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)
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.
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.