Once again there has been a lack of progression regarding karst management and conservation of karst issues in WA. As discussed in the previous years report, three of the key karst areas in the State have long expired management plans. Over the past 2 year period, despite several consultation meetings with CALM regarding these areas, there is still no draft management plans released for any of those areas.
We would like to reiterate the importance of management of karst areas and the necessary required specialist knowledge. As such, it is felt that the Government should be "seeking" consultation from speleologists 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. 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.
The contact with the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Rangelands group (made in 2004) regarding the Nullarbor has continued. It is hoped that this liaison will continue to raise the profile of the importance of the Nullarbor karst and the lack of information that exists on the natural resources in this area. An ASF representative has been able to attend 3 community consultative meetings regarding the issue of the Rangelands Nullarbor region. It is hoped that there will be funding set aside for a small project on the Nullarbor, this is yet to be confirmed.
The WA speleological groups have had several information requests regarding karst areas in the north of Perth. Further liaison with an environmental consultant acting for a land developer has raised the issue of private management of a cave in the Peel region, as it is reported that no other Government (local or State) agency is interested in the management of this particular cave. This issue shows the opportunity for future partnerships between organizations with similar environmental objectives. There is an opportunity for ASF members to work with a landowner regarding planning for environmental protection at the local level. We look forward to reporting on progress towards this issue in the future.
Conservation issues reported on previously regarding the vulnerability of the karst area to the north of Perth (due to human development) 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). The WASG received confirmation of two grant applications – one for the Yanchep area and another for the Cape Range area (these are reported in more detail at the relevant section). Once again, there are plans to continue involvement in public education, through community displays, participation in community events and presentations.
One issue has just been brought to our attention as this report was being written. There is currently a proposal regarding mining on Christmas Island. It is reported that Christmas Island Phosphates have released a draft EIS for 8 new lease areas in mainly undisturbed rainforest Christmas Island crown land. There is a potential impact on the area’s hydrology and karst systems. There is only a short, 6 week public comment period (closing 31/12/2005) and there will be strong liaison with the WA Conservation Council and the WA Wilderness Society regarding this issue. For more information seehttp://www.christmasislandeis.com/
Jay Anderson Peter Armstrong Rob Susac 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.)
The Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park Management plan, dated 1989-1999 has not been finalised or renewed. CALM advise that this is "progressing", however several sections are still to be completed. A tentative date of February 2006 is given for the release of a draft.
There are four "Aquatic Root Mat Community in Caves of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge". These are a "Threatened Ecological Community" that are listed under the EPBC Act as endangered. A recovery plan is in place and CALM has a specialist recovery team that meets to address issues.
The Cave Management Advisory Committee (C.M.A.C.) continues to meet bi-monthly to advise The Department on cave management issues. This process continues to work really well and various projects have been carried out with speleological members during the past year. These include: Work at Bride Cave and Nannup Cave and ongoing 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 2005 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 CALM 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 has a new gate and still receives visitation. It is understood that access to this cave is permitted via application to the Shire.
1C Karst in the Mandurah Region
As reported previously, there is no management of the karst system adjacent to the Dawesville Estuary. The caves in this area are of a variety of tenure, either on private property or in areas of bushland. Further work needs to be undertaken in this area, including public education.
There has been recent contact with an environmental consultant acting for a land developer in the Peel Region. This has raised the issue of private management of a cave, as it is reported that no other Government (local or State) agency is interested in the management of this particular cave. This issue shows the opportunity for future partnerships between organizations with similar environmental objectives. There is an opportunity for ASF members to work with a landowner regarding planning for environmental protection at the local level. This issue needs to be progressed and discussions with the companies involved need to occur.
Due to contacts made during the project reported on in this segment in the last report, there has been further liaison from construction companies when undertaking works in karst areas. In particular the area to the north of Perth has had several requests for information from speleologists. This is a positive action, which is excellent to report that consultation and liaison on karst issues is occurring.
2. To the East:
2A The Nullarbor
The Nullarbor is a large, significant karst area, where visitation impacts on the karst system are difficult to assess. It is clear to many speleologists that the Nullarbor is an area that desperately needs appropriate management. There is still no "on-ground" management of the caves and karst, and as such, there is no monitoring of impacts or conditions. The Nullarbor has been the major action area in regards to any karst area in WA during 2005. Although, there have been several interagency NRM consultative meetings regarding this, the consultative karst workshop referred to in the 2004 report (involving Government and speleologists, to determine some management prescriptions for the area) is yet to occur. The Government agencies responsible have undertaken little formal steps towards implementing any karst management actions or management plans.
This area of karst in WA continues to receive extensive trips and expeditions – both from organised speleological groups and other groups. Several cave diving trips have also undertaken further study in this area. There are a range of purposes to the trips – from recreation to research – including documenting and describing karst features to documenting subterranean fauna and habitats. The troglobitic fauna are listed here as an example of fauna that are known to be threatened in this karst area. There are 4 arachnids on the Schedule 1 list, all listed as vulnerable. These are: Tartarus mullamullangensis, Tartarus murdochensis, Tartarus nurinensis, Tartarus thampannensis and Troglodiplura lowryi. In particular, there is a recent find to report that a new species of troglomorphic centipede from the Roe Plains has been described (published in the Records of the Western Australian Museum, Volume 22, Part 4, 2005 by Gregory D Edgecombe). The Cryptops (Trigonocryptops) roeplainsensis sp. nov. has been collected in 3 Roe Plain caves.
As reported in 2004, the WA Speleological Groups have made contact with the Natural Resource Management (NRM) group for the Nullarbor. It is hoped that involvement by speleologists 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. In the latter part of 2005, 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 WA Speleological Groups provided a representative for the ASF to the following workshops/meetings:
27 September 2005 Teleconference Rangelands NRM Biodiversity Project
Development – Nullarbor project
10 October1 2005. 4-6:00 Special Group Discussion - Sub Project 3 – Under the Nullarbor: Management and Biological Inventory of Nullarbor Karst.
10 November 2005. 9-12:00 South Coast Threatened Invertebrate Recovery Team
10 November 2005. 9-4:00 Biodiversity Steering Group Project Development Workshop
14 December 2005. 9-4:00 Biodiversity Steering Group Project Workshop
We await an outcome and an update on how the ASF and local WA based speleological groups can continue to be involved in this process. There is a small project planned, however due to strong competition for funding it is not yet sure whether this project will be allocated any funding.
2B South Coast Management Plan
There has be no progress on the Regional management plan, dated 1992-2002.
2C 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. The ASF has formally stated its concern with the management of this area, however further official actions need to be taken. This area 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 little further progress on this and CALM state that it is possible a draft may be circulated in April 2006. 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 is a need for an integrated approach to management in the area. In this area, speleological group members continue to work very closely with CALM staff: providing education about karst issues, training of CALM staff and assisting with local projects.
The "Aquatic Root Mat Community in Caves of the Swan Coastal Plain" are a listed species under the EPBC Act. This is listed as a "Threatened Ecological Community" that is endangered. A recovery plan is in place and CALM has a specialist recovery team that meets to address issues.
The main concern is 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 Government project to direct artificial supplementation to the cave stream in the Crystal Cave was considered successful and significant funding was provided. 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 understood that this project lasted only several weeks and that the water has been switched off due to concerns regarding oxidised irons in the karst system. 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. We reiterate that 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. 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. It is concerning that the National Park still does not have a dedicated scientific officer to oversee or monitor the adaptive research that is occurring in the National Park. There is a need for specific monitoring and implementation of plans. The WA Government needs to address these issues as a matter of priority.
Unfortunately, CALM has still not obtained 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 the management of this important karst area.
Sharing Australia’s Stories – A local partnership project
During July 2005, WASG was announced as one of the successful applicants for a "Sharing Australia’s Stories" Grant from the Commonweath Government (Department of Environment and Heritage). The Sharing Australia’s Stories Programme supports Activities/projects that help tell the story of the nation. This project will increase public awareness of a rare and uncommon karst and cave system. This project is part of the speleological groups’ broader goal to raise the profile of this special karst system and to educate the community about karst systems. The Project is to be completed within a year of the signing of the Agreement and the funding received was for
$5,200. The WASG would like to acknowledge the financial and other support it has received from the Australian Government to allow this exciting project to proceed.
This project involves the installation of thematic and informative interpretative signs/displays along Boomerang Gorge walk trail at Yanchep that tell a story of natural processes that form karst systems and caves, and this particular karst systems national significance. The project will communicate on a local and national scale the importance of this karst and cave system and the unique natural processes that have made this area of national significance possible. This project will involve a partner ship between the following community volunteer groups – Western Australian Speleological Group (WASG), Speleological Research Group Western Australia (SRGWA), Yanchep Caves Advisory Committee (CALM Advisory Group) and the Yanchep National Park Volunteer Group. The CALM, Yanchep National Park, will provide advice on a needs basis and provide assistance (in-kind) with installation of works. There have been two workshops to prepare the interpretive displays and the project is progressing well.
3B Carabooda Area:
There has been no further progress on the issue of the planned road in the Alkimos Area 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. The tasks required 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 and this issue needs to be progressed further as a priority.
The WA speleological groups have had several information requests regarding karst areas in the north of Perth. On both occasions there were no know karst features recorded in the areas discussed, however it is unclear whether the areas had been completely assessed for karst features. It was recommended to the inquirer that speoleologists be involved further in a karst inventory of one particular area. There is an opportunity for ASF members to work with a landowner and a company regarding planning and development issues at the local level. We look forward to reporting on progress towards this issue in the future.
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.
The City of Wanneroo Environmental Advisory Committee continued to meet bimonthly during part of 2005. The committee’s meeting times have since been revised and altered and no meeting has occurred since August. The committee plays an important role and can assist in raising the profile of karst in the area. The speleological representative provided a presentation on karst systems at the July meeting and this was well received. Documents that need review by the City of Wanneroo include the Local Environmental Strategy and the plan 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. It is important that the Council’s awareness is raised and that speleologists are involved 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.
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.
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.
There has been no further need for speleological involvement in the Lancelin Defence Training Area
– (L.D.T.A.). 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). The status of speleological membership has been revised to "information only" due to the lack of significant karst issues in this area. Speleological groups remain involved and provide a consultative role where required. We have recently been notified that a stygofauna survey will occur and have been asked to be involved in consultation in this process.
3G North of Jurien - Coastal Area:
The WA Speleological Groups continue to undertake 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 for some time. The CALM advise that the draft management plan for Cape Range is currently at the "printers" and will be soon released for public comment. This is excellent news, and given the priority of the Government to the World Heritage nomination, the document will need serious consideration. CALM now advise that a draft may be out by the end of 2005.
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. The Government advisory committee for the area needs speleological representation. Additionally, 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 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 delayed in 2004. There has been no update regarding progress.
There are two listed Threatened Ecological Communities in this karst area. The "Cape Range Remipede Community" and the "Cameron’s Cave Troglobitic Community". The troglobitic fauna are listed here as an example of fauna that are known to be threatened in this karst area. There are 4 millipedes and 4 arachnids on the Schedule 1 list. These are the arachnids – Bamazomus sp. And Draculoides bramstokeri (both listed as endangered) and the Draculoides sp. And Hyella sp. The millipedes are Speleostrophus nesiotes, Stygiochiropus isolatus, Styggiochiropus peculiaris and Stygiochiopus sympatricus. The Speleostrophus nesiotes and the Draculoides bramstokeri are both found on Barrow Island.
The WA Speleological Group has been successful in its application for $22,260. This grant was approved under the Threatened Species Network Community Grants Program. The application was entitled "The protection of threatened fish of the Cape Range Karst System, North West Cape WA". This project will be undertaken by local ASF members in conjunction with relevant experts and CALM personnel.
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 have no formal karst management. In the east, the primary land tenure is pastoral leases and station land. In the West, there are 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.
The review of nature conservation reserves in the Kimberley in 1991 needs further follow-up. 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:
We aim to continue important community events and to facilitate the partnership between the ASF and other environmental organisations. During the year of 2005 there has been some further opportunity for Joint Speleological Groups "Community Education" Displays: There was a display at the "Children’s Groundwater Festival" on the 22/11/05. The "interactive" cave, and activities were quite popular with the children. Speleological Group members continue to provide ongoing training to CALM staff (including cave guides) at Yanchep (special thanks again to the Wilderness Society, Conservation Council and the Environmental Defender’s Office for the use of display boards). The final workshop was a special seminar on the EPBC – Heritage Lists (10/11/2005), 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 to be held in 2005, however there was a change in staffing and a lack of funding that impacted on these plans. Recent discussions with Greening Australia indicate that funding may be possible for a workshop in 2006.
5. Karst Policy and Protective Mechanisms:
There is 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 was presented at the 25th Biennial Conference of the ASF – held in January 2005 that outlined some of the challenges and opportunities in this area. We encourage ASF members to be familiar with their state’s policy, legislation and guidelines.
6. Future Cave Management in W.A.:
It would be excellent if the WA Government could 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.