By Rauleigh Webb

Executive Summary

Numerous high profile conservation issues currently exist within Western Australia – here’s a few.

  • Cape Range – The legal action initiated by Rauleigh Webb and Ric Brown regarding the proposed mining leases covering 82 sq km of Cape Range was concluded in the Wardens Court in Perth on 10 November 2000. The Warden will make his recommendation to the Minister for Mines before the end of the year. Unfortunately the mining company have referred the proposed mine to the EPA for evaluation. Objections to the level of evaluation are being lodged. A further donation of $675 (the balance of funds collected for this case) will be forwarded to the EDO. The ASF can add any additional funds as they see fit. The income and expenditure for this case is provided in the full report.
  • CALM is to be divided into two departments. One to manage Forest’s, the other to manage National Parks and Reserves. This split is imminent at the time of writing and will have an impact on many karst areas due to alterations in funding. The body managing lands currently held by CALM (NPNCA) is to be reorganised and called the Conservation Committee. They should be approached when formed to ensure that future management plans adequately cover the specific needs of caves and karst.
  • Housing developments in the South-West of the state to as far north as Jurien Bay continue to have significant impacts on karst areas and caves in particular. Several (5) known cave entrances were recently destroyed when a road was built over them at Carabooda just north of Perth. Greater liaison with the Environmental Protection Authority is planned, by caving clubs, to ensure further caves and karst areas are not impacted.
  • A Public Environmental Review has been published for a new road from Lancelin to Jurien Bay. This road covers a number of karst areas, some of which have not been fully examined for caves. The Federation should provide comment on this Environmental Review.
  • Caves Road from Yallingup to Augusta is to be widened. The impact on a number of caves and karst features would be great if the road remained in its current location. The ASF should make submissions to the Main Roads department in Western Australia providing details of the impact of roads on caves and suggesting alternatives where applicable.

I have held the position of ASF Conservation Co-Convenor for all but two years since 1983. I have at all times remained focused on one goal - the conservation of caves and karst. Since that time I have seen the pressures on caves and karst in Australia increase about 20 fold. These pressures come from cavers, cave managers and the general population in the form of developers, casual cavers and vandals of all descriptions.

The introduction of a Minimal Impact Caving Code for Australia would, I had hoped, improve the general caving habits of cavers and that they would consider their impacts generally using a minimal impact approach. I do not believe this has occurred or is likely to occur in my lifetime.

However I now believe that it is time for other cavers to remove there head from the sand and understand the impacts that cavers and the population as a whole is having on caves. As cavers you need to take a new approach.

This is my final report as an ASF Conservation Co-Convenor as I am resigning as of the Bathurst Conference in December 2000. I had hoped to “train” a successor however that was not meant to be. Finally, a big “Thank You” to all of those cavers who have provided support over the years.

 


Cape Range

Finesky Holdings Pty Ltd initially and then Learmonth Limestone (a company formed between Finesky Holdings Ptd Ltd and Barminco) applied to the Wardens Court to convert 10 Exploration Licences into 10 Mining Lease applications. The 10 leases are all located in high conservation value karst areas that contain many known caves and aquifers. The northern most lease contains the water filled portion of Wanderers Delight the longest known cave at Cape Range with 6.5km of surveyed passage.

The court proceedings covered 5 days of witnesses, a site visit and a final summary by lawyers from both sides. This proved to be an enormous amount of work for the ASF’s lawyers, the Environmental Defenders Office of WA (Sandy Boulter and Michael Bennett being the two lawyers). I cannot stress how much work was undertaken by the lawyer’s and their staff in the preparation and execution of this case. The copying bill for documents used and entered as evidence in the case amounted to over $1,000. Their work was excellent and at all times with 110% effort. I would also like to thank all of the witnesses who gave so freely of their time and without whom the ASF would have had no case. They were:- Andy Spate, Elery Hamilton-Smith, Bill Humphreys, Stefan Eberhard, Kate Morse, David Sutton, Peter Poole, and Frank Batini. Darren Brooks also assisted by conducting a cave survey of the proposed mine site, although he appeared as a witness for the mining company.

The Warden will make recommendations to the Minister for Mines, who will have the final decision, regarding the granting of the mining leases. This should occur approximately mid December 2000.

Preliminary information regarding the fauna collected from drill holes placed on the proposed mining lease indicate several possible new species. However it will take time before the samples have been fully identified.

Whatever the outcome of this case the ASF will have to continue to oppose limestone mining on the Cape Range peninsula and with a change of state government in Western Australia press for World Heritage Listing for Cape Range.

Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park (LNNP)

Development of Calgardup and Giants Cave

Approaches were made to the NPNCA who currently control the management of lands held by CALM. The lack of procedures relating to development on karst in management plans was stressed and suggestions on how the planning processes could be improved were conveyed. The NPNCA indicated that the appointment of a State Karst Officer was being considered. Further approaches should be made to whatever the “new” NPNCA is to be called following the division of CALM into “Forestry” and “National Parks”.

Improvement of development procedures on karst is critical if simple mistakes such as placing toilets above active stream caves or buildings adjacent to/on stream caves are to be avoided.

Track and Route Marking

After almost 12 months of no action on the route and track marking in Nannup and Dingo caves the then WASG president John Cugley led a party to remove the track markers glued directly to cave formations. These markers were replaced with more appropriate markers not directly attached to formations.

The loop route in Nannup Cave was also closed by management after considerable criticism by cavers about the impact of the route on the cave. Finally, after considerable debate, the Cave Management Advisory Committee realised that a mistake had been made and the loop route was removed.

Bolting of Cave Entrances and Karst Features

A number of caves and karst features have suffered considerable damage as a result of climbers bolting them for climbing purposes. These “climbers” are considered not to be members of organised groups as this “vandalism” has been condemned by climbing clubs.

However the ASF should consider providing information to ALL climbers via climbing magazines about the impacts of bolting on karst features.

The installation of detection devices at features under threat should also be recommended to management authorities.

Widening of Caves Road

The Main Roads department in Western Australia has been planning for a lengthy period of time to widen Caves Road in the South-West of Western Australia. This road has become the major access road to many of the key features of the the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park as well as tourist facilities such as Lake Cave, Mammoth Cave and the Cave Interpretive Centre. It also passes over a number of known caves and lies very close (less than 10m) to a number of others. This issue has only just (Dec 2000) appeared as an article in the Margaret River Times newspaper. Hence the full details of the proposal are unknown to the Conservation Commission.

Latest information is that no widening of Caves Road will occur in National Parks but may do so if the road passes through private property.  The full details of the proposal are to be supplied by Main Roads.

Nullarbor World Heritage Listing

The election of the Liberal government placed the proposed listing in limbo. No new developments have occurred since the WA Liberal government was elected. Same status as 1994.

South Coast Management Plan

This is what I said last year (with the date changed):-

As at November 2000 none of the proposed National Parks or reserves in the Nullarbor region have been declared. The required legislation is STILL LOST in government mumbo jumbo! This has now worsened as a result of the Mabo and Wik decisions.

We can now only describe the situation on the Nullarbor as a case of gross neglect by the WA Government and its agencies. The management plan for the area is almost due for renewal and NONE of the proposed National Parks or reserves to protect caves have been declared.

John Watson the regional manager for this area provides the following quotation:-

“No further progress on SC Regional Management Plan recommendations for theNullarbor but please note this is the situation for most of the recommendations in the whole region ie this is not specific to the Nullarbor. The delays are caused by clarification of Native Title issues and the need for clearance by the Minister for Mines/Dept Minerals and Energy. I doubt that any progress will occur in the short term..but the fact that these are in the plan means that we do get consulted about several types of activity that might otherwise not have come our way. In other words the recommendations have not been entirely wasted effort..”

Carabooda Caves

Last year I reported on the work being undertaken by Lex Bastian and other WASG and SRGWA members on a privately owned block at Carabooda. Unfortunately the land owner and developer did not consider the importance of caves during the development of this land.

Overall 23 caves and karst features were located, explored and documented on the land proposed for development. During the first works carried out on the land, which involved the creation of roads, power lines and fencing five cave entrances were destroyed. Two beneath roads one beneath power lines and two more beneath fences. Quite clearly environmental laws in Western Australia leave a little to be desired when land owners can blatantly “destroy” caves in this way with acceptance by supposed responsible authorities.

Letters have been dispatched to appropriate authorities indicating the impact of development on caves and calling for the environmental assessment processes to be changed to ensure that such gross damage can not occur again in the future.

Many thanks to Lex Basitian for his attempts to draw notice to this matter with authorities responsible for this damage.

Two Rocks & Wanneroo

The Tokyu Corporation has received approval to proceed with developments which the ASF provided submissions on earlier this year. The poor standard of environmental decision making in WA was highlighted by this case where “cavers” were not allowed access to the caves to make appropriate comment on potential impacts on the caves and karst.

Submissions were made with generalities, as first hand knowledge of the caves in question could not be obtained. Developers 1 – Caves 0.

Drovers Cave National Park

The land clearance adjacent to the National Park took place during this year. As a result of the furore caused by this land clearance ALL further applications for land clearance have been placed “on hold” by the Environmental Protection Authority.

The impact of the land clearance in Old River Cave has not been investigated to my knowledge.

A meeting between the ASF Co-Convenors and CALM discussed the removal of large quantities of concrete blocking solution pipe cave entrances and the construction of a new gate for Drovers Cave. This proposal has been dispatched to CALM and we are awaiting there decisions. It is hoped that both of these acts will restore airflow to the cave and possibly attract back the bats that once resided in the cave.

Minimal Impact Caving in Australia

It is with some concern that I draw this matter to the Federations attention in this report. Since the adoption of the Minimal Impact Caving Code (MICC) in 1992 by the ASF I have monitored the attitudes of cavers both in Western Australia and from other states. Unfortunately I can say that I have not perceived any significant modification to caving practises since the adoption of the MICC.

Cavers seem unwilling to undertake even the slightest extra effort in caving practises to assist caves by minimising their impact on the cave environment.

I can relate specific instances of this attitude but consider that it is preferable to be critical in a general way in the hope that ALL cavers will start to reconsider every caving trip they make. Think of (invent!) ways of reducing your own or others impacts on caves and karst. For if we as cavers cannot do this the caves that we visit and enjoy will not remain in the condition that we have enjoyed for very much longer.

Simple attitudes such as not re-surveying the same cave over and over just to get a “perfect” map. When you do survey – track/route mark as you go to reduce the impact of your survey on the cave. If you are conducting research or working in a cave find ways to reduce the number of trips you need to make into the cave to collect the data that you require. This may mean better long term planning or purchasing equipment to collect more data so that the number of trips that you require is reduced.

Publication of Cave Data on the Internet

The ASF proposal to develop a Karst Index Database (KID) and place it on the WWW IS a cave conservation issue and should be discussed at length by the Bathurst Council meeting.

I personally cannot agree with this approach as it is very likely that any information of this quantity will be hacked unless it is placed on a secure database server. I doubt that the ASF has the necessary funds to pay the annual fees for such a server and therefore cannot condone such actions. Remember that if this data is hacked and published the impacts that WILL result on caves is irreversible and the data will be in the public domain for all time!

 Creating a browser interface to the KID does not mean that the database has to reside on a server on the WWW. PC based systems are VERY capable of handling the KID data without storing the complete dataset on the WWW.

 The KID concept should also be re-examined as GIS systems are now readily available and are used by the majority of government departments in the assessment of environmental data. We need to be able to provide this data to government departments in a form that they can use to ensure cave conservation as development increases dramatically on karst regions. Lets rethink where we are headed with the KID proposal.

by Rauleigh Webb & Ric Brown

Executive Summary

Numerous high profile conservation issues currently exist within Western Australia.

  • Cape Range - Rauleigh Webb and Ric Brown have initiated legal objections to 10 proposed limestone mining leases within the Cape Range area. These matters will be the subject of a Wardens Court hearing later in the year.
  • A Cave Manager has been appointed by the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) for WA and it is anticipated that with this CALM- ASF relations will improve.
  • CALM have been asked to explain to the Environmental Protection Authority what planning went into the tourism development of Giants and Calgardup Caves in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
  • Cave monitoring continues in the LNNP with several unauthorised entries detected.
  • Public Environmtenal Reviews have been published for the Two Rocks area, north of Perth. Low density housing is planned for the area overlying areas of karst. Appropriate submissions on behalf of the ASF have been made.

Cape Range

Finesky Holdings Pty Ltd has applied to the Carnarvon Wardens Court to convert 10 Exploration Licences into 10 Mining Lease applications. The 10 leases are all located in high conservation value karst areas that contain many known caves and aquifers.

ASF Conservation Officers Rauleigh Webb and Ric Brown have lodged objections to the leases with the Carnarvon Wardens Court. The applications were heard on July 9, 1999. WASG and SRGWA submitted similar objections to add weight to the out cry. The matter is now listed for mention only on 16th August 1999. Copies of the objections have been served on the Mining Company pursuant to the Mining Act. A hearing date is expected in November or December 1999.

We have applied to have the hearing of these matters transferred to the Perth Wardens Court to enable us to call witnesses to support our case. This transfer to Perth has occurred at a date to be set. Legal representation has been obtained for the hearing from the Environmental Defenders Office in Perth.

We cannot emphasise the importance of this issue and cannot let the mining company obtain a large mining lease as occurred some 30 years ago resulting in the current limestone mine and quarry on Cape Range. We are talking about an area that is proposed for World Heritage Listing.

Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park (LNNP)

Caver and Cave Manager relations within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge are improving with the appointment of Anne Wood to the position of Cave Manager. It is hoped that a more co-operative and consultative relationship will exist in the future and the conservation of the caves will benefit.

Development of Calgardup and Giants Cave

The Environmental Protection Authority is now looking into the development of Calgardup and Giants Cave as "tourist caves" in 1997 by CALM.

Very limited planning by CALM was prepared prior to the development commencing. No management plan, development plan or site working plan was developed for either site. No environmental assessment of the impact of the development on the caves was undertaken. Roads, car parks, buildings, toilets, cave gates, walkways, staircases, track marking etc were all put in place without any assessment or consideration for the caves.

CALM have now been asked to justify and explain this. CALM have responded to the EPA request with a letter and a personal attack on one of the ASF Conservation Co-Convenors (RW). The EPA are now seeking other opinions from the Western Australian caving groups.

CaveWorks Research

CaveWorks, based at Lake Cave, has recently commenced its study into the hydrobiology of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste karst. This project will run for at least 3 years and will attempt to determine the catchments for the major stream caves and water table of the phreatic systems at Augusta. It will then attempt to ensure that these catchments are not being over-exploited and that the cave life dependant on the water is conserved. Renowned Cave Biologist Stefan Eberhard has arrived in Western Australia and commenced his research. Other educational and research aspects of the work will assist CaveWorks with material for public and caver education. This project should be given every support by ASF cavers.

Caver Monitoring

Passive infrared and vibration detectors are in widespread use in caves of the LNNP. They collect event data, date and time of each event, allowing the determination of party size on the day of the visit. This data is used to determine non-compliance with the Permit System and management will be able to better monitor non-compliant sites. Non-compliance by a number of commercial tour operators has already been identified with them exceeding group numbers and accessing restricted areas within caves. They have been suitably warned. This work is being continued by members of the WASG, following a grant from the Gordon Reid Conservation Fund.

Cave Gating

The cave gating policy developed by Heather Jefferies in conjunction with other cavers does not appear to have been implemented in the LNNP with a number of caves gated with no or little consideration given to the caves meteorology. This issue will be raised with the new Caves Manager.

Road Construction

A new road and carpark was recently constructed within site of Quinninup Lake Cave. This carpark will almost certainly result in increased un-permitted visitation to the cave. Consultation with cavers prior to the construction of the road and carpark may have avoided this problem. The matter will be raised with the new Caves Manager.

Track and Route Marking

The controversy over the poor route marking in Dingo and Nannup Cave’s by CALM employees may be resolved soon with the new Cave Manager, Anne Wood, giving an undertaking that the marking will be reviewed and inappropriate markers removed from speleothems. As at the date of the report only partial removal of the inappropriate markers had been made.

Nullarbor World Heritage Listing

The election of the Liberal government placed the proposed listing in limbo. No new developments have occurred since the WA Liberal government was elected. Same status as 1994.

Yanchep National Park Management Committee

A Cave Management Committee has been formed for the Yanchep National Park. Comprised of representatives from WASG, SRGWA and CALM the committee will work together, assessing the conservation / protection status of each cave and establishing mangement plans and access guidelines. . The CALM Ranger, Mr Rod HILLMAN, is keen for input from cavers into the management of the caves of this park.

South Coast Management Plan

As at November 1998 none of the proposed National Parks or reserves in the Nullarbor region have been declared. The required legislation is STILL LOST in government mumbo jumbo! This has now worsened as a result of the Mabo and Wik decisions.

We can now only describe the situation on the Nullarbor as a case of gross neglect by the WA Government and its agencies. The management plan for the area is almost due for renewal and NONE of the proposed National Parks or reserves to protect caves have been declared.

The manager for the region has given an undertaking to examine the man made bund around the Murra-el-Eleven entrance with a view to restoring appropriate water flow into the cave.

Carabooda Caves

Lex Bastian of WASG has been exploring and surveying a large number of small caves on a privately owned block of land in Carabooda and an associated plot of crown Land. The land owner is very forward thinking and hopes to preserve most of the caves on his block from any future residential development which he is planning.

Mr Bastian is liaising closely with the owner and authorities and hopefully an agreement that benefits the caves will be achieved.

Two Rocks & Wanneroo

Two separate developments are proposed in this area by the Tokyu Corporation. These developments are for semi rural housing (5 acre lots) over a karst area that is the northern extension of the Yanchep National Park. Environmental Reviews have been distributed for public comment. Submissions on behalf of the ASF have been made to each development. SRGWA and WASG have also commented. The land owner is refusing cavers entry to the property, presumably due to the significant karst features likely to be located there.

Point Grey - Mandurah

This area is to be developed as a future housing and marina site. A small area of karst is located within the area, the most signifiant being Avalon Cave. Extensive work by SRGWA members led to this cave being saved from destruction by the developers. Through a consultative approach with the land developer, Plunkett Homes, they managed to obtain and agreement to create a reserve around the cave itself. Discussions over gating the cave to prevent access from the nearby residents are continuing.

Drovers Cave National Park

The proposed land clearance adjacent to the National Park was finally given ministerial approval despite the EPA recommending against it. The land clearance is either proceeding or is now complete. The impact on Old River Cave will require examination in the near future.

A meeting has been arranged between the ASF Co-Convenors and CALM to discuss the removal of large quantities of concrete blocking solution pipe cave entrances and the construction of a new gate for Drovers Cave. It is hoped that both of these acts will restore airflow to the cave and possibly attract back the bats that once resided there.

CoConvenors Comment

Ric Brown - Since my appointment I have realised just how much work needs to be done in the area of Cave Conservation.. I see now the enormity of the task faced by the Cave Conservation Commission. WASG has taken a positive step forward in the appointment of Jay Anderson as Conservation Officer for that club, providing further assistance to both Rauleigh Webb and myself. Perhaps other Speleological Clubs could follow this example- we could use the help.

I must personally thank Rauleigh Webb for his support and guidance as I come to grips with my new role.

Rauleigh Webb - I wish to thank Ric Brown for his great assistance since being appointed as an ASF Conservation Commission Co-Convenor. I was personally very disappointed with the actions of both caving clubs earlier in the year in questioning the integrity of myself as ASF Conservation Commissioner. Caving clubs need to carefully examine their cave conservation ethic and separate it from personalities - focusing on the conservation issues at hand.

By Rauleigh Webb

Cape Range Limestone Mine and Quicklime Plant

The mine obtained the necessary "environmental" clearances from the minister during 1998 despite opposition from every direction. The report by Spate, Hamilton-Smith and Keirnan regarding Cape Range was almost completely ignored and the minister gave the go ahead to the mine. Legal avenues to halting the mine were examined and found not to be viable. This is a sad tail for the Exmouth community and the caves and karst of Cape Range.

Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park (LNNP)

The Calgardup and Giants Cave Debacle

As a conservation officer I have never had to report so unfavourably on cave managers but it was this issue which was the final straw and resulted in my resignation from the Cave Management "Advisory" Committee (CMAC) for the LNNP.

Calgardup and Giants Caves were selected by CALM for development as "tourist caves" in 1997. The proposal was to conducted unguided tours of both caves with visitors carrying their own light in Giants while Calgardup was to be electrically lit.

These caves were selected for development for all the wrong reasons. A plan describing how much money could be made from the caves was the only document prepared prior to the development commencing. No management plan, development plan or even site working plan was developed for either site. No environmental assessment of the impact of the development on the caves was undertaken. Roads, car parks, buildings, toilets, cave gates, walkways, staircases, track marking etc were all put in place without any assessment or consideration for the caves. I thought I lived in 1998 not 1920 L . This is the second time this has happened to both of these caves.

The amazing turn of events was that after 75% of the development was complete and the caves were being used by visitors, the minister decided that the caves should be run by private enterprise! As a result CALM halted commercial operations and the caves are currently only being visited by registered leaders in the LNNP Permit System and cavers. This has resulted in the lowest visitation to the caves, probably since they were discovered. This is the only positive outcome that I can report. The minister is still "sitting" on the issue and until further decisions are made the caves are taking a well earned rest. Letters to the minister have taken up to seven months for a response. Everyone’s home on this issue but no-ones listening.

CaveWorks Research

CaveWorks, based at Lake Cave, has recently released a proposal to study the hydrobiology of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste karst. This project, which is likely to run for at least 3 years, will attempt to determine the catchments for the major stream caves and water table nothepreatic systems at Augusta. It will then attempt to ensure that these catchments are not being over-exploited and that the cave life dependant on the water is conserved. Other educational and research aspects of the work will assist CaveWorks with material for public and caver education. This project should be given every support by ASF cavers.

Caver Monitoring

Passive infrared and vibration detectors are now in widespread use in caves of the LNNP. They are collecting event data, date and time of each event, allowing the determination of party size on the day of the visit. This data is being used to determine non-compliance with the Permit System and hopefully management will be able to better monitor non-compliant sites. This work is being undertaken by members of the WASG following a grant from the Gordon Reid Conservation Fund.

Track and Route Marking

Once again I must report with great sorrow the inability of management and a number of cavers to grasp the most basic concept of route marking in caves. Dingo and Nannup Cave’s were recently track and route marked by CALM employees. However instead of placing a single marked route through the cave EVERY possible passage was marked in Dingo Cave. As a result MAXIMUM Impact Caving on the cave is being achieved. The cave had been turned into an underground gymnasium with markers leading to sensitive areas of cave that were previously not readily found.

Furthermore in Nannup Cave track markers were glued onto a number of speleothems as well as unnecessary tracks being placed in the cave which only could only lead to greater impact on the cave.

It is hoped that management can be persuaded to reverse these appalling acts and that the caves will not continue to suffer.

Nullarbor World Heritage Listing

The election of the liberal government placed the proposed listing in limbo. No new developments have occurred since the WA liberal government was elected. Same status as 1994.

South Coast Management Plan

As at November 1998 none of the proposed National Parks or reserves in the Nullarbor region have been declared. The required legislation is STILL LOST (I have stated the same thing for the last 8 years!) in government mumbo jumbo! This has now worsened as a result of the Mabo and Wik decisions.

I can now only describe the situation on the Nullarbor as a case of gross neglect by the WA Government and its agencies. The management plan for the area is almost due for renewal and NONE of the proposed National Parks or reserves to protect caves have been declared.

Carabooda Housing Development

This caving area just north of Perth is generally on private property. A landowner is proposing a housing development on a low karst containing a considerable number of newly explored caves. WASG and SRGWA members have been exploring and documenting the caves in the area. They have also voiced objections to the development with the local shire council in order to conserve caves, which could be damaged by road and housing development. The council has not made final decisions as the time of writing.

Weelawadji Cave Reserve

This unique cave, containing two species of bats and massive guano piles from the locally extinct Macroderma gigas, resides in a remote (from major roads) reserve vested with CALM. During 1998 the gate protecting the majority of this very fragile cave system has been breached on at least two occasions. A request has been made of the management authority to attempt to improve the protection of the lock on the gate to the cave.

Drovers Cave National Park

The proposed land clearance adjacent to the National Park, which was given ministerial approval with over 50 conditions in 1997, has been the subject of more study and reports in 1998. The ASF and the WASG appealed the decision but the Minister dismissed all of our appeal points and approved the clearance BUT with further flora studies to be completed prior to clearing. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) contracted two independent environmental consultants who produced reports on the flora of the land to be cleared. Neither consultant recommended against the clearance of the land. However the EPA recommended against the clearance to the minister on the grounds of biodiversity! Hence, to date, this clearance has not proceeded – once again for reasons I cannot fathom. At least the catchment of Old River Cave remains somewhat intact.

Old River Cave was broken into during the year and the padlock replaced by persons unknown. CALM, the managers, were not aware of the change and WASG members replaced the lock of unknown origin and returned the keys to CALM.

Mt Enta National Park

During 1998 the Queensland National Parks put out a "draft management plan" for the Mt Etna Caves National Park. This rediculous document of four (4) pages was meant to be a draft management plan and comment was expected within days of receiving it. I was so enraged by the document that I responded on behalf of the Federation, as the other Conservation officer, Arthur Clarke, was busy with other plans at the time. I can only say that I was highly critical of the document and recommended that a plan containing some detail be drafted for sensible public comment. I am still disgusted that this purely political game is "played" with our National Parks. The governement clearly did not have enough plans submitted within some arbitrary time frame and so released this disgusting excuse for a management plan to make up the numbers. I weep for the future of our National Parks.

MICC and ASF Code of Ethics Modifications

Having read Arthur Clarke’s report I must concur with his rewording of my original MICC alteration proposal. I would strongly support Arthur’s amended proposal for the MICC.

Arthur’s proposed Code of Ethic’s ammendments also address the bolt laddering issue and should also gain the support of the Federation.

Comment

On a more positive note. I was recently contacted by Ric Brown from SRGWA, who indicated that he was interested in Cave Conservation and would be interested in taking up a Conservation Commission position. I would highly recommend this to the Federation. The Conservation Commission has been reduced to two following the last council meeting and is in desperate need of more assistance. Western Australia currently has more conservation work that I can handle alone and hence would greatly appreciate another Conservation Officer. As Ric is a member of SRGWA this can only assist inter-club cooperation as well.

By Rauleigh Webb

Cape Range Limestone Mine and Quicklime Plant

The final decision of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding the Limestone Mine and Quicklime Plant was to allow the mine to proceed with development once further studies were undertaken with respect to cave fauna. All other aspects of the development have been given the OK by the minister. At the time of writing (30 December 1997) these studies had not been completed and the status of the mine is unknown. This issue is likely to be a major one for the ASF in the coming year as this massive mine has the potential to have a dramatic impact on the karst of Cape Range.

Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park (LNNP)

Permit System

The Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) still continues to ignore the suggestions of cavers and continues to develop Calgardup and Giants caves as self guided tourist caves. NO plans have been developed for the massive infrastructure that is to be placed into both caves but rather complete ad-hoc seat of the pants management continues unabated. The ASF has protested to the minister who has indicated after a 6 month delay that CALM will "take the ASF's suggestions into account". This response to development within a National Park with absolutely no planning and totally outside of the current management plan can only be classed as pathetic.

Track/Pathway Development and Restoration Work

After placing tie-off points at the entrance to Arumvale Pipe causing cave users to use a sandy slope the error of this decision has been noticed. Following slope degradation the cave has been closed while a platform is built, similar to that at Calgardup Pipe, to avoid further degradation. Other possible management strategies such as "resting" the cave or removing it from the self-guided cave list were not considered.

Lake Cave Interpretive Centre - CaveWorks

The Interpretive Centre (CaveWorks) at Lake Cave was officially opened during 1997 and has generated considerable comment from all visitors that I have spoken with. This facility will continue to "grow" and become the major source of caver education in Western Australia.

Caver Monitoring

Passive infrared and vibration detectors have been trialed in caves in the South-West to determine compliance with the LNNP permit system. This trial is likely to be extended in 1998 with the possibility of detectors that inform management of non-permit cave trips.

Nullarbor World Heritage Listing

The election of the liberal government placed the proposed listing in limbo. No new developments have occurred since the WA liberal government was elected. Same status as 1994.

South Coast Management Plan

As at December 1997 none of the proposed National Parks or reserves in the Nullarbor region have been declared. The required legislation is STILL LOST (I have stated the same thing for the last 7 years!) in government mumbo jumbo! This has now worsened as a result of the Mabo and Wik decisions.

Meanwhile the caves of the Nullarbor continue to suffer with unrestricted access, no on the ground management of some of Australia's most fragile cave systems. Attempted dating of a stegamite from the Nullarbor plain placed it beyond the limits of U/Th dating i.e. > 350,000bp. This is almost certainly true of the majority of the black speleothems from the Nullarbor caves. These speleothems are being degraded "naturally" as a result of the salt wedging process that occurs in Nullarbor caves however the added degradation of cavers misplaced feet should not continue to be added to this process.

Nambung National Park

Another form for the management classification of caves has been developed by Mike Newton for the Nambung National Park and Mike has undertaken some field tests of the form. No other progress on the Nambung National Park Management plan are known to the author.

Drovers Cave National Park

The proposed land clearance adjacent to the National Park has been given approval with over 50 conditions being attached to the clearance approval. The Minister for the Environment has also requested further work on the flora before clearance can proceed.

The National Park was recently (December 1997) almost completely burnt bare. The impact on caves is not know at the time of writing. Trips will be conducted in early 1998 to ascertain the impact of the fire on the caves and karst features.