case study below). Weed control was undertaken during several trips to the park, funded in part by the Australian Government's Caring for our Country program. Encouragingly, coral berry (Rivina humilis) was recorded at fewer sites and at significantly reduced density.
- The Buffel Grass Management Strategy for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park continued to guide buffel grass control activities; works included continuation of the Conservation Volunteers Australia control program which has contributed to removing around 80 hectares of buffel grass from around the base of Uluru and from other areas of the park to reduce its spread. Fox, feral cat and rabbit control was increased to reduce population explosions following continuing good rains however populations continue to increase.
Case study: Action stations on Pulu Keeling
The introduction of rats to Pulu Keeling would be a major threat to the endemic and endangered Cocos buff-banded rail
Pulu Keeling National Park doesn't see a lot of visitors. The park covers North Keeling Island, an uninhabited coral atoll far out in the Indian Ocean as well as its surrounding waters to 1.5 km. This remote and isolated oceanic island is 3,000 kilometres north-west of Perth and 24 kilometres from the nearest Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
The island's very remoteness has helped maintain its internationally significant seabird life and rich biodiversity . Even the park rangers can land only when seas are calm, and they reach the island by swimming over a reef, floating their equipment onto the shore.
Oceanic islands are particulary vulnerable to introduced invasive species. Therefore, access to the island is normally strictly controlled to minimise the accidental introduction of invasive animals, weeds and diseases.
When smoke was seen coming from the island in June 2012, it was clear something was afoot. An asylum seeker boat had beached on the island, and authorities quickly launched search and rescue boats in response, resulting in the safe rescue of all asylum seekers.
The landing of the boat immediately rang alarm bells for the national park because of its potential to introduce rats. Pulu Keeling is the only place in the world where you find the Cocos buff-banded rail - a ground dwelling bird about the size of a small chicken. The atoll's native species have never had to deal with rats, which would pose a major threat by raiding nests and destroying eggs.
To complicate matters, rough seas were making access to the island extremely difficult. Rangers from the national park attended as soon as they could, searching for any sign of rats.
Chief Ranger, Ismail Macrae was one of four staff to visit the island to search for rats.
"Thankfully, we didn't find any signs of rats," Ismail said. "We searched around the asylum seeker boat and checked for rat evidence around camp areas and food stores , but there were no signs of rodents."
"We hope the risk is over, but we have to do continued monitoring to make sure. There are cameras that will be automatically triggered by any rats investigating the area. We've also set up an ink card tracking system, which captures the footprints of any curious wildlife. In combination, these measures should give us a good feel for any remaining rat risk. We have already been back once to check the monitoring equipment, a few weeks after we set it up, and that first round of results showed no signs of rats.
"We are also progressing a translocation project for the buff-banded rail. In collaboration with the Cocos Keeling Island Shire Council we plan to move a population of the birds to nearby Direction Island , which is rat-free. It's an insurance policy, so if something like a cyclone or introduced pest strikes Pulu Keeling we'll have a safe and healthy population living nearby."
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.
- Minimise threats to cultural values.
- Work with traditional owners to assess and maintain key cultural sites.
- 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.
- 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 establishing 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.
Maintenance and promotion of traditional cultural values
- Booderee held over 150 cultural interpretation sessions for visiting school groups and other visitors as part of spring, summer and autumn school holiday programs, with significantly increased attendance compared to last year.
- Discussions continued with the Booderee Board of Management regarding broad cultural heritage directions for the draft second management plan; the cultural heritage strategy was held over for further consideration.
- Kakadu produced DVDs recording the views of Bininj on various management issues and on preparation of the new management plan for the park.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta continued to revise the park's Cultural Heritage Action Plan, with a revised draft presented to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Board of Management for approval in mid-2012.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta improved the security of the current men's keeping place and instigated visitor monitoring in the area; funding was also provided by the department's Indigenous Heritage Program to build a new men's keeping place.
Histories, pre-histories and knowledge recording
- Kakadu produced a report on the life history of a significant traditional owner Na Godjok Nayinggul who recently passed away; similar reports on other key people have commenced. The park also completed oral history projects recording the history and preparing statements of significance for Anlarr (Nourlangie Camp), the old Jim Jim pub and Munmalary.
- Through the partnership agreement between the National Archives of Australia and the Director, approved audio and video materials from Kakadu continued to be transferred for long-term storage and protection.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta began oral history recordings with senior traditional owners concerning traditional medicine production.
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 declined slightly throughout the year in the jointly managed parks. The overall number of Parks Australia staff has also declined. PBS
- The number of Indigenous staff engaged as intermittent and irregular employees and contractors to provide services at Kakadu National Park has increased slightly. PBS
- The Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Program, funded by Working on Country, also provides resources allowing Kakadu to host 11.5 community rangers in park related employment. PBS
- Parks Australia continued to support the agreement between the Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation and the park in employing Anangu at Uluru-Kata Tjuta, including acknowledging and recompensing senior Anangu for their traditional knowledge and skills.
- Anangu participation in flexible employment at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park through the Mutitjulu Community Ranger program has declined due in part to the cessation of funding for two workforce development coordinators (previously funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations). PBS
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta supported the attendance of Anangu staff and the park's workforce development coordinator at the department's Indigenous employees conference and supported Anangu Indigenous Staff Network committee members to attend leadership and governance training. The park hosted network members during their network meeting held in Yulara in March 2012.
- The number of Indigenous staff directly employed at Booderee National Park remained stable. PBS
- In its 2011 annual report, WBACC Contracting Services reported that it employed 14 full time, four permanent part time and up to 10 casual staff to deliver services to Booderee National Park. PBS
- The Junior Ranger programs at Booderee, Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta national parks continued.
- At Booderee, a broad range of training was provided to Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council and park staff in accordance with the training strategy. A new training strategy for the period 2011 to 2015 was completed.
- Booderee continued as a host employer of student based apprentices; these positions were filled by three Wreck Bay Community Year 11 students. The park also supported six Indigenous students from the Wreck Bay Community in completing work experience in the park.
- At Kakadu, 12 Bininj staff continued certificate level studies and numeracy and workplace English language and literacy training.
- Kakadu staff convened training and workshop forums between the park and neighbouring Indigenous Protected Areas and other Indigenous managed areas.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta completed the park's Intergenerational Employment and Training Strategy and a review of the park's Anangu Trainee Management Guidelines. The park also developed a six-day community engagement and work readiness development program.
- Two Anangu trainees at Uluru-Kata Tjuta completed accredited programs of study in conservation and land management.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu national parks each had a specified Indigenous trainee ranger position. Kakadu employed three Indigenous school-based apprentices.
Contribution of Aboriginal enterprises
- Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council were contracted to provide $1.7 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 continued to negotiate on the service level agreements for the second round of outsourcing at Booderee, including infrastructure maintenance and horticultural services.PBS
Boards of management
- Three replacement Council members were appointed to the Booderee National Park Board of Management during the year. The Board met six times, with a focus on review of comments received on the draft second management plan that was released for public comment in May 2011.
- The Kakadu National Park Board of Management met quarterly and allocated additional meeting days to allow for development of the new management plan.
- Three meetings of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board of Management were held, supported by meetings of the Board's consultative committees. The park continued to engage Pitjantjatjara interpreters for Board, consultative committee and other meetings to improve communication with traditional owners and community members.
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 Norfolk Island and Uluru-Kata Tjuta national parks and the Australian National Botanic Gardens, with high overall satisfaction levels recorded from respondents (Norfolk Island - 100 per cent, Uluru-Kata Tjuta - 96 per cent, Australian National Botanic Gardens - 93 per cent).PBS
- An estimated 1.37 million people visited Commonwealth terrestrial reserves, a 0.1 per cent increase from 2010-11. Numbers were steady at most reserves, with a decrease of 1.5 per cent recorded at Uluru-Kata Tjuta and a decrease of 5.9 per cent at Kakadu. (NB: the 2010-11 annual report understated the decline in visitation experienced that year as the total visitor figure included some incorrect data; the preceding figures are based on the corrected figure for 2010-11.)
- The ANBG hosted 12,234 school and tertiary students from 240 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 102 school holiday interpretation sessions, focusing on Aboriginal cultural values and conservation themes, with over 2,600 attendees. A further 49 interpretation sessions were delivered to primary schools, high schools, universities and special interest groups, attracting nearly 2,000 attendees in total.
- Kakadu delivered 1,084 seasonal interpretive programs incorporating natural and cultural content and provided essential orientation, safety and interpretive information to 43,728 visitors prior to and upon arrival in the park via the Bowali Visitor Centre.
- Christmas Island staff provided a range of school-based educational activities for Christmas Island District High School, visiting schools and the community.
- Cocos-based staff provided two environmental educational sessions at the Cocos Islands District High School and one community 'hands on' marine turtle talk. They also conducted the annual high school trip to Pulu Keeling National Park.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta staff delivered free interpretive events to visitors including the daily ranger-guided Mala Walk at Uluru.
Tourism and visitor facilities
- Booderee completed the signage for five new information shelters (for key visitation precincts), including the roll-out of Dhurga/Dharawal language and cultural knowledge concepts and information about camping, park management, rules and regulations and walking trails options.
- Booderee initiated the design of a short-term tie-up and loading jetty to replace Murray's Wharf which had become unsafe.
- At Norfolk Island the upgrade of the visitor area at the Captain Cook monument was completed and has been extremely well received by visitors and locals. Construction of an interpretive centre in the botanic garden was completed.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta held a brand-repositioning workshop at the park in May 2012 with traditional owners, Mutitjulu Community members and other key stakeholders to identify the park's marketing position in the Red Centre National Landscape.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta installed new interpretative signage for key park visitor sites and, in consultation with Anangu, continued the design and development of new interpretive signage for the base of climb and the entry station.
Awards and events
- In March 2012 Kakadu was named as one of Australia's top three tourist attractions, behind Sydney's Taronga Zoo and first place winner the Melbourne Museum. This followed the park taking out the top prize in the Northern Territory's Brolga Awards, winning the Major Tourist Attraction. The award recognises Kakadu's pivotal role in attracting visitors to the Northern Territory as well as the park's commitment to offering memorable experiences to its visitors.
- 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 ANBG hosted an extensive range of popular public programs and events including monthly botanical workshops, Science Week displays and the popular Summer Sounds concert series.
- Booderee promoted three main events in which staff participated, with accompanying interpretative information - Clean Up Australia Day, World Environment Day and the annual Whale Census Day.
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 including: the Australian Government's Department of Defence; Department of Regional Australia, Local Government and Sport; Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; Australian Customs and Border Protection Service; and Tourism Australia. Other partnerships were with industry groups including the Transport and Tourism Forum, and with councils, 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 University of Sydney (see case study below). PBS
- The ANBG and the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research (CANBR) continued 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.
Chris MacGregor measuring bitou bush
Felicia Pereoglou weighing a rare eastern chestnut mouse. Photo: Christopher MacGregor, The Australian National University
Case study: Student researchers
Booderee National Park's relationship with major academic institutions is producing high quality, long-term ecological data on its important wildlife.
We work closely with academic institutions including the Australian National University, Sydney University and the University of NSW to find some of the brightest young minds to complete their PhDs in a magnificent field setting. Their research is designed to be fully integrated into the park's operations and management. These important partnerships rely on the support and commitment of our staff at Booderee who help coordinate and guide the students' work.
Eight students have worked in the park this year. Sandra Vogel is commencing a study into the fine-scale population structure and demography in little penguins while Dr Damian Michael has examined the spatial use of habitats and vegetation types by the diamond python, the park's largest natural predator. Martin Westgate is completing his study into amphibians in the park, concluding they appear largely unaffected by wildfire; instead their distribution and abundance is more strongly influenced by vegetation type.
Felicia Pereoglou has examined the biology and ecology of the rare eastern chestnut mouse, in particular its use of formerly disturbed habitats in the first stages of recovery. Felicia's work is illustrating how capable the mice are at dispersing to different areas of the park, and their strong response to early and mid stages of heathland recovery following wildfire.
An unexpected outcome of successfully reducing fox numbers within the park appears to be a substantial increase in wallabies, so this has become a focus of a number of studies. Claire Foster is looking at the effect of too many wallabies browsing on the park's vegetation and the subsequent impact on other animals. Ingrid Stirnemann is well advanced on a study into vegetation and fire mosaics and their effects on birds and terrestrial mammals, using remote cameras, while Rebecca Stutz is determining how trees re-establish in an herbivore abundant environment.
Chris MacGregor from the Australian National University is permanently located at Booderee and works closely with staff and the other students on the wide range of studies conducted in the park. Their work is critical to understanding how Booderee's rich diversity of plants and animals react to climate change and possible increases in the incidence and intensity of fire - and how we can adapt and improve park management in response.
- The ANBG continued to support the coordination of the Australian Seed Bank Partnership. The partnership is working to implement a 10-year business plan to build a national network of conservation seed banks for Australian flora.
- The ANBG continued its membership of technical working groups under the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and Taxonomic Databases Working Group. The Australian National Herbarium continued to play a driving and coordinating role for projects undertaken by the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria.
- Booderee National Park continued its support for volunteers working on natural resource management projects including Booderee parkcare (approximately 10,000 person hours). Booderee also maintained its cooperative arrangements with other land management agencies in the region and continued to lead regional fox management.
- Christmas Island National Park continued to facilitate and support the successful partnership and collaborative approach for island-wide cat management with the Shire of Christmas Island, the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport and Phosphate Resources Limited.
- Christmas Island received high levels of stakeholder and community support for on and off-park road management activities to protect robber crabs and migrating red crabs. Detention centre staff and contractors are now receiving 'crab friendly' driving tips as part of internally-delivered induction programs.
- Christmas Island staff supported the response by the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to the sinking of the phosphate carrier the MV Tycoon at Flying Fish Cove in January 2012 by providing initial impact assessments and monitoring of oil, diesel and phosphate plumes; wildlife monitoring and clean up; and logistical support for marine impacts studies by independent and WA Fisheries researchers.
- 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 with the Northern Territory Bushfires Council and other Northern Territory Government agencies, as well as the West Arnhem Shire Council and the Northern Land Council, to cooperatively manage fire across tenure.
- The Kakadu Research Advisory Committee met in May 2012, with a focus on how traditional owners wanted research managed and undertaken under the next management plan; the values of the park and the development of a management evaluation framework were also discussed.
- Pulu Keeling National Park continued to use the Home Island office to build positive working relationships with stakeholders, locals and tourists. Three meetings of the Pulu Keeling National Park Community Management Committee were held during the year.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park staff met regularly with representatives of the Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; these meetings included matters related to permit conditions for the construction of new developments in the Mutitjulu Community.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta continued to lead the development of a literacy and numeracy program in collaboration with Anangu Jobs and the Nyangatjatjara College. The park continued a relationship with the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education to provide accredited study programs in conservation and land management for the park's traditional owner staff and for selected participants in the Mutitjulu Community Ranger program.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta established a partnership with Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia Pty Ltd to share training events and facilities, creating efficiencies in training delivery. Discussions also commenced on the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between Parks Australia and the Ayres Rock Resort.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta supported teams from Conservation Volunteers Australia working on weed control in the park (see case study below).
Case study: Thanks to our volunteers
For more than 10 years a partnership between Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and Conservation Volunteers Australia has been tackling one of the Northern Territory's most invasive weeds - buffel grass.
Volunteers from all over the world have given over 6,400 individual days to remove buffel grass by hand from over 80 hectares in some of the most visited areas at Uluru. The progam has received both national and international media exposure, including Channel Nine's Getaway travel program. The volunteer tourists attracted through the program have contributed significantly to Central Australia's regional economy through the purchase of food supplies, use of local services, optional tours and coach and airline transfers.
Uluru's ranger team have also been working with volunteer staff members from Ayers Rock Resort. Together they are tackling buffel grass infestations around Uluru and in the more remote areas of the park. This work is part of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park's ongoing buffel grass control strategy.
Historically, buffel grass was planted at Uluru to help stabilise the soil around the monolith. Unfortunately, it is an extremely efficient weed that out-competes the native grasses to form large monocultures, particularly in drainage lines and disturbance areas. For these reasons, the grass particularly affects the moist, rare habitats at the base of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, potentially endangering those species that seek refuge from the heat in these shady niches including echidnas, fat-tailed pseuodoantechinuses and burrowing frogs.
The last group of conservation volunteers have finished their buffel work in the park. Conservation Volunteers Australia and Parks Australia will continue to work together to deliver conservation outcomes in the park and more broadly across Australia's Red Centre National Landscape.
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 and the ANBG. Draft management plans for Booderee National Park and Christmas Island National Park were released for public comment on 4 May 2011 and 28 March 2012 respectively; both plans are in the process of being finalised, taking into account comments received during their public comment periods. A draft plan is currently being prepared for Pulu Keeling National Park and work has commenced on preparation of the sixth management plan for Kakadu National Park.
- Reserve management plan implementation schedules are in place for Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Norfolk Island and Kakadu national parks and the ANBG. Implementation schedules are not in place for the reserves with expired management plans.
- A technical audit was undertaken on the implementation of the fifth Kakadu National Park Management Plan and will be used to inform the development of the sixth plan for the park.
- Climate change strategies were developed for Christmas Island and Pulu Keeling national
parks. A climate change strategy was prepared for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and has
received support from the park's Board of Management. 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
- A significant decrease in total energy consumption by parks and reserves was recorded in 2011-12, confirming the trend of recent years. This represented an 11.9 per cent reduction in the volume of CO2 emissions from stationary sources compared to the average over the past three years and a 10.2 per cent reduction for transport sources. Initiatives for 2011-12 included: the replacement of two diesel-powered generators in the South Alligator District of Kakadu National Park with more efficient systems, reducing CO2 emissions by over 83 tonnes per annum; and the move to fertilise newly planted trees by hand instead of using large diesel-powered machinery for the Christmas Island Mine-site to Forest Rehabilitation program reduced both fuel costs and the quantity of fertiliser wasted. PBS
- Further information on greenhouse gas emissions is provided in the environmental sustainability report at Appendix C.
Financial and business management
- The Auditor-General issued an unqualified audit report for the 2011-12 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.
Risk and work health and safety
- There was no net reduction in the number of extreme, very high or high risks in risk watch lists in 2011-12. PBS
- The Director has participated in the Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking Scheme since 2002-03. In 2011-12, the Director scored 7.9 out of a possible 10 compared to an average score for all Australian Government agencies of 6.6. For the past seven years, the Director has consistently scored above the average for all agencies. PBS
- Parks Australia recorded 216 work health and safety incidents over the year. While slightly higher than the number recorded last year there was a reduction in the number of moderate and major injuries for both staff and visitors. PBS
- Parks staff and contractors sustained two major injuries. Two park visitors died (a drowning of a rock fisherman in Christmas Island National Park and a missing person in Kakadu National Park, presumed by police to be due to crocodile attack) and there were four major injuries to visitors. 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 and blog (parksaustralia.gov.au and kakadu.com.au) received 757,527 visits (an average of 2,081 visits a day) in the 2011-12 financial year. This was a 27 per cent increase in visitation on the prior year; this strong growth was boosted by increased social media initiatives, rich media content and more material that met the Government Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. PBS
- The ANBG continued to redevelop the living collection information system to better support the operational activities of the nursery, seed bank, horticulture and plant records activities, and to integrate with provenance data in the herbarium system. A special labelling project for the living collection placed 3,739 labels on plants in over 146 sections along parts of the main path and rock garden, significantly improving interpretative use and value of the plant collections for visitors to the botanic gardens.
- 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 continued its contract with 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.
- The CANBR's association with the Taxonomy Research and Information Network, and other projects associated with the Atlas of Living Australia is changing due to the conclusion of the current funding round; the ANBG is negotiating transition arrangements with the Atlas of Living Australia.
- The ANBG updated the Australian Plant Image Index to make 4,129 additional images accessible on the internet. It also maintained the currency of data for the Australian Plant Name Index, including extensive editing of existing data and the capture of new data.
- The Australian National Herbarium added data for 15,326 herbarium specimens. A total of 889,804 specimens are now recorded in the database and available to the public through the internet.
- The Australian National Herbarium's highly successful summer botanical intern program completed its 20th year in February 2012. Second and third year university students received work experience and formal training in herbarium botany and plant conservation.
- Australian National Herbarium staff undertook an island-wide survey of the flora of Christmas Island, including Christmas Island National Park. Approximately 250 specimens of native and introduced species were collected, with over 1,000 corresponding vouchered digital images. Specimens will be lodged with the Australian National Herbarium and images made available via the Australian Plant Image Index.
- 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 (daisies), Orchidaceae (orchids), Amaranthaceae (amaranths) and biogeography of the Australian flora.