by Rauleigh Webb & Ric Brown

Executive Summary

Numerous high profile conservation issues currently exist within Western Australia.

  • Cape Range - Rauleigh Webb and Ric Brown have initiated legal objections to 10 proposed limestone mining leases within the Cape Range area. These matters will be the subject of a Wardens Court hearing later in the year.
  • A Cave Manager has been appointed by the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) for WA and it is anticipated that with this CALM- ASF relations will improve.
  • CALM have been asked to explain to the Environmental Protection Authority what planning went into the tourism development of Giants and Calgardup Caves in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
  • Cave monitoring continues in the LNNP with several unauthorised entries detected.
  • Public Environmtenal Reviews have been published for the Two Rocks area, north of Perth. Low density housing is planned for the area overlying areas of karst. Appropriate submissions on behalf of the ASF have been made.

Cape Range

Finesky Holdings Pty Ltd has applied to the Carnarvon Wardens Court to convert 10 Exploration Licences into 10 Mining Lease applications. The 10 leases are all located in high conservation value karst areas that contain many known caves and aquifers.

ASF Conservation Officers Rauleigh Webb and Ric Brown have lodged objections to the leases with the Carnarvon Wardens Court. The applications were heard on July 9, 1999. WASG and SRGWA submitted similar objections to add weight to the out cry. The matter is now listed for mention only on 16th August 1999. Copies of the objections have been served on the Mining Company pursuant to the Mining Act. A hearing date is expected in November or December 1999.

We have applied to have the hearing of these matters transferred to the Perth Wardens Court to enable us to call witnesses to support our case. This transfer to Perth has occurred at a date to be set. Legal representation has been obtained for the hearing from the Environmental Defenders Office in Perth.

We cannot emphasise the importance of this issue and cannot let the mining company obtain a large mining lease as occurred some 30 years ago resulting in the current limestone mine and quarry on Cape Range. We are talking about an area that is proposed for World Heritage Listing.

Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park (LNNP)

Caver and Cave Manager relations within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge are improving with the appointment of Anne Wood to the position of Cave Manager. It is hoped that a more co-operative and consultative relationship will exist in the future and the conservation of the caves will benefit.

Development of Calgardup and Giants Cave

The Environmental Protection Authority is now looking into the development of Calgardup and Giants Cave as "tourist caves" in 1997 by CALM.

Very limited planning by CALM was prepared prior to the development commencing. No management plan, development plan or site working plan was developed for either site. No environmental assessment of the impact of the development on the caves was undertaken. Roads, car parks, buildings, toilets, cave gates, walkways, staircases, track marking etc were all put in place without any assessment or consideration for the caves.

CALM have now been asked to justify and explain this. CALM have responded to the EPA request with a letter and a personal attack on one of the ASF Conservation Co-Convenors (RW). The EPA are now seeking other opinions from the Western Australian caving groups.

CaveWorks Research

CaveWorks, based at Lake Cave, has recently commenced its study into the hydrobiology of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste karst. This project will run for at least 3 years and will attempt to determine the catchments for the major stream caves and water table of the phreatic systems at Augusta. It will then attempt to ensure that these catchments are not being over-exploited and that the cave life dependant on the water is conserved. Renowned Cave Biologist Stefan Eberhard has arrived in Western Australia and commenced his research. Other educational and research aspects of the work will assist CaveWorks with material for public and caver education. This project should be given every support by ASF cavers.

Caver Monitoring

Passive infrared and vibration detectors are in widespread use in caves of the LNNP. They collect event data, date and time of each event, allowing the determination of party size on the day of the visit. This data is used to determine non-compliance with the Permit System and management will be able to better monitor non-compliant sites. Non-compliance by a number of commercial tour operators has already been identified with them exceeding group numbers and accessing restricted areas within caves. They have been suitably warned. This work is being continued by members of the WASG, following a grant from the Gordon Reid Conservation Fund.

Cave Gating

The cave gating policy developed by Heather Jefferies in conjunction with other cavers does not appear to have been implemented in the LNNP with a number of caves gated with no or little consideration given to the caves meteorology. This issue will be raised with the new Caves Manager.

Road Construction

A new road and carpark was recently constructed within site of Quinninup Lake Cave. This carpark will almost certainly result in increased un-permitted visitation to the cave. Consultation with cavers prior to the construction of the road and carpark may have avoided this problem. The matter will be raised with the new Caves Manager.

Track and Route Marking

The controversy over the poor route marking in Dingo and Nannup Cave’s by CALM employees may be resolved soon with the new Cave Manager, Anne Wood, giving an undertaking that the marking will be reviewed and inappropriate markers removed from speleothems. As at the date of the report only partial removal of the inappropriate markers had been made.

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.

Yanchep National Park Management Committee

A Cave Management Committee has been formed for the Yanchep National Park. Comprised of representatives from WASG, SRGWA and CALM the committee will work together, assessing the conservation / protection status of each cave and establishing mangement plans and access guidelines. . The CALM Ranger, Mr Rod HILLMAN, is keen for input from cavers into the management of the caves of this park.

South Coast Management Plan

As at November 1998 none of the proposed National Parks or reserves in the Nullarbor region have been declared. The required legislation is STILL LOST in government mumbo jumbo! This has now worsened as a result of the Mabo and Wik decisions.

We can now only describe the situation on the Nullarbor as a case of gross neglect by the WA Government and its agencies. The management plan for the area is almost due for renewal and NONE of the proposed National Parks or reserves to protect caves have been declared.

The manager for the region has given an undertaking to examine the man made bund around the Murra-el-Eleven entrance with a view to restoring appropriate water flow into the cave.

Carabooda Caves

Lex Bastian of WASG has been exploring and surveying a large number of small caves on a privately owned block of land in Carabooda and an associated plot of crown Land. The land owner is very forward thinking and hopes to preserve most of the caves on his block from any future residential development which he is planning.

Mr Bastian is liaising closely with the owner and authorities and hopefully an agreement that benefits the caves will be achieved.

Two Rocks & Wanneroo

Two separate developments are proposed in this area by the Tokyu Corporation. These developments are for semi rural housing (5 acre lots) over a karst area that is the northern extension of the Yanchep National Park. Environmental Reviews have been distributed for public comment. Submissions on behalf of the ASF have been made to each development. SRGWA and WASG have also commented. The land owner is refusing cavers entry to the property, presumably due to the significant karst features likely to be located there.

Point Grey - Mandurah

This area is to be developed as a future housing and marina site. A small area of karst is located within the area, the most signifiant being Avalon Cave. Extensive work by SRGWA members led to this cave being saved from destruction by the developers. Through a consultative approach with the land developer, Plunkett Homes, they managed to obtain and agreement to create a reserve around the cave itself. Discussions over gating the cave to prevent access from the nearby residents are continuing.

Drovers Cave National Park

The proposed land clearance adjacent to the National Park was finally given ministerial approval despite the EPA recommending against it. The land clearance is either proceeding or is now complete. The impact on Old River Cave will require examination in the near future.

A meeting has been arranged between the ASF Co-Convenors and CALM to discuss the removal of large quantities of concrete blocking solution pipe cave entrances and the construction of a new gate for Drovers Cave. It is hoped that both of these acts will restore airflow to the cave and possibly attract back the bats that once resided there.

CoConvenors Comment

Ric Brown - Since my appointment I have realised just how much work needs to be done in the area of Cave Conservation.. I see now the enormity of the task faced by the Cave Conservation Commission. WASG has taken a positive step forward in the appointment of Jay Anderson as Conservation Officer for that club, providing further assistance to both Rauleigh Webb and myself. Perhaps other Speleological Clubs could follow this example- we could use the help.

I must personally thank Rauleigh Webb for his support and guidance as I come to grips with my new role.

Rauleigh Webb - I wish to thank Ric Brown for his great assistance since being appointed as an ASF Conservation Commission Co-Convenor. I was personally very disappointed with the actions of both caving clubs earlier in the year in questioning the integrity of myself as ASF Conservation Commissioner. Caving clubs need to carefully examine their cave conservation ethic and separate it from personalities - focusing on the conservation issues at hand.