The management and conservation of karst in W.A. has many challenges and opportunities. The achievements in W.A. have been a productive and positive effort by a small group of dedicated people. The WA Conservation Commission Co-convenors are supported by a small group of cavers who meet together on a monthly basis to discuss specific issues to do with karst management, cave conservation and associated issues. This group has been referred to as the “Conservation Committee” and actively works towards the conservation of caves/ karst and aims to present regular educational presentations on karst in W.A.. The group varies from 3 to 10 ASF members who have been meeting together since April 2001. The group has been involved in environmental events and activities in W.A. and seeks to involve other ASF members, outdoor leaders and the public in associated issues.

The committee has broadened its focus since the events we reported on last year (2002) – the first “ASF Speleo Seminar” (“Cavers caring for Caves”) and participation in two community education displays. The year of 2003 has seen the following achievements:

  • July 2003 – The 2nd “ASF Speleo Seminar” titled “Cave ecosystems, habitats and subterranean fauna” –An evening presentation.
  • September 2003 – The 3rd “ASF Speleo Seminar” titled “Subterranean Biodiversity & Threatened Fauna – specific examples from WA” – An afternoon presentation to co-incide with "Biodiversity month" and "Threatened species day".
  • Three Joint W.A. Speleological Groups “Community Education” Displays.
  • Ongoing Provision of training to CALM staff (primarily cave guides) at Yanchep National Park.
  • Public presentations to other groups.

Additionally, there has been continued involvement in karst management issues and consultation with State Government and land managers regarding karst issues. Three significant karst areas in WA currently have their management plans under review: Yanchep National Park, Cape Range National Park and the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park. The ASF representatives met with a CALM representative on two separate occasions to discuss the current and future management of the Yanchep and Cape Range areas. There were ASF members who attended either a Perth based public forum or a Margaret River based public forum, to discuss the current and future management of the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park (Margaret River area). Speleological Members continue to be involved in ongoing consultation regarding these issues. Each of these are outlined in more detail under the relevant karst area section in this report.

The conservation issues reported on previously regarding the karst area 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 (as supported by the E.D.O. and reported on previously). There have also been several projects involving ASF volunteers in Yanchep and Leeuwin karst areas (see each section for this report). In 2004 there are plans to continue involvement in public education, through community displays, participation in community events and presentations. In particular, there are plans for a joint karst workshop with Greening Australia (WA) and the A.S.F. This initiative is an excellent opportunity for future partnerships between organizations with similar environmental objectives and a report on this project will be presented to the January 2004 Council meeting.

Jay Anderson             Peter Armstrong                                Eve Taylor

1.      South of Perth:

A.            Cave Management in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park (L.N.N.P.)

The Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park Management plan is dated 1989-1999. The C.A.L.M. are in the process of updating the management plan. In August 2003, representatives of the A.S.F. attended several public consultative meetings (Perth and Margaret River) to discuss issues related to the future management of the National Park. It is anticipated that a draft plan will be released in mid 2004.

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 (2/2003) to install retaining walls in the doline; and ongoing work on trackmarking and rehabilitation in several caves.

Some Grants had been obtained to assist with the monitoring of aquatic root mat communities. This was obtained by C.A.L.M. with funding from a "BankWest Landscope Conservation Visa Card Trust Fund Grant" and from C.A.L.M. funding via the Threatened Species and Communities Unit. Decreasing water levels are a threat to these subterranean communities. The water quality monitoring was just for a year, and is now complete. It was to provide a more complete set of baseline data. In some significant caves, water levels were measured monthly, and photographic monitoring and water analysis was taking place every three months. The current situation is that the trend towards decreasing water levels is continuing. It was planned that 3 prescribed burns would occur in various sections of the National Park during spring 2003. These were areas of forest in the karst system. At the time of writing (late November 2003), only two of the sections of the National Park had been burnt. The burn around Jewel Cave will help test the hypothesis that a reduction in fires is partially responsible for decreasing cave water levels.

There has been a significant decrease in the speleological use of locked and restricted access caves in 2003. This may be due to the effect of the ASF conference in the area in January 2003, where local speleological leaders organised and led trips for visiting speleologists. The speleological members also have access to several electronic measuring devices (“Disto”) that will be used in surveying and that can reduce impacts during cave surveys. Members are making efforts to participate in more rehabilitation and educational trips rather than pure recreational trips. Further work needs to be undertaken with trackmarking in the caves. It is considered important that all individuals are aware of their impact on caves and are familiar with and abide by minimal impact caving techniques. See the section on “public education” for events and more information in this particular area.

B.            Wallcliffe Cave – Shire of Augusta/Margaret River

Following the speleological submissions in 2002, and the years prior to that, the Shire of Augusta Margaret River has not implemented the draft cave management plan for Wallcliffe cave. The concerns regarding both the lack of management of the cave remain. The Shire now wishes the land to be vested to C.A.L.M and managed similar to other caves in the National Park. It appears that C.A.L.M. and the Shire are still working through the actual boundaries of the land to change vesting. We are advised that it will take at least a couple of years for the change in vesting to be finalized. The current situation is that the Shire has changed the process for adventure tour groups wishing to visit the cave. The existing agreement between the sole commercial operator and the Shire expired in June 2003 and was not renewed. The Shire has indicated that the size of tour groups would fall in line with current Self-guided C.A.L.M. caves (horizontal). Now, any group is required to book in advance and to have no more than 8 people. This is a positive change, however other changes required – as outlined in submissions by speleological members regarding the draft management plan.

We are concerned that the Shire will not undertake appropriate active "management" of the cave until CALM confirm whether they will take over management responsibility. One would expect that a current "manager" has certain responsibilities, especially environmental, regarding the resource that they manage. It appears that the Shire considers that they do "not have the expertise or the resources to undertake such works (the necessary rehabilitation and upgrading works required to ensure the long term preservation of the cave structures) ((ie to install trackmarking)) and would prefer CALM to employ their expertise to preserve the cave structure". This issue will be raised further with the Shire, as the situation regarding the current management of the cave is highly concerning. It was pointed out to the Shire in previous correspondence that if the draft management plan could not be implemented then their responsibility is to close the cave until the necessary rehabilitation occurred. Alternatively, if the Shire does not have the expertise then they could contract out the tasks required in the management of the cave to an individual/organization who had the required skills/experience.

C.            Karst in the Mandurah Region

There is little management of the karst system adjacent to the Dawesville Estuary. Some of the caves in this area are on private property, others are in areas of bushland while others are under houses. A local speleological member who acts as a karst consultant has had several inquiries regarding karst assessment (the occasional request for speleologists to examine a cave or area of karst has occurred in this area over many years). Additionally, a small group of speleological members visited the area during the year and undertook a “clean-up” day of Morphett’s cave – removing rubbish from the cave. Further work needs to be undertaken in this area, including public education and liaison with managing agencies.

2.    To the East:

The Nullarbor is a large, significant karst area – the visitation impacts on the karst system are difficult to assess and there is no “on-ground” management of the caves and karst. A large amount of this land is also under review by the Government, after the amendments to the Land Administration Act 2000. The Minister for Planning and Infrastructure must give notice to pastoralists of the Government’s intentions to exclude land from a lease by December 2002. The leased Crown Lands (rangelands or pastoral leases) are due for renewal in 2015. There is currently an ongoing process where pastoralists have two years to negotiate with the Government regarding proposed exclusions of land for heritage, environmental, recreational or tourist purposes. Ecological sustainable management of the rangelands is an important consideration for this situation, and karst areas should also be considered in this process.

A.        South Coast Management Plan

This Regional management plan is dated 1992-2002. There is a small section addressing “caves” and further work needs to be done in this area. At this stage it appears that there has been no progress on this situation and the management plan for the area will need revising. This task is ongoing.

B.      Nullarbor World Heritage Listing

As reported in 2002, this task is ongoing.   There appears to have 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.

C.      Recreational, Research & Commercial Activity impacting on Nullarbor caves.

It was previously reported that Speleological Groups are aware that commercial activity on the Nullarbor has been increasing. It is clear that public visitation to this area is a future issue that will need to addressed. A CALM Interpretation Officer visited the area in September 2003 with the view to planning some interpretation facilities on the Nullarbor. Other concerns regard the protection of caves after the significant discoveries of mega-fauna fossils on the Nullarbor. We would like to highlight that it is important this area has appropriate karst management. This issue is ongoing and will require significant work.

3.     North of Perth:

A.      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. Significant amounts of the plan have not been implemented and other parts are inaccurate. The C.A.L.M. are in the process of updating the management plan. In September, representatives of the A.S.F. had a special consultative meeting to discuss issues related to the future management of the National Park. It is anticipated that a draft of the plan will be released in March 2004.

The Yanchep National Park Caves Advisory Committee meets bi-monthly to discuss local karst issues. It is recommended that this area needs a specific “cave manager” as a matter of priority. The Permit system is working well and there is now a written record of cave visitation for the area. The main issues for the area still involve cave gating: – design, materials and impacts on fauna (including potential impacts). Since installation, some caves continue to be “broken into” and vandalised in a variety of ways. Evidence of geocaching has also been observed in a cave in the National park. Speleological group members continue to work very closely with C.A.L.M. staff in providing education about karst issues and opportunities for local research.

The situation regarding the cave fauna in the stream caves is critical. Further to what was reported in 2002, 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. Firstly an artificial water mound was created to attempt to get some water flow back into the caves. This involved pumping water from the surface lake into another holding area. Secondly, the input of water was moved further east – to input directly into a cave. Finally, there was direct artificial supplementation to the cave stream in the Crystal Cave (the area’s primary tourist cave). It is our opinion that the Government needs to hasten their plans to selectively reduce the Pine Tree Plantations in the east. Currently it is planned to remove and to replace the pines with native vegetation will occur over 20-30 years. Further action regarding this issue is a priority as the catchment to the east is important in the karst hydrology.

It is excellent to see that speleological group members have been very active in the Yanchep area (research/exploration/rehabilitation/conservation). They assist C.A.L.M. in monitoring significant fauna sites, removing graffiti from caves, or other conservation projects. It is our goal to encourage involvement and to assist in projects in the karst area north of Perth. One major project occurred in March 2003, where volunteers and speleologists met to “clean” Crystal Cave. The significance of the lampenflora problem in the cave was highlighted and CALM propose to alter the lighting in the near future. There are further plans to alter the caves infrastructure, however we recommend that further work is undertaken on lampenflora removal.

B.      Carabooda Area:

As reported previously, the ongoing issue is a proposed road through the Emerald Valley area called Alkimos Drive. This road passes next to a recreation reserve in native Tuart bushland, which contains a large number of caves. It is of great concern that the road is planned to go straight over a number of significant caves. 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. A Geoscience Australia representative visited the area with a local speleologist and complied a report titled Review of karst hazards in the Wanneroo area, Perth, Western Australia. There was also been two papers written (and presented at National Conferences in Australia in 2003) on the karst system in this area. These issues were reported on in a Television Program during the year. These issues need to be highlighted with the State Agencies involved as the karst system remains under threat from human development.

C.      Two Rocks & Wanneroo Area:

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. One suggestion has been that ground-penetrating radar should be 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. 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.

D.      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 has met to discuss information on the artificial supplementation of wetlands in the karst area and the emergency response strategy regarding the cave streams and stygofauna in the Yanchep caves. Despite an average winter rainfall during 2003, the decreases in rainfall over the last 5 years and continued increases in groundwater use mean that water bans continue in Perth.

E.      East of Jurien - Drovers Cave National Park:

  • Old River Cave –The Government is planning on developing a borefield in the west of this area. Speleological representatives met with an Environmental group who were preparing a report for the Water Authority. Due to a lack of research in the area, it is unclear how this proposal would impact on the caves hydrology or the karst aquifer – more information needs to be obtained.
  • Drover’s Cave – The proposal (and the C.A.L.M. response) regarding the gate and modifications to the entrance of the cave are ongoing (removal of large quantities of concrete blocking solution pipe entrances and the construction of a new gate). Further discussions are needed regarding actions that will need to occur to implement the proposals. Unfortunately the cave was broken into and re-vandalised during 2003.

F.      South of Jurien - Coastal Area –Jurien/Cervantes:

  • Housing & Roads development

The northward growth of Perth continues to impact on the coast and associated karst features. The planned coast road between Two Rocks/Lancelin and Cervantes and the “Turquoise Coast” will open this area up for future land development. Concerns are 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 the area of bushland has not been assessed for karst features. Further work needs to be done.

  • Lancelin Defence Training Area – (L.D.T.A.)

As noted in the 2002 report, the existing Defence Training Area was not extended further into the karst area. There has also been some requests by local landowners for karst assessments and one trip occurred in August 2003 (locality of SH-21). 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.

G.      North of Jurien - Coastal Area:

Speleological Groups were recently contacted regarding plans to seismic survey a large area south of Dongara, from 29.47 degrees south to 29.16 degrees south, from the coast to about 12-15km inland. It involved part of the Beekeepers reserve. A meeting with the company occurred, however the area did not include any known karst areas.

H.      Cape Range:

The Cape Range National Park Management plan is dated 1987-1997. The C.A.L.M. are in the process of updating the management plan. 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. This process is still in the early stages, with an issues paper due to be publicly released before the end of 2003. However, the preparation of a draft for Cape Range is considered to be a high priority, to facilitate integration with other simultaneous planning processes (eg Ningaloo Marine Park and the Carnarvon-Ningaloo Strategy) so it is planned that a draft will be out by about August 2004.

One issue of concern however, is that the Coral Coasts Parks Advisory Committee – 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.

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 A.S.F. and its member groups in W.A. continue to consult and lobby the Government regarding this issue. 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 good news is that there is now a formal process occurring regarding the plans to nominate the Cape Range for World Heritage Status. The A.S.F. hopes to be involved in this process and will be advocating that the Cape Range is a significant karst area that needs such protection and recognition.

4.      Public Education.

During 2002 the committee co-ordinated several public education events – the first “ASF Speleo Seminar” (“Cavers caring for Caves”) in May 2002 and participation in two community education displays. It was our aim to continue important community events and to hold two “seminars”.

The year of 2003 has seen the following achievements:

  • July 2003 – The 2nd “ASF Speleo Seminar” called “Cave ecosystems, habitats and subterranean fauna” – This was an evening presentation by the ASF speleology conservation committee and assisted by Dr Bill Humphreys of the WA Museum. About 25 individuals participated, from a wide range of organizations.
  • September 2003 – The 3rd “ASF Speleo Seminar” titled “Subterranean Biodiversity & Threatened Fauna – specific examples from WA” – This was an afternoon presentation to co-incide with "Biodiversity month" and "Threatened species day".       This occurred in the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park and was supported by CAVEWORKS, CALM, Dr Bill Humphreys (WA Museum) and Kyle Armstrong (Biota Inc.) and local speleologists. There were 60 people who attended the seminar and the annual “cavers dinner”.
  • There were two Joint Speleological Groups “Community Education” Displays. These were held at the Yanchep National Park’s “Spring Fest” on 2/11/03 and the “Centenary” on the 29-30/03/03 at Yanchep.
  • There was speleological involvement at the “Children’s Groundwater Festival”. This involved a Karst display for teachers and primary school age children at Whiteman Park on the 25/11/03.       There was an “interactive” cave, which was quite popular with the children.
  • Ongoing Provision of training to CALM staff (including cave guides) at Yanchep.
  • Public presentation to other groups: A ½ hour presentation on Speleology –introduction and local issues – to Quinns Rocks Environmental Group (08/03) and a 10 minute presentation to the WA Conservation Council on karst systems and “conservation matters” (10/02)
  • Ongoing karst article in the “WANGI” - Monthly Newsletter of the Yanchep National Park.

Special thanks to A.C.K.M.A. for the use of speleological posters for displays, and the Wilderness Society and the Environmental Defender’s Office for the use of display boards.

5.      Future Cave Management in W.A.

          As mentioned in the 2002 Report, W.A. has many caving areas and a huge variety of landowners and cave managers. We consider that Individuals and organizations responsible for any aspect of cave or karst management need knowledge, education and experience in karst and cave management. This specific focus is necessary for the conservation and care of caves. Likewise, it is important that those on local advisory committee’s or management committee’s in karst areas have an excellent understanding of karst systems - this would allow informative and advised decisions regarding the karst management of an area. The aim of the W.A. Conservation Commission is for promoting the need for a State Karst Officer (S.K.O.). The W.A. Karst areas need to be acknowledged as important, precious & non-renewable – to preserve them for future generations to enjoy. The members in W.A. continue to promote the importance of karst systems in this state.