Summary of WA Karst Conservation and Management Issues

This has been a quieter year on the cave and karst conservation front in WA – mostly due to reduced volunteer time available. The highlights include:

Significant karst projects involving ASF volunteers
Continued involvement of speleological representatives in the management of WA karst areas.

Several areas that need further progression are:

The assessment and protection of vulnerable WA karst areas due to human development.
Further delays within Government in relation to progress on expired management plans for key karst areas. 
Requests for speleological karst assessments and advice on karst areas continue to increase. Speleological advocacy and continued consultation with several agencies has highlighted the need for more Government involvement in planning and management of karst areas.

As reported in the ASF President’s report, the Federal Government has undertaken a process to assess and document key karst areas in WA - with a view to progressing National Heritage Listings. Several WA areas are represented in this process and we look forward to speleologists having further involvement in future protection of caves and karst areas.

Several key areas in WA have adequate karst management while other key areas have significant knowledge gaps or a complete lack of management. It would be excellent if the ASF and State Conservation Agencies could work together in progressing a framework for karst management in WA. Many speleologists acknowledge that it is important that land managers and Government agencies seek involvement and consultation from speleologists whenever there are major decisions being made regarding karst areas. There is significant opportunity for future partnerships between organizations with similar environmental objectives in relation to the management of karst areas in WA. There is an opportunity for ASF members to work with landowners regarding planning for environmental protection at the local level.

The Conservation Commission, through key involvement of local speleologists, will continue involvement in public education, through community displays, participation in community events and presentations. Ultimately, rather than volunteers being highly involved in karst management, the State Government needs to fund Karst Management at a State level. This is an avenue that is being progressed in several ways and ongoing discussions are looking promising. We look forward to reporting on progress towards this in the future.

Jay Anderson Rob Susac Eve Taylor Jeff Murray

1. South of Perth:

1A Cave Management in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park (L.N.N.P.)

The Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park Management plan (1989-1999) is yet to be updated. The draft management plan is still being compiled and is yet to be released for public comments. The Cave Management Advisory Committee (CMAC.) continues to meet to advise the DEC on cave management issues. This process continues to work really well and various projects are undertaken regularly - involving local speleological members.

The 2006 Report outlined an issue regarding a Eucalypt plantation adjacent to karst (the Jewel cave karst system). During 2007, the two Cave Managers in the South West (DEC and AMRTA) met with the Margaret River Shire representatives to progress liaison regarding regional development relating to karst. There is a significant need for thorough interagency consultation and communication, including liaison with speleological groups. It is hoped that improved future communication on karst management issues will lead to further research on the areas karst system.

One significant Tourist cave in the South West – Jewel Cave, is undergoing some restoration works. Jewel Cave is located on a Class A Reserve in the LNNP, managed by the Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association (AMRTA) since its discovery in 1957. Upgrades to the site are planned to include removing old lighting and relocating the visitor infrastructure – allowing much of the site that is currently on top of the cave to be returned to natural vegetation. It is hoped that natural infiltration will be restored over sections of the cave that are likely to have been affected by human development. Local speleologists have given their support to the project and it is anticipated that any in-cave works will utilise speleological knowledge and skills.

Local speleologists continue to be involved in on-ground conservation works such as cave restoration, removal of debris from caves and trackmarking.

1B Karst in the Mandurah/Peel Region

As reported previously, there is no specific management of the karst system that lies south of Perth and adjacent to the Dawesville Estuary - further work needs to be undertaken in this area, including public education. The status of many caves in relation to land development in the area is unclear. This needs to be determined as a matter of priority.

2. To the East:

2A The Nullarbor

As reported on in previous reports, the ASF and local WA speleological groups continue to be involved in the project - aimed at protecting the biodiversity of the Nullarbor Karst. Is involves the progression of plans and projects through the Natural Resource Management (NRM) group for the Nullarbor. There has been extensive involvement of the ASF in the planning process. This has involved considerable liaison between various ASF members with knowledge skills and experience of the Nullarbor and of karst management. The project has progressed well with two field trips in 2007 (speleologists and indigenous representatives) and the compilation of a final report on the subterranean biodiversity of the region. The next phase will be to produce Interim Management Guidelines and ASF members will be consulted in the development of these.

Cocklebiddy cave is currently closed due to safety issues identified in a geotechnical engineers report. The land manager responsible is also in the process of developing some interpretation signage at this site.

The ASF continues to advocate for the need for World Heritage Listing for the Nullarbor. This is an important opportunity for ACKMA and ASF to partner together in raising the awareness of the Nullarbor and in discussing karst values with the Government.

2B South Coast Management Plan

There has been no progress on the Regional management plan (1992-2002).

3. North of Perth:

3A Yanchep National Park:

There has been no release of the draft Yanchep National Park Management plan (1989-1999). However, there has been significant speleological input in management plan drafts, with liaison between the Department of Environment and Conservation and local speleologists.

The Yanchep National Park Caves Advisory Committee (YCAC) meets bi-monthly to discuss local karst issues. It is still recommended that this area needs a specific "cave manager" as a matter of priority. There is a need for an integrated approach to management in the area. Speleologists continue to work closely with Park staff: providing advice on cave and karst management issues and assisting with local projects. There are plans to alter the lighting in Crystal Cave, to remove the lampenflora and to upgrade the in-cave infrastructure.

Previous reports have noted how the area contains a "Threatened Ecological Community" that is endangered and ongoing concerns of the lowered water tables. A partnership of State Government Agencies has been working together and another phase of the "re-watering" of the cave systems is to soon be implemented. It is still our opinion that the Government needs to hasten their plans to reduce the Pine Tree Plantations in the east. We reiterate that this should be a priority as the catchment to the east is significant to the karst hydrology.

3B Carabooda Area:

No further progress has occurred on the issue of the planned road in the Alkimos Area (as reported in the 2005 report) and the task to address this issue is ongoing. It remains of great concern that there is a road planned to go straight over a number of significant caves. This needs more time to progress than is currently available to those volunteers who are progressing this issue. This whole area needs significant community education about karst.

The WA speleological groups have had several information requests regarding karst areas in the north of Perth. This has involved significant time input of speleological volunteers. There is an opportunity for ASF members to work with landowners, company’s and local Government regarding planning and development issues at the local level. However, the State Government needs to acknowledge the need for a specialist statewide karst role in karst planning and management. We look forward to reporting on progress towards this issue in the future.

3C Two Rocks & Wanneroo Area:

Although, the City of Wanneroo Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) continue to meet, there has been little focus on the need to assess for karst in development proposals. The committee plays an important role and can assist in raising the profile of karst in the area. Despite its good progress and intent in 2006, the City of Wanneroo has not followed through with the plan to develop and implement a local karst policy. The sub committee has not met since they were advised that the City of Wanneroo had other priorities. This is a disappointing result and it is hoped that the City of Wanneroo would see the need to continue to progress this important policy.

Development subdivisions continue to occur, however it seems that although speleologists can be involved in karst assessments, this is not given the required policy framework for implementation. Development continues to occur and there has been an increase in the number of requests for karst assessment. Speleologists are now receiving regular requests. These requests involve a significant amount of volunteer time to resolve. This shows a great need in the community and an opportunity for the State Government to support our future ‘vision’ for karst management in WA. It would be more appropriate for State supported and delegated role to fulfil these tasks and this is part of the vision for future karst management for WA.

3D Coastal Karst – Lancelin to Geraldton - including Jurien/Cervantes:

As reported in the 2006 report, The "Hidden Treasures" Project was initiated and successfully implemented. Speleologists were involved in documenting (and collecting specimens) subterranean fauna from caves in the region. As a result of this project, greater liaison has occurred with DEC and private landowners in the areas. A final report was compiled which will be a significant key reference for the area.

The discussions with National Park/State Government regarding the management of Drover’s

Cave has been on hold due to a number of issues, and will continue to be progressed.

3E Cape Range:

The Cape Range National Park Management plan (1987-1997) has been in the process of review for some time. The Management plan was finalised in early 2007.

Additionally, as noted in previous reports, the A.S.F. case regarding proposed mining leases on the Cape Range has not yet been concluded (although finalised in the Wardens Court in Perth (11/2000). The Government (Minister for Mines) has STILL to make the final decision regarding the granting of the mining leases. The A.S.F. will continue to request the removal of the strategic limestone mining purpose from the proposed 5(h) reserve. In addition, the Government advisory committee for this area, still needs speleological representation/expertise.

Speleologists continue to raise the importance of the World Heritage nomination to the Government. The A.S.F. has continued to advocate that the Cape Range is a significant karst area that needs such protection and recognition. It has taken the Government several years to progress the plans to nominate the Cape Range for World Heritage Status. A special Government committee made recommendations on the proposed boundary’s, however it is understood that this has not been resolved.

3F The Kimberley – FAR north:

The caves and karst of the Kimberley are of considerable international significance, yet there has been no progress on karst management for this region. The area’s current land management regime does not adequately provide for the reservation and protection of important karst features. This area needs appropriate karst management, in particular an "integrated management" focus (see the 2005 report for more information). The National Heritage List may be an appropriate mechanism for recognising the areas "outstanding" values.

4. Public Education:

The ASF was again involved in the display at the "Children’s Groundwater Festival" in November. Positive feedback was received about this event that targeted teachers and primary school aged children in the Perth region. Additionally, the 3nd Joint Workshop between the ASF, Greening Australia – WA and Skills for Nature Conservation (DEC) occurred during the year.

This was titled "Subterranean safari – exploring the karst systems on the Swan Coastal Plain". Three ASF members conducted the workshop which was again well received.

5. Karst Policy:

As reported in the 2006 Report, the EPA Policy document titled "Environmental Guidance for Planning and Development" (2006) (an update of the 1997 "Guidelines for Environment and Planning") was circulated for public comment. This document contains, Chapter B9 I- a section titled "karst, subterranean wetlands and fauna". This document contains information relating to karst assessment and particularly how to consider karst during planning. This excellent document is about to be finalised, however it is already being utilised.

One other key assessment/policy document is the EPA "Guidance for the assessment of Environmental Factors" (Policy 54). This policy relates to the assessment of subterranean fauna in groundwater and caves. A recent associated document has been drafted and is currently out for public review and submissions– the 54a Technical Index "sampling methods and survey considerations for subterranean fauna in WA" (12 months – to August 2008).

6. Future Cave and Karst Management in W.A.:

The W.A. –ASF Conservation Commission aims to raise the profile of speleological consultation in karst management, comprehensive karst assessment, policy development and land development planning issues. We consider that there are great opportunities for partnerships and collaboration in local projects. It is our aim to continue to develop relationships with Government and other Environmental Agencies, to progress the vision for future karst management in WA. At a local Government level, there needs to be progress on the development of local policy. The networks and relationships that have been developed with other State environmental organizations are important in the development of a holistic karst management focus for WA. The WA Government needs to show a greater commitment to appropriately resourcing areas that manage karst and discussions on this have been ongoing. It would be excellent to see the State Government allocate appropriate resources to each National Park to appropriately manage the karst areas. We will continue to progress the vision for future karst management-involving speleologists and developing Government roles in Karst Management, Planning and karst Education.

developing Government roles in Karst Management, Planning and karst Education.