Biodiversity Theme Report

Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Prepared by: Dr Jann Williams, RMIT University, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06749 3

Biodiversity Issues and Challenges (continued)

Disturbance Regimes and Biodiversity (continued)

Clearing, Fragmentation, Degradation of Native Vegetation or Marine Habitat (continued)

Protected area management [BD Indicator 13.2]
  • Protected area programs
  • Marine parks and reserves
  • Number of protected areas with management plans [BD Indicator 13.2]
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    Modern standards of best practice reserve management include the preparation and implementation of management plans or strategies that are well researched, developed in consultation with users, implemented, monitored and evaluated. Although the existence of a management plan does not describe the adequacy of that plan, the proportion of areas subject to a management plan is an important and basic indicator of the sophistication of protected area management within a jurisdiction.

    Protected area programs

    The NRSP, commenced in 1996, funds the acquisition of land as well as tying funding for new protected areas to the preparation of a management plan. ANZECC (2001) stated that 'management plans for major protected areas [funded under the Program] should be in place by the end of 2000'. Another focus of the Program is the development and application of 'best practice' standards of management. The Marine Protected Areas Program has a similar focus (see Marine parks and reserves), and in addition, the development and management of the national Marine Protected Areas estate will be informed by an overall Strategic Plan of Action. The IPAP has a similar focus (see The Indigenous Protected Area Program). All three programs are funded under the NHT.

    Marine parks and reserves

    There are 13 marine parks and reserves managed by the Commonwealth government and six protected areas with a marine component. Five of these have been declared since the SoE (1996): the Great Australian Bight Marine Park (April 1998), Tasmanian Seamounts Marine Reserve (May 1999), Macquarie Island (October 1999), Lord Howe Island Marine Park (June 2000) and Cartier Island Marine Reserve (June 2000). These marine parks range from 167 square kilometres (Cartier Island) to 19 769 square kilometres (Great Australian Bight) so represent a major addition to the marine conservation estate. In addition, the Heard Island Wilderness Reserve was established in 1996. Some state and territory governments have established, or plan to establish, marine reserves. For example, Western Australia has declared six marine parks and reserves with more expected to follow.

    Significant marine areas are protected in all of the places where reefs are found, although management is often constrained by their great size and remoteness, and by lack of financial resources. The number of marine areas that are protected is small compared with the recognised diversity of marine environments, and the total area protected (outside of the Great Barrier Reef complex) is very small compared with that under Australia's jurisdiction.

    The first IPA was proclaimed in 1998 in the Flinders Ranges region of South Australia on 'Nantawarrina', a property owned by the Adnyamathanha people. As at March 2001 there were 13 formally declared IPAs in Australia covering an area of around three million hectares: Dhimurru IPA (NT), Warul Kawa IPA (Torres Strait), Deen Maar IPA (Vic.), Nantawarrina IPA (SA), Yalata IPA (SA), Oyster Cove IPA (Tas.), Risdon Cove IPA (Tas.), Preminghana IPA (Tas.), Mt Chappell Island IPA (Tas.) and Badger Island IPA (Tas.), Watarru and Walalkara IPAs (SA), Guanaba IPA (Qld). Also, the Mutawintji National Park joint management agreement between Indigenous owners and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was supported through the Program.The benefits of establishing IPAs have been well documented and are not only related to enhanced conservation of biodiversity but also social, educational and other aspects (e.g. De Lacey 1994; Thackway et al. 1996; Centre for Environmental Management 1999; Szabo & Chester 2000). These include:

    • the preservation and/or enhancement of biodiversity by Indigenous peoples over many thousands of years in Australia is considered testimony to their superior ability over European practices to conserve nature
    • management of protected areas by Indigenous peoples can be a very cost effective solution to conserve biodiversity for governments.

    The Indigenous Protected Area Program

    The impetus for establishing Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) stems from the potential benefits that such arrangements can have in maintaining or enhancing biodiversity through the use of traditional management techniques and that many areas of unique conservation status under the IBRA system (see Table 70) are found only on lands owned or leased by Indigenous peoples. The Indigenous Protected Areas Program (IPAP) receives funding from the NHT and was initiated in 1995, the same year that the NHT was set up. It was not until 1997, however, that IPAP began in earnest. The NHT defines an IPA as being 'governed by the continuing responsibilities of Indigenous peoples to care for and protect lands and waters for present and future generations'.

    The IPAP provides for two different forms of Indigenous involvement in protected area management:

    • IPAs, where the establishment and management of protected areas is on Indigenous owned estates
    • Cooperative Management, which involves the establishment of cooperative (joint) management arrangements over government-owned protected areas between Indigenous groups and the relevant government nature conservation agencies (Centre for Environmental Management 1999).
    Number of protected areas with management plans [BD Indicator 13.2]

    Although a significant proportion of protected areas are subject to management plans, clearly there are gaps in coverage and management planning is an ongoing and unfinished task (Table 14).

    Table 14: Status of development of protected area management plans for selected Australian jurisdictions
    Jurisdiction Protected area type Total No. Management plans
    ACT NAA    
    Commonwealth IUCN Category
    Ia
    Ib
    II
    IV
    VI
    7
    1
    6
    3
    3
    2
    1
    3
    1
    1
    Northern Territory IUCN category
    0
    Ia
    II
    III
    V
    VI
    Total
    1
    3
    16
    5
    53
    5
    83
    1
    2
    7
    5
    22
    1
    38
    Queensland National Parks and Conservation Parks
    State Marine Parks
    Coastal & Island National Parks
    NA
    6
    86
    Final: 72
    Draft: 47
    6
    18
    South Australia All 316 Final: 118
    Draft: 64
    Victoria National Parks
    Wilderness Parks
    State Parks
    Other Parks
    Phillip Island Nature Parks
    Nature Conservation Reserves
    Natural Features Reserves
    36
    3
    31
    16
    1
    411
    2 059
    33
    3
    30
    6
    1
    11
    15

    ANot available.

    Source: data supplied by state and territory nature conservation agencies.

    It has not been possible to access historical data for this Report to show the pattern of increase or decrease in management planning activity. Wescott (1995) recorded the production of management plans for national parks (not other reserve categories) for Victoria in 1993 as follows: approved plan or strategy 20%, draft plan or strategy 26%, in preparation 21%, 'old' plan or strategy 10%, and without plan or strategy 23%. Changes in the way reserves are categorised, as well as in the number of reserves, make accurate comparison with the data for Victoria in Table 14 difficult. However, these data suggest, at least for one jurisdiction, the proportion of protected areas subject to management plans has increased in recent years.

    In the 1990s, the conservation reserve estate has been expanded significantly in several jurisdictions in terms of gross area, number of reserves and the variety of ecosystems represented. Although Australia's conservation reserve system remains inadequate, this recent expansion is a positive and important advance compared to the status of protected areas in many parts of the world.

    Information is not readily available to determine if the management of reserves is adequate to protect biodiversity, or indeed cater for human use, in the long term.