During 2004, there has been a lack of progression regarding karst management and conservation of karst issues in WA. As discussed in the 2003 report, three of the key karst areas have expired management plans (expired from between 5-7 years!!). Over the past 12 month period, despite several consultation meetings with CALM regarding these areas, there is still no draft management plans released for any of those areas.
Additionally, the most unfortunate situation occurred when the WA Government made decisions regarding one of WA’s most significant karst areas, without consulting speleologists who had the most up-to-date information on the area. There was an opportunity for the Government to negotiate on pastoral leases, particularly areas of land on the Nullarbor. This missed opportunity has meant that recent decisions (made by the WA Government) regarding the Nullarbor have been made on information that is about 20 years old! It is really important that the Government acknowledges that management of karst areas required specialist knowledge. As such, the Government should be "seeking" consultation from speleologists (such as members of the ASF and ACKMA) whenever there are major decisions being made regarding karst areas. This should be seen as a priority and as part of the important public consultation process. However, in some situations this speleological consultation may need to occur outside of the formal consultation processes (for example occurring before a draft document is released for public comment). The challenge is still for both speleologists and land managers to work together in partnership – to ensure that our karst areas in this state are managed appropriately.
One positive outcome that has occurred this year is that the WA Speleological Groups have made contact with the Natural Resource Management (NRM) group for the Nullarbor. It is hoped that this will raise the profile of the importance of the Nullarbor karst and the lack of information that exists on the natural resources in this area. It is also aimed that the development of the NRM plan for the Nullarbor/Rangelands region will assist in obtaining funding that is allocated to the important research required in this karst area.
One of the reasons for the lack of action on the land management plans, by the WA Government, has been the Government’s commitment to the process of nominating Cape Range for World Heritage Listing. This priority has meant that other areas needing management attention have been put "on hold". At the time of writing the draft of this report, the Minister for the Environment had passed the recommendation to Cabinet for their approval. The WA Government was working towards a timeline of submitting the final reports in February 2005. The ASF hoped that this nomination would be successful as the Cape Range is a truly outstanding karst area that deserves World Heritage status. However, in early December, a press release indicated that due to political issues around the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park, the Government needed more community consultation. Thus the nomination was not put through. The ASF, and local speleological groups expect to be formally contacted and included in this additional consultation process.
The WA speleological groups have continued participation in community education displays. In particular, the year of 2004 has seen a major achievement. As presented to the January 2004 Council meeting, there was an important initiative in WA. The joint karst workshop with Greening Australia (WA) and the A.S.F. occurred in September 2004. This initiative was an excellent partnership and shows the opportunity for future partnerships between organizations with similar environmental objectives. The partners for this workshop are already planning a second workshop to occur in 2005.
Finally, the conservation issues reported on previously regarding the vulnerability of the karst area (due to human development) to the north of Perth still exist. Additionally, the Government is STILL to make a decision regarding the ASF’s legal action and the proposed mining leases at Cape Range. There have also been several ongoing projects involving ASF volunteers in Yanchep and Leeuwin karst areas (see each section for this report). For the future, there are plans to continue involvement in public education, through community displays, participation in community events and presentations.
We support the motion, proposed by Yvonne Ingeme (VSA), that "the ASF support an application for a grant to cover production and publication of a booklet on "Living on Karst in Australia". This is a project that we’ve been discussing for some time, so it’s excellent to see another state seeing a similar need. More specifically, we’d like to have a brochure for local landowners. As such, we propose "That the ASF support an application for a grant to cover production and publication of a A4brochure on "Living on Karst in WA" and a series of applications for funding assistance to support "a series of seminars and presentations to the general public regarding karst and living on karst issues". It would be excellent if the ASF could support both of these initiatives.
Jay Anderson Peter Armstrong Eve Taylor
More specific Details regarding each WA karst area is outlined below:
1. South of Perth:
1A Cave Management in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park (L.N.N.P.)
There has been no further progress of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park Management plan, dated
1989-1999. CALM advise that this is "progressing", but no date is given for the release of a draft. As discussed in the 2003 report, CALM had planned several prescribed burns for the karst area, within the National Park. Several of these occurred and may further assist water into the epikarst.
The Cave Management Advisory Committee (C.M.A.C.) continues to meet bi-monthly to advise The Department on cave management issues. This process is working really well and various projects have been carried out with speleological members during the past year. These include: Work at Bride Cave (2/2004) to remove old wooden stairways and ongoing work on trackmarking and rehabilitation in several caves. There have been several CMAC field trips to assess caves – either for impacts, to upgrade trackmarking or to assess the potential for a cave classification change. The speleological use of locked and restricted access caves in 2004 has remained at a low level.
1B Wallcliffe Cave – Shire of Augusta/Margaret River
The Shire of Augusta Margaret River has still not implemented the draft cave management plan for Wallcliffe cave. It is understood that the Shire is progressing the alteration in land tenure and the plans to vest the land in C.A.L.M is proceeding, but it will take some time. The cave itself requires a lot of rehabilitation and would be a challenge for a future project. The cave still receives visitation and it now has a new gate.
1C Karst in the Mandurah Region
There is no management of the karst system adjacent to the Dawesville Estuary. The caves in this area are either on private property or in areas of bushland. A number of speleological members visited the area during the year and undertook a "clean-up" day – removing rubbish from a cave. Further work needs to be undertaken in this area, including public education and liaison with managing agencies.
The WASG was recently contacted by a construction company and requested speleological expertise to search for karst features in an area where a major road diversion is planned. A team of four speleologists walked the 4km road reserve and found one blocked solution pipe and one doline (significant with several cave entrances). It is understood that neither of these features is impacted by the proposed road works. Due to contacts made during this project it is hoped that there will be further liaison from construction companies when undertaking works in karst areas.
2. To the East:
The Nullarbor is an area that desperately needs appropriate management. It is a large, significant karst area, where visitation impacts on the karst system are difficult to assess. As there is no "on- ground" management of the caves and karst, there is no monitoring of impacts or conditions. During
2004, the WASG corresponded with CALM and met with several key CALM representatives. It was proposed that there needed to be a consultative karst workshop involving Government and speleologists, to determine some management prescriptions for the area. This is yet to occur.
The Government has negotiated with pastoralists regarding proposed exclusions of land for heritage, environmental, recreational or tourist purposes. The outcome was that there are now several "reserves" around cave entrances. It is unfortunate however, that the WA Government made decisions regarding this significant karst area, without the most up-to-date information on the area. The lack of consultation with speleologists has meant that recent decisions regarding the Nullarbor have been made on information that is certainly not recent. The caves that CALM thought were significant, are not as significant as other caves that have been discovered since the 1980’s. The other issue of concern is the situation where a small amount of land around a cave entrance is "Reserved". Firstly this puts the entrance of a cave clearly marked on maps, or in the surface – the visitor need only look for the "fence". Additionally, this technique does not consider the significant karst system as a whole, nor its catchment. The WA Government needs to support the IUCN Guidelines for karst management, which highlight the importance of what is referred to as a "total catchment regime". The Nullarbor requires an integrated management approach, such as integrated catchment management.
The WA Speleological Groups have made contact with the Natural Resource Management (NRM) group for the Nullarbor and it is hoped that this will raise the profile of the importance of the Nullarbor karst and the lack of information that exists on the natural resources in this area. This situation could be remedied if there was funding allocated to the important research in this karst area. The WA Speleological Groups were notified in mid November, of a 2-day workshop being held in Kalgoorlie in late November. This workshop was supported by CALM and involved the NRM group. This group is involved in the development and compilation of the NRM strategy plan for the WA Rangelands (including the south Nullarbor Region). It is understood that the Federal Government expects this to be completed in the next 6-as months. A WA member attended the workshop to represent the ASF. We await the representative’s report and an update on how the ASF and local WA based speleological groups can be involved in this process.
2A South Coast Management Plan
This Regional management plan is dated 1992-2002. There has been no further progress on this.
2B Nullarbor World Heritage Listing
As reported in previous reports, this task is ongoing. There has been no progress on this issue. There will need to be some effort made in recommending the World Heritage Listing for the Nullarbor and contact between both the W.A. state government and the S.A. state government regarding this issue. As discussed at the 2004 ASF Council Meeting, the ASF is concerned with the management of this area. This will need considerable work to research what occurred in the previous nomination and to collate information regarding recent karst documentation by numerous speleological groups. This may be an important opportunity for ACKMA and ASF to partner together in raising the awareness f the Nullarbor and in discussing karst values with the Government.
3. North of Perth:
3A Yanchep National Park:
The Yanchep National Park Management plan is dated 1989-1999. As previously reported, the Park Management Plan is expired and needs considerable revising. There has been no further progress on this and CALM state that it is "on hold". The Yanchep National Park Caves Advisory Committee 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 have been several more caves gated in the National Park. These gates continue to be made out of inappropriate materials and inappropriate design. Additionally, the gates are not being developed according to accepted cave gate guidelines which need to allow fauna passage. The recommendations by a biologist who specialised in bats were ignored. This is of concern to the local speleological groups. Although, the Permit system is working well and there is little observable damage in the caves, there is a need for an integrated approach to management in the area. Finally, speleological group members continue to work very closely with C.A.L.M. staff: providing education about karst issues and assisting with local projects.
We are concerned regarding the situation for the cave fauna in the stream caves. Further to what was reported previously, the CALM, Water Corporation and Waters and Rivers Commission have been artificially maintaining water to certain areas in attempts to maintain the subterranean stygofauna habitats. The cave streams and root matt communities have been affected by the lowered water table in the area – a result of several factors (climate, pine trees on the eastern catchment and water abstraction) in the area. Three adaptive projects have occurred to date. The Government project to direct artificial supplementation to the cave stream in the Crystal Cave was considered successful. The Government allocated several million dollars to establishing a new bore in the area and to permanently artificially supplement the Crystal Cave Stream. It is our understanding that there is no longer any living stygofauna in this cave. It is still our opinion that the Government needs to hasten their plans to reduce the Pine Tree Plantations in the east. This should be a priority as the catchment to the east is significant to the karst hydrology.
Several other caves have significant fauna and root matt communities. At this stage, the water levels in these caves are being artificially supplemented and monitored. Several caves have plastic lined pools, artificial pumps and soak wells to facilitate an even water table level. Of particular concern is the situation where the National Park does not have a dedicated scientific officer to oversee or monitor the adaptive research that is occurring in the National Park. There is also a need for specific monitoring and implementation of plans. These issues need to be addressed by the WA Government as a matter of priority.
The main "works" that occurred this year was the sealing of the Crystal Cave carpark. The National Park did not understand speleologists concern about bitumising the area so close to the cave (a cave which is having significant hydrological issues). This large area of runoff is channelled away from the cave and reduces natural infiltration methods. Finally, and unfortunately, CALM did not obtain any further capital works funding in their budget. The plans to alter the lighting in Crystal Cave, to remove the lampenflora or to upgrade the infrastructure will not happen in the near future. All of this is of great concern and indicates a lack of awareness of broad karst management, and specifically regarding the management of this important karst area.
3B Carabooda Area:
It remains of great concern that there is a road planned to go straight over a number of significant caves. There has been no further progress on this issue and the task to address this issue is ongoing. Other tasks include the ongoing work of karst assessment – surveying the caves and an inventory of karst features. These issues need to continue to be highlighted with the State Agencies involved as the karst system remains under threat from human development. The threat to this karst area is significant and further action is required to protect this system. The significant site (containing fossil remains) may mean that the site could be listed on the National Heritage List as having "outstanding heritage value" or on the Commonwealth Heritage List as having "significant heritage value". If this occurred the site would be protected under the EPBC Act. This needs more time to progress than is currently available to those volunteers who are interested in progressing this issue. Additionally, it would be excellent to meet with local landowners to discuss karst management issues and to consider issues involved in "living on karst". Several landowners in the area have made contact with speleologists and indicated that some seminars, brochures and public education on karst would be useful. There is an opportunity to progress this important issue, however a source of funding would need to be sought (see the motion to be put to the ASF Council 2005).
3C Two Rocks & Wanneroo Area:
As discussed previously, the City of Wanneroo contains significant karst areas. The City has an Interim Rural Strategy that is soon due for review. This document has a small section on karst. Additionally, there needs to be a co-ordinated approach-involving liaison between the City of Wanneroo and Speleological Groups regarding areas under development in karst regions. Speleological groups need greater liaison with the Environmental Protection Authority, to ensure further caves and karst areas are not impacted. It would be excellent it ground-penetrating radar was more extensively utilised in karst areas. There is a huge task of acting to protect the karst areas as the current development and impact of Perth’s expanding population pressures on the karst.
Development subdivisions continue to occur. The plan is to have speleological individuals who are able to visit a property and make an assessment of the karst features present. The report can then be given both to the landowner and the local Government to assist in the best response required in the situation. It is our goal to have several landowner education sessions and workshops – discussing the area’s geological development, and what it means to "Live on karst". Ultimately it is planned to publish a landowners brochure/booklet outlining these issues in a manner that is educational and non confrontational (see the motion in the summary section). To assist in this education, and to provide a visual aspect to learning it is envisaged that a 3D karst model be developed – showing the physical interaction between the surface and the subsurface in karst – specifically in this area. This can then be used in education and displays.
There is now a speleological representative on the City of Wanneroo Environmental Advisory Committee. This is an important role and can assist in raising the profile of karst in the area. More specifically, the Local Environmental Strategy (Annual Review 2004) has just had its second review by the Council. The fifth Action item (out of 60 items) is to "develop a caves and karstic features policy". This item has had no action and is currently listed to occur in the 2005-2006 year. An excellent opportunity exists in regard to this issue. Both in raising the awareness of the Council, to the significant karst issues and to involve speleologists in developing this document.
3D Involvement with Government in Local Community Consultation:
Several members of Speleological Groups continue to regularly attend local community consultation groups to ensure that karst issues are considered and raised in ongoing decision-making regarding the northern groundwater mound that is a karst catchment area. The Gnangara/East Gnangara (Water Resources) Community Consultative Committee meets several times a year. This group discusses the artificial supplementation of wetlands in the karst area and the emergency response strategy regarding the cave streams and stygofauna in the Yanchep caves. The water situation in the area is still critical despite an average winter rainfall during 2004. The addition of aspeleological representative on the City of Wanneroo Environmental Advisory Committee is an excellent opportunity, which can assist in raising the profile of karst in the area.
3E East of Jurien - Drovers Cave National Park:
Drover’s Cave –Further discussions with CALM are needed regarding actions that will need to occur to implement the proposals. There are ongoing discussions with CALM regarding this issue and the need for both the land manager and the speleological groups to meet. This will need to be progressed in 2005.
3F South of Jurien - Coastal Area –Jurien/Cervantes:
The northward growth of Perth has the potential to impact on the coast and associated karst features. Concerns remain that management plans for this area do not appear to have considered the existence of caves or karst features. At this stage, a large amount of bushland has not been assessed for karst features. Further work needs to be done in this area.
Lancelin Defence Training Area – (L.D.T.A.)
There has been no further need for speleological involvement in this area. There is a speleological representative on the management committee for the L.D.T.A. However, due to the location and timing of meetings, volunteer speleologists have not been able to attend all meetings (every 2-3 months). Speleological groups remain involved and provide a consultative role where required. We have recently been notified that s stygofauna survey will occur within the area and have been asked to be involved in consultation in this process.
3G North of Jurien - Coastal Area:
Speleological Groups are undertaking a project in this area to reassess, and renew information on known karst features. This project requires visiting the karst features and obtaining accurate GPS information. Areas of bushland are also being searched for new karst features. This project involves close liaison with local landowners.
3H Cape Range
The Cape Range National Park Management plan is dated 1987-1997 and has been in the process of review. In July, representatives of the A.S.F. had a special consultative meeting to discuss issues related to the future management of the National Park. The draft management plan for Cape Range should be very close to release given the priority of the Government to the World Heritage nomination. CALM now advise that a draft many be out by March 2005.
Of ongoing concern however, is that the Advisory Committee for the North West Cape-Ningaloo does not have any individuals or representatives with karst background. This group is set up to advise CALM on the management of the Cape Range National Park and the Ningaloo Marine Park. It would be excellent if the Government acknowledged that it is important to have knowledge and experience in karst to be able to make appropriate decisions regarding such an area.
As noted in previous reports, the A.S.F. took legal action regarding proposed mining leases on the Cape Range. Although this was concluded in the Wardens Court in Perth (11/2000), the process has yet to be concluded. The Government (Minister for Mines) has STILL to make the final decision regarding the granting of the mining leases. The A.S.F. needs to continue to request the removal of the strategic limestone mining purpose from the proposed 5(h) reserve.
The Cape Range National Park should also be extended. The A.S.F. has continued to advocate that the Cape Range is a significant karst area that needs such protection and recognition. The formal process regarding the plans to nominate the Cape Range for World Heritage Status was almost completed. We are extremely concerned about the Government’s recent decision to delay the nomination. The delay is primarily in regard to the Ningaloo Reef management. It is understood that the Government wants a further 12 months of community consultation. This delay may seriously affect the timing of future nomination and the priority of acceptance of the Cape Range as a World Heritage Area.
3I The Kimberley – FAR north:
There are a number of discrete karst systems in the Kimberley Region (generally termed the West Kimberley or the East Kimberley) that no formal karst management. In the east, the primary land tenure is pastoral leases and station land. In the West, there are some areas of National parks, and other areas of pastoral lease and private land. All of these areas need appropriate karst management, in particular a "total catchment management" focus. There have been a number of expeditions to this area over the last 45 years, however further work is required to document the fauna and the karst.
It has recently come to our attention that there was a review of nature conservation reserves in the Kimberley in 1991. Humphrey’s (1995) outlines some of the recommendations that were made for the karst areas of the Kimberley, and referred to a submission made by the ASF in 1980. It is still considered that the caves and karst of the West Kimberley are of considerable international significance. It was considered that the area’s current land management regime does not adequately provide for the reservation and protection of important karst features, nor does it recognise outstanding opportunities to incorporate into existing reserves, features that would considerably enhance the value of those reserves. Point 1.8 of the ASF submission (Davey 1980) recommended that "there be a thorough integrated survey of all the cave and karst features of the Limestone Ranges of the West Kimberley and that such a survey should examine geomorphological and biological attributes as well as aboriginal relicts". It is understood that at that time, it was recommended that the WA Museum be requested to make a survey of the caves and springs for the limestone ranges. Humphrey’s (1995) outlined that this survey has never been conducted. It is our recommendation that the current status of the karst areas in the Kimberley needs progressing and that the National Heritage List may be an appropriate mechanism for recognising the "outstanding" values of the area.
4. Public Education:
As discussed earlier, it was our aim to continue important community events and to facilitate the partnership between the ASF and other environmental organisations. During the year of 2004, there were two Joint Speleological Groups "Community Education" Displays: Yanchep National Park’s "Spring Fest" on 14/11/04 and the "Children’s Groundwater Festival" on the 23/11/04. The "interactive" cave, and activities were quite popular with the children. Speleological Group members have again provided ongoing training to CALM staff (including cave guides) at Yanchep (special thanks again to the Wilderness Society and the Environmental Defender’s Office for the use of display boards). The final workshop was a special seminar on the EPBC Act (8/11/2004), presented by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF). As discussed at the ASF council meeting, the Joint Workshop titled "Subterranean safari – exploring the karst systems on the Swan Coastal Plain" was held on the 11/09/2004 (The Caves Australia 163 (September 2004) contains a full report on this workshop). This was an excellent partnership between the ASF and Greening Australia (WA). Due
to the success of this workshop, a 2nd workshop is already being planned for 2005.
5. Karst Policy and Protective Mechanisms:
There are a broad range of policy, legislation and guidelines that are required for karst areas. A review of WA policy instruments is currently being finalised (Anderson). A preliminary paper is being presented at the 25th Biennial Conference of the ASF – held in January 2005 that will outline some of the challenges and opportunities in this area. One particular State Government policy
document has been under review. In November 2003, the Speleological Groups were contacted in regard to key stakeholder consultation prior to its release for broader public consultation. The CALM Policy Statement 18 is regarding Recreation, Tourism and Visitor Services. Specific Sections of the policy that are of interest to ASF members include: rockclimbing and abseiling, caving and cave diving. After consultation with other ASF members, the two ASF corporate members (WASG and SRGWA) made individual submissions on issues contained in the document (January /February
2004). The official draft document was released on the 1 December 2004 for a two-month public comment period closing on 31 January 2005. The draft Policy can be accessed at www.calm.wa.gov.au. in the "Have Your Say" category. We encourage ASF members, particularly WA members, to be familiar with this document and to make an individual submission. You may also wish to send us a copy of your comments for inclusion in an official ASF submission.
6. Future Cave Management in W.A.:
We would like to continue to hold a series of pubic education seminars and community displays. We’d also like to focus on applications for funding and grants: such as the motion regarding the "living on karst" brochure, and a project by WASG in partnership with the Yanchep National Park, and other speleological groups in WA – to install karst interpretation in Boomerang Gorge. Another project is an initiative involving National Science Week funding. If successful, it is planned that WASG would hold a workshop, similar to that of the GAWA/ASF partnership, however it would be focussed on secondary students. The workshop aims include education about karst and numerous site visits, but also explores career opportunities within the science of speleology. It would be excellent if there were more projects, funding applications and some successful outcomes!
As mentioned in previous reports, W.A. has many karst areas and a huge variety of landowners and cave managers. The W.A. Government needs to accept that its responsibility for managing the environment involves protecting karst areas, and to show a commitment to appropriately resourcing areas that manage karst. The aim of the W.A. Conservation Commission is to raise the profile of speleologists and their involvement in karst management, and for promoting the need for a State Karst Officer.