There have been some small and positive changes in several karst areas. The highlights include:
• Notification of funding for a project on the Nullarbor karst.
• A number of projects involving ASF volunteers in karst areas.
• Significant progress on karst policy – see 3C
• An increase in requests for karst assessments.
The main areas that stand out in need of progression are the:
• Continued vulnerability of the coastal karst areas of Perth (due to human development)
• Long expired management plans for three of the key karst areas in the State.
• The status of the subterranean fauna in the State’s "Threatened Ecological Community".
During 2006, two State Government Department’s combined to form DEC (Department of Environment and Conservation) – the Department of Conservation (CALM) and the Department of Environment (DoE). Although this caused some delays due to internal organization, it is hoped that there will be improvements in natural resource management resulting from the merge.
One significant karst issue required urgent consideration, interagency collaboration and legal advice. This was in relation to a perceived threat to the LNNP Threatened Ecological Community when a proposal for a gum tree plantation was proposed. Although this was a successful outcome, it highlights the need for excellent networks/communication and the importance of legal advice in conservation and karst management issues.
Several members of the ASF were involved in the Senate Inquiry into Australia’s National Parks, conservation reserves and marine protected areas. A submission on WA karst management issues was compiled and submitted and utilised by the representatives who attended the face to face hearing in Melbourne.
We would like to reiterate the importance of management of karst areas and the necessary required specialist knowledge. 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. This should be seen as a priority and as part of the important public consultation process. The challenge is for both speleologists and land managers to work together in partnership – to ensure that our karst areas in this state are managed appropriately.
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 is working with local State Environmental groups to determine a strategy for communication and liaison so that speleological expertise can be utilized in proposals that involve any potential impacts or effects on karst, limestone or subterranean fauna. This is also an excellent opportunity to work together on the various policy settings for karst and subterranean protection. The Conservation Commission will continue involvement in public education, through community displays, participation in community events and presentations. We look forward to reporting on progress towards this in the future.
Jay Anderson Rob Susac Eve Taylor
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) has not been finalised or renewed. There is an issues paper on this areas management issues and a draft plan is being compiled. However, to date, no draft management plan has been released for public comments.
There are four "Aquatic Root Mat Community in Caves of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge". These are a "Threatened Ecological Community" (TEC) that are listed under the EPBC Act as endangered. A recovery plan is in place and DEC has a specialist recovery team that meets to address issues. The current status of all of the TEC in the LNNP is unknown, however it is reported that the groundwater levels in the Jewel Cave karst system are at the lowest recorded levels since the 1950’s. Over the last several years, most of the known aquatic root mat habitat and TEC have dried up or declined significantly. This is an issue that will require management actions.
The Cave Management Advisory Committee (CMAC.) 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. 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.
More recently a karst issue required consideration, regarding a proposed plantation of "blue gum" Eucalyptus (Leeuwin Naturaliste area). The proposal was on land adjacent to the LNNP that could be classified as a threat to the karst values, particularly the TEC. As a result of several factors, and a lack of awareness of the TEC, the Shire approved the proposal Due to a combination of factors, the proposal did not go ahead. The Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) provided much appreciated legal advice and participated in a meeting with the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA). The EDO was able to contact the other party’s lawyers and progress a DEH referral (regarding the Threatened Ecological Community in the area) which precipitated a withdrawal. Although this was a successful outcome, it highlights the need for thorough interagency consultation and communication, including communication with speleological groups – the need for excellent networks/communication and the importance of legal advice in conservation and karst management issues. During February a special meeting was held in Margaret River and it is hoped for improved future liaison on karst management issues.
There was a large fire in the National Park during April 2006. The wildfire occurred in the LNNP
about 12km south of Margaret River. The fire, which escaped from a prescribed burn, affected
1500 ha of forest. In particular the Mammoth cave doline suffered significant damage to infrastructure. Significant areas of LNNP forest have been burnt in the last few years and it will be interesting to see if there are any subsequent effects on groundwater levels in the karst system.
1B Wallcliffe Cave – Shire of Augusta/Margaret River
The plans regarding a change in land tenure from the Shire to the State Government has not progressed. A management plan for this cave is still outstanding.
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. The status of caves in relation to land development in the area is unclear. This needs to be determined as a matter of priority.
Many organizations are realising that speleologists have knowledge and skills needed to survey and quantify the values contained in karst areas. Organisations such as mining companies, real estate developers and local Government land managers are more and more identifying the need for speleological involvement in karst assessment. This change has come about due to a variety of factors including the raising profile of karst in WA by the karst workshops (see point 4) and through developing environmental networks. 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 Karst includes thousands of caves and surface karst features, a range of cave adapted and often unique organisms, unique and unusual minerals and speleothems and subterranean wetlands. This karst area exists under a range of tenures. It is a large, significant karst area, where visitation impacts on the karst system are difficult to assess. This area of karst in WA continues to receive extensive trips and expeditions – both from organised speleological groups, recreation groups and cave divers. 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 DEC and other key stakeholders are involved in the project which is aimed at protecting the biodiversity and geodiversity of the Nullarbor Karst. The WA Speleological Groups continue involvement in 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. Following on from the 2005 meetings, during 2006 an ASF representative has been involved in workshops/meetings for the Rangelands NRM Biodiversity Project Development – Nullarbor project – a Teleconference (24 January) and a Meeting (14 September).
The ultimate goal is to produce Interim Management Guidelines to protect the known threatened fauna and other cave biodiversity without compromising other values. To achieve this, a number of milestones need to be met including the compilation of all currently known information on the biological and other values of, and known threats to, the karst via a desktop survey. The desktop survey will be overseen by the Nullabor Karst Project Steering Group, which comprises members from the DEC, Rangelands NRM Coordinating Group, Speleological group representatives and other stakeholders. This project is funded jointly by the Rangelands NRM Coordinating Group and the DEC. During October the project was finalised and a tender document was released. It is envisaged that a consultant will be employed to undertake the project. 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.
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.
There has been some progress on the need for World Heritage Listing for the Nullarbor (see the ASF National report – this was discussed during verbal evidence to the Senate inquiry). There will need to be significant 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. 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 is 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.
2B South Coast Management Plan
There has be no progress on the Regional management plan (1992-2002).
3. North of Perth:
3A Yanchep National Park:
The Yanchep National Park Management plan (1989-1999) is long expired and needs considerable revising. There has been little further progress on this and the draft management plan is still in preparation.
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. Speleologists continue to work closely with Park staff: providing advice on cave and karst management issues and assisting with local projects. The plans to alter the lighting in Crystal Cave, to remove the lampenflora and to upgrade the infrastructure need progressing.
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. The listed Root Mat Communities are under serious threat from lowered water tables. The lowering of the water table is from a combination of climate, altered hydrology and encroaching urbanisation. A recovery plan is in place and DEC has a specialist recovery team that meets to address issues.
The main concern is the situation for the cave fauna in the stream caves. A partnership of State Government Agencies are involved in artificially maintaining water to certain areas in attempts to maintain the subterranean stygofauna habitats. The current status of the threatened species and the communities that are remaining is unclear. The National Park still needs a dedicated scientific officer to oversee and 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. 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.
The WASG "Sharing Australia’s Stories" project was successfully finalised (see 2005 report for more information). This involved a Grant from the Commonwealth Government (Department of Environment and Heritage) to install thematic and informative interpretative signs/displays along Boomerang Gorge walk trail at Yanchep National Park - telling a story of karst processes
This project involved a partner ship between the following community volunteer groups – Western Australian Speleological Group (WASG), Speleological Research Group Western Australia (SRGWA), Yanchep Caves Advisory Committee (DEC Advisory Group) and the Yanchep National Park Volunteer Group.
During February 2006, serious damage occurred to speleothems at Crystal Cave in Yanchep National Park, due to a break-in to the cave. Local speleologists were involved in the assessment of damage and the rehabilitation of the site. Advice was provided to investigators regarding the significance of the speleothems.
3B Carabooda Area:
There has been no further progress 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.
It is our aim to develop a program of seminars, brochures and public education. Additionally, it would be excellent to meet with local landowners to discuss karst management issues and to consider issues involved in "living on karst". There is an opportunity to progress this important issue, however a source of funding would need to be sought. 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. This has involved significant time input of speleological volunteers. There is an opportunity for ASF members to work with a landowners, company’s and local Government 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:
The City of Wanneroo contains significant karst areas. The City has an Interim Rural Strategy that is due for review. This document has a small section on karst. Significant progress has been made on developing a co-ordinated approach (involving liaison between the City of Wanneroo and Speleological Groups) regarding areas under development in karst regions. The City of Wanneroo Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) continue to meet bimonthly. The committee plays an important role and can assist in raising the profile of karst in the area. The City of Wanneroo is in the process of reviewing the Local Environmental Strategy. The plan to "develop a caves and karstic features policy" was progressed during 2006. Thru speleological representation on the City of Wanneroo EAC, the opportunity to provide education on karst issues has occurred. During the year, a small subcommittee, including speleologists has met to….
Speleological groups are developing greater liaison with the Environmental Protection Authority, to ensure further caves and karst areas are not impacted. A Presentation was made to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) section of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) during February. This was well received and it is envisaged that contact with this agency
will be developed and improved in the future. 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. Speleologists can visit a property and make an assessment of the karst features present. A report can then be given both to the landowner and the local Government to assist in the best response required in the situation. Over the past year, the number of requests for karst assessment have increased. Speleologists are now receiving monthly requests. 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. These requests involve a significant amount f volunteer time to resolve. It would be more appropriate for a delegated role to fulfil these tasks and it is intended to seek progress to this plan.
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. 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.
3D Speleological Involvement with Government -Local Community Consultation & karst management advice:
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 Coastal Karst – Lancelin to Geraldton - including Jurien/Cervantes:
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.
The northward growth of Perth will impact on the coast and associated karst features. The 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.
Liaison is occurring with DEC regarding karst in the Northern Agricultural Region. A project is being undertaken to locate previously undiscovered areas of high conservation value. Caves and their associated biodiversity are one type of natural asset being considered and it is likely that a biodiversity project will be proposed to examine the "Hidden Treasures" of this area.
3F Cape Range:
The Cape Range National Park Management plan (1987-1997) has been in the process of review for some time. This year the draft management plan was released for public comment and local speleologists submissions. It is understood that the Final Management Plan is currently under preparation. Speleologists have been involved in the consultation process and the draft release was excellent news.
The 2005 report outlined the specific details of the two listed Threatened Ecological Communities in this karst area - The "Cape Range Remipede Community" and the "Cameron’s Cave Troglobitic Community". Speleologists were successful in obtaining funding (during 2005) for a project to address local threats to the karst system (The WA Speleological Group - $22,260). This grant was approved under the Threatened Species Network Community Grants Program. The project will be undertaken by local ASF members in conjunction with relevant experts and Stage Government DEC personnel.
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.
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.
3G The Kimberley – FAR north:
It is still considered that the caves and karst of the Kimberley are of considerable international significance. 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 (Please refer to the 2005 report for more information). The National Heritage List may be an appropriate mechanism for recognising the "outstanding" values of the area.
3H Christmas Island
There are a number of outstanding actions in relation to karst management in this area. Speleological Groups are in liaison with the managers on a number of issues. During May a team of speleologists participated in the Christmas Island Subterranean Fauna Project ($40,000 granted from the Federal Government) to assist in documenting the island’s subterranean fauna.
There was a proposal regarding mining on Christmas Island (Christmas Island Phosphates EIS). This involved 8 new lease areas in mainly undisturbed rainforest Christmas Island crown land. Concerns were regarding potential impacts on the area’s hydrology and karst systems. A submission of concerns was submitted and there will be continued strong liaison with the WA Conservation Council and the WA Wilderness Society regarding this issue. The outcome of this has not been finalized.
4. Public Education:
There has been one major opportunity for Joint Speleological Groups "Community Education" Displays. There was a display at the "Children’s Groundwater Festival" in November. The "interactive" cave, groundwater model and activities were quite popular with the children and their teachers.
The 2nd Joint Workshop (ASF and Greening Australia – WA) titled "Subterranean safari – exploring the karst systems on the Swan Coastal Plain" was held in April. This workshop was a success and there was enough interest to create a waitlist. A number of Government Officers attended which has provided the opportunity for liaison and future partnerships (particularly leading to a number of referrals and contacts throughout the year regarding several karst areas that need assessment – see 1C). Recent discussions with Greening Australia indicate that there will be funding for a workshop in 2007.
We aim to continue important community events and to facilitate the partnership between the ASF and other environmental organisations. In particular, we aim to focus on an educational program for local landowners in the metropolitan Perth region (see 3B and 3C for more information).
5. Karst Policy and Protective Mechanisms:
There is a broad range of policy, legislation and guidelines that are required for karst areas. There is a considerable lack of appropriate state policy and legislation regarding caves and karst areas in WA. The most significant development has been the utilisation of the EPA Policy document titled
It is our aim to continue to develop relationships with the Government and to progress the vision for future karst management in WA.
At a local Government level, there has been significant progress on the need to develop local policy (as reported in section 3C). We also have been able to extend our networks and gain knowledge of International karst policy development, which will assist this project.
6. Future Cave and Karst Management in W.A.:
The WA Government needs to show a greater commitment to appropriately resourcing areas that manage karst. The aim of the W.A. Conservation Commission is to raise the profile of speleologists and the need for their involvement in karst management.
The networks and relationships that have been developed with other State environmental organizations are important in the development of a wholistic karst management focus for WA. We will continue to progress this vision for future karst management, which involves promoting the need for a State Karst Education Officer.
the need for a State Karst Education Officer.