Federal Register of Legislation - Australian Government

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Kakadu National Park Management Plan 2016-2026

Authoritative Version
Plans/Other as made
This instrument provides for the management of the Kakadu National Park for the next 10 years.
Administered by: Agriculture, Water and the Environment
Registered 04 Jan 2016
Tabling HistoryDate
Tabled HR02-Feb-2016
Tabled Senate02-Feb-2016

austgov-stacked

 

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

 

APPROVAL OF THE KAKADU NATIONAL PARK
MANAGEMENT PLAN 2016-2026

 

 

 

I, JAMIE BRIGGS, Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, acting pursuant to section 370 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, hereby approve the Kakadu National Park Management Plan 2016-2026.

 

 

 

 

 

Dated this …25... day of …November…, 20 ..15..

 

 

 

 

JAMIE BRIGGS……………………………

Jamie Briggs

Minister for Cities and the Built Environment

 


Cover design of the Kakadu Management Plan including and image of an Indigenous artwork featuring a long necked turtle.
 

 


[THIS PAGE IS INTENTIONALLY BLANK – INSIDE COVER]


 

black and white image of an Indigenous artwork featuring a long necked turtle.

 

 

 

 


The artwork appearing on the cover of this plan was created by Ina Brown ©

Al-mangeyi

‘This is a picture of an Al-mangeyi (a long neck turtle).

I go hunting for them with my family in the dry season.

My favourite place to hunt for turtle is the Mamukala wetlands.

We use a crow bar to find them in the mud, then we cook them in the coals.’

 

 

Logo for Children's Ground print making workshops

The cover artwork was created during
Children’s Ground printmaking workshops
as part of the developing Bininj Kunwaral
Arts Enterprise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISBN: 978-0-9807460-7-5 (Print)

ISBN: 978-0-9807460-6-8 (Online)

© Director of National Parks 2016

This plan is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Director of National Parks. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to:

Director of National Parks
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601

Director of National Parks Australian business number: 13051 694 963

This management plan sets out how it is proposed the park will be managed for the next 10 years.

A copy of this plan is available online at:

www.environment.gov.au/topics/national-parks/parks-australia/publications.

.


Foreword

Kakadu National Park is, and always has been, Bininj/Mungguy land. The evidence for this is in the World Heritage rock art and archaeological sites throughout the park and Bininj/Mungguy people’s traditional connection to their land and culture. The long and continuing history of Bininj/Mungguy custodianship of Kakadu is one of the most important things about the park, recognised in its World Heritage listing.

Traditional owners and managers of Kakadu have strong responsibilities and obligations to care for country and to guide and look after visitors.

From the late 1970s to the time of preparing this plan, about half of the park has been granted as Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and the traditional owners have leased back the land to the Director of National Parks to be managed as part of Kakadu National Park. The remaining half of the park may become Aboriginal land during the life of this plan and will also be leased to the Director of National Parks.

Since the park was declared, it has been managed as if it was all Aboriginal land. Through joint management, Bininj/Mungguy have worked hard with the Director of National Parks and park staff to balance the protection of their culture with making the park an outstanding destination for visitors.

The Kakadu National Park Board of Management wrote this management plan. When writing this plan, the Board worked together to:

·      decide on the most important values to recognise and protect in the plan

·      decide on the most significant issues impacting those values and to provide instructions on how those issues should be dealt with

·      provide ways to make sure Bininj/Mungguy are involved in the implementation of the plan

·      provide ways to make sure that the things they have said will be done are done and to measure how well they are done.

The plan sets out how Kakadu National Park is to be managed over the next 10 years.

 

Kakadu National Park Board of Management


 

Gray scale image of a spiral pandanus in Kakadu National Park 


 


Background image of a landscape in KakaduPurpose

Kakadu National Park was established for the following purposes:

·      the preservation of the area in its natural condition

·      the encouragement and regulation of the appropriate use, appreciation and enjoyment of the area by the public.

 

Vision

The vision for Kakadu National Park is that it continues to be one of the great World Heritage areas, recognised internationally as a place where:

·      the cultural and natural values of the park are protected and Bininj/Mungguy culture is respected

·      Bininj/Mungguy guide and are involved in all aspects of managing the park

·      knowledge about country and culture is passed on to younger Bininj/Mungguy, and future generations of Bininj/Mungguy have the option to stay in the park to look after country

·      world-class visitor experiences are provided, and tourism is conducted in culturally, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable ways

·      disturbed areas are rehabilitated and reintegrated into the park

·      Bininj/Mungguy gain sustainable social and economic outcomes from the park.

 

Guiding principles

The guiding principles for the management of Kakadu National Park are that:

·      culture, country, sacred places and customary law are one, extend beyond the boundaries of Kakadu, and need to be protected and respected

·      Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda keep joint management strong by working together, communicating effectively and sharing decision-making

·      consultation with Bininj/Mungguy is conducted appropriately and with
the right people for that country

·      everyone who lives and works in the park learns from, understands and respects each other

·      young Bininj/Mungguy have opportunities to learn about their culture and country

·      Bininj/Mungguy and park management maintain and respect each other’s obligations
and work together to look after the natural and cultural values of the park

·      the progress and development of tourism are undertaken in accordance with the wishes of Bininj/Mungguy, and strong partnerships are maintained with the tourism industry

·      visitors are provided with opportunities for safe, enriching and memorable experiences.

Acknowledgements

The Kakadu Board of Management is grateful to the many individuals and organisations that contributed to this management plan. In particular they acknowledge Bininj/Mungguy, Parks Australia staff, the Northern Land Council, and the Northern Territory and Australian Government agencies that provided information and assistance or submitted contributions that contributed to the development of this management plan.

Members of the Kakadu Board of Management involved in preparing this plan

Frear Alderson                 Murrumburr clan (Deputy member)

Michael Bangalang          Murruwan clan

Sally Barnes                       Director of National Parks (from June 2014)

Ryan Baruwei                    Wurrkbarbar (Jawoyn) clan (Chair from 2012 to 2014)

Peter Cochrane                Director of National Parks (to December 2013)

Victor Cooper                   Minitja clan (Deputy member)

Michael Douglas              Nature conservation (from 2014)

Melanie Elgregbud         Mirarr/Gundjeihmi clan (Deputy member)

Joshua Hunter                  Wurrkbarbar (Jawoyn) clan (resigned June 2014)

Graham Kenyon              Limilngan clan

Violet Lawson                   Murrumburr clan

Jeffrey Lee                         Djok clan

Maria Lee                           Wurrkbarbar (Jawoyn) clan (Chair from 2014)

Yvonne Margarula          Mirarr/Gundjeihmi clan

Mick Markham                 Bolmo clan (Jawoyn) (Chair to 2012)

Tony Mayell                       Northern Territory Government (from November 2013)

Anna Morgan                    Assistant Secretary, Parks Australia

Rick Murray                       Tourism industry

Jonathan Nadji                 Bunitdj clan (Deputy Chair)

Alfred Nayinggul              Maniligar clan

Denise Williams                Wurrkbarbar (Jawoyn) clan (Deputy member)

Henry Yates                       Limilngan clan (Deputy member)


 

How to read this plan

This management plan takes a different approach to previous management plans for Kakadu National Park. The approach uses the park values statement (see Table 1) to establish the policies and actions needed to protect, present and understand the values of the park over the life of the plan, consistent with the purposes for which the park is established.

This plan also differentiates the actions the Director of National Parks can and will take over the life of the plan to protect, present and understand park values from the rules that apply to activities by park visitors and users; hence it is structured in two discrete parts:

·      Managing Kakadu: This part of the plan is structured around joint management, protecting the cultural and natural values of the park, developing and promoting Kakadu as a visitor destination, and increasing our understanding of the park’s values. It sets out policies that will apply to the Director’s activities over the life of the plan as well as describing the actions that will be taken towards achieving the outcomes described in the plan. Any policies relating to provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (EPBC Regulations) that specifically apply to the activities of the Director in managing the park are also described.

·      Managing use of Kakadu: This part of the plan is structured around how the Director will enable and manage appropriate visitor and stakeholder activities in the park in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and EPBC Regulations. It sets out any policies that apply to park users. Policies include those related to provisions in the EPBC Regulations as well as those that more broadly protect the park values or contribute to the effective management of the park.

This plan takes a more strategic approach than previous plans. To enable this, each section relating to protecting and presenting park values starts with a set of overarching principles which apply to the management of all aspects of that section. More detailed policies and actions relating to a particular issue are then outlined in the relevant subsections.

Some readers of this plan may find that information which was previously in a single section of the plan is now dealt with in a number of sections, or that material which was previously dispersed across the plan is now in a single section. When looking for particular actions or policies, readers should consider whether they are seeking information on what the Director of National Parks will do over the life of the plan or whether they are seeking information about park visitor and user activities.

Bininj/Mungguy

Throughout this plan the term Bininj/Mungguy is used to refer to the traditional Aboriginal owners of Aboriginal land in the park (within the meaning of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976) and other Aboriginals entitled by Aboriginal tradition to use or occupy land in the park (whether or not the traditional entitlement is qualified as to place, time, circumstance, purpose or permission).

Bininj is a Kunwinjku and Gundjeihmi word, pronounced ‘bin-ing’. This word is similar to the English word ‘man’ and can mean man, male, person or Aboriginal people, depending on the context. The word for woman in these languages is Daluk. Other languages in Kakadu National Park have other words with these meanings – for example the Jawoyn word for man is Mungguy and for woman is Alumka, and the Limilngan word for man is Murlugan and for woman is Ugin-j.

The Kakadu National Park Board of Management has agreed to use the term Bininj/Mungguy for the purposes of this management plan.


 

Contents

Foreword...................................................................................................................... i

Purpose....................................................................................................................... iii

Vision........................................................................................................................... iii

Guiding principles......................................................................................................... iii

Acknowledgements..................................................................................................... iv

How to read this plan.................................................................................................... V

Bininj/Mungguy........................................................................................................... V

Part A - Introduction..................................................................................................... 1

1.         A description of Kakadu National Park................................................................. 2

1.1   Kakadu – a brief description.......................................................................... 2

1.2   The Aboriginal custodians............................................................................. 2

1.3   Establishment of Kakadu National Park......................................................... 5

1.4   Park values and local, regional, national and international significance............ 9

1.5   Joint management...................................................................................... 16

2.         Management plan framework........................................................................... 17

2.1   Management planning process................................................................... 17

2.2   The planning framework............................................................................. 18

Part B – General provisions and IUCN Category........................................................... 23

3.         General provisions and IUCN category............................................................... 24

3.1   Short title................................................................................................... 24

3.2   Commencement and termination............................................................... 24

3.3   Interpretation............................................................................................ 24

3.4   IUCN category............................................................................................ 24

Part C - Managing Kakadu............................................................................................ 27

4.         Joint management............................................................................................ 28

4.1   Making decisions and working together (Board of Management)................. 30

4.2   Making decisions and working together (on country)................................... 35

4.3   Bininj/Mungguy training and other opportunities........................................ 38


 

5.         Looking after culture and country...................................................................... 41

5.1   Looking after culture................................................................................... 41

5.2   Looking after country.................................................................................. 57

5.3   Managing park-wide threats affecting values.............................................. 75

6.         Kakadu as a visitor experience destination, commercial tourism
and promotion
.................................................................................................. 99

6.1   Destination and visitor experience development....................................... 101

6.2   Commercial tourism development and management................................. 106

6.3   Promotion and marketing......................................................................... 108

6.4   Visitor information.................................................................................... 110

7.         Research and knowledge management............................................................ 113

7.1   Research and knowledge management..................................................... 115

8.         Living in the park – Jabiru and outstations........................................................ 118

8.1   Outstations and living on country.............................................................. 118

8.2   Jabiru....................................................................................................... 120

9.         Administration and business management...................................................... 125

9.1       Safety and incident management........................................................... 125

9.2       Compliance and enforcement................................................................. 129

9.3       Authorising and managing activities........................................................ 131

9.4       Capital works and infrastructure............................................................. 133

9.5       Assessment of proposals........................................................................ 135

9.6       Resource use in park operations............................................................. 140

9.7       Neighbours, stakeholders and partnerships............................................ 142

9.8       Revenue and business development...................................................... 144

9.9       Carrying out and authorising activities not otherwise specified
and new ways of authorising activities.................................................... 146

9.10    Implementing and evaluating the plan................................................... 147


 

Part D – Managing Use Of Kakadu.............................................................................. 151

10.       Managing use of Kakadu National Park............................................................ 152

10.1 Authorisation of allowable activities.......................................................... 153

10.2 General rules for managing use of the park............................................... 155

10.3    Living in the park (outstations and Jabiru)................................................ 157

10.4    Access.................................................................................................... 162

10.5    Commercial use of resources.................................................................. 165

10.6    Traditional use of land and water............................................................ 168

10.7    Recreational activities............................................................................. 170

10.8    Commercial tourism and accommodation................................................ 175

10.9    Filming and photography (and other commercial image capture)............. 178

10.10 Commercial fishing................................................................................. 179

10.11 Infrastructure and works........................................................................ 180

10.12 Research and monitoring activities and access to genetic resources......... 181

10.13 Bringing plants, animals and other materials into the park........................ 184

Appendices............................................................................................................... 187

Appendix A:   World Heritage attributes..................................................................... 188

Appendix B:    Ramsar criteria..................................................................................... 192

Appendix C:    International agreements..................................................................... 193

Appendix D:   EPBC-listed migratory species recorded in Kakadu National Park............ 195

Appendix E:    Summary of the timeframes and consultation process
used in developing this plan................................................................. 198

Appendix F:    Glossary and interpretation.................................................................. 201

Appendix G:   Legislative context............................................................................... 208

Appendix H:   IUCN administrative and management principle schedules.................... 216

Appendix I:     Provisions of leases.............................................................................. 220

Appendix J:     Species of conservation concern........................................................... 241

Bibliography............................................................................................................. 245

Map data sources...................................................................................................... 248

 


 

Tables

Table 1:      Kakadu National Park Values Statement                                                                         10

Table 2:      Focus of management for the protection of park values                                         21

Table 3:      Guide to decision-making                                                                                                     34

Table 4:      Impact assessment process                                                                                               137

Table 5:      Environmental impact assessment matters and considerations                         138

Table 6:      Key EPBC requirements for access to biological resources
as they concern the park
                                                                                                    183

Figures

Figure 1         Location of Kakadu National Park                                                                                      3

Figure 2:        Kakadu National Park                                                                                                             6

Figure 3:        Aboriginal land and land claims in Kakadu National Park as at April 2014           8

Figure 4:        Kakadu’s major landscapes                                                                                               14

Figure 5:        Conceptual framework for the structure of this plan                                             20

Figure 6:        Line of sight for Section 4: Joint management                                                           29

Figure 7:        Summary of programmes supporting Indigenous employment
pathways in Kakadu
                                                                                                             38

Figure 8:        Line of sight for Section 5.1: Looking after culture                                                   42

Figure 9:        Line of sight for Section 5.2: Looking after country                                                  58

Figure 10:      Endemic plants in the Northern Territory                                                                    61

Figure 11:      Endemic vertebrates in the Northern Territory                                                        62

Figure 12:      Line of sight for Section 5.3: Managing park-wide threats affecting values   77

Figure 13:      Line of sight for Section 6: Kakadu as a visitor experience                                 100

Figure 14:      Line of sight for Section 7: Research and knowledge management               114

Figure 15:      Parks Australia’s Management Effectiveness Framework                                 147

Figure 16:      Camping areas in Kakadu                                                                                                 172


 

Page featuring artwork by Nonika Hardy titled Yauk Yauk (red)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


PART A

Chapter page image featuring a lotus flowerIntroduction

1                       A description of Kakadu National Park

1.1                Kakadu – a brief description

Kakadu National Park covers an area of 19,810 square kilometres within the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory of Australia. It extends from the coast in the north to the southern hills and basins 150 kilometres to the south, and 120 kilometres from the Arnhem Land sandstone plateau in the east, through wooded lowlands to the western boundary (Figure 1).

Kakadu is a cultural landscape that displays evidence of cultural practices dating back thousands of years and, in many cases, continue to be observed by Bininj/Mungguy in the park today. The park is diverse in language and tradition as it is home to many Aboriginal clan groups. Each clan group has responsibility for looking after and speaking for their own area of country. This responsibility is passed down through generations, along with the knowledge necessary to understand, manage and respect the ancient land. Use and management of the land by past and present generations of Bininj/Mungguy has helped to shape the landscape that we see today.

The park’s natural environment is a vast one of exceptional beauty and unique biodiversity. The rugged and ancient stone country provides refuge for a great diversity of native species, and is a hotspot of endemic plants and animals. Extensive floodplains support diverse habitats and a great concentration of waterbirds and other aquatic species. Largely intact woodlands and open forest dominate the lowlands and represent the largest area of savanna within a protected area in the world, while pockets of rainforest provide a cool and shady refuge for many other species.

Both the natural and cultural heritage values of the park have been recognised by its inscription on the World Heritage List under the World Heritage Convention. The park is also listed on the National Heritage List under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), and as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. Many species that occur in the park are protected under international agreements including the Bonn Convention for conserving migratory species and Australia’s migratory bird protection agreements with China (CAMBA), Japan (JAMBA) and the Republic of Korea (ROKAMBA).

1.2                The Aboriginal custodians

Creation

Every culture has a creation story. Aboriginal people believe that they have been here from the time of the first ancestors, or Nayuhyunggi (in the Gundjeihmi language), when landscapes formed, ancestral beings transformed themselves into animals and sacred places were created.

The Nayuhyunggi were the first people who formed the landscape, planted foods and left people and language behind. At the completion of their creative activities, they ‘sat down’ and left their essence in the landscape. The whole landscape is evidence of not only their past activities but also their current presence (Chaloupka 1993).


 

Figure 1: Location of Kakadu National ParkMap 1 showing the whole of the Northern Territory and the location of Kakadu on the central north coast of the territory

 


 

Creation Ancestors came in many forms. The Rainbow Snake (Almudj/Alyod in Gundjeihmi and Bolung in Jawoyn) is a spiritual being of great significance in Aboriginal culture in Kakadu. Other ancestral beings include Bula (important creator), Namarrgon (Lightning Man) and Warramurrungundji (Earth Mother). The landscape and its features were left by the Creation Ancestors. They instituted and created ceremonies, rules to live by, laws, plants, animals and people, then they turned into djang (dreaming places and their spiritual essence). They taught Aboriginal people how to live with the land, and from then on Aboriginal people became keepers of their country.

‘We Aboriginal people have obligations to care for our country, to look after djang, to communicate with our ancestors when on country and to teach all of this to the next generations.’

Combined statement from the Aboriginal members of the
Kakadu National Park Board of Management

Kinship

Every aspect of life and the responsibilities for looking after country is governed by kinship ties. Aboriginal languages have special linguistic features that eloquently express these ties and responsibilities.

Aboriginal society is organised into many kinds of social divisions. All people, plants, animals, places, weather, landscapes and ceremonies are divided into halves or moieties: the patrilineal moieties Duwa and Yirridjdja, and the matrilineal moieties Mardku and Ngarradjku.

Each moiety is subdivided into four pairs of subsections or ‘skin groups’, and a child’s skin group is determined by that of their mother. Skin groups are used in regulating marriages and addressing or referring to Aboriginal people in culturally appropriate ways.

Each clan and moiety has a number of clan totems and emblems. Sacred sites and other special places on each clan estate are the focus of religious life. If the totem is a plant or animal that is relied upon as a food source, then members of the owning clan traditionally had responsibilities to ensure a plentiful supply.

Clan estates and traditional owners

Kakadu includes the traditional lands of a number of Aboriginal clan groups.

‘Land and people go together. Every place has a clan name, and every place has a clan.’

Jacob Nayinggul, Manilikar clan

In English the term ‘traditional owner’ is commonly used to refer to someone who is a member of the clan associated with a particular clan estate. The term has a particular meaning under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Land Rights Act). In the Kakadu area primary responsibility to land is determined according to traditional Aboriginal law and custom and involves making important decisions about the management of country such as protecting resources and sacred sites. While a person belongs to the clan of their father they still have responsibilities to their mother’s clan estate. Both men and women may be acknowledged as senior traditional Aboriginal owners.

‘These laws need to be explained to non-Aboriginal people in the same way it is taught to children so we can all hold on to it and teach it to children who will grow up learning about their land with this law.’

Jacob Nayinggul, Manilikar clan

Language and language groups

Creation Ancestors were also responsible for the various languages that exist in the Park. These languages are associated with different tracts of land and the people who are the traditional owners. The traditional countries of some language groups are large and divided into distinct estates, others are smaller.

Making decisions about country

Bininj/Mungguy who have cultural responsibilities for management of a clan estate are key people in the planning and management of the park. Everyone who lives, works in or visits Kakadu must respect Bininj/Mungguy rules and it is important that these rules are passed on to young Bininj/Mungguy.

‘When I want to do something on country I have to ask the right person. To go and burn country or do weed control I have to ask the right person, traditional way, because there’s many important sites there or whatever. This is our way.’

Bessie Coleman, Wurrkbarbar clan

1.3                Establishment of Kakadu National Park

Background

Kakadu National Park (Figure 2) was established at a time when the Australian community was becoming more interested in the declaration of national parks for conservation and in recognising the land interests of Aboriginal people. A national park in the Alligator Rivers Region was first proposed in1965. Over the next decade several proposals for a major national park in the region were put forward by interested groups and organisations. One of these proposals suggested the name ‘Kakadu’, after the Gagudju people, for the national park. ‘Kakadu’ was the original spelling of the word as given by the biologist and anthropologist W Baldwin Spencer in 1912.

In 1973, the Australian Government set up a commission of inquiry into Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory. This commission considered how to recognise Aboriginal people’s land interests while providing for conservation management of the land. The commissioner in charge of this inquiry, Mr Justice Woodward, concluded: ‘It may be that a scheme of Aboriginal title, combined with national park status and joint management would prove acceptable to all interests’ (Woodward 1973).

In the early 1970s, significant uranium deposits were discovered in the Alligator Rivers Region at Ranger, Jabiluka and Koongarra. A formal proposal to develop the Ranger deposit was submitted to the Australian Government in 1975. The Government established the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry to investigate the proposal, focusing on environmental issues and the social impact on Aboriginal people.

During the time the inquiry was held, the Land Rights Act was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. The Act allowed the commission set up to conduct the Ranger Inquiry to determine the merits of a claim to traditional Aboriginal ownership of land in the Alligator Rivers Region. This was the first claim heard under the Land Rights Act.


 

Figure 2: Kakadu National Park

Map showing the boundaries, roads and escarpment for Kakadu National Park, including points of interest.
 


The Ranger Inquiry tried to work out a compromise between the problems of conflicting and competing land uses, including Aboriginal people living on the land, establishing a national park, uranium mining, tourism and pastoral activities in the Alligator Rivers Region. In August 1977, the Australian Government responded to the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry. It accepted almost all the recommendations including those about granting Aboriginal title to areas in the Alligator Rivers Region and establishing Kakadu National Park in stages.

An arrangement was made for the traditional owners to lease land granted to them to the Australian Government for management as a national park. Mining would not be permitted in the park but was provided for on areas excluded from the park.

Establishment of the park and the park as Aboriginal land

Kakadu National Park was declared under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 (NPWC Act) in three stages between 1979 and 1991. The NPWC Act was replaced by the EPBC Act in 2000. The park continues as a Commonwealth reserve under the EPBC Act pursuant to the Environmental Reform (Consequential Provisions) Act 1999, which deems the park to have been declared for the following purposes:

·      the preservation of the area in its natural condition

·      the encouragement and regulation of the appropriate use, appreciation and enjoyment of the area by the public.

Each stage of the park includes Aboriginal land under the Land Rights Act that is leased to the Director of National Parks (the Director), or land that is subject to a claim to traditional ownership under the Land Rights Act (see Figure 3).

Most of the land that was to become part of Stage One of Kakadu National Park was granted to the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust under the Land Rights Act in August 1978 and, in November 1978, the Land Trust and the Director signed a lease agreement for the land to be managed as a national park. Stage One of the park – covering the leased land and land required for the township of Jabiru and some adjoining areas – was declared on 5 April 1979.

Stage Two was declared on 28 February 1984, originally as Kakadu (Stage 2) National Park and later incorporated into Kakadu National Park on 20 December 1985. In March 1978, a land claim was lodged under the Land Rights Act for the land included in Stage Two of Kakadu. The land claim was partly successful and, in 1986, three areas in the eastern part of Stage Two were granted to the Jabiluka Aboriginal Land Trust. A lease between the Land Trust and the Director of National Parks was signed in March 1991. At the time of preparing this plan the rest of Stage Two (except the commercial lease near the South Alligator River) is subject to ‘repeat’ land claims under the Land Rights Act. The land may become Aboriginal land during the life of this plan and will be leased to the Director.

In June 1987, a land claim was lodged for the land in the former Goodparla and Gimbat pastoral leases that were to be included in Stage Three of Kakadu. The other areas to be included in Stage Three – the area known as the Gimbat Resumption and the Waterfall Creek Reserve (formerly known as UDP Falls, UDP standing for Uranium Development Project) – were later added to this land claim. Stage Three of Kakadu National Park was declared progressively on 12 June 1987, 22 November 1989 and 24 June 1991.


 

Figure 3:     Aboriginal land and land claims in Kakadu National Park
as at April 2014

Map of Kakadu showing the Aboriginal land claims in the park

 


The progressive declaration resulted from the debate over whether mining should be allowed at Guratba (Coronation Hill), which is located in the middle of the culturally significant area referred to as the Sickness Country. The traditional owners’ wishes were ultimately respected and the Australian Government decided that there would be no mining at Guratba. In 1996 the land in Stage Three, apart from the former Goodparla pastoral lease, was granted to the Gunlom Aboriginal Land Trust and leased to the Director of National Parks to continue being managed as part of Kakadu National Park. At the time of preparing this plan the land claim to the Goodparla area is still ongoing. The land may become Aboriginal land during the life of this plan and will be leased to the Director.

In 1997 the High Court found the Proclamation for Stage Three of Kakadu was invalid in relation to a number of mining leases including Coronation Hill and El Sherana. Following negotiation of a settlement with the holder of the Stage Three mining leases (Newcrest Operations Ltd), all affected areas were eventually incorporated into the park by a proclamation under the EPBC Act in May 2007.

In 1997 the Mirarr people, acknowledged as the traditional owners of the Jabiru township land, made a native title claim under the Native Title Act 1993 to the township area and two adjoining areas of the park. Agreement to settle the claim was reached in 2009. Under the agreement the claim areas would be granted as Aboriginal land under the Land Rights Act. At the time of preparing this plan the settlement has been partially implemented by the granting of the two areas adjoining the town to the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust and leased-back to the Director. The claim over the town area should be resolved during the life of this plan.

The Koongarra Project Area, which had been excluded from the declaration of Stage One of Kakadu in 1979, was incorporated into the park by a proclamation under the EPBC Act in February 2013.

1.4                Park values and local, regional, national and international significance

As well as being important to Bininj/Mungguy, many things about Kakadu are special and important to other people. However, there are some attributes of the park which are fundamental to the park’s purpose and significance. These cultural and natural (or country) values are summarised in the park values statement and reflect aspects of the park that are recognised through World Heritage, Commonwealth Heritage and Ramsar listings.

This values statement (Table 1) identifies and separates the cultural and country values of the park because each have distinct threats and management priorities. Identification and separation of the cultural and country values assists in planning and management for them.

For Bininj/Mungguy, there are no local language words that equate exactly with the Western concepts of ‘culture’ and ‘country’. For Bininj/Mungguy the word ‘country’ not only refers to the landscape but also captures the rich interconnections between land and people – they are inseparable. Professor of Anthropology, Deborah Bird Rose, describes this concept in the following way:

‘Indigenous people talk about country in the same way they talk about a person; they speak to country, sing to country, visit country, worry about country, feel sorry for country, and long for country. People say that country knows, hears, smells, takes notice, takes care, is sorry or happy .... country is a living entity with a yesterday, today and tomorrow, with a consciousness and a will toward life.’ (Rose 1996)


 

Identification and recognition of the park’s values ensures a shared understanding about what is most important about the reserve, and the value statement helps to focus management and planning on the important aspects. If the values are allowed to decline the park’s purpose and significance would be jeopardised.

The foundation for managing these values and the related threats and management issues includes the protection provided by the EPBC Act. Under the EPBC Act the park is assigned an Australian International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) category (national park) in this management plan, and the park must be managed in accordance with the management principles relevant to the assigned category and the obligations prescribed in the EPBC Regulations, and with regard to World Heritage, National Heritage and Ramsar listings.

 

Table 1: Kakadu National Park Values Statement

Kakadu National Park – Values Statement

Background

Kakadu National Park is Aboriginal land located in the Top End of Australia’s Northern Territory. It has been home to Indigenous people for more than 50,000 years. The people of this country, Bininj in the north and Mungguy in the south, have always cared for the land.

Kakadu is an ancient landscape of exceptional beauty and unique biodiversity. It stretches almost 20,000 square kilometres and is located at the convergence of four distinct bioregions: the Arnhem Plateau, Arnhem Coast, Darwin Coast and Pine Creek bioregions. Kakadu includes mangrove-fringed tidal plains in the north, vast floodplains, lowlands and the sandstone cliffs of the Arnhem Land escarpment. These landscapes undergo spectacular changes throughout the year with the passing of each of the six seasons of Kakadu. The park is home to a remarkable variety and concentration of wildlife, and many plants and animals are threatened or found nowhere else in the world.

The park was proclaimed under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 in three stages between 1979 and 1991 for the purposes of:

·       the preservation of the area in its natural condition

·       the encouragement and regulation of the appropriate use, appreciation and enjoyment of the area by the public.

The park is first and foremost home to Bininj/Mungguy. The long and continuing history of Bininj/Mungguy custodianship of Kakadu is one of the most important things about the park. Bininj/Mungguy have leased their land to the Australian Government to be jointly managed as a national park to protect and manage its priceless natural and cultural heritage. The management of the park is subject to a number of competing value systems, with Bininj/Mungguy and park staff working hard through joint management to balance the protection of Bininj/Mungguy culture and the park’s natural values with the needs of park visitors and other stakeholders.


 

International listings

Kakadu National Park was first inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1981 and was subsequently expanded and re-inscribed in 1987 and again in 1992. The Koongarra area was added to the World Heritage Area in June 2011. The park meets five criteria of outstanding universal values as set out in the World Heritage Convention.

The park meets all nine criteria for identifying wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

Numerous migratory species that occur in Kakadu are protected under international agreements such as the Bonn convention for conserving migratory species, and Australia’s migratory bird protection agreements with China (CAMBA), Japan (JAMBA) and the Republic of Korea (ROKAMBA).

Values

This values statement identifies and separates the cultural and country values of the park. However, it must be remembered that for Bininj/Mungguy the word ‘country’ not only refers to the landscape but also captures the rich interconnections between land and people – they are inseparable and there are no Bininj/Mungguy words that equate exactly with the Western concepts of ‘culture’ and ‘country’.

Cultural values

The park is an internationally significant cultural landscape inscribed with the signs of an ancient and continuing Bininj/Mungguy presence.

‘Bininj culture really strong ... very strong for us Bininj. When I was a girl my grandmother, I learn. Same thing I do with younger generation. You have to look after country, for your grandfather country, like mother country, take care.’

Yvonne Margarula, Mirarr/Gundjeihmi clan

·       Stone country in the park protects one of the world’s greatest concentrations of rock art sites, estimated to range in age from more than 20,000 years to the recent present, and constituting one of the longest historical records of any group of people in the world.

·       The park is a home for Bininj/Mungguy. It represents the oldest culture in the world with continuous occupation over 50,000 years, and is a place where Bininj/Mungguy have the opportunity to live and maintain their culture and pass it on to future generations.

·       The park protects a rich collection of Bininj/Mungguy cultural sites, including sacred and ceremonial sites, and archaeological sites that are some of the oldest occupation sites in Australia.

·       The park includes a collection of historic sites that tell the important story of the park‘s recent history and represent a way of life and use of country that no longer exist.


 

Values - continued

Country values

The park is an internationally significant natural landscape (including landforms and biota of great antiquity) comprising outstanding representation of interconnected ecosystems whose extent, intactness and integrity provides for a distinctive and rich biodiversity including viable populations of threatened, endemic and culturally significant species.

‘The park is one big living space ... the stone country is where everything comes from and is connected to the floodplains. It is important for the bush tucker, breeding, but everything is equally important as Kakadu is a living space.’

Jeffrey Lee, Djok clan

The park is a vast and continuous natural environment that comprises four main landscape types, each with distinct natural and cultural values:

·           The rugged, ancient and spectacular stone country within the park comprises a great diversity of native species, including many threatened species, and at least 160 plant species and many animals that occur nowhere else in the world.

·           The freshwater and saltwater country within the park encompasses some of the largest and most diverse river systems in northern Australia, including extensive wetlands, floodplains and mangroves that support vast numbers of waterbirds and other aquatic and marine species.

·           The vast, largely intact and dominant lowland woodlands and open forest in the park represents the largest area of savanna within a protected area in the world and provides habitat for the majority of the park’s plants and animals.

·           The rainforest areas within the park contribute a rich set of very different plant and animal species to those otherwise found in the park, including restricted, threatened and culturally significant species.

As a result of these values, the park has great economic, social, research and regional significance.

 


 

How Kakadu is significant locally

To Bininj/Mungguy, Kakadu is of particular importance as it is their home and they have important cultural obligations to look after country. Many Bininj/Mungguy consider that they cannot or should not move to other places to live or work. The park is their traditional homeland and it is important to them that they are able to look after their country and culture and make sure that visitors to their country are safe. Many other people also enjoy the benefits that come from living in the park. For many residents in Jabiru and the Kakadu region, Kakadu is not only a place to live and work but also a place for recreation and a place where they can appreciate and learn about the park’s natural and cultural heritage.

How Kakadu is significant regionally

Conservation

The park is both representative and unique. It is representative of the ecosystems of a vast area of northern Australia. It is unique because it incorporates a large drainage basin (the South Alligator River) in its near entirety and all of the major habitat types of the Top End. It is where the Arnhem Land Plateau meets the southern hills and basins and the Alligator Rivers coastal floodplains (see Figure 4).

The stone country in Kakadu is part of the plateau of western Arnhem Land, which is the most significant region in the Northern Territory for biodiversity. It contains the greatest number of endemic and threatened species in the Northern Territory and also supports a high proportion of the Northern Territory’s rainforest estate. Kakadu is important for conservation in the region because it is a large area managed as a national park, whereas other areas of Top End habitats are managed primarily for purposes such as pastoralism, mining, or defence force use.

Most of Kakadu is included within two Northern Territory Sites of Conservation Significance, the Western Arnhem Plateau and the Alligator Rivers coastal floodplain, due to the occurrence of large numbers of threatened and endemic species and large aggregations of waterbirds.

Regional economy

Tourism is very important to the regional economy, particularly in terms of employment. For the financial year 2013–14, Tourism NT reported that the direct value of tourism to the Northern Territory was $790 million (Tourism NT 2014a) and in the year ending March 2015 the Northern Territory attracted 1.34 million visitors (Tourism NT 2015a). It is estimated that in 2013–14 Kakadu National Park attracted 190,400 visitors. In addition to its significant contribution via the tourism market, the park purchases significant quantities of goods and services from regional suppliers.

It is important to the Northern Territory Government, Bininj/Mungguy and park management that tourism development in the park complements the tourism marketing strategies and plans for regional tourism development. The park is a significant provider of direct and indirect employment in the regional economy and provides opportunities for Bininj/Mungguy people and organisations through direct employment and outsourcing of services.

Recreation

Many people from Darwin, Katherine and Pine Creek use the park for recreation. Fishing, camping, bushwalking and visiting with relatives and friends are some of the most popular activities. Kakadu offers recreational opportunities that complement those offered in the other parks, reserves and attractions in the region, such as the Mary River National Park, Nitmiluk, Litchfield and Gurig national parks, Fogg Dam, Window on the Wetlands and the Territory Wildlife Park.

Figure 4:     Kakadu’s major landscapes

Map of Kakadu showing the general location of the various landscape types - which a primarily prescribed by types of flora and geology.
 


 


How Kakadu is significant nationally

Conservation

Nearly 1,600 plant species have been recorded in Kakadu, including 15 species considered threatened. More than one-third of Australia’s bird fauna (271 species) and about one-quarter of Australia’s land mammals (77 species) are found in the park, along with 132 species of reptiles and 27 species of frogs. The region is the most species-rich in freshwater fish in Australia, and over 246 species of fish have been recorded in tidal and freshwater areas within the park. Additional species new to western science have also been discovered in the park since its inscription, most recently a gudgeon and a goby fish in 2013.

Kakadu is one of 19 World Heritage places in Australia and is included on the National Heritage List under the EPBC Act. At the time of preparing this plan, Kakadu is on the list of indicative places under consideration for inscription on the Commonwealth Heritage List.

The national park status and effective conservation management of Kakadu contribute significantly to meeting the objectives of a number of Australian national conservation strategies including the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity; the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development; and the National Forest Policy. The park also plays a major role in protecting representative examples of ecosystems within the Arnhem Plateau and Pine Creek bioregions, and contributing to the National Reserve System’s network of protected areas across Australia.

National economy

Tourism is a significant contributor to the Australian economy providing for $43 billion or 2.7 per cent of the national gross domestic product in 2013-14 (Tourism Research Australia 2014) and is actively encouraged and promoted nationally and internationally by government agencies and tourism industry stakeholders. Along with other places of natural beauty and cultural significance in Australia, such as Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park and the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu is a major tourism attraction for domestic and overseas visitors.

Joint management

The management arrangements in the park between Bininj/Mungguy and the Director of National Parks continue to be cited as an example of an innovative cooperative management arrangement. Protected area and land management authorities and groups of Indigenous people interested in joint management from within Australia and overseas regularly visit the park, and the model of joint management used in Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks has been a blueprint for joint management more broadly.

How Kakadu is significant internationally

Kakadu is inscribed on the World Heritage List under the World Heritage Convention for its outstanding natural and cultural values. These values are described in the Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (UNESCO 2014). Stage One of the park was inscribed on the list in 1981 and Stage Two in 1987. The whole of the park was listed in December 1992. In recognition of its outstanding natural and cultural values, the Koongarra area was added to the Kakadu World Heritage Area by the World Heritage Committee on 27 June 2011. As of 2013 Kakadu was one of only 29 World Heritage sites listed internationally for both natural and cultural heritage.

Appendix A: summarises the World Heritage criteria and attributes of Kakadu.

As a listed World Heritage site Kakadu is recognised internationally for its rock art and archaeological sites which record a living cultural tradition that continues today.

The archaeological sites and rock art sites within the park exhibit great diversity, both in space and through time, yet embody a continuous cultural development. These sites are recognised internationally as preserving a record, not only in the form of archaeological sites but also through rock art, of human responses and adaptation to major environmental change including rising sea levels. Kakadu also contains archaeological sites which are currently some of the oldest dated within Australia.

Kakadu is also listed as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. The park was previously listed as two separate Ramsar sites. These were Stage One, listed on 12 June 1980 and extended in 1995; and Stage Two, listed on 15 September 1989. On 28 April 2010 the two Ramsar sites were combined to form a single Ramsar site encompassing the entire park. Appendix B summarises the Ramsar criteria of the park.

In March 1996, the parties to the Ramsar Convention agreed to establish an East Asian–Australasian Flyway to protect areas used by migratory shorebirds. The flyway provides for an East Asian–Australasian shorebird reserve network of sites that are critically important to migratory shorebirds. The wetlands of Kakadu are part of this reserve network.

Numerous migratory species that occur in the park are protected under international agreements which include the Bonn Convention for conserving migratory species, and Australia’s migratory bird protection agreements with China (CAMBA), Japan (JAMBA) and the Republic of Korea (ROKAMBA) (Appendix C). Forty of the species listed under the Bonn Convention are found in Kakadu, as are 51 of the birds listed under CAMBA and 46 of the birds listed under JAMBA. Appendix D provides the EPBC Act listed migratory species that occur in the park.

The park encompasses all or most of three contiguous internationally recognised Important Bird Areas (Arnhem Plateau, Kakadu savanna and Alligator Rivers floodplain) substantially due to the presence of large numbers of globally threatened bird species.

1.5                Joint management

Joint management is a partnership between Bininj/Mungguy and government to share the land in Kakadu, and share responsibility for managing the land. Through joint management the partners work to protect the park’s values and share it with the public, bringing together traditional knowledge and modern science, and creating opportunities for Bininj/Mungguy to be involved in park management at all levels, establish businesses and preserve their culture for future generations.

The lease of Aboriginal land associated with the declaration of Stage One of Kakadu National Park in 1979 set out terms for consultation with traditional owners. At the same time the government committed to manage all of the land in the park as if it were Aboriginal land.

This effectively commenced joint management of the park and joint management of protected areas in Australia. Kakadu was also one of the first formally co-managed protected area arrangements in the world (Zurba et al. 2012). Since the commencement of joint management, the relationship between the Director of National Parks and Bininj/Mungguy has matured and evolved to the joint management relationship it is today.

Joint management in Kakadu is formally based on a legal framework set in place by the NPWC Act (continued under the EPBC Act) and the Land Rights Act. The Land Rights Act provides for the granting of land to Aboriginal Land Trusts for the benefit of relevant Aboriginals (the traditional Aboriginal owners and other Aboriginals with rights of use and occupation) and requires land granted in the Alligator Rivers Region to be leased to the Director of National Parks. The EPBC Act provides for the park to be managed by the Director in conjunction with Bininj/Mungguy through the Board of Management. The Director is assisted by Parks Australia, whose staff are employees of the Department of the Environment assigned to the Director (see also Section 9.10: Implementing and evaluating the plan).

2                       Management plan framework

2.1                Management planning process

This is the sixth management plan for Kakadu National Park. The fifth plan came into operation on 1 January 2007 and ceased to have effect on 31 December 2013.

Section 366 of the EPBC Act requires that the Director of National Parks and the Board of Management for a Commonwealth reserve prepare management plans for the reserve. In addition to seeking comments from members of the public, the relevant land council and the relevant state or territory government, the Director and the Board of Management are required to take into account the interests of the traditional owners of land in the reserve and of any other Indigenous persons interested in the reserve.

Prior to preparing this plan an audit (DNP 2012) was conducted to review the implementation of the fifth plan and to provide recommendations to assist with the preparation of this plan. For that purpose, nine independent auditors were engaged based on their expertise relevant to different sections of the plan. The auditors were asked to investigate whether the actions and policies in the plan were implemented and whether they successfully met the aims of each section of the plan.

The audit’s findings suggest that some aspects of park management could be improved, including:

·      monitoring and reporting to provide evidence-based measures of progress

·      monitoring and treatment of invasive plants and animals

·      addressing threatened species decline

·      supporting and improving consultation with Bininj/Mungguy

·      assisting with proposals for establishing new living areas within the park

·      improving opportunities for:

-        direct employment of Bininj/Mungguy

-        Bininj/Mungguy contracts for park maintenance activities.

The auditors also suggested that there should be a clearer link (or line of sight) between the park’s management actions and the desired outcomes and objectives, and that the performance indicators should be able to clearly demonstrate if management of the park is achieving the desired outcomes and objectives.

In February 2012 a notice was published inviting the public and relevant stakeholders to have their say towards the development of this plan. Seven formal submissions were received and the views expressed in those submissions were considered in the development of this plan.

The Kakadu National Park Board of Management (the Board) resolved that consultations be undertaken with Bininj/Mungguy on a clan-by-clan basis to seek comments on issues related to the management of the park. During the drafting stage of this plan, park staff conducted extensive consultations with over 128 Bininj/Mungguy during 14 participatory planning meetings. These meetings covered a range of park management issues including decision-making procedures; natural and cultural resource management; visitor management and park use; and Bininj/Mungguy employment. A number of Board meetings were also conducted to consider the development of the draft management plan and comments made by stakeholders. Appendix E summarises the consultations and planning timeframes undertaken in developing this plan.

Other stakeholder groups and individuals who were consulted during the preparation of this management plan include:

·      Kakadu Tourism Consultative Committee (KTCC) members

·      Kakadu Research and Management Advisory Committee (KRMAC) members

·      external natural and cultural resource management experts including Dr John Woirnaski,
Dr Sandy Blair and Dr Sally May

·      Northern Land Council and local Aboriginal associations and corporations

·      neighbours and residents including the Nitmiluk National Park Board of Management and Energy Resources Australia

·      Amateur Fisherman’s Association of the Northern Territory and Tourism NT

·      park staff.

On 3 December 2014 a draft version of this plan was released and a notice was published seeking comments from the public, relevant stakeholders and anyone with an interest in the park. The public comment period closed on 14 February 2015 and a total of 31 submissions were received. The comments contained in these submissions were considered when finalising this plan.

2.2                The planning framework

The framework of this plan is structured around two discrete elements

Part C.          Managing Kakadu: actions the Director can and will do over the life of this plan.

-            This part of the plan is structured around joint management, protecting the cultural and natural values of the park, developing and promoting Kakadu as a visitor destination, and increasing our understanding of the park’s values. It sets out policies which will apply to the Director’s activities over the life of the plan as well as describing the actions that will be taken towards achieving the outcomes described in the plan. Any policies relating to provisions of the EPBC Regulations that specifically apply to the activities of the Director in managing the park are also described.

Part D.          Managing use of Kakadu: what park users need to understand about accessing the park.

-            This part of the plan is structured around how the Director will enable and manage appropriate visitor and stakeholder activities in the park in accordance with the EPBC Act and EPBC Regulations. It sets out any policies which apply to park users. Policies include those related to provisions in the EPBC Regulations as well as policies which more broadly protect the park values or contribute to the effective management of the park.


 

A values-based approach to planning

The essential natural and cultural values of the park identified in Table 1 clearly define what management of the park seeks to protect and present. Planning in the park and the structure of this management plan are based around these values so that the links (or line of sight) between the values, the desirable outcomes and objectives, the management actions and policies, and the performance indicators are visible and understood. Figure 5 illustrates this line-of-sight and simplified line-of-sight diagrams are used throughout this management plan.

Prioritisation

Section 5 of this plan (Looking after culture and country) is about managing the park values and identifies the existing and potential threats to the values. A number of the threats to the values were identified by a range of experts as being of high significance and are the basis for developing management actions to protect the values.

In addition to management focusing on significant threats, priority areas reflecting country values, priority cultural sites and significant species (see Table 2) will also be identified
(see Section 7: Research and knowledge management). This acknowledges that in a resource-constrained environment, it may not be possible to manage threats to values across all landscapes or to actively manage all rock art or other cultural sites. Defining priority areas will form part of a broader approach to prioritising actions from the management plan (see Section 9.10: Implementing and evaluating the plan). For example, a site where a ‘highly significant’ threat overlaps a priority area is likely to be prioritised for action before other sites.

The performance monitoring plan (Section 9.10) will further describe which areas, sites, species and threats will be routinely monitored and the methods to be used for monitoring.

For other sections of the management plan – those relating to joint management, tourism, Jabiru and other living areas and business management – a series of management issues are presented rather than threats to values. These issues are not assessed for significance but actions are included to address them unless noted otherwise.

The park’s planning hierarchy

This management plan provides the strategic direction for managing the park over the next 10 years. It refers to management strategies, guidelines, plans and operational protocols that have been developed or will be developed with the explicit purpose of contributing to the achievement of objectives and outcomes described in this plan. These strategies, plans, guidelines and operational protocols will be reviewed and updated in accordance with this management plan and the Parks Australia Management Effectiveness Framework. Development of such documents is guided by relevant policies and actions in this plan; involves consultation with traditional owners, other relevant Aboriginals and other stakeholders; and is subject to final endorsement by the Board of Management. Strategies and guidelines for the implementation of management programmes for the park are often made available on the park website.


 

Figure 5:     Conceptual framework for the structure of this plan

 

Diagram to describe the Conceptual framework for the structure of this plan


 

Table 2: Focus of management for the protection of park values

Values

Focus

Comments

Cultural values

Priority sites

Identified sites with high cultural values that are a priority for management and/or monitoring

Country/natural values

Priority areas

Identified areas within the major park landscapes with high natural values that are a priority for management and/or monitoring

Country/natural values

Significant species

Species that are threatened, endemic, have cultural value or are of conservation concern for other reasons (declining, fire sensitive etc.)

Country and cultural values

Significant threats

The threats to values in this plan that are described as ‘highly significant’ will have actions specifically tailored to address them within the same section of the plan. Actions for threats to values that are identified as being ‘moderately significant’ or of ‘low significance’ may be included in the same section of the plan or in Section 5.3: Managing
park-wide threats affecting values.

 


 

Page featuring artwork by Hezekiah Lane: Snake 2 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


PART B

Chapter page showing a grevillea in the park and a lotus leafGeneral provisions
and IUCN category


3                       General provisions and IUCN category

3.1                Short title

This management plan may be cited as the Kakadu National Park Management Plan 2016-2026.

3.2                Commencement and termination

This management plan will come into operation following approval by the Minister under s.370 of the EPBC Act, on a date specified by the Minister or the day after it is registered under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, whichever is later, and will cease to have effect ten years after commencement, unless revoked sooner or replaced with a new plan.

3.3                Interpretation

Definitions of terms, concepts, legislation and acronyms used in this plan are provided in the glossary in Appendix F.

3.4                IUCN category

The EPBC Act requires this management plan assign the park to one of the seven Australian International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categories. The Australian IUCN categories correspond to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) protected area categories. The EPBC Regulations (Schedule 8) prescribe the Australian IUCN management principles for each IUCN category. The Australian management principles for IUCN protected area category II require taking account of the needs and aspirations of traditional owners and other Indigenous people in the park, specifically:

·      The needs of Indigenous people including subsistence resource use, to the extent that they do not conflict with the Australian IUCN management principles.

·      The aspirations of traditional owners of land within the reserve or zone, their continuing land management practices, the protection and maintenance of cultural heritage and the benefit the traditional owners derive from enterprises, established in the reserve or zone, consistent with Australian IUCN management principles should be recognised and taken into account.

The category to which the park is assigned is guided by the purposes for which the park was declared (see Appendix G: Legislative context). The purposes for which Kakadu National Park was declared are consistent with the characteristics for IUCN protected area category II ‘national park’.

Under the IUCN categorisation system (Dudley 2008), it is acknowledged that the primary objective for a protected area should apply to at least three-quarters of the protected area–known as the 75 per cent rule. The IUCN thus recognises that up to 25 per cent of land or water within a protected area can be managed for other purposes so long as these are compatible with the primary objective of the protected area.

Within Kakadu it is estimated that less than one per cent of the park is utilised for residential and visitor accommodation, infrastructure and other uses. Use of the park for these purposes is clearly consistent with the IUCN guidelines for applying protected area management categories (Dudley 2008) and not inconsistent with the Australian IUCN management principles for the National Park category.


 

Policies

3.4.1              The park is assigned to IUCN protected area category II ‘national park’ and will be managed in accordance with the prescribed management principles in Schedule 8 of the EPBC Regulations for that category and listed in Appendix H (IUCN administrative and management principle schedules).

3.4.2              Any areas that may be added to the park during the life of the plan will be managed in accordance with the IUCN protected area category II management principles and relevant policies and actions in this plan.


 

Feature page with artwork by Susan Indawanga: Turtles 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


PART C

Managing Kakadu

Chapter page which shows a sulpher crested cockatoo, grevillea flower and lotus leave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the Director will do to:

þ  work with Bininj/Mungguy

þ  support the aspirations of Bininj/Mungguy to be actively involved in decision-making and park management

þ  protect and present the values of Kakadu

þ  ensure effective park management.


4                       Joint management

This section sets out the policies for supporting joint management in Kakadu, including any EPBC Act provisions which directly relate to the Director of National Parks (the Director), and the actions the Director will take over the life of the plan to work towards achieving the objective and outcomes of this section.

Objective

The park is managed through a strong and successful partnership between Bininj/Mungguy and the Australian Government (as represented by the Director of National Parks), and Bininj/Mungguy satisfy their aspirations for benefits from land ownership

 

Joint management is about Bininj/Mungguy and Parks Australia working together and deciding what should be done to manage the park with and on behalf of Bininj/Mungguy and for other interests. The partners work together to solve problems, sharing decision-making responsibilities and exchanging knowledge, skills and information. An important objective of joint management is to ensure that Bininj/Mungguy traditional knowledge and skills associated with looking after culture and country, and cultural rules regarding how decisions are made, continue to be respected and maintained.

Overarching principles for joint management

This section of the plan provides the framework for effective joint management processes across all elements of this plan. In jointly managing the park the following overarching principles apply:

·      Bininj/Mungguy cultural and traditional knowledge, customs, values and priorities will be respected and will inform management priorities and programmes

·      Bininj/Mungguy will be encouraged and supported to guide and actively participate in the development, implementation and review of management programmes and all aspects of park management

·      the land management skills and expertise of both joint management partners will be utilised to manage the park

·      the joint management partners will share responsibility for decision-making and managing the park.

 


 

The joint management relationship in Kakadu has evolved since the lease agreement was signed for Stage One of the park in 1978. The elders who ‘foot walked’ the country and were intimately connected to the land have now passed on. The next generation of Bininj/Mungguy have grown up with the park joint management relationship and have stepped up as the decision makers. Some people have expressed concerns about the pace of change (both Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda changes) and the effects that these changes are having on people’s lives today. It is vitally important that Bininj/Mungguy continue to be involved in park management, and equally important that management of the park continues to actively negotiate a balance that ensures the values of the park are looked after, the aspirations of Bininj/Mungguy are met, and the interests of other stakeholders are accommodated as far as possible. The joint management relationship will continue to change and evolve over the life of this plan and into the future. Ongoing investment in training and other capacity building will help to nurture new leaders, and new opportunities, such as the outsourcing of park tasks, will continue to be identified and further developed.

Figure 6 illustrates the line of sight for this section of the plan.

 

Figure 6: Line of sight for Section 4: Joint management

Diagram showing Line of sight for Section 4: Joint management


 

4.1                Making decisions and working together
(Board of Management)

Outcome

·      Decisions made by the joint management partners are informed, consistent, transparent and accountable, and support the protection of park values

Performance indicators

·      Board governance processes followed in accordance with the Board of Management meeting rules and handbook

·      Board satisfaction with Kakadu Research and Management Advisory Committee and Kakadu Tourism Consultative Committee

Background

As noted in Section 1.5, joint management was established when the lease of land in Stage One of the park was signed between the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust and the Director of National Parks in 1978 and the government committed to managing all of the park as if it were Aboriginal land. The lease agreements between the Director and the Kakadu, Jabiluka and Gunlom Aboriginal Land Trusts include obligations on the Director to:

·      manage the park to the highest possible standard

·      protect the interests of Bininj/Mungguy and areas and things that are important to them

·      encourage the maintenance of Bininj/Mungguy traditions

·      use traditional skills in park management

·      promote Bininj/Mungguy engagement in park management and service delivery

·      encourage businesses within the park.

The leases also say the Director will regularly consult the Northern Land Council and Bininj/Mungguy associations about management of the park.

Joint management responsibility for decision-making was formalised when the Board of Management was established (see below). Successful joint management is based on a partnership of trust, commitment, and shared responsibility which involves bringing together Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda knowledge and experience and interweaving the two law systems together in making decisions. Making this work requires Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda learning from each other, respecting each other’s culture and bringing together the different approaches. At the core of shared decision-making is open communication and mutual commitment to looking after country and culture.

Shared decision-making in the park requires consultation and active participation in the process from both Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda to ensure decisions respect cultural protocols and meet obligations under the EPBC Act and other relevant Australian laws.


 

Under Bininj/Mungguy cultural protocols and practices, Bininj/Mungguy are responsible for making decisions about their country and are guided by customary decision-making structures, seniority and kinship obligations.

 ‘Bininj laws must be followed, with Balanda law backing up Bininj law.’

Jonathon Nadji, Bunitj clan

Board of Management

The Board of Management for the park was established in 1989 under the NPWC Act and continued under the EPBC Act. The composition of the Board must be agreed between the Minister (who appoints Board members) and the Northern Land Council, but the Act requires a majority of Board members must be Indigenous persons nominated by the traditional owners of land in the park. Bininj/Mungguy representation on the Board covers the geographic spread of Aboriginal people within the Kakadu region as well as the major language groups, and the Board has determined that the Chairperson be appointed from the Aboriginal members of the Board. Under the EPBC Act, the Board of Management has the functions of preparing the management plan with the Director, making decisions concerning implementation of the plan (including allocation of resources and setting priorities), monitoring management of the park and providing advice to the Minister on all aspects of the future development of the park.

Governance workshops and training were held for Board members in 2010 and 2011 to facilitate and support shared decision-making by the Board within the joint management partnership. This resulted in a number of governance documents being produced including Board meeting rules and member handbook.

Director of National Parks

The EBPC Act gives the Director the function of administering, managing and controlling the park and protecting biodiversity and heritage in the park. The Act and the EPBC Regulations give the Director a number of specific powers to assist in the performance of these functions, for example power to determine park entry and use charges (subject to approval of the Minister), to control certain activities and to issue permits. The Director must carry out these functions and use these powers in accordance with this plan.

As noted above the Director has a number of obligations under the current lease agreements with the Kakadu, Jabiluka and Gunlom Aboriginal Land Trusts to protect Bininj/Mungguy interests and culture. Together with the EPBC Act, the leases are key documents for guiding decision-making and the EPBC Act requires this plan to be consistent with the Director’s lease obligations. The full provisions of the leases at the time of preparing this plan are included as Appendix I to this plan. The Park Manager makes day-to-day management decisions and exercises powers on behalf of the Director in accordance with this plan, Board decisions, the EPBC Act and other legislation.

Northern Land Council

The Northern Land Council (NLC), which is established under the Land Rights Act, has broad functions to assist and represent the interests of the traditional Aboriginal owners of land and other Aboriginals. Under the park leases the NLC has a number of specific roles, including to be consulted regularly about the management of the park. Under the EPBC Act the Director is required to consult the NLC about park management generally and in relation to preparation of management plans in particular.


 

Board consultative committees

To help the Board make informed decisions, it has established the Kakadu Tourism Consultative Committee (KTCC) and the Kakadu Research and Management Advisory Committee (KRMAC). The KTCC provides the Board with advice on tourism issues and the views of tourism stakeholders. The primary purpose of the KRMAC is to provide advice to the Board on research and management issues and priorities for the park. The KRMAC members are researchers with expertise in natural and cultural resource management or tourism, Indigenous economic interests or other areas related to park management.

Management issues

·      The Board, Director and park staff need to make decisions and manage the park in accordance with the EPBC Act and Regulations, the leases, this plan, and other Australian laws, but must include Bininj/Mungguy cultural protocols, practices, laws and customs (including clan-based decision-making) to the greatest extent possible.

·      At the time of preparing this plan not all the land in the park was Aboriginal land under the Land Rights Act but management to date (including the composition of the Board and previous management plans) has been based on the principle, established when the park was first declared in 1979, of managing the whole park as if it is Aboriginal land.

·      Values important to Bininj/Mungguy, as well as other recognised values, need to be understood and protected.

·      People involved in decision-making should have equal access to accurate and relevant information.

·      Good communication is needed between the joint management partners so that expectations are understood and issues can be resolved.

·      The joint management relationship is a dynamic one and changes over time depending on the people involved and their expectations of, and aspirations for, joint management. Regular checks are needed to ensure joint management continues to be successful in the future.

·      The Board needs adequate resources to carry out its functions under the EPBC Act.

·      Bininj/Mungguy should be consulted appropriately to inform Board decisions.

·      Other stakeholders should be consulted in structured and timely ways as far as possible.

·      Consultation and decision-making processes need to be clear and consistently followed. Records of consultations and decisions need to be properly kept.

Policies

4.1.1              Decision-making in the park will be consistent with:

(a)      the purpose for which the park was declared

(b)     the reserve management principles for the IUCN category ‘national park’

(c)      the vision and guiding principles (see page iii)

(d)     the decision-making processes shown in Table 3

(e)     consultation guidelines developed by the Board and NLC and reviewed from time to time

(f)       the EPBC Act and other relevant legislation

(g)      the Director’s obligations under leases of Aboriginal land in the park.

4.1.2              The Board will be supported through provision of:

(a)      resources reasonably necessary for it to carry out its functions under the EPBC Act

(b)     regular training on governance and leadership to support Board members in their legal and policy roles and responsibilities

(c)      relevant and appropriate information to assist in making informed decisions in a timely manner, and in a culturally appropriate format (including with the use of an interpreter where possible).

4.1.3              KRMAC and KTCC, established by and operating under terms of reference determined by the Board, will continue their roles until otherwise determined by the Board, and will be provided secretariat support.

4.1.4              Where stakeholders’ interests are likely to be affected by decisions (including decisions about strategies, plans and other documents that assist in the implementation of this plan), the Board and the Director will, as far as practicable:

(a)      consult with stakeholders in a timely and structured way

(b)     take the views of stakeholders into account before decisions are made

(c)      provide the reasons for decisions

(d)     inform the tourism industry with 12–18 months’ notice when significant changes are made to visitor management in the park that will affect tourism products and their promotion, forward contracting and sales (except where immediate action is warranted, such as where public safety is at risk or where requested by Bininj/Mungguy for significant cultural reasons as outlined in the cultural closure protocols (Section 4.2.10)).

See also Sections 9.7 (Neighbours, stakeholders and partnerships) and 6.1 (Destination and visitor experience development).

Actions

4.1.5              Review joint management arrangements by midway (five years) through the life of this plan, taking into consideration park lease provisions at the time of the review.

4.1.6              Review the terms of reference of KRMAC and KTCC midway (five years) through the life of this plan, or more frequently if required, to ensure they remain closely aligned with park priorities.

4.1.7              Consult with the Board and take account of Board decisions early in the development and/or review of Director of National Parks corporate and Parks Australia agency-wide policies and guidelines.

4.1.8              Produce a periodic newsletter or other agreed format for distribution to Bininj/Mungguy to communicate key messages and inform them about Board activities and opportunities to participate in park programmes and management.


 

Table 3: Guide to decision-making

Category

Example

Decision-making process

Routine actions

Actions that have no impact, or no more than a negligible impact, on the park’s environment and natural and cultural values; on the interests of Bininj/Mungguy and/or stakeholders; and/or on visitor use or changes to existing facilities and services in the park

 

·         Minor capital works e.g. maintenance, replacement, repair or improvement of existing infrastructure in its present form

·         Regular/routine ongoing operations to implement prescriptions in this plan, e.g. patrols, weed control, fire management

·         Minor new operations to implement prescriptions in this plan

·         Seasonal opening/closing of visitor areas

·         Issuing permits for regular activities in accordance with this plan, e.g. land-based tours, camping and research

·         Employment for day labour and seasonal programmes

 

·         Process accords with management plan policies, prescriptions and procedures and the park’s manual of procedures

·         Bininj/Mungguy are consulted where necessary and in accordance with Board/NLC consultation guidelines

·         Decision is made by an appropriate officer

Non-routine actions

Actions that have more than a negligible impact, or have a significant impact, on the park’s environment and natural and cultural values; on the interests of Bininj/Mungguy and stakeholders; and/or on visitor use or changes to existing facilities and services in the Park

 

·         Moderate or major capital works, e.g. new infrastructure or expansion/upgrade of existing infrastructure such as outstations, realignment of roads, new campgrounds

·         Rehabilitation of heavily eroded sites and mines

·         Major new operations or developments to implement prescriptions in this plan

·         Developments for approved existing tourism activities that require major works, e.g. safari camps

·         Major/long-term changes to existing visitor access arrangements

·         Expansion of the Jabiru township

·         Tour operator accreditation system

·         New types of commercial activities

·         Issuing of leases/licences

·         Employment of park management staff

 

·         Process accords with management plan policies, prescriptions and procedures

·         Bininj/Mungguy are consulted where necessary and in accordance with Board/NLC consultation guidelines

·         KTCC and/or KRMAC are consulted as necessary

·         Relevant stakeholders are consulted/
informed

·         Decision is made by Board of Management


 

4.2                Making decisions and working together (on country)

Outcome

·      Bininj/Mungguy are integrally involved in planning and implementing work programmes

Performance indicators

·      Opportunities for Bininj/Mungguy involvement in park decision-making, planning and implementing work programmes

·      Indigenous representation on staff

Background

Bininj/Mungguy have important obligations to care for country and to pass on knowledge to the next generations. The Director also has responsibilities to look after country. Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda looking after country together is one of the most successful expressions of joint management in the park. Bininj/Mungguy involvement in park management is therefore of central importance to successful joint management.

To help ensure that Bininj/Mungguy participate in decision-making related to managing the park, park staff consult with Bininj/Mungguy on a range of issues in accordance with guidelines developed by the Board in collaboration with the NLC. In carrying out consultations with Bininj/Mungguy, assistance may be sought from the NLC and relevant Aboriginal associations to arrange consultations with, and provide information for and from, Bininj/Mungguy.

Bininj/Mungguy are also encouraged to participate in decision-making and planning of park programmes and work plans through a range of other ways including community meetings held in park districts, representation on staff selection panels and working groups. Bininj/Mungguy contribute to the development of cultural protocols which are used in decision-making and when managing country. Protocols such as Indigenous research protocols and those for Sickness Country promote Bininj/Mungguy opportunities, interests and joint management. Development of protocols for temporary closure of parts of the park for cultural reasons has been identified as a priority.

It is important for Bininj/Mungguy to be involved in implementation of natural, cultural and visitor programmes, and opportunities to do this are made available through a range of permanent, contract and flexible employment opportunities in park management, administration and on-ground programmes. As well as direct employment through ongoing or non-ongoing positions, Bininj/ Mungguy are engaged in casual work (day labour). This programme offers flexible work arrangements and helps to fill labour requirements during busy times. Bininj/Mungguy are also engaged through third-party employment and as contractors to provide services in and in relation to the park, for example maintaining campgrounds or conducting interpretative talks.

During the life of the previous plan, the number of Indigenous people employed in the park improved, with almost half (48 per cent) of staff employed on ongoing or non-ongoing contracts identified as Indigenous in 2014. Additionally, half of all staff on casual employment contracts identified as Indigenous, with a large number of these casual opportunities being made available through the National Environmental Research Programme. The Working on Country funded Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Programme has also provided 11 hosted community ranger positions in the park and engaged over 30 Indigenous community rangers since 2008–09.


 

Bininj/Mungguy traditional knowledge and interests are incorporated in the planning and implementation of all park programmes. Cross-cultural training for staff also helps to facilitate a shared understanding of different cultures and promote Bininj/Mungguy involvement in decision-making and implementing programmes.

Management issues

·           Consultation and decision-making processes and protocols need to be clear and consistently followed. Records of consultations and decisions need to be properly kept. It can be time-consuming and resource intensive to determine the right people to consult with and conduct consultations with Bininj/Mungguy spread throughout and outside the park.

·           Employment opportunities, consultation opportunities, and other opportunities to participate in decision-making and implementation of the plan are not always taken up or retained by Bininj/Mungguy.

·           There is an ongoing need for cross-cultural awareness between park staff and Bininj/Mungguy.

Policies

4.2.1              The park will be managed as if all land in the park is Aboriginal land under the Land Rights Act. Where traditional ownership of an area is unclear, consultation will occur with all Bininj/Mungguy who have traditional rights in relation to the area.

4.2.2              The consultation guidelines developed by the Board and the NLC that guide when and how Bininj/Mungguy are consulted on routine and non-routine development proposals and actions will be used when consulting with Bininj/Mungguy. The guidelines will be reviewed by the Board (see Section 4.2.8).

4.2.3              Bininj/Mungguy cultural protocols and practices will be acknowledged and respected in decision-making and management where consistent with this plan and other legal requirements, including by:

(a)      recognising that clans want to guide decision-making related to the management of their country in the park

(b)     using documented protocols (such as Sickness Country protocols and Indigenous research protocols) when working on country.

4.2.4              Bininj/Mungguy values, traditional practices and knowledge will continue to be recognised and incorporated in park planning, implementation and review of all management programmes, and as important components of staff development.

Actions

4.2.5              Encourage and support Bininj/Mungguy to be involved in park decision-making and the development of natural, cultural and visitor programmes and work plans through, but not limited to:

(a)      consultations conducted as per consultation guidelines, including the review of priorities for implementing actions in this plan (see Section 9.10).

(b)     opportunities to participate in regular community meetings in districts

(c)      representation on working groups and in staff selection processes.


 

4.2.6              Engage as many Bininj/Mungguy as possible to implement this plan. Ways to do this will include but not be limited to:

(a)      involvement of the Board in decision-making

(b)     providing Bininj/Mungguy with a range of permanent, contract and flexible employment opportunities and associated learning and development support in park management, administration and on-ground programmes

(c)      advisory committees established by the Board to provide advice on a particular issue or project

(d)     providing opportunities to increase outsourcing of park maintenance activities and aspects of park management such as threat abatement and fire management activities to Aboriginal corporations or enterprises where appropriate and where capacity exists

(e)     encouraging external contractors, consultants, and researchers to partner with or employ Bininj/Mungguy, including providing apprenticeships where practicable

(f)       school information and development programmes.

4.2.7              Negotiate and implement agreements with the NLC and assist the NLC to carry out its statutory functions in the park, commensurate with park resourcing.

4.2.8              Review the consultation guidelines midway (five years) through the life of this plan and develop and maintain a central database that records all decisions made in consultation with Bininj/Mungguy.

4.2.9              Develop protocols to guide temporary closure of visitor sites and parts of the park for cultural reasons.

4.2.10           In consultation with the NLC and the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA), review cultural protocol documents (including Sickness Country protocols and Indigenous research protocols), and consolidate where possible to ensure decision-making and other activities on the ground are guided by appropriate protocols and in a consistent manner.

4.2.11           Provide cross-cultural exchange and awareness training, including information on joint management and park governance, for new park staff, both Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda, and all Parks Australia staff involved in policy development relevant to the park to ensure a shared understanding of both Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda approaches.


4.3                Bininj/Mungguy training and other opportunities

Outcome

·      Bininj/Mungguy are provided with training and development opportunities and gain social and economic benefits from the park

Performance indicators

·      Training and development opportunities provided for Indigenous staff and Bininj/Mungguy

·      Bininj/Mungguy contractors directly or indirectly providing park services

·      Bininj/Mungguy businesses created or supported

Background

The park lease agreements (see Appendix I: Provisions of leases) commit the Director to maintaining an investment in training and development of Bininj/Mungguy in park management. In response to this, Parks Australia directly invests in Indigenous engagement, training and employment and has a range of programmes supporting Indigenous employment pathways, including the Junior Ranger Programme, work experience, apprenticeship and trainee programmes. The Junior Ranger Programme activities have been expanded in recent years to include Gunbalanya and Pine Creek schools, and approximately 40 students participate in the programme’s activities annually.

Figure 7 highlights some of the programmes supporting Indigenous employment pathways in the park.

 

Figure 7:     Summary of programmes supporting Indigenous employment pathways in Kakadu

Diagram showing summary of programmes supporting Indigenous employment pathways in Kakadu


 

Staff training and development is recognised as essential to retaining staff and developing management and leadership capability. Numerous training events are held each year; for example, some 30 different training events were provided for park staff in 2011–12 to assist with developing Indigenous staff and promoting effective joint management. A training strategy was developed in 2010 to guide training programmes. The training committee meets quarterly to make decisions relating to investment in staff learning and development.

Parks Australia also provides training and helps to facilitate the provision of training to build capacity of Bininj/Mungguy to take on contracts to deliver park services, and this is likely to become more important in the future. Other park policy and programme initiatives relating to Indigenous training include the Parks Australia mobility policy and opportunities for staff exchange, and the introduction of mentoring guidelines.

The park receives support from the Department of the Environment in accordance with priorities identified in the Department’s Indigenous Employment and Capability Strategy. This includes support for governance and leadership training for elected Indigenous Staff Network members and conference attendance. Significant support for Indigenous employment, training and development is also sourced from external partners including Charles Darwin University, Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and others that provide training in literacy and numeracy, job-readiness and career pathways.

Bininj/Mungguy receive benefits from commercial tourism in the park. Commercial tourism licence arrangements include a requirement for joint ventures with Bininj/Mungguy, employment and training and in-kind support. Licence arrangements also benefit Bininj/Mungguy commercial operators through discounted fees and, where appropriate, exclusive access arrangements (see also Section 6.2: Commercial tourism).

Management issues

·           Bininj/Mungguy want to benefit more from the economic activity associated with the park, either through direct employment or by developing their own or joint enterprises.

·           Bininj/Mungguy want to develop the skills they need to work in a range of positions related to the administration, control and management of the park and to ensure that Bininj/Mungguy land management skills are maintained.

·           Senior Bininj/Mungguy would like young Bininj/Mungguy to learn about their culture, country and park management so they can be actively involved in the management of the park in the future. There are many social and economic factors outside the control of park management that influence Bininj/Mungguy employment in the park and the benefits that Bininj/Mungguy gain from the park.

Policies

4.3.1              The Director will work with Bininj/Mungguy and in collaboration with existing businesses, the broader tourism industry and other park stakeholders to develop partnerships and other ways of increasing opportunities for Bininj/Mungguy, related to implementation of this plan. This may involve linking Bininj/Mungguy with, and providing support for, people who can provide relevant skills development, advice and appropriate development opportunities.

4.3.2              The Director will work with Bininj/Mungguy and other stakeholders to promote and facilitate Bininj/Mungguy tourism and other enterprise opportunities and training for them where appropriate (see also Section 6: Kakadu as a visitor experience destination, commercial tourism and promotion).


 

Actions

4.3.3              Implement, review and update the park training strategy to guide training programmes in the park.

4.3.4              In conjunction with relevant partners, develop, implement and regularly review Bininj/Mungguy learning and development strategies and outcomes linked to implementing this plan. Where possible strategies will take a collaborative and regional approach and will include provision for:

(a)      accredited training and studies

(b)     literacy and numeracy development

(c)      ongoing career development, mentoring and coaching, including supervisory and management skill development

(d)     learning and development opportunities to assist Bininj/Mungguy in gaining employment, such as writing resumes and job interview skills

(e)     working with stakeholders to help facilitate Bininj/Mungguy enterprise development

(f)       linking Bininj/Mungguy with, and providing support for, people and organisations that can provide other relevant skill development, advice and opportunities.

4.3.5              Develop and implement career pathway programmes for young Bininj/Mungguy that help teach them about culture, country and park management, and where possible work with other organisations to do this. These programmes may include:

(a)      a junior ranger or similar programme

(b)     school-to-work transition programmes and traineeships

(c)      casual work and park management service contract opportunities

(d)     on-the-job training and development opportunities

(e)     park career and employment information

(f)       mentoring, buddy or coaching arrangements

(g)      work experience opportunities.

4.3.6              Maintain a database of training and development opportunities for Bininj/Mungguy in order to review progress and allow evaluation of training programs.

4.3.7              Continue to explore options for Bininj/Mungguy to undertake delivery of park services (see also Section 4.2.6).


 

5                       Looking after culture and country

This section sets out the policies for managing the natural and cultural values in Kakadu, including any EPBC Act provisions which directly relate to the Director, and the actions the Director will take over the life of the plan to work towards achieving the objectives and outcomes of this section.

5.1                Looking after culture

Cultural values

The park is an internationally significant cultural landscape inscribed with the signs of an ancient and continuing Bininj/Mungguy presence

 

Objective

Support the maintenance of Bininj/Mungguy culture and maintain the condition of priority cultural sites

 

The cultural values of the park are immense. For management purposes they are divided within this plan into rock art, Bininj/Mungguy cultural knowledge and practices, other Bininj/Mungguy cultural sites and historic sites. Each of these groups has distinct values, threats and management priorities. Management of the park’s cultural values is guided by the An-garregen (cultural heritage) Strategy developed in 2011 through a participatory process with Bininj/Mungguy, and in consultation with the Kakadu Board of Management. The active participation of Bininj/Mungguy in management of the cultural values is integral to the effective protection of them.

A major symposium on cultural heritage was held in the park in 2011 which brought together over 100 Bininj/Mungguy, researchers and other stakeholders to hear about the park’s cultural values and consider priorities for management in the future. A cultural heritage information management system (CHIMS) was also developed during the life of the fifth management plan. Cultural data and information is continuing to be uploaded into it. The system can be used to schedule and prioritise future work as needed.

Figure 8 illustrates the line of sight for this section of the plan.

 


 

Figure 8:     Line of sight for Section 5.1: Looking after culture

Diagram showing the Line of sight for Section 5.1: Looking after culture


 

 

 

 

Rounded Rectangle: Overarching principles for managing cultural values
When managing the cultural values, the following overarching principles will apply:
•	Bininj/Mungguy will continue to be encouraged and supported to guide and actively participate in the development and implementation of cultural heritage management programmes (Section 4: Joint management)
•	Bininj/Mungguy cultural and traditional knowledge will be respected and used to inform management priorities and programmes (Section 4: Joint management)
•	Conservation work at rock art and other cultural sites will occur in a way that is consistent with this plan and the An-garregen (cultural heritage) Strategy, and will involve Bininj/Mungguy wherever possible (Section 4: Joint management)
•	Management of the park’s cultural values will be guided by a cultural heritage strategy endorsed by the Board.
•	Additional rock art and cultural sites will only be accessible to the public with the consent of Bininj/Mungguy, and access to sites may be further restricted or prohibited at the request of Bininj/Mungguy (Section 10.4: Access).
•	External linkages and funding that will assist with management of cultural values will be pursued (Section 9.8: Revenue and business development).

 



Rock Art

Outcome

·      Priority rock art sites are managed to mitigate impacts from threatening processes

Performance indicator

·      A reduction in the overall impact of weathering, fire, plants, animals, insects and human activities on priority rock art sites

Background

The stone country of Kakadu holds one of the world’s greatest concentrations of rock art sites: over 5,000 rock art sites have been recorded and it is thought there could be 10,000 to 15,000 art sites in total. The images, estimated to range in age from 20,000 years to the recent present, constitute one of the longest historical records of any group of people in the world. They tell a story of a changing environment, changing species and changing lifestyles within the Kakadu region and also illustrate objects, animals and activities familiar to people today, providing an important tangible record of chronological change as well as artistic tradition.

Rock art sites are an important storehouse of traditional knowledge and a place where people can learn about law and other aspects of cultural life, and are highly significant for Bininj/Mungguy. Strong associations exist between these sites and their living traditions and beliefs, and rock art serves as a reminder of the old people that have passed on and the responsibilities for looking after country.

‘Through these paintings the old people were teaching the young generation ... and passing on stories.’

Traditional owner

Mimi spirits were the first of the Creation Ancestors to paint on rock. They taught some Bininj/Mungguy how to paint and other Bininj/Mungguy learned by copying Mimi art. At the end of their journeys, some Creation Ancestors put themselves on rock walls as paintings and became djang (dreaming places). Some of these paintings are andjamun (sacred and dangerous) and can be seen only by senior men or women; others can be seen by all people (Chaloupka 1993).

Public access is provided to three major rock art sites within the park including Burrungkuy (Nourlangie Rock) and Nanguluwurr in the Nourlangie region, and Ubirr in the East Alligator region. Walking tracks, boardwalks and interpretation materials have been provided at these sites.

Values and condition

Rock art within the park:

·           represents one of the world’s great rock art provinces, containing a vast number of sites, with over 5,000 known sites and possibly 10,000 to 15,000 in total

·           represents a continuous tradition over tens of thousands of years

·           provides a storehouse of traditional knowledge including stories and law and is a powerful teaching tool for young Bininj/Mungguy

·           provides links to ancestors and the landscape and a record of a changing environment and lifestyle over many thousands of years.


 

·           The condition of rock art in the park continues to suffer the impacts of fire, feral animals, weathering and insect damage. There has been no systematic survey of rock art in the park since 1996 and hence the condition of most recorded sites is largely unknown. There is also a lack of knowledge of the condition of sites that have not been formally recorded, particularly in areas that are difficult to access.

Existing threats to values

·      Loss of traditional knowledge (highly significant)

There has been a major loss of knowledge relating to rock art sites throughout the park due to insufficient recording and intergenerational transfer of knowledge about these sites. This has impacted on the values of the sites, making active interpretation and management difficult due to a lack of knowledge of appropriate management protocols.

·      Fire (highly significant)

Fire can significantly impact on rock art sites, particularly when there is a build-up of native vegetation or weeds close to sites.

·      Insect damage (highly significant)

Wasps and termites damage rock art by building nests and tunnels over it. While some management actions are undertaken to reduce this impact at some sites, damage from insects remains an issue for much of the rock art in the park.

·      Weathering (highly significant)

Water flowing over or seeping through the rocks is a common problem. Apart from the water’s dissolving action, salts deposited on the rock surface can cover some of the art.

·      Number and inaccessibility of sites (highly significant)

The number of rock art sites and their remote and inaccessible nature makes management and monitoring of rock art very difficult.

·      Feral animals (moderately significant)

Feral animals (particularly pigs and buffalo) frequently take refuge in the shade of ground level shelters and damage rock art by rubbing on rock faces. This has been a significant cause of degradation of some rock art sites.

·      Visitor impacts (of low significance)

Some impacts from tourism are evident at rock art sites, such as dust accumulation on rock faces from roads, and vandalism has occurred at some sites.


 

Actions

5.1.1              Develop and undertake a rock art conservation programme to address issues impacting on the condition of priority rock art sites, focusing on:

(a)      removal of vegetation contributing to the fire fuel load around priority rock art sites

(b)     reduction in the number of pigs and buffalo in areas where they present a threat to priority rock art sites

(c)      implementation of measures to minimise weathering and reduce insect damage

(d)     development of conservation plans for rock art sites in visitor areas to help address potential visitor impacts

(e)     continued surveillance of rock art sites where there is a high risk of vandalism by visitors

(f)       research relating to conservation and protection of rock art.

5.1.2              Develop and implement a programme to monitor the condition of priority rock art sites and the effectiveness of conservation measures (see also Section 7.1.11d).

5.1.3              Assist Bininj/Mungguy to access and record rock art sites and provide opportunities for the intergenerational transfer of cultural knowledge associated with them.

5.1.4              Continue to work with the AAPA to increase the registration of sacred and other cultural sites and document information about them.

5.1.5              Maintain and update the park register of rock art sites, including information on their condition, conservation works and associated cultural knowledge.


Bininj/Mungguy cultural knowledge and practices

Outcomes

·      Bininj/Mungguy are supported in their endeavours to maintain, promote and teach the next generation about their culture

Performance indicators

·      Opportunities for Bininj/Mungguy to visit country provided to support the continuity of culture

Background

Kakadu represents a continuing cultural tradition linked to the time of the earliest known occupation of the Australian continent. The different landscapes within the park have been occupied and actively managed by many generations of Bininj/Mungguy, and strong spiritual associations and interactions between Bininj/Mungguy and country continue today.

The tangible aspects of Bininj/Mungguy cultural heritage such as rock art sites, artefacts and other cultural sites are well known. However, Bininj/Mungguy cultural heritage also includes intangible aspects such as traditional knowledge about country and seasons, ancestral stories and beliefs, languages and cultural practices and rituals.

Traditional knowledge of the Kakadu environment is a crucial component of Bininj/Mungguy life today and Kakadu’s cultural heritage. This knowledge is used to help keep land, plants, and animals healthy and strong as well as to undertake the right activities at the right time of year. This traditional knowledge is invaluable and a great asset for the management of the park.

‘When we go to different places on our country, language and stories of those places come out. You tell stories as you travel to places, you don’t leave it til you get there.’

Traditional owner

Bininj/Mungguy traditional cultural practices reflect culturally significant events, ideas and beliefs and include songs and stories, dances, ceremonies, body scarification, the use of particular dialects associated with regions, caring for country, and customary use of the land. It is important that these traditional practices are remembered and kept alive.

At least 12 different languages are thought to have been spoken throughout the Kakadu region prior to European settlement, and this helps to illustrate the great diversity and complexity of Bininj/Mungguy society. Languages are a vital component of cultural identity and it is important they remain strong.

Today, Bininj/Mungguy continue to live, work and hunt on country and this assists them to maintain links to their culture and country and participate in management of the park. The park organises on-country camps with different clan groups, such as Namarrgon and Gunlom camps, to help support the continuation of culture.

A cultural heritage information management system (CHIMS), developed during the life of the fifth plan, is used to store photos, oral histories and other cultural information for Bininj/Mungguy to access and use. An agreement negotiated with the National Archives of Australia in 2010 means it will assist with digitisation and stabilisation of all audio and video cultural information, and this material can also be stored on CHIMS when it is available. Policies and actions in Section 4 (Joint management) relating to recognition of Bininj/Mungguy cultural knowledge and skills and respect for Bininj/Mungguy cultural practices and protocols are also relevant to this section.


 

Values and condition

Bininj/Mungguy culture:

·      is representative of the oldest culture in the world, with continuous occupation over 50,000 years

·      is one of great diversity and complexity and includes several languages

·      provides a valuable source of traditional ecological knowledge. The ongoing, active management of the landscape through the use of fire has contributed to species diversity and provides an important example of people’s interaction with the environment

·      continues today with Bininj/Mungguy living, working, hunting, fishing and collecting and using food and other cultural resources in the park.

·      Bininj/Mungguy continue to live on country, maintaining cultural practices, but some Bininj/Mungguy are concerned that their culture is getting ‘weak’.

‘Ours is a living culture and today we have two laws – Bininj and Balanda together. We must continue teaching Bininj way because some things are almost floating away. We’re running out of time ...’

Traditional owner

Existing threats to values

Loss of traditional knowledge (highly significant)

During the recent past, many Bininj/Mungguy who had important knowledge about country and culture have passed away. Bininj/Mungguy have expressed concern that much of this knowledge is being lost, with social changes having impacted on the transfer of knowledge to younger generations. This has been exacerbated by fewer people spending time on country learning about country and culture. In some parts of the park there are also limited opportunities to live on country which also contributes to loss of traditional knowledge.

‘…so many little things are coming in – headphones, movies. Things are coming in and covering our traditional ways .... people know the names of the big fish but not the little fish.’

Jacob Nayinggul, Manilikar clan

Social issues (highly significant)

There are significant social issues facing Aboriginal people in Kakadu including employment, education and language difficulties. Alcohol and drug problems and health issues are also significant factors affecting the maintenance of cultural knowledge and practices. Parks Australia can support the maintenance of culture through the provision of resources and programmes; however, many factors that influence culture are outside the control of park management, including participation in cultural management programmes, and intergenerational transfer of sensitive cultural knowledge.

Bininj/Mungguy access to country (low significance)

Bininj/Mungguy access to or use of country is sometimes affected by tourism in visitor areas of the park, and this is managed through temporary closure of areas with timely advice to the tourism industry and the public.


 

Actions

5.1.6              Implement, review and update the An-garregen (cultural heritage) Strategy for management of cultural values in the park.

5.1.7              Support the maintenance of Bininj/Mungguy culture through continued:

(a)      provision of cultural activities and programmes including on-country camps and bushwalks, a kids’ on-country programme, and women’s and men’s events

(b)     provision of an oral history programme to collect knowledge and stories from Bininj/Mungguy, with involvement of young Bininj/Mungguy to help facilitate transfer of knowledge

(c)      support of Bininj/Mungguy involvement in fieldwork related to cultural programmes

(d)     support of Bininj/Mungguy staff to fulfil cultural responsibilities

(e)     incorporation of Bininj/Mungguy cultural knowledge and skills in park natural and cultural heritage management programmes, particularly fire management programmes (see also Section 4: Joint management)

(f)       provision of support and resources to facilitate Bininj/Mungguy involvement and leadership in these management programmes (see also Section 4: Joint management)

(g)      recognition of Bininj/Mungguy cultural knowledge and skills as important components of park staff development (see also Section 4: Joint management)

(h)     promote awareness of and respect for Bininj/Mungguy cultural protocols and practices (see also Section 4: Joint management).

5.1.8              Encourage and support the use and preservation of Bininj/Mungguy languages through:

(a)      support for language training for Bininj/Mungguy and park staff

(b)     replacement of Balanda place names with Bininj/Mungguy place names on park signage, on maps and in visitor publications where appropriate

(c)      collation of existing language resource materials and development of new resources in language for use by Bininj/Mungguy.

5.1.9              Assist Bininj/Mungguy to manage cultural information and material through:

(a)      maintenance of the Cultural Heritage Information Management System (CHIMS) to store cultural information

(b)     provision of appropriate storage areas for Aboriginal cultural material in Kakadu

(c)      development of storage, access and usage policies and protocols for cultural information and material held in the park

(d)     provision of the Kakadu Research Guidelines to researchers collecting and using cultural information and material in the park

(e)     provision of a Bininj/Mungguy-friendly space that allows Bininj/Mungguy to access to stored cultural information and material in a culturally appropriate way

(f)       working with other agencies to further the protection of Bininj/Mungguy Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights

(g)      supporting the efforts of Bininj/Mungguy to secure the return of Aboriginal cultural material that has been removed from Kakadu.

5.1.10           Facilitate Bininj/Mungguy aspirations to live on country through:

(a)      providing support in the outstation approval process

(b)     liaising with relevant funding and service delivery agencies to assist in providing advice in the set-up and management of outstations (see also Section 8.1.7).

5.1.11           Facilitate management of Bininj/Mungguy traditional use of plants and animals through:

(a)      implementation of policies that help ensure only relevant Aboriginal people are hunting in the park (see Section 10.6: Traditional use of land and water)

(b)     development and implementation of a strategy to promote sustainable customary harvest practices

(c)      incorporation of knowledge gained from customary use into species and landscape monitoring programmes to determine the conservation status of resources used

(d)     management of visitor access that may impact on traditional use.


 

Bininj/Mungguy cultural sites

Outcome

·      Priority cultural sites are protected from fire, weeds, feral animals and human impacts

Performance indicator

·      Impact of fire, weeds, feral animals and humans on priority cultural sites

Background

In addition to rock art sites, there are several other kinds of sites and areas within the park that are important to Bininj/Mungguy and reflect and express their cultural beliefs and practices. They include areas that relate to the activities that took place during the creation era and the travels of Nayuhyunggi (Gundjeihmi language), the first people. They may also include occupation and ceremonial sites, and the walking routes that old people travelled as they moved through country.

For the Jawoyn people in the south of the park, Buladjang, or ‘Sickness Country’, is a particularly important area because the essence of Bula, a major figure associated with the creation era, is located within it. Sickness Country extends over 2,000 square kilometres and coincides with high concentrations of uranium, thorium, arsenic, mercury, fluorine and radon in the water and air, which are leached from rocks in the region. Jawoyn believe that if Bula is disturbed the results will be catastrophic for all.

‘Some of these places are very powerful and dangerous. If they are disturbed bad things can happen.’

Traditional owner

Many sites contain physical evidence of the old people living and working in the area in the distant and recent past such as scatters of stone artefacts, shell middens, earth mounds, scarred trees, grinding grooves, quarries (including ochre quarries), burial sites, and stone and bone arrangements. Research indicates occupation of the region dating from around 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, and archaeological sites provide a record of cultural tradition and reflect how Bininj/Mungguy have managed the country over this time. An Australian National University research project being conducted in 2013–2014 is exploring landscape and cultural change on the South Alligator floodplain.

‘The highest responsibility for Bininj is to look after these sites and it should go down from generation to generation.’

Traditional owner

Under Bininj/Mungguy cultural practices, strict rules and protocols govern access and use of some sites, especially those considered dangerous. Restrictions vary between sites and may be based on a person’s social position and knowledge of ceremonies and rituals relevant to the place. Access to some sites is restricted in accordance with these practices, while access to Sickness Country is governed by the Gunlom Land Trust Sickness Country Protocols.

A register of sites of special significance to Bininj/Mungguy has been established in consultation with Bininj/Mungguy, the AAPA and the Northern Land Council. The Land Rights Act and the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989 (Sacred Sites Act) provide formal legal protection for sacred sites, defined as sites that are sacred to Aboriginals or otherwise of significance according to Aboriginal tradition. The Sacred Sites Act applies in relation to Kakadu except to the extent that it is inconsistent with the EPBC Act.

Values and condition

Bininj/Mungguy cultural sites:

·      represent a rich collection of sites that are imbued with strong spiritual associations including ceremonial sites, Aboriginal occupation sites, sacred sites, djang sites and traditional walking routes

·      include a great number of places with spiritual associations relating to creator beings that are connected to the continuing practice of traditional beliefs and religious practices

·      include some of the oldest known Aboriginal occupation sites in Australia

·      present a highly significant record of human occupation of a landscape that is rarely matched anywhere in the world.

·      The location and condition of many cultural sites is unknown. There has been damage to some recorded sites as a result of feral animals and visitor impacts (such as unauthorised entry).

Existing threats to values

Loss of traditional knowledge (highly significant)

There are concerns among Bininj/Mungguy that many of the stories and knowledge of cultural sites are being lost. A breakdown in the transfer of knowledge between generations is contributing to this loss.

Unauthorised access (highly significant)

There are strong concerns among Bininj/Mungguy about unauthorised access to sacred sites. This is particularly the case for djang sites and Sickness Country, where there are concerns about bushwalkers and fishers accessing closed sites.

Feral animals (highly significant)

Feral animals can disturb and damage archaeological sites.

Weeds (highly significant)

Weeds and other vegetation growing around and up through cultural sites can have an impact. Additional actions addressing weed and feral animal management are covered in Section 5.3.

Potential threats to values

Climate change (highly significant)

Climate change is likely to impact on cultural sites in coastal and lowland areas through rising sea levels and saltwater inundation.


 

Actions

5.1.12           Assist Bininj/Mungguy to access cultural sites in the park, to record cultural knowledge associated with them, and provide opportunities to pass this knowledge on to younger generations.

5.1.13           Maintain and update the register of Bininj/Mungguy cultural sites in the park, including information on their condition, conservation works and associated cultural knowledge.

5.1.14           Continue to work closely with the AAPA in park planning processes to increase the protection and registration of sacred and other cultural sites, recording and documenting information about them.

5.1.15           In consultation with the AAPA, develop and undertake a programme of activities to address concerns about unauthorised access to cultural sites, including:

(a)      reviewing and improving park protocols on access to cultural sites and the information about them where necessary, and manage sites, including Sickness Country, according to the relevant protocols

(b)     reviewing and updating visitor guidelines relating to protocols on access to cultural sites

(c)      installation of signage where appropriate to indicate restricted access

(d)     identification of cultural sites near or on approved or proposed bushwalking routes

(e)     development and implementation of a compliance and enforcement strategy to support protection of cultural sites

(f)       monitoring of cultural sites for unauthorised access (see also Section 9.2: Compliance and enforcement).

5.1.16           Identify potential actions to minimise the impact of saltwater intrusion on priority cultural sites and implement them where feasible and cost-effective.

5.1.17           Develop and undertake a programme to address issues impacting on the condition of priority cultural sites, focusing on reduction in numbers of pigs and buffalo and removal of weeds and other vegetation.

5.1.18           Develop and implement a programme to monitor the condition of priority cultural sites and the effectiveness of conservation measures.


 

Historic sites

Outcome

·      Priority historic sites are managed to mitigate impacts from threatening processes

Performance indicator

·      A reduction in the overall impact that fire, plants, animals, insects and human activities can have on priority historic sites

Background

The first documented sustained contact that Aboriginal people from the Alligator Rivers Region had with non-Aboriginal people was with Macassan seafarers between the 17th and 20th centuries. The Dutch also visited the northern coast of Australia in 1623, and in 1644 Abel Tasman mapped the northern opening of Van Diemen’s Gulf and was the first person to record European contact with Aboriginal people in the region. The next explorer, British navigator Phillip King, sailed up the South and East Alligator Rivers in 1818. The British later established the settlements of Fort Wellington in 1827 and Port Essington in 1938 on the Cobourg Peninsula. The early explorers Ludwig Leichhardt and John McKinlay passed through the Kakadu region in 1845 and 1866 respectively; however, it was only in the years following the establishment of a settlement at Port Darwin in 1869 that ongoing contact with Balanda began.

The history of the Kakadu region after the mid-1800s is characterised by small-scale ventures such as crocodile and buffalo shooting, logging, pastoralism, mining and prospecting and early tourism ventures, most of which were economically marginal. Many of these ventures involved cooperation between Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda, so historic sites often bring up strong feelings for Bininj/Mungguy about individuals and the past as they represent a way of life and use of country that has now gone.

Uranium mining has had a significant impact on Bininj/Mungguy within the Kakadu region. Activity was focused within the southern region of the park, with the last mining activity in the upper South Alligator Valley and the adjacent section of the Katherine River occurring in the 1950s. These mines ceased production in 1964. A proposal to develop the Ranger uranium deposit in 1975 resulted in the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry (Fox et al. 1977) led by the Hon Russel Walter Fox AC QC. The final report provided a range of recommendations that led to granting of Aboriginal title and declaration of Stage 1 of Kakadu National Park. Uranium mining continues adjacent to the park in the northern region near Jabiru, providing some economic support to the area through employment opportunities and support for the retail and accommodation industry within Jabiru.

All of the industries carried out in the park have affected local Aboriginal people and have left a range of post-contact historic sites in the park, many of which are significant for both Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda. Several studies have been undertaken to document the significance of historic sites, and recommendations have been developed regarding future site management. The Australian International Council on Monuments and Sites Burra Charter for the conservation of heritage places forms the basis of the recommended approach for making decisions about heritage sites. Accordingly, cultural significance assessments and conservation plans have been prepared for some historic sites within the park.

‘We need to record and share more of the Bininj and Balanda stories about mining and the buffalo and croc hunting days.’

Traditional owner

In 2013, students from the Australian National University came to the park for a week-long intensive course: Physical Conservation of Buildings and Structures. This generated great interest in the park’s historic sites and may result in collaborative conservation projects in the future. The value of oral histories in providing an insight into the interactions between people and different perspectives on key historic events and themes was also recognised.

One historic site within the park, Munmalary Homestead, is a declared heritage place under the Northern Territory Heritage Act 2011 and is listed on the Northern Territory Heritage Register.

Values and condition

Historic sites within the park:

·      represent the park’s recent history, including early contact between Balanda and Bininj/Mungguy in the region

·      comprise intertwined stories of Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda as they came to live and work together, and some sites represent a way of life and use of country that no longer exists

·      represent the struggle of Bininj/Mungguy to retain control of their country and their resilience in the face of unprecedented threats to their culture

·      are tangible examples of the types of activities that occurred in the recent history of the park and contribute to understanding its human occupation.

To date the majority of historic sites in the park have not been actively managed or maintained and are in poor condition. However, the location of most sites is known, baseline information on their condition and significance has been documented, and conservation plans detailing management priorities exist for some sites.

Existing threats to values

Lack of knowledge and understanding of historic site values (highly significant)

There are often varying perceptions of the significance and value of historic sites among Bininj/Mungguy, park staff and other stakeholders.

Natural weathering, fire and termites (highly significant)

Natural weathering processes, fire and termites have damaged and degraded many of the historic sites within the park. Conservation work may include restricting access to some sites, maintaining protection from fire and working to stabilise existing structures. High costs are associated with implementing conservation work, such as stabilising the structural integrity of old infrastructure, and expertise in building conservation is not always available locally.

Loss of knowledge and stories relating to historic sites (moderately significant)

As older people pass away, many stories about these sites are lost with them.

Potential threats to values

Asbestos removal (highly significant)

Many historic sites contain asbestos products, making work health and safety and public safety important considerations. If not managed sensitively, programmes to remove these products can cause significant damage to the integrity of historic buildings. This potential threat will be responded to during the day-to-day management of the park and does not warrant specific control mechanisms within this plan. The presence of asbestos at historic sites also prevents sites from being opened to the public and reduces the ability to provide interpretation and education to visitors about Kakadu’s history.


 

Vandalism (highly significant)

Some Bininj/Mungguy and people working in the tourism industry would like to see some of the historic sites appropriately promoted as places for visitors, but vandalism remains a potential threat to sites. This is an ongoing issue that will be responded to during the day-to-day management of the park and does not warrant specific control mechanisms within this plan.

Actions

5.1.19           Review existing documentation relating to historic sites and reassess the priorities for conservation, management, use and interpretation.

5.1.20           Develop and implement conservation management plans for priority historic sites that identify:

(a)      conservation works required such as stabilisation of structures and actions to protect historic sites from weathering, termites and fire

(b)     workplace health and safety risks and risk management procedures

(c)      appropriate future visitor access and use, signage and interpretation, and

(d)     opportunities to promote the heritage significance of the sites.

5.1.21           Maintain and update a register of historic sites and information about them, including their significance, condition and conservation works undertaken.

5.1.22           Maintain a programme recording oral histories including those relating to historic sites.

5.1.23           Monitor priority historic sites for unauthorised access.

5.1.24           Identify historic sites to be managed as ruins and implement measures to help slow natural deterioration of the sites through agreed conservation plans.

 


5.2                Looking after country

Natural values

The park is an internationally significant natural landscape (including landforms and biota of great antiquity) comprising outstanding representation of interconnected ecosystems whose extent, intactness and integrity provides for a distinctive and rich biodiversity including viable populations of threatened, endemic and culturally significant species

 

Objective

Maintain the condition of the park’s natural values, and support the recovery of threatened species

 

 

Although much of Kakadu’s outstanding value is in its vast and relatively undisturbed continuous natural environment, within the park there are four broad landscapes, each with distinct values, threats and management priorities. Accordingly, this section of the plan describes Kakadu’s four main landscape components: the lowland woodlands and forest, occupying more than 75 per cent of the park; the stone country; floodplains (freshwater and saltwater country); and rainforest (Figure 4). However, it is important not to lose sight of the value of the park as one large and integrated environment.

Within these broad landscapes, there is a great diversity of native plants and animals including important populations of migratory species (Appendix D: EPBC-listed migratory species) and many threatened species (Appendix J: Species of conservation concern). Many species found within each of these landscapes also have broadly similar management considerations and hence are effectively considered within this landscape approach.

Under the EPBC Act, the Minister may make or adopt recovery plans for threatened species and threatened ecological communities listed under the Act, and may decide to have a threat abatement plan for a listed key threatening process under the Act. As a Commonwealth agency for the purposes of the Act the Director is required not to take an action that would contravene one of these plans. At the time of preparing this plan there were only a small number of documented recovery plans relevant to Kakadu’s threatened species. It is anticipated that additional recovery plans will be developed during the life of this plan.

Figure 9 illustrates the line of sight for this section of the plan.


 

Figure 9: Line of sight for Section 5.2: Looking after country

Diagram showing the Line of sight for Section 5.2: Looking after country


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overarching principles for managing natural values

When managing the natural values, the following overarching principles will apply:

·      Bininj/Mungguy will continue to be encouraged and supported to guide and participate in the development, implementation and review of natural heritage management programmes (Section 4: Joint management)

·      Bininj/Mungguy and Balanda knowledge of and priorities related to the management of native plants and animals and their habitats will be incorporated into management programmes (Section 4: Joint management)

·      A regional approach will be taken to managing natural values by liaising and collaborating with neighbours, government agencies and other stakeholders (Section 9.7: Neighbours, stakeholders and partnerships)

·      Management of natural values will be considered and planned at a landscape level, but not exclude finer scale approaches as needed, to optimise management outcomes.

 


 

Stone country – Kun-warddewardde

Outcome

·      The abundance of significant species is increased (where possible and appropriate) or maintained.

Performance indicator

·      Abundance of significant species

Background

‘The stone country is important, it’s where all the rivers start, it’s where all the water comes from, it’s where everything comes from… it’s all connected.’

Jeffrey Lee, Djok clan

The stone country of Kakadu makes up the western edge of the Arnhem Land Plateau, an extensive, rugged and ancient sandstone formation markedly distinct in geology and biodiversity from the surrounding lowlands. It comprises some of the oldest exposed rocks in the world and a spectacular escarpment occurs along its western edge and contributes to its grandeur. Some 140 million years ago, when much of Kakadu is believed to have been under a shallow sea, the plateau formed a flat land above the sea and the prominent escarpment wall formed sea cliffs along the shoreline.

Because of its age and its extraordinary topographic complexity, the stone country has long served as a refuge area for biodiversity. It has sheltered plant and animal species from changes in climate and sea level, and allowed for the persistence of many plant and animal species of extremely ancient lineages, such as the biogeographic relict northern brown pine Podocarpus grayae. The stone country has also provided refuge for species that cope poorly with fire. This capacity to provide refugia will become more important under changing climatic conditions.

Due to its large size and isolation from similar environments, the stone country also supports many endemic species (see figures 10 and 11). The rugged topography limits the capacity of some species, such as trigger plants Stylidium sp., to disperse easily, and there is a particularly high rate of endemism in this region of the park due to the isolation and protection that the terrain of the stone country provides. Consequently, the stone country is one of Australia’s most important sites for the conservation of endemic species, and appropriate management is essential for their survival.

The stone country extends over approximately 25 per cent of the park area and contains sheer escarpments, deep narrow gorges, spectacular waterfalls, and the headwaters of some of the largest river systems in the Northern Territory. While it varies from vertical cliffs in the Jim Jim Falls area to stepped cliffs and isolated outliers in the north, including Ubirr and Burrungkuy (Nourlangie), the highest point is only about 400 metres above sea level. Bininj/Mungguy have a long history of camping in stone country, painting art in rock shelters, burning country and collecting plants and animals for food and medicinal purposes.


 

Figure 10:   Endemic plants in the Northern Territory

Map showing the high number of endemic plants in the stone country


 

Figure 11:   Endemic vertebrates in the Northern Territory

Map showing the high number ofvertebrates animals in the stone country

Parts of the stone country are harsh, with exposed rock, little or no soil, and soils with low fertility. As a result, the plants and animals that live in this habitat have many adaptations to assist survival in such conditions. The stone country also provides an extraordinary diversity of landscapes and microclimates, at scales ranging from the shelter offered by boulders and cave systems to the steep-sided gorges and waterfalls that provide specialised environments for many moisture-loving plants, and in which tall rainforest has developed. Water seeping from rock walls and spreading shady trees provide an important micro-environment for plants and animals. Many animals rely on these areas for refuge during the drier months and, over a longer history, during periods of otherwise adverse climate. These conditions have all led to the stone country being an extremely important area for plant and animal endemism and diversity.

Values and condition

The stone country:

·      is extremely rich in endemic (restricted) plants and animals, and at least 160 plant species occur nowhere else in the world. Endemic animals include three birds, five mammals (including the black wallaroo, Barrk) and 12 reptiles (including one of Australia’s largest snakes, the Oenpelli python, Nawaran)

·      comprises a high diversity of species, and some remarkable changes in species composition over very small areas

·      contains at least 30 threatened species (10 plants and 20 animals – see Appendix J), including some with only a limited distribution

·      has provided habitat for a diverse range of plants and animals secure from fire and changes in climate for millions of years

·      contains a large proportion (22.5 per cent) of the nationally endangered Arnhem Plateau Sandstone Shrubland Complex ecological community (see Figure 4)

·      is the catchment for the major river systems in the park (and some of the largest river systems in the Northern Territory), feeding the lowlands and floodplains

·      is a spectacular and beautiful example of geomorphology that shows examples of important periods of change during the earth’s formation.

In broad terms, the stone country is in good to near-pristine condition by most standards, with little development and few weeds. However, many elements of the stone country are in decline. Notably this includes the endangered Arnhem Plateau Sandstone Shrubland Complex community and more than 30 threatened species. Long-term monitoring data indicate that populations of many of these species are continuing to decline. Similar trends are evident for other significant stone country species (keystone species) not yet recognised as threatened, such as Allosyncarpia (Anbinik) and Callitris (Anlarr). There is a significant lack of knowledge about many stone country species, including their condition.

Existing threats to values

Fire (highly significant)

Frequent, extensive and high-intensity fires are the most significant threat to the stone country environment. While plants and animals in the stone country have evolved with some fire, many species are vulnerable to frequent and intense fires. A stone country fire management programme has been implemented in the park since 2006, and this has been successful in reducing the extent and intensity of fires. However, effective fire management over this remote, rugged and generally inaccessible region remains challenging and expensive.


Feral animals:

·      Feral cat (highly significant)

Feral cats are thought to be associated with reductions in native animals, particularly reptiles, birds and ground-dwelling mammals such as the Arnhem rock-rat, but more information is required to understand the population and impacts of feral cats. Actions relating to feral cat management are covered in Section 5.3 (Managing park-wide threats affecting values).

·      Cane toad (highly significant)

Some native species in the stone country have declined substantially following colonisation by the cane toad, in particular goannas and the northern quoll, which have suffered local extinctions in some areas. Impacts of toads on the stone country’s endemic invertebrate fauna are not known. This threat cannot realistically be humanly controlled and will be monitored to enable an adaptive response to possible impacts.

·      Knowledge gaps (moderately significant)

It is highly likely that the stone country harbours many species not yet described. This is so particularly for invertebrates, but is also the case for plants and vertebrates. Many ‘undiscovered’ invertebrate groups are likely to be of phylogenetic significance (i.e. representing very old lineages). Basic information about the population of many stone country species and the impact of current fire regimes and other potential threats is not available.

Weeds (of low significance)

The incidence of weeds in the stone country is generally low; however, incursions of introduced pasture grasses, such as gamba grass and mission grass, have the potential to exacerbate the impact of fire on stone country flora and fauna, particularly under increasingly warmer conditions. Actions relating to weed management are covered in Section 5.3 (Managing park-wide threats affecting values).

Actions

5.2.1              Manage fire in the stone country in accordance with the Policies and Actions in Sections 5.3.17 to 5.3.26 to reduce the impact on plants, animals and habitats, including protection of rainforest patches.

5.2.2              Manage native plants and animals in the stone country through:

(a)      development and implementation of a park strategy for the conservation of threatened species and threatened ecological communities, including, as appropriate, actions in recovery plans for relevant species

(b)     identification of other significant species (e.g. endemic species, key stone species, indicator species and culturally significant species) and implementation of specific management prescriptions for these species

(c)      conducting survey and monitoring programmes for significant species.


Floodplains (freshwater country and saltwater country) –
An-kabohkabo dja kurrula

Outcome

·      The abundance of significant species is increased (where possible and appropriate) or maintained

Performance indicator

·      Abundance of significant species

Background

‘There are places where you can find everything. All resources are there like a supermarket.’

Traditional owner

Wetland systems infiltrate and connect all Kakadu landscapes, and Kakadu is particularly notable in encompassing almost the entire catchment and extent of some of the largest and most diverse river systems in northern Australia.

Kakadu’s wetland environments begin in seepages, springs and small rock pools in the stone country. These headwater systems support a diverse range of endemic aquatic invertebrates, many with extremely restricted ranges. The springs and seepages may also support distinctive rainforest and perched swampland environments. From the stone country plateau to the lowlands, many of the river systems form spectacular waterfall systems as they pass over the sandstone escarpment. Some of these waterfall systems provide habitat to specialised plants, such as the threatened fern Cephalomenes obscurum.

The floodplains of the Wildman and the East, South and West Alligator rivers and seasonal creeks are vast and extend in almost unbroken tracts to the coast. They are reservoirs for floodwaters during the wet season, when the land is inundated by monsoonal rains. Rivers beginning in the stone country carry wet season floodwaters with nutrients and sand and silt eroded from rock structures to the floodplains each year. This process has been happening for thousands of years and continues today, making the floodplains and wetlands the most productive of Kakadu’s habitats. The vegetation along creek and river channels is composed mainly of paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) and water pandanus (Pandanus aquaticus). This is an area that was and still is used by Aboriginal people.

The freshwater floodplain environments, composed mainly of aquatic plants such as sedges, grasses and waterlilies, may be under water for many months, and during this time they can support the breeding activity of crocodiles and many waterbirds such as magpie geese. As the floodplains start to dry, crocodiles and vast numbers of waterbirds (sometimes many millions) seek refuge around remaining wetlands such as Yellow Water. Large numbers of migratory shorebirds also occur seasonally in parts of the floodplain. The great diversity of wetland habitats and the abundance of wildlife they support make Kakadu’s floodplains of international significance and are the reason the park is listed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The Ramsar Information Sheet (DSEWPaC 2011) provides more detail on Kakadu as a Ramsar site.


 

The coastal areas of the park are dominated by salt and mudflats and mostly lined with mangroves, which provide important breeding and nursery areas for a variety of fish including barramundi. The northern boundary of the park follows the low water mark of the 120 kilometre stretch of coastline that separates the park from the shallow waters of the Van Diemen Gulf. Gardangal (Field Island) and Djidbordu (Barron Island) lie near the mouth of the South Alligator River and are included within the park. Field Island has a small beach which regularly supports nesting flatback turtles and is a key site for an annual monitoring programme for this threatened species, and 20 years of survey data is now available for both flatback turtles and saltwater crocodiles.

Marine and riverine environments provide important habitat for a diversity of sedentary and migratory species, many of which are listed under the EPBC Act and international conservation agreements. These include five species of marine turtles, dugong and shorebirds. The park also provides key habitat for one critically endangered and one endangered species of river shark, two vulnerable sawfish species and two inshore dolphin species.

Kakadu wetlands and coastal and marine areas are of great importance to Bininj/Mungguy and numerous sites of significance are located within and adjacent to the park. They provide a vast supply of traditional foods, or bush tucker, such as magpie goose, fish, turtles, and lotus lily; traditional medicines; and wood and fibre for traditional weapons, utensils and weaving. Bininj/Mungguy have a long history of managing the floodplains, particularly through fire management, and customary harvest continues today.

Waldak Irrmbal (West Alligator Head) is the only coastal section of the park readily accessible by land during the dry season and is the focus for a number of recreational activities including boating, fishing and coastal camping. This area is characterised by unpredictable weather, large tides, shifting sandbanks and mudflats, and potentially dangerous wildlife such as crocodiles, stingrays, and box jellyfish. A number of incidents involving boats and vehicles in the Waldak Irrmbal area have required emergency assistance from park staff.

During the last 10 years, there has been a significant increase in recreational boating and fishing activity along the Kakadu coastline. Fishing activity is particularly high during neap tides at Waldak Irrmbal and Gardangal and in neighbouring waters. The West Alligator River and tributaries north of the Kakadu Highway are closed to boating and fishing for the purpose of maintaining a river system free of visitor impacts and protecting fish populations at the headwaters. It is the only river system in the Top End entirely protected from recreational fishing and boating. As a river system free of visitor impacts, the West Alligator River serves as an important refuge for wildlife and as a significant site for scientific research.

Commercial fishing targeting barramundi, salmon and mud crabs occurred within the park until 1989. Commercial fishing has not been allowed in the park since that time. At the time of preparing this plan, six commercial fishing operations were working along the Kakadu coastline, with at least one operation working the area full time during the commercial barramundi season.

A decision by the Northern Territory Government in February 2013 to close the area between Kakadu and the Finniss River to all commercial fishing has reduced the area available for the commercial harvest of barramundi. A proposed closure of waters near Darwin to recreational fishing may place more pressure on Kakadu coastal areas and infrastructure by recreational fishers and fishing tour operators. Incidents of illegal fishing occur in the park. Fishing in marine and coastal areas will be managed in accordance with Sections 10.7 (Recreational activities) and 10.10 (Commercial fishing) of this plan.


 

Values and condition

Kakadu’s freshwater and saltwater country:

·      contains near-pristine rivers and creeks, connected from their source in the stone country to the coast

·      supports a great diversity of habitats including springs and perched swamps, large rivers, seasonally flooded freshwater floodplains and wetlands and tidally influenced mudflats and mangroves

·      provides important habitat and refuge for vast numbers of waterbird species, including records of more than two million Magpie Geese and ducks, and significant numbers of other species such as egrets, ibis, brolga and migratory shorebirds

·      provides important habitat for 27 threatened species, including internationally threatened sawfishes, river sharks, marine turtles and dugong, and those with a restricted range such as the yellow chat (Alligator River subspecies) and the plains death adder

·      illustrates a highly dynamic and productive ecological system over multiple scales (seasonal to millennia)

·      supports intact coastal vegetation, namely mangroves, and largely undisturbed islands, of which there are relatively few protected in the conservation network in the Northern Territory

·      represents a long-standing cultural interaction with the landscape through fire management and is culturally significant as a source of food

·      supports high freshwater and estuarine fish and aquatic invertebrate diversity;

·      supports significant populations of saltwater (Crocodylus porosus) and freshwater (Crocodylus johnstoni) crocodiles and a population of the pig-nosed turtle.

The condition of wetland areas in the park varies, but is generally very good compared with other wetlands globally. However, large areas of floodplain are being significantly impacted by weeds, and wetlands and springs in the stone country are being degraded by pigs and buffaloes. Popular visitor sites in coastal areas have also experienced some localised degradation associated with unregulated use.

Marine and riverine environments within the park potentially have the best-protected populations of threatened sawfishes and river sharks, but there are a number of threats operating outside the park. Bininj/Mungguy have concerns about the declining population of some bush tucker species, such as turtles and goanna.

Existing threats to values

Weeds (highly significant)

Weeds such as Mimosa pigra, Salvinia molesta and the introduced pasture species para grass (Bracharia mutica) and olive hymenachne (Hymenachne amplexicaulis) pose a substantial and ongoing threat to floodplain environments in the park. The floodplain areas are extensive and access can be difficult, making management costly and future eradication unlikely.


 

Feral animals:

·      Pig and buffalo (highly significant)

There is localised impact from buffalo and pigs on some spring areas in the stone country and extensive impact in floodplain areas. Pigs predate on several wetland dependent species including frogs and turtles. Bininj/Mungguy are concerned about the decline in numbers of turtles, which may be related to the presence of pigs. Pigs target Eleocharis bulbs which are a major food source for magpie geese. The spread of weeds such as mimosa and olive hymenachne by pigs and buffalo through foraging activities is of major concern.

·      Cane toad (highly significant)

Cane toads have impacted significantly on many species in wetland areas, including goannas, large dragons and elapid snakes. This threat cannot realistically be humanly controlled and will be monitored to enable an adaptive response to possible impacts.

·      Feral cat (highly significant

While the extent of impact of cats on floodplain fauna is not fully known, it is clear they are contributing to the decline of some species. Actions addressing feral cat management are covered in Section 5.3 (Managing park-wide threats affecting values).

Climate change (highly significant)

Sea-level rise is expected to result in the replacement of many freshwater wetlands with saline wetlands and will potentially have a major effect on floodplain values. Historic disturbance to natural levees by buffalo allowed entry of salt water into some freshwater areas and impacted on vegetation communities. Artificial dams and levees were built in some places to replace and stabilise damaged levees but have not been maintained and there are limited other options to minimise saltwater intrusion in the park. More extreme weather events associated with climate change are also likely to impact on coastal and riverine areas in Kakadu.

Fire (moderately significant)

In the absence of continued traditional burning practices over generations, extensive areas that were once identifiable as open Aboriginal occupation sites are now obscured by native vegetation, increasing fuel loads and changing the landscape. Traditional fire management of the floodplains saw areas burnt periodically to control the density of aquatic grasses, thereby increasing the extent of open water (favoured by many wetland animals) and of some plant species (such as water chestnut and wild rice) that provide important resources for many animal species, including magpie geese. Introduced pasture species that have extended across the landscape have also increased fuel loads and impacted on wetland fire regimes.

Illegal commercial fishing (moderately significant) and recreational fishing (low significance)

Illegal commercial fishing, and to a lesser extent recreational fishing, has potentially had an impact on dolphins and on threatened species such as sawfish and river sharks. These species are highly vulnerable to gillnet fishing (from commercial fishers operating outside the park or illegally in river mouths of the park). There have been a number of incidents involving commercial fishing operators illegally netting within the park. Actions addressing compliance issues are covered in Section 9.2 (Compliance and enforcement).

Visitor impacts (low significance)

There are localised impacts from unregulated use in high-use coastal visitor areas (Waldak Irrmbal), including overcrowding at camping areas, off-road driving and rubbish. Actions addressing visitor impacts are covered in Section 5.3 (Managing park-wide threats affecting values).


 

Unauthorised access (low significance)

Regular monitoring and surveillance by park staff is difficult due to the remoteness of the coastal area and there may be significant time delays in responding to incidents. Weeds and fire are often spread by people accessing parts of the park without authorisation. Actions addressing compliance issues are covered in Section 9.2 (Compliance and enforcement).

Development impacts outside the park (highly significant)

Some species that use coastal waters and areas are migratory and also depend on land and waters outside the park where they may be subject to multiple threats such as habitat loss or degradation. These impacts are largely beyond park control.

Actions

5.2.3              Manage weeds on the floodplains, prioritising control of ecosystem-transforming weeds (including para grass and olive hymenachne) in priority areas and continued eradication of mimosa.

5.2.4              Manage feral animals on the floodplains to reduce the impact of pigs and buffalo in priority areas.

5.2.5              Manage fire on the floodplains in accordance with the Policies and Actions in Sections 5.3.17 to 5.3.26 to:

(a)      replicate the traditional floodplain burning regime

(b)     reduce cover of Hymenachne, para grass and other floodplain weed species and promote Eleocharis and other native wetland plant species.

5.2.6              Identify actions to limit the impact of saltwater intrusion in priority areas and implement them where practical and cost-effective.

5.2.7              Manage native plants and animals in the floodplains, rivers and coastal environments through:

(a)      development and implementation of a park strategy for the conservation of threatened species and threatened ecological communities, including, as appropriate, actions in recovery plans for relevant species

(b)     identification of other significant species (e.g. culturally significant species) and implementation of specific management prescriptions for these species

(c)      conducting survey and monitoring programmes for significant species.

5.2.8              Take a lead role in liaising and cooperating with the Northern Territory Government and other relevant stakeholders, including relevant traditional owners, regarding the management of access to marine areas of the park and improved management and protection of adjacent coastal and marine environments.

5.2.9              Continue work mapping and defining the northern boundary of the park.


 

The lowlands – Kukarnhkarndan

Outcome

·      The abundance of significant species is increased (where possible and appropriate) or maintained

Performance indicator

·      Abundance of significant species

Background

‘In the woodlands there are many uses for us, for instance gathering bark for shelters from the stringy-bark trees and also looking for young hollow trees to make didgeridoo. And there are many foods and meat to gather as well. The woodlands are important to gukburlerri from many years ago and from today.’

Yvonne and Nida Gangali, Mirarr/Gundjeihmi clan

Lowland plains stretch over much of the Top End and are the most obvious and widespread landscape in Kakadu, making up over 70 per cent of the park. This gently undulating landscape typically supports eucalypt woodlands and open forests with an understorey of shrubs and tall grasses. Darwin stringybark (Eucalyptus tetrodonta) and Darwin woollybutt (Eucalyptus miniata) are the main trees in the lowlands; they dominate some woodland communities and occur in varying proportions throughout most other woodlands and forests.

Where the woodlands form a riparian fringe to adjoining wetlands a special habitat dominated by Ironwood (Erythrophleum chlorostachys) and Scribbly Gum (or Snappy Gum, Eucalyptus racemosa) was particularly used for wet season camping by Aboriginal people.

The lowlands adjoining the stone country escarpment are often accessed by stone country bird and mammal species e.g. Chestnut-quilled rock pigeon Petrophassa rufipennis, and macropods for feeding forays.

Woodlands typically grow on sandy or lateritic soils, often shallow and gravelly; their trees are low and widely spaced and often lose their leaves in the dry season. The forests tend to grow on deeper soils and have year-round ground moisture available to them, with taller trees which grow closer together. The lowlands are heavily influenced by seasonal factors. The wet season is a period of growth, when plants make the most of the abundant water. The dry season is a more stressful time, and the plants have adapted to cope with this long waterless period.

Lowland woodlands can change significantly within short distances; this is determined by a number of factors such as soil structure, slope and length of flooding during the wet season. The widespread and variable nature of the lowlands, plus its vast expanse, has contributed to making it the richest in plant and animal species of the park landscapes, although (in contrast to the stone country) most species also occur widely beyond Kakadu.


 

Values and condition

The lowlands within Kakadu:

·      are the dominant ecological fabric of the park and the one that connects all the other landscapes

·      are largely intact and represent the largest savanna protected within a reserve in the world

·      comprise a great diversity of species, with the majority of Kakadu’s species existing in this landscape

·      are the primary habitat for 20 threatened species, particularly mammals

·      are the primary habitat for many culturally significant species such as billy goat plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana) and other plants and animals collected for food and materials

·      are a nationally significant carbon store.

Compared with other savanna lowlands around the world, the Kakadu lowlands are largely intact but their condition is declining: the extent and impact of weeds, particularly ecosystem transforming grasses, is increasing; large and frequent fires are leading to simplification of the woodland structure; feral animals are impacting on some environments and species; and populations of some threatened species, particularly mammals, are falling rapidly.

Existing threats to values

Fire (highly significant)

Large, hot and frequent fires remain a significant issue in the lowlands, in particular for the maintenance of habitats favoured by some currently declining animal species. The numerous unplanned and unauthorised fires that are lit along major roads and in the park each year by people travelling through and using the park is a major issue.

Feral animals:

·      Cats (highly significant)

While the extent of impact from cats on the lowlands fauna is not fully known, it is clear they are contributing to the decline of many species, especially small mammals. No fully effective control programme has been demonstrated for feral cats in this environment and management options remain limited.

·      Cane toads (highly significant)

Cane toads have had a significant impact on many species in the lowlands, including quolls, goannas, large dragons and elapid snakes. This threat cannot realistically be humanly controlled and will be monitored to enable an adaptive response to possible impacts.

·      Feral herbivores (highly significant)

Feral herbivores such as buffalo, pigs, cattle, horses and donkeys are abundant in neighbouring areas and are increasing in lowland areas of the park. In the lowlands they degrade habitat and spread weeds, and populations will quickly build up if they are not continually controlled.

·      Dogs, invasive ants, feral bees (low significance)

Feral dogs interbreed with dingoes. They place increased pressure on native animals and also cause safety issues around living areas. Introduced ants and European bees are capable of displacing other invertebrates and alter food availability and habitat for native animals.


 

Knowledge gaps (moderately significant)

There is significant uncertainty surrounding the cause of decline of many species in the lowlands and the interactions of different threats. In particular, research on the cause of small mammal decline remains inconclusive and it is therefore difficult to develop management solutions with confidence of success. Actions addressing research and knowledge management are covered in Section 7 (Research and knowledge management).

Potential threats to values

Weeds (highly significant)

Highly invasive African pasture grasses such as gamba grass represent a major potential threat to the lowlands. Gamba grass has a higher biomass and cures later in the dry season than native grasses; it causes dramatic increases in the intensity of fires. Climate change related temperature increases are likely to exacerbate these impacts. The great extent of the lowlands makes weed management challenging and resource intensive.

Actions

5.2.10           Manage fire in the lowlands in accordance with the Policies and Actions in Sections 5.3.17 to 5.3.26 to reduce impact on plants, animals and habitats.

5.2.11           Manage weeds in the lowlands prioritising control of the spread of gamba grass.

5.2.12           Manage feral animals in the lowlands through:

(a)       development of cost-effective strategies for management of feral cats in priority areas

(b)       management of pigs, horses, donkeys and buffalo, particularly in areas of high density.

5.2.13           Manage native plants and animals in the lowlands through:

(a)       development and implementation of a park strategy for the conservation of threatened species and threatened ecological communities, including actions in recovery plans for relevant species

(b)       identification of other significant species (e.g. indicator and culturally significant species) and implementation of specific management prescriptions for these species

(c)       conducting survey and monitoring programmes to address knowledge gaps for significant species.


 

Rainforest – An-ngarre

Outcomes

·      The abundance of significant species is increased (where possible and appropriate) or maintained

·      The extent of rainforest is maintained

Performance indicators

·      Abundance of significant species

·      Area of rainforest

Background

‘We’ve got to stop late fires – protect anbinik.’

Traditional owner

 

Rainforest in Kakadu occurs in small, isolated patches scattered throughout the park, taking up less than three per cent of the park area, it is distinct from the surrounding savannah woodland and floodplain vegetation. Depending on the availability of water, rainforest may be wet, spring-fed or dry forest. It is structurally diverse, ranging from tall forests over 30 metres in height in the stone country to deciduous thickets often only two or three metres in height in coastal areas.

The stone country supports a high proportion of Kakadu’s rainforest, where it occurs scattered across the gorges and cliffs and often dominated by the large evergreen tree Allosyncarpia ternata (Anbinik). This tree has persisted since ancient times and is a primitive relative of our present-day eucalypts. It is found only in Kakadu’s stone country and the Arnhem Land Plateau, where it grows to become the largest tree in those areas. Anbinik forms shady canopies and provides cool refuge for a range of animals. The rugged topography in the stone country has provided micro-environments and areas of refuge from climate change and other impacts, and this has contributed to the high diversity of species found in rainforest there.

Coastal rainforest in Kakadu is relatively drought tolerant and has a patchy distribution around moist places along the coast and river banks and on the margins of floodplains. It comprises a mix of plants from the distant past when northern Australia had a wetter climate and rainforests were widespread, and more recent arrivals from Indo-Malay rainforests during drier periods when sea levels were much lower than today.

Rainforests provide a cool and shady refuge for people and wildlife, and provide many food and other resources of value to Bininj/Mungguy, including yams and fruits such as native plums. Fruit-eating birds and flying foxes play a vital role in linking plants in these isolated pockets by dispersing pollen and seeds.


 

Values and condition

Rainforest within Kakadu:

·      offers a marked ecosystem contrast to Kakadu’s spatially dominant landscape, the lowland woodlands, and contributes a set of very different species to the overall biota

·      comprises a high diversity of species, including many endemic, restricted, disjunct and specialised species, some from the distant past (e.g. Allosyncarpia ternata)

·      is the primary habitat for four threatened species including the orchid Dienia montana (formerly Malaxis latifolia) and many culturally significant species such as yams

·      provides a cool and shady refuge for animals during the heat of the late dry season and a source of significant fruit resources for animals

·      demonstrates interesting ecological processes and evolutionary history.

The condition of rainforest environments is variable across the park. They are expanding in some lowland areas but declining in other areas because of fire. Some degradation is occurring (e.g. disturbed understorey and erosion on rainforest margins) as a result of fire, pigs and buffalo, and encroaching grassy weeds such as African grasses.

Existing threats to values

Feral animals (highly significant)

Buffalo and pigs affect recruitment of rainforest species, particularly those associated with springs. The decline in yams in the park is likely to due to pig activity.

Fire (highly significant)

Rainforest is particularly sensitive to fire and comprises many species intolerant of fire. The small and remote nature of rainforest patches in the park also makes management of them difficult and costly.

Knowledge gaps (moderately significant)

The inventory of rainforest patches in the park is substantial but not comprehensive, and the distribution of some threatened species among these patches is poorly known, making management difficult. Surveys and monitoring are expensive but knowledge gaps need to be addressed so that priority areas can be identified and managed. Actions addressing research and knowledge management are covered in Section 7 (Research and knowledge management).

Weeds (low significance, potentially increasing)

Hyptis suaveolens favours disturbed areas and is a major weed in some rainforest patches in the park. Incursions of grassy weeds, particularly those in floodplain areas such as para grass, are increasing the prevalence and intensity of fire on rainforest margins and reducing their viability.

Potential threats to values

Myrtle rust (highly significant)

Myrtle rust has the potential to have a devastating impact on the Myrtaceae family of plants in Australia and the park should it spread here. Myrtaceae in humid environments such as rainforest will be most susceptible, especially those at springs and in riparian areas. Actions addressing plant pathogens are covered in Section 5.3 (Managing park-wide threats affecting values).

Actions

5.2.14           Manage feral animals in and around priority rainforest patches, prioritising a reduction in the impact of pigs and buffalo.

5.2.15           Manage fire in rainforest patches in accordance with the Policies and Actions in Sections 5.3.17 to 5.3.26 to reduce the impact and threat to priority patches.

5.2.16           Manage weeds in and adjacent to priority rainforest patches, prioritising control of species that are contributing to increased intensity of fire on rainforest margins (e.g. para grass).

5.2.17           Manage native plants and animals in rainforest environments through:

(a)      development and implementation of a park strategy for the conservation of threatened species and threatened ecological communities, including, as appropriate, actions in recovery plans for relevant species

(b)     identification of other significant species (e.g. indicator and culturally significant species) and implementation of specific management prescriptions for these species

(c)      conducting survey and monitoring programmes for significant species.

 


 

5.3                Managing park-wide threats affecting values

Objective

Maintain the condition of the park’s internationally significant natural and cultural values

 

The park’s internationally significant natural and cultural values are being affected, mostly detrimentally, by a range of potentially landscape-transforming factors including weeds, feral animals, fire, extreme weather events and climate change. These factors, excluding extreme weather and climate change to some degree, are within the capability of park management to influence. The major objective of this plan is to minimise the impact on the park’s values of those factors over which the park has some control, and thereby maintain (and enhance) the condition and integrity of the values through well-directed and well-implemented management actions. Figure 12 illustrates the line of sight for this section of the plan.

Kakadu is a very large park and large parts of it are remote and hard to access, making management expensive and difficult to implement. Management actions for some threats may not be feasible or cost-effective, and there are also information gaps and uncertainty about the impact of other potential threats. Management actions need to be prioritised based on an assessment of the risks of threats to the park’s values (see Section 9.10: Implementing and evaluating the plan).

While each of the four major landscapes within the park has distinct values, the relative impacts of the threats also vary with the different landscapes. Weeds, for example, are a much greater issue on the floodplains than in the stone country, where large, hot fires are the main threat. Management of the different threats needs to be prioritised differently in the different landscapes and should focus on the areas of high value, which may be at the expense of other areas. In the following sections significant threats have been identified by park management and external experts to highlight some of the priorities for management response. Each of the issues addressed in this section cannot be treated in isolation, as they can have a significant bearing on the behaviour and impact of other threats.

Since 2007, to help share information and ensure that park management is based on the best available evidence, Parks Australia held a series of symposia on topics including landscape change, fire management, weed management, feral animal management, climate change, cultural heritage and, more recently, threatened species. These fora bring together a range of experts to discuss in detail the issues impacting on park values and make management recommendations which have been incorporated into management programmes.


 

Figure 12:     Line of sight for Section 5.3: Managing park-wide threats affecting values

Diagram showing the line of sight for Section 5.3: Managing park-wide threats affecting values

 

Overarching principles for managing park-wide threats to natural and cultural values

When managing the issues impacting on the park’s values, the following principles apply:

·      Bininj/Mungguy will continue to be encouraged and supported to guide and participate in the development, implementation and review of all park management programmes (Section 4: Joint management).

·      Bininj/Mungguy traditional knowledge and practices, values and priorities will continue to be respected, used to inform management priorities and incorporated into programmes to manage the issues impacting on park values (Section 4: Joint management).

·      A regional approach will be taken to managing threats impacting on park values by liaising and collaborating with neighbours, government agencies, local organisations and other stakeholders in the planning and implementation of management programmes and through involvement with relevant decision-making committees to optimise management outcomes. This may involve park staff assisting neighbours with weed, feral animal or fire management on lands adjacent to Kakadu. Adjoining landholders will be kept informed about any on-ground management operations which may affect them (Section 9.7: Neighbours, stakeholders and partnerships).

·      Management of natural values will be considered and planned at a landscape level but will not exclude finer scale approaches as needed to optimise management outcomes.

·      The links between weeds, feral animals and fire, such as feral animals assisting the spread of weeds which contribute to larger fires, will be considered in the development of management programmes, and relevant strategies will be developed to ensure that they are complementary and consistent.

·      Research on existing and potential issues impacting on park values will be considered and supported where it can be used to inform and improve management (Section 7: Research and knowledge management).

·      Comprehensive information on the occurrence of weeds, feral animals and fire and on management inputs and success will be recorded and maintained (and readily accessible) (Section 7: Research and knowledge management).

·      Outsourcing of park weed management and feral control functions within a district, clan estate or specific area of the park to Aboriginal corporations or enterprises will be supported and facilitated where there is capacity to do so (Section 4.3: Bininj/Mungguy training and other opportunities).

 


 

Weeds and plant pathogens

Outcome

·      The impact of weeds on park values is minimised

Performance indicator

·      Distribution and abundance of priority weed species

Background

Weeds are one of the most significant threats to the park’s natural and cultural values. Although Kakadu currently has a low proportion of weeds, with less than 8 per cent of the 700-plus plant species recorded in the park recognised as weeds (compared with 21 per cent for other national parks in the region), many of the park’s landscapes are being significantly impacted by invasive weeds. Many of these weeds were introduced during the pastoral era, while more recently others were introduced both intentionally and accidentally into lease areas within the park.

Weeds compete with native plants, may change the structure of vegetation communities, and impact on food and habitat availability for native animals. Significant impacts on ecosystems and the flora and fauna that they support, particularly waterbirds, could affect Kakadu’s World Heritage and Ramsar status.

Some highly invasive weed species such as annual and perennial mission grass occupy large areas of the north-east and central parts of the park and are likely to continue to spread in lowland woodland environments. These species cause dramatic increases in the intensity of fire, and such weed-fuelled high-intensity fires may threaten many natural values. Climate change modelling for the tropical savannas indicates these impacts will worsen under warmer temperatures.

Aquatic grassy weeds such as para grass and olive hymenachne are impacting on hunting areas and fire regimes on the floodplains, and have the potential to invade and alter vast areas if left unchecked. Salvinia is spreading in wetland environments and is now present in the Yellow Water visitor area and adjacent waterways used for recreational fishing. Although mimosa is largely under control due to a huge investment of effort over many years, it remains an ever present threat to floodplain areas. A National Environmental Research Programme project shows that the success of this programme effort is likely to be negated if significant resources are not invested in the control of other exotic invasive grasses such as para grass.

Five invasive pasture grasses found in the park, olive hymenachne, gamba grass, para grass and the perennial and annual mission grasses, are listed as a key threatening process affecting biodiversity in northern Australia under the EPBC Act. A national threat abatement plan (DSEWPaC 2012) has been developed to reduce their impacts. Six species found in the park are listed on the Australian Government list of Weeds of National Significance.

Significant resources have been committed to priority weed management programmes, with some notable success such as the early and ongoing control of mimosa. Park staff undertake weed control programmes in accordance with annual weed management plans, and provide support to outstation residents and neighbours in weed control activities. Biological control techniques have been used to help control weeds such as salvinia and sida species, and research undertaken into the ecology and management of several important weed species has improved other control methods. It is important that management of weeds occurs on a landscape scale and across tenures; for this reason park management undertakes ongoing collaborations with neighbours, including Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area and Energy Resources Australia (ERA).

Deliberate introduction of beneficial non-native species (biological control agents)

The Cyrtobagous weevil was introduced into the park in 1983 to aid with salvinia control. Over the years it has worked extremely well in areas like the Magela billabongs but it does not appear to work as well on open floodplains or Melaleuca swamps. The sida leaf-feeding beetle (Calligrapha pantherina) has been introduced into the park a number of times. It works well in some areas but appears to die out. No adverse ecological impacts of these agents have been reported. Some mimosa biocontrol agents have been developed but not introduced to Kakadu, as they are only viable where there are extensive stands of mimosa. The risks associated with biocontrol introductions are rigorously assessed and introductions are monitored for effectiveness and unintended impacts.

The EPBC Regulations prohibit bringing plants, soil and other material into the park, or cultivating plants, except in accordance with this plan or a permit from the Director. Jabiru residents and residents of other lease areas may bring in and cultivate plants if they are on the Kakadu National Park Approved Plant List (see Section 10.13: Bringing plants, animals and other materials into the park).

The Weeds Management Act 2001 (NT) applies to the park in so far as it is not inconsistent with the EPBC Act, this plan or the EPBC Regulations.

Management issues

·      Overall weed threat to park values

The highly invasive nature of a number of significant weeds present in the Kakadu lowlands and wetlands presents a major challenge for park management. Despite considerable and ongoing investment in management of these species, they are proving difficult to contain. In the face of limited resources, future weed management will need to focus on priority areas of the park.

·      Weed–fire interactions

Some highly invasive weed species such as mission grass and gamba grass cause dramatic increases in the intensity of fire. Warmer temperatures associated with climate change are likely to accentuate this.

·      Weeds present in the park but not yet well-established

Some weeds such as gamba grass and belly ache bush are currently present in small and/or isolated patches. Park staff, Bininj/Mungguy and visitors need to take care not to spread weed seed around the park. It is possible that current sleeper weeds, particularly broader-leafed species, may become more invasive under warmer climatic conditions.

·      Potential new weeds

Highly significant water weeds such as water hyacinth, alligator weed and cabomba would have dire consequences for wetlands if introduced to the park. Park management needs to remain vigilant to ensure new species are not introduced and that, if detected, they are very quickly eradicated through ‘early detection and rapid response’. Vehicle, vessel and equipment hygiene is important and levels of awareness within the community need to be improved to minimise the risk of accidental introduction of weeds.

·      Existing infestations in Jabiru and other lease areas

There are significant infestations of mission grass in Jabiru and other lease areas, and also several ornamental and garden plants, such as coffee bush (Senna occidentalis), with potential to be significant weeds.


 

·      Myrtle rust

Myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease that affects plants in the Myrtaceae family and has the potential to have a devastating impact in the park should it spread here. Myrtaceae in any humid environment will be most susceptible, especially Melaleuca and riparian forests and rainforests around springs in the sandstone and lowlands. How much it will affect species in more open woodland environments remains to be seen, but they are likely to be less susceptible.

·      Biosecurity

There are many other plant pests that could potentially impact on park species. Work needs to continue together with other agencies to develop biosecurity practices that help minimise the risk of them being introduced to the park.

Policies

5.3.1              When using poisonous substances in the park to control weeds, the Director will take care to minimise the effects on non-target species.

5.3.2              Development proposals within the park are required to include measures to prevent and manage weeds (Section 9.5: Assessment of proposals).

5.3.3              The Director may prohibit or restrict access to areas in the park to ensure park values are protected from threats such as weeds, feral animals and fire (Section 10.4: Access).

Actions

5.3.4              Implement, review and update a park weed management strategy to minimise the impacts of weeds on the park’s values through:

(a)      assessing risks to park values posed by current and potential weeds

(b)     prioritising control of invasive species, giving priority to controlling species that pose a high risk of threatening ecosystem function and/or priority areas, and/or are feasible to control, taking into account changing climatic conditions

(c)      using a range of efficient and cost-effective mechanisms to deliver weed management and control. This may include the introduction of non-native biological control agents where they are likely to pose low or no risk to park values

(d)     monitoring invasive species spread and effectiveness of control works

(e)     awareness of potential new weed species and proposing measures to prevent and/or manage them

(f)        adjusting control strategies in response to an improved understanding of invasive species and control methods.

5.3.5              Develop and implement a weed education programme for park residents, staff, contractors, tour operators and visitors – including how to recognise weeds and their impacts, and information on transfer by vehicles, trailers and vessels and the regulations regarding the entry of plant, animal and soil material into the park.

5.3.6              Provide training opportunities on weed identification, control and monitoring for park staff, Bininj/Mungguy, neighbouring Indigenous ranger groups and other stakeholders involved in weed management.


 

5.3.7              Midway through the life of this plan, review and update the Approved Plant List for the park, which identifies the plants that residents of lease areas and Jabiru may bring into the park and cultivate within residential areas without a permit (see Section 10.13: Bringing plants, animals and other materials into the park).

5.3.8              Work with government agencies to stay informed about potential new biosecurity risks and develop and implement a biosecurity strategy that identifies and considers potential risks and proposes measures to prevent and/or manage them.


 

Feral animals

Outcome

·      The impact of feral animals on park values is minimised

Performance indicator

·      Distribution and abundance of priority feral animal species

Background

‘Pigs make a mess digging up the ground. Donkeys might damage country some places. Buffalo can mess up country too but not many here now. Before, there was plenty.’

Steven Nabinardi Madjandi, Mirarr/Gundjeihmi clan

Feral animals can have a significant impact on the park’s cultural and natural values. They impact on native plants and animals and available food resources, and cause erosion, saltwater intrusion and the spread of weeds and disease. Asian water buffalo, cattle, pigs, horses, donkeys, dogs, cats, black rats, European bees, cane toads and introduced ants are present in Kakadu. There are also risks that new species, such as crazy ants, will invade.

Buffalo, cattle, pigs, horses and donkeys present public safety issues. Large animals like buffalo and horses are particularly dangerous along roadways. Buffalo and pigs can also be aggressive to humans.

The cat, pig and cane toad, are identified nationally as key threatening processes impacting on threatened species and ecological communities as listed under the EPBC Act. Threat abatement plans have been developed to reduce the impact of these species (DEH 2005, DEWHA 2008, DSEWPaC 2011).

Bininj place a range of values on some introduced animals which are influenced by the history of association between Bininj and each species over time. They value particular species, such as buffalo, cattle and pigs, as a source of food, and believe in the idea of rights to exist on country. For example, horses were around long before the declaration of the park and some Bininj believe they have a right to continue to live here.

Since completion of the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign (BTEC) in 1997, a small herd of buffalo has been kept in a fenced area in the park of approximately 12,000 hectares (known as the Buffalo Farm), to supply meat to Bininj/Mungguy residing in the park to compensate for the significant reduction in numbers during the BTEC programme.

A park-wide feral animal control exercise was conducted in 2008–09. Since then most feral animal control programmes have focused on strategic areas of high risk rather than taking a park-wide approach, due to limited budgets. Aerial survey techniques have also been reviewed and refined. The park is participating in a feral cat research project as part of the National Environmental Research Programme. Two fenced exclosures have been built to exclude feral cats and extensive fauna surveys are being undertaken to improve the evidence base concerning the impacts of feral cats. The park also supports research projects on black rats and disease, and on training northern quolls to avoid cane toads.

The EPBC Regulations prohibit the movement of livestock through the park and bringing in or keeping animals in the park, except in accordance with this plan or a permit issued by the Director. Section 10.13 of this plan sets out the prescriptions concerning bringing plants, animals and other material into the park.

Background on individual species

·      Buffalo and cattle

Asian water buffalo and cattle impact on all park environments. Freshwater springs are particularly impacted: many change from clear running systems to turbid sediment carrying systems due to buffalo wallowing. Buffalo and cattle also contribute to saltwater intrusion and spread weeds. Buffalo are a major threat to effective management of mimosa, and their rubbing on rock faces impacts on rock art sites. The BTEC removed most buffalo from the park and enabled many disturbed areas to recover. Since then, numbers of buffalo have increased gradually. They are abundant in neighbouring Arnhem Land and pastoral properties, and their numbers are increasing within the park, particularly in the south.

·      Pigs

Pigs cause noticeable widespread impacts around springs, floodplains and small rainforest patches. As well as digging up plant foods they are known to predate on a range of small native animals, including frogs, lizards and turtles, and on their eggs. The foraging activities of pigs help to spread weeds, such as mimosa and olive hymenachne, and this is a major concern. Pigs breed rapidly, so populations can quickly re-establish following control.

·      Cats

Feral cats are associated with reductions in native species, particularly reptiles, birds and ground-dwelling mammals such as the brush-tailed rabbit-rat, but more information is required to understand the population and impacts of feral cats. Reasonably broad-scale control activities are now being undertaken by Western Australia Parks and Wildlife in the Pilbara.

·      Cane toads

Cane toads arrived in the southern regions of Kakadu in 2001 and populations are now well established throughout the park. Cane toads have serious impacts on some wildlife populations. Toads eat a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate native animals (not only impacting on prey species but also reducing food resources for other native animals), and they have toxic defences that can result in the deaths of animals that eat toads. These impacts also affect the availability of some bush foods for Bininj/Mungguy. Since the arrival of toads in the park, there has been a notable decline in the numbers of quolls and goannas. Large dragons, elapid snakes, freshwater crocodiles and other species are also likely to be affected. Control of cane toads has not been attempted in the park as at the time of preparing this plan there is no known method to manage populations of cane toads over large areas in high-rainfall zones. However, monitoring programmes related to cane toad distribution and impacts on native animals are in place and the park is participating in collaborative research projects that involve relocation of quolls to toad-free islands and training quolls to be toad adverse.

·      Horses and donkeys

Horses and donkeys cause erosion around water bodies, carry disease, and aid the spread of weeds such as mission grass, gamba grass and rattlepod. Information is required on seasonal distribution and survey techniques to help develop more effective targeted control programmes.


 

·      Introduced ants

Introduced ants are capable of displacing other invertebrates such as green ants, thereby altering food availability for native animals. Introduced ants currently found in the park include the ginger ant, pharaohs ant, Singapore ant, ghost ant and big-headed ant. Major costs have been associated with the control of big-headed ants in Kakadu, Jabiru and lease areas since 2001. The possible introduction of the yellow crazy ant is of major concern. Staff and residents need to be well equipped to quickly and reliably recognise introduced ant species.

·      Dogs

Feral dogs interbreed with dingoes, and in some locations packs of wild dogs and hybrids place increased pressure on native wildlife within the park. Dogs that are not looked after may pose health and safety risks in Jabiru, park resorts and lease areas, and in Aboriginal outstations.

·      Black rats

Recent research has shown an increasing abundance and distribution of this non-native rodent across many areas of the Top End, including Kakadu. It can spread disease, compete with native species, predate on native species and also cause considerable economic detriments. A study conducted in Kakadu did not find any diseases that would potentially impact on small mammals, but further research would be advantageous.

·      Exotic aquatic animals

The introduction of exotic aquatic animals and aquarium plants into waterways within the park would pose significant ecological risks. Exotic marine animals such as the black-striped mussel could pose significant threats to coastal and estuary areas, and introduction of exotic aquatic snails and fish, such as Tilapia, would have serious impacts on populations of native freshwater species.

·      Exotic birds

Residents and visitors are not allowed to bring in pet birds, as they may introduce diseases and some species may become pests. Eradication of exotic birds is difficult if large populations become established over significant areas. Species accidentally introduced into Darwin, such as tree sparrows and spice finches, could become a problem in Kakadu if they became established more broadly in the Top End.

·      European bees

European bees may adversely affect native insects and compete with native animals for nectar, pollen and tree hollows. Research is required to determine the abundance and level of impacts of European bees on wildlife within the park. Control by park staff does not presently extend beyond park infrastructure and visitor areas.


 

Management issues

·      High-priority species

Pigs, buffalo, feral cats and cane toads have a very significant impact on threatened species and other biodiversity in the park. Pigs and buffalo have a significant impact on yams and cultural heritage sites. Wild dogs and black rats are also likely to be having a significant impact on fauna species.

·      Potential new species

Yellow crazy ants, mosquito fish and other aquarium and introduced fish such as Tilapia represent a high potential threat to park values. Some introduced bird species could also become pests or transmit disease to wild populations. Preventing introductions of new species is the most important option available for reducing risk of further damage caused by feral animals. Rules regarding restrictions on what animals may be brought into the park are not always followed, either intentionally or accidentally, through lack of knowledge. It is important to provide residents with good information about the potential impacts of introduced animals prior to their arrival in the park.

·      Unattended pets

Domestic dogs are often left unattended on outstations when people relocate either temporarily or permanently. The dogs are left to fend for themselves; they scavenge for food and may interbreed with dingoes and become a public safety risk especially around residential areas. Similarly cats introduced to outstations are likely to have contributed to the feral cat population. Following two successful desexing programs in 2014, over 90% of the dogs and cats in the Kakadu outstations are now desexed. This means that unless there is recruitment of animals from outside the park, the dog population will progressively reduce. Having a reduced dog and cat population will also help to minimise the adverse impacts of companion animals on native species in the park. This project has been a successful collaboration between AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities), the Warnbi and Gundjheimi Aboriginal Corporations, and Parks Australia.

·      Disease

Pigs, buffalo, cattle and horses are known carriers of a range of diseases that have the potential to be transmitted to native species and domestic livestock. Kakadu’s location along the northern coastline increases its exposure to potential new diseases, particularly those carried by birds or insects. Cats are also potential vectors of toxoplasmosis, which can affect native mammals.

·      Other pests

There are many other pests that could potentially impact on native species. The park needs to continue to work with other agencies to develop and implement biosecurity practices that reduce risks of new pest species becoming established.

·      Public safety

Some feral animal species present a public safety risk – for example horses on public roads – and need to be managed appropriately.

·      Effective use of resources

It is not possible or feasible to eliminate all feral animals from the park. Agreement is needed between all stakeholders on the acceptable level of impact, and management effort allocated accordingly.


 

Policies

5.3.9              Future proposals regarding the introduction of biological control agents will be subject to rigorous risk assessment, and any use of such agents will be monitored for effectiveness and impacts upon non-target species and habitats.

5.3.10           Authorisation may be given for some feral animals to be retained in the park for Bininj/Mungguy cultural reasons – where this does not significantly affect the natural values of the park or significantly impede the effectiveness of park-wide invasive species management.

5.3.11           The Director may provide training in control techniques to enable Bininj/Mungguy not employed by the park to obtain required licences to undertake feral animal control.

Actions

5.3.12           Implement, review and update the feral animal strategy for the park to minimise the impacts of feral animals on the park’s values including by:

(a)      assessing risks to park values

(b)     prioritising control of invasive species, giving highest priority to controlling species that are at risk of threatening ecosystem function and/or at risk of threatening priority areas and/or detrimental to threatened species

(c)      using a range of mechanisms to deliver feral animal management and control

(d)     monitoring invasive species density and spread and effectiveness of control works

(e)     considering potential new feral animal species and proposing measures to prevent and/or manage them

(f)       adjusting control strategies accordingly.

5.3.13           Cease operation of the Buffalo Farm when current management arrangements come to an end, and arrange for rehabilitation measures.

5.3.14           Provide an education programme on feral animals for residents, contractors, tour operators and visitors – including recognising feral animals and their impacts, and the responsibilities and requirements regarding the entry of plant, animal and soil material into the park.

5.3.15           Work with government agencies to stay informed about potential new biosecurity risks and develop and implement a biosecurity strategy that identifies and considers potential risks and proposes measures to prevent and/or manage them.

5.3.16           Control feral animals where they present particular health and safety risks to people or otherwise cause a significant nuisance, particularly in key public visitation sites.


 

Fire

Outcome

·      Fire is actively managed to maintain park values

Performance indicators

·      Reduction in areas impacted by large fires

·      Reduction in the risk and impact of wildfires entering, spreading, or leaving the park

·      Reduced frequency of large severe fires

·      Reduced average fire patch size

Background

‘Fire is respected in our culture. Fire is not just fire, it is something that is sacred and embedded in our culture.’

Joshua Hunter, Wurrkbarbar clan

Fire is an important and recurring element of the savannas of northern Australia and an effective and necessary management tool. Bininj/Mungguy have always used and continue to use fire as an important tool for managing and expressing ownership of country, and this ongoing and active management of the landscape is one of the values for which Kakadu is inscribed on the World Heritage List (see Appendix A: World Heritage attributes).

Traditional fire management created a mosaic of unburnt, early-burnt and late-burnt patches and over many thousands of years supported Bininj/Mungguy use of resources and helped to create the landscapes and diversity of native species found in the park today. However, following the arrival of Balanda and the introduction of pastoralism, traditional patterns of burning country were severely disrupted and large, hot, destructive dry-season wildfires became more common. The introduction of exotic pasture grasses (such as gamba and mission grass) and the reduction in grazing pressure through removal of water buffalo in the 1980s added fuel to the landscape and further contributed to the problem. Large late-season fires also lead to higher loss of carbon and increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Since the proclamation of the park, fire management has attempted to mimic traditional burning practices to look after country and to protect people and park assets. Considerable progress has been made to reduce the high incidence of late dry-season fires but major fires in the stone country of the park in 2004 and 2006 necessitated a review of fire management and prompted a move towards the development of landscape-based fire plans. The Arnhem Land Plateau Fire Management Plan, developed in 2007, focused on the stone country. Evaluations of the implementation of this plan illustrate some success in changing the fire regime to one dominated by early dry-season fires, however there has been little reduction in the overall frequency of fire (Murphy 2013).

Notwithstanding such management, there is now compelling evidence that recent and current fire regimes are a major contributing factor to the decline of many plant and animal species in Kakadu (and elsewhere in northern Australia), and inappropriate fire regime is a major threat to many of Kakadu’s threatened species and its threatened ecological community. Many threatened and declining species are associated with or dependent upon relatively long-unburnt areas and the current frequency of fires in some areas is resulting in a decline of suitable habitat. Long-unburnt patches provide the opportunity for tree and shrub regeneration. This contributes to habitat with plants of mixed age, which is important for wildlife. A lack of long-unburnt patches contributes to more uniform habitat.

To maintain the park’s landscapes, native species and cultural values, further changes in the way that fire is managed, particularly in the lowland woodlands, are needed. There are many challenges in doing this, including the vast size of the park; the extensive rugged and generally inaccessible regions; unplanned fires that are deliberately lit or caused through lightning or accidental ignition; and the spread of invasive grasses in the lowlands and floodplains. An overall fire management strategy for the park will be developed to guide management. It will include landscape-based fire strategies for the stone country, lowlands and floodplains/wetlands and set explicit targets for fire management in these landscapes. A major priority in the lowlands is to address the numerous unplanned, unauthorised and large severe fires that are lit along major roads and in the park each year by people using or travelling through the park.

The fire history of the park is well documented by Bushfires NT using interpretation of satellite imagery, and flora and fauna surveys are conducted periodically at permanent fire monitoring plots as part of the Three Parks Monitoring Programme, which also involves Nitmiluk and Litchfield national parks. Twenty-five years of monitoring data is now available for more than 120 monitoring plots. The park has also supported a major research project on stone country fires and the role of keystone species such as cypress pine (Anlarr) and Allosyncarpia (Anbinik) conducted by researchers from Charles Darwin University.

In addition to protecting the park’s values, it is essential that fire management programmes, including management of wildfires, ensure the protection of life, property and park assets. Fire management for life and property protection is mostly undertaken around Jabiru township, outstations and other infrastructure and does not necessarily conflict with the use of different fire regimes to maintain park values.

The Bushfires Act (NT) applies to Kakadu insofar as it is not inconsistent with the EPBC Act, this plan or the EPBC Regulations.

Management issues

·      Invasive grasses

The spread of grassy weeds into the park, and the associated increase in fire risk, poses a major threat to Kakadu landscapes and biodiversity, particularly the lowland woodlands and patches of rainforest.

·      Unplanned large and severe late-season fires

These continue to be an issue in some areas of the park, in particular within the stone country where fires may originate from neighbouring areas or be ignited by lightning strike. Each year numerous unplanned and unauthorised fires are ignited along the highways and in the park by people travelling through or using the park. This can negate the effectiveness of planned fire management.

·      Fire regime

Many threatened and declining plant and animal species (and the threatened ecological community) are detrimentally affected by the current fire regime. More long-unburnt patches are needed to provide the opportunity for tree and shrub regeneration and contribute to habitat with plants of mixed age, which is important for wildlife.

·      Wildfires spreading, entering or leaving the park through park boundaries

It is important that the boundary areas of the park are well managed to reduce the risk of unplanned fires entering or spreading from the park. Fire management must be considered in a wider regional context, and close liaison with neighbours and regional organisations is essential.


 

·      Bininj/Mungguy support

It is important to Bininj/Mungguy that they are involved in the development of fire management programmes to ensure that their views regarding how country should be burnt are incorporated and that they support the programmes. It is also important for Bininj/Mungguy to be actively involved in implementing and reviewing the outcomes of fire management programmes.

·      Climate change effects

Changing climatic conditions may alter the intensity and extent of fires, and fire management strategies need to take this into account.

·      Knowledge gaps

Better understanding is required of the role and acceptability of wet-season burning as a tool for reducing native sorghum abundance and promoting development of other understorey communities. Actions relating to research and knowledge management are covered in Section 7 (Research and knowledge management).

·      Lack of community understanding and awareness

Tour operators, visitors and residents need to understand the use of fire as a land management tool and the wise use of fire at campgrounds.

·      Loss of cultural knowledge

The loss of cultural knowledge related to traditional burning practices poses a threat to the long-term cultural management and use of floodplains.

Policies

5.3.17           Fire will be managed to protect park values, in particular from the threats to landscapes identified in Section 5.2.

5.3.18           Bininj/Mungguy traditional burning practices will continue to be recognised and incorporated in fire management programmes.

5.3.19           Fire management will be carried out in a manner consistent with the Bushfires Act (NT) so far as practicable.

5.3.20           The Director may apply for a permit to carry out fire management works under the Bushfires Act (NT).

5.3.21           Access to areas in the park may be restricted or prohibited to ensure park values are protected from threats such as fire.

Actions

5.3.22           Develop, implement, review and update the park’s fire management strategies to minimise the impacts of fire on the park’s values including by:

(a)      assessing risks to park values

(b)     focusing management of fire in priority areas and/or for the management requirements of significant species and ecological communities

(c)      using a range of mechanisms to deliver fire management and control programmes

(d)     using fire history mapping to set annual and ongoing fire management goals

(e)     monitoring the results of fire management and the effectiveness of management works and adjusting management strategies accordingly.

5.3.23           Map important areas for threatened and significant species and threatened ecological communities, and ensure that management protects these areas from unsuitable fire regimes and implements appropriate fire regimes.

5.3.24           Develop a set of thresholds and acceptable ranges for fire regimes for all threatened terrestrial animal and plant species for targeted application to relevant habitat, and ensure that fire management at those sites is maintained within that range.

5.3.25           Provide training programmes for park staff, Bininj/Mungguy and community members involved in fire management – including the use of equipment such as incendiaries, GIS and database management and monitoring techniques.

5.3.26           Collaborate with relevant organisations to develop and implement a fire education and communication programme for residents, contractors, tour operators and park visitors to emphasise the essential part fire plays in the ecology of Kakadu as well as the wise use of fire at campgrounds, impacts of wildfire, and fire control methods and responsibilities.

5.3.27           Structure fire management programs to engage resident Bininj/Mungguy and attract their active support for preventing and reporting unplanned ignition.


 

Climate change

Outcome

·      Threats to park values are minimised to enhance the resilience of the park

Performance indicators

·      Extent to which strategies for the implementation of management programs and management actions recognise and take into account climate change

·      Indicators for managing weeds, feral animals and fire

Background

‘We have a lot of floodplain and need to be careful for the wildlife. Salt water will come upstream and mix with freshwater and kill the trees. It might affect the fish like barramundi in the billabongs.’

Sampson Henry, Limilngan clan

In recent years global climate change has emerged as a key issue for biodiversity and environmental management. In 2006 the Director commissioned a study of the potential implications of climate change for managing Commonwealth reserves, including Kakadu (Hyder 2008). The results of this investigation have contributed to an improved understanding of and preparedness for changing conditions in the park.

Climate change projections suggest the park will be exposed to a range of challenges. Predictions for 2030 indicate a warming of 1.3°C, a considerable increase in the number of days above 35°C, sea-level rise of over 17 centimetres, an increase in extreme weather events such as cyclones, and elevated CO2 levels. Rainfall amounts are not predicted to change considerably, though timing and frequency may. Increased frequency and intensity of fire arising from a drier and hotter climate has particular implications for fire-sensitive vegetation communities. Some invasive species may be favoured by changes in climate, increasing the threats they already pose to native species and their habitats. Elevated CO2 levels may lead to thickening of some vegetation, and there is some evidence this is already happening.

Other implications for the park are the impact increased temperatures may have on some plant and animal species, particularly endemic species or species with a restricted range. Warmer temperatures and increased CO2 levels may have both a positive and a negative influence on invasive species, so new species may become priorities for management.
With increased temperatures but no predicted increase in rainfall amounts, shallower wetlands may be at risk of drying earlier, or drying completely, which could have significant implications for species dependent on wetlands. Reducing the impact of invasive species on these areas will be increasingly important.

Saltwater intrusion has already been observed impacting on low-lying coastal plains in the park. This is likely to continue and to displace saltwater-sensitive species, such as Melaleuca, with encroaching mangroves and saline mudflats. These changes will impact on wildlife and traditional food resources found in freshwater wetlands such as magpie geese and freshwater turtles. Access to traditional hunting areas and sacred sites may also be affected by sea-level rises. Increased intensity of extreme weather events as a result of climate change is likely to have a range of impacts including increased incidents of heat-related illness, expansion of mosquito-borne viruses and exacerbation of damage to rock art sites.


 

The impact of climate change can be lessened by ensuring that all existing threats to the park’s integrity are appropriately managed. Management of fire, weeds and pest species may need to be reviewed regularly under changing climatic conditions to assess and address resilience of species or habitats. Climate change may offer some economic benefits to Indigenous communities through participation in carbon trading programmes and employment opportunities in monitoring the impacts of climate change and undertaking remedial and mitigation activities. The park is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and is implementing a range of measures to do this (see Section 9.6: Resource use in park operations).

To assist the park to understand and adapt to changing climatic conditions, a climate change symposium was held in Kakadu in 2008, a climate change strategy was prepared in 2010 and a vulnerability assessment of the South Alligator River catchment was completed in 2011.

NERP researchers working in the park at the time of preparing this plan are developing fine-scale computer models that will assist in identifying priority areas where it might be possible to mitigate impacts of saltwater intrusion.

Management issues

·      Cumulative impact of threats

Climate change is likely to increase or compound the effects of existing biodiversity threats, such as fire and invasive species, and may affect many other aspects of the park such as visitor use and safety.

·      Knowledge gaps

Updated and expert information is needed to assess the potential impacts and risks of climate change, and feasible adaptation and mitigation measures.

·      Scale and ability to overcome threats

Some impacts of climate change cannot be mitigated, while others may not be cost-effective.

·      Threats to human health

There may be an increase in heat-related illness, expansion of the number of mosquito-borne viruses and an increase in injuries from extreme weather events associated with climate change.

·      Infrastructure costs

There may be an increase in building and infrastructure maintenance costs due to extreme weather events and a need to relocate infrastructure from high-risk areas.

Policies

5.3.28           The park’s response to climate change will focus on four key priorities:

(a)      understanding the implications of climate change

(b)     implementing adaptation measures to maximise the resilience of Kakadu

(c)      working with communities, industries and stakeholders to adapt to climate change

(d)     communicating the implications of, and our management response to, climate change.


 

5.3.29           The Board may approve fire management activities and projects, including projects carried out by Bininj/Mungguy, that:

(a)      contribute to addressing or minimising the impacts of climate change

(b)     complement fire management carried out in accordance with Sections 5.3.17 to 5.3.26

Actions

5.3.30           Implement, review and update the climate change strategy for the park to help minimise the adverse impacts of climate change, maximise the park’s resilience by reducing other threats to park values, and minimise carbon loss.

5.3.31           Work with research partners to improve understanding of the carbon cycle within the park and how much carbon is stored and released due to different management actions. Use this information to refine all management strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of the park.

5.3.32           Work with communities, industries and stakeholders to mitigate and adapt to climate change including through an infrastructure risk assessment to identify assets at risk from climate change impacts.

5.3.33           Continue existing long-term monitoring programmes for significant fauna (e.g. flatback turtle and crocodiles) and flora species and communities (e.g. fire plot and mangrove monitoring) that are expected to be impacted by climate change.

5.3.34           Liaise and work with health authorities to minimise the human health risks from climate change.

5.3.35           Communicate information on the implications of, and the park’s management response to, climate change to park residents, contractors, tour operators and visitors.


Land use

Outcome

·      Impacts of historic and ongoing land use on park values are managed and minimised to ensure values are maintained and Kakadu is seen as a leading destination to experience these values

Performance indicators

·      Incidents of people bringing in plants and seeds not on the Approved Plant List

·      Incidents of non-compliance with conditions associated with development approvals

Background

Kakadu has outstanding natural and cultural values and the Director has a responsibility to conserve these values and minimise the potential impacts of human use of the park. Human impacts on park values may occur as a result of new developments in the park, the activities of people living in the park, or the activities of visitors. The processes and prescriptions in this plan are intended to mitigate these potential impacts (Section 9.5: Assessment of proposals; Section 8: Living in the park - Jabiru and outstations; 10: Managing use of Kakadu National Park).

Section 387(1) of the EPBC Act provides that no mining operations be carried out in the park. This does not prevent the activities listed in s.387(2) of the Act, which include development of Jabiru, transportation of minerals along roads and routes specified in the EPBC Regulations, and construction of power lines, pipelines and water supplies.

The Supervising Scientist Division and the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist (ERISS), have research and monitoring functions to perform in the park under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978. These functions relate to uranium mining operations in the Alligator Rivers Region and general mining operations in areas that were included in the Kakadu Conservation Zone that existed in the south of the park between 1987 and 1991. The Supervising Scientist Annual Report describes the research and monitoring undertaken to ensure the protection of the Magela floodplain (and associated water bodies) from operations of the Ranger uranium mine, which adjoins the park. To date no off-site ecological impacts associated with the mining operation have been measured.

Previous small-scale uranium mining activity in the central and southern regions of the park prior to its proclamation has left mine shafts, tailings, old tracks, and radiological contamination in some locations. During the life of the previous plan, the South Alligator Valley rehabilitation plan, developed in consultation with Bininj/Mungguy and other stakeholders, was implemented and the rehabilitated areas are now being monitored. A containment facility for low-level waste has been developed in the southern part of the park. This requires ongoing licence renewal under the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 and monitoring of related groundwater and vegetation over the next 10 years to ensure there is no contamination.

The Kakadu Land Rehabilitation Strategy, prepared in 1995, mainly addresses old gravel pits located across the park. It has not yet been fully implemented.

In the past ERISS has undertaken research at plunge pools to determine whether chemicals in sunscreens and insect repellents were adversely affecting water quality. No adverse impacts were noted. Visitation levels and impacts continue to be monitored so that appropriate mitigation approaches can be developed through park area plans if needed.


 

The Parks Australia Sustainable Tourism Overview 2011–2016 (DNP 2011a) identifies the principles and objectives that guide management of tourism in Commonwealth terrestrial reserves, including minimising visitor impacts on park values. The Board has approved a Tourism Master Plan to guide future development of tourism in the park to ensure it is culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable. Education through high-quality interpretation is important to inform and encourage positive behaviour by independent and group travellers.

Information on the environmental impact assessment process applied to any new proposals is provided in Section 9.5 (Assessment of proposals). This process is intended to mitigate any human use impacts on park values.

Management issues

·      Disturbed areas

A number of sites in the park that have been cleared and disturbed by mining, for roads or, more recently, for gravel pits, have yet to be rehabilitated or revegetated. Gravel pits cause local environmental damage, are costly to rehabilitate and scar the landscape. Erosion at some visitor sites and along roads and tracks requires stabilisation and revegetation. Disturbed areas remain vulnerable to weed establishment and erosion.

·      Cumulative impacts of landscape disturbance

Many small developments and excavations to source gravel are likely to have a large cumulative impact over time. The park needs to be considered as a whole when planning and managing local developments and activities.

·      Introduction of pests

If plant material is sourced from outside the park for revegetation purposes there is a potential risk of introducing pests within soil and potting mix or altering local genetic stock (see Section 10.13: Bringing plants, animals and other materials into the park).

·      Ongoing monitoring costs

Monitoring of the South Alligator low-level waste containment facility and groundwater and vegetation over the next 10 years is a significant annual cost.

·      Direct and indirect visitor impacts

These may include unauthorised fires, the collection of firewood; unburied waste; noise pollution (e.g. partying groups at campsites); feeding native animals; erosion on walking tracks and roads; vandalism; and dust from roads affecting rock art.

·      Unregulated use of visitor areas

Coastal areas of the park are popular with some visitors but are remote and can be difficult to access and manage. Overcrowding in camping areas, off-road driving and rubbish are often evident in these areas.

·      Recreational boating and fishing

Bininj/Mungguy have concerns about the number of recreational boats using waterways, the speed some boats travel and the associated impacts on erosion of river banks and animals that live in tidal areas. There is also concern that some visitors may be taking more fish than allowed.


 

Policies

5.3.36           Plants and seeds for rehabilitation programmes should be locally sourced where possible.

5.3.37           Tourism, recreational opportunities and visitor experiences will be managed to minimise impacts on park values.

5.3.38           Reviews of visitor experiences under Section 6.1 (Kakadu as a visitor experience destination, commercial tourism and promotion) will consider visitor impacts and provide recommendations to the Board on future management.

Actions

5.3.39           Update the Land Rehabilitation Strategy (Murray 1995) identifying rehabilitation priorities for obsolete gravel pits and other sites (including the Buffalo Farm), and undertake rehabilitation works on priority areas, this will be updated in consultation with users of gravel pits.

5.3.40           Continue to work closely with the Supervising Scientist and ERA to stay up to date about the management of mining operations adjacent to the park, particularly in relation to activities that could impact park values.

5.3.41           Continue to maintain and monitor the South Alligator low-level waste containment facility and related groundwater and vegetation for contamination.

5.3.42           Work with government agencies, research institutions and relevant stakeholders to monitor the impacts of recreational fishing in the park, including the impact of boat traffic on bank erosion (see also Section 6.1.11).

5.3.43       Communicate information to park visitors on the direct and indirect visitor impacts on park values to increase awareness and reduce impacts.

Photograph showing vistirs watching the sunset from the Ubirr escarpment/lookout

Text Box: Rock art tours and watching the sun set from 
the Ubirr lookout are popular visitor activities
each evening.

6                       Kakadu as a visitor experience destination, commercial tourism and promotion

This section sets out the policies the Director of National Parks (the Director) will apply for developing Kakadu as a visitor experience destination, developing and managing commercial tourism, and informing people about the park. It includes any Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) provisions which directly relate to the Director, and the actions the Director will take over the life of the plan to work towards achieving the objective and outcomes of this section.

Objective

To increase visitation in a sustainable way and provide opportunities for diverse and enriching visitor experiences which are promoted in an appropriate way

 

Kakadu National Park is a World Heritage place and people from all over the world visit for its ancient cultural heritage, unique wildlife and magnificent landscapes. Bininj/Mungguy are happy and proud to showcase Kakadu, and would like to be more involved in tourism. With appropriate joint planning, revenue generated through tourism can support conservation activities and enrich local livelihoods through increased social and employment opportunities. This approach will also empower communities by respecting and safeguarding Bininj/Mungguy culture, lifestyle and privacy.

To increase visitation in a sustainable way Parks Australia will continue to maintain a collaborative approach between land owners, land managers, government, commercial operators and other stakeholders of the park. This collaboration ensures that the wishes of Bininj/Mungguy are respected whilst fostering investment that appropriately showcases the uniqueness of Kakadu through existing and new experiences.

Information on visitor numbers and usage of the park is collected through traffic counts, ticket sales and visitor surveys. These data collections provide useful information on tourism trends, market segments, visitor use and satisfaction, requirements for planning and developing visitor facilities and new visitor opportunities, and the economic impacts and benefits of tourism.

Visitation to the park started to decline around 2009 due to a number of factors including the after effects of the global financial crisis. However, this trend appears to have been arrested with visitation to the park increasing since early 2014, particularly from the domestic market. Park management has and will continue to look for ways to grow visitation, help and encourage visitors to enjoy Kakadu throughout all its seasons, support opportunities for Bininj/Mungguy to benefit from tourism, and support the tourism industry. This will be achieved through Bininj/Mungguy, Parks Australia, Northern Territory Government, the tourism industry and park user groups working together.


 

While the natural and cultural values of the park are the core of the park’s foundation, these values also have significance to visitors:

·      the park has a diverse natural and cultural environment that provides a diversity of visitor experiences

·      the park is a place to learn about and appreciate an ancient culture

·      the park is a scenic landscape that offers inspiration and enrichment.

This section should be read in conjunction with Section 9.3 (Authorising and managing activities), Section 9.8 (Revenue and business development) and Section 10.8 (Commercial tourism and accommodation).

Figure 13 illustrates the line of sight for this section of the plan.

 

Figure 13:     Line of sight for Section 6: Kakadu as a visitor experience destination, commercial tourism and promotion

Diagram showing the Line of sight for Section 6: Kakadu as a visitor experience destination, commercial tourism and promotion


 

6.1                Destination and visitor experience development

Outcome

·      Visitors enjoy a range of quality experiences and facilities

Performance indicators

·      Visitor satisfaction with the range and quality of park experiences

·      Visitor satisfaction with the range and quality of park facilities

Background

‘People need to come here and relax, sit on the country, feel the spirits of this country, and go home and feel the same way.’

Natasha Nadji, Bunitj clan

In May 2004, the Director of National Parks, on behalf of the Board of Management and the Australian and Northern Territory governments, commissioned the development of a shared tourism vision for the Park.

This extensive consultation and analysis process undertaken by John Morse, John King and Jennifer Bartlett resulted in the report: Kakadu – Walking to the future together – A shared vision for tourism in Kakadu National Park (Morse et al. 2005). The report provided a range of recommendations that primarily support:

·      increased Aboriginal involvement and benefits

·      organisational change to support tourism development and facilitation

·      brand development and promotion

·      improved visitor information and interpretation

·      development of visitor experiences

At the core of the report were ten key principles for respecting country and people in the development of tourism, now known as the Shared Vision Principles. The Board of Management adopted these principles in the fifth plan of management as a guide to balance the primary importance of Kakadu’s natural and cultural values with the development of a strategic approach to tourism.

To facilitate development of visitor experiences consistent with the Shared Vision, the Tourism Master Plan (DNP 2009) was developed to provide a strategic framework for ensuring visitor experiences are established which are culturally appropriate, environmentally sustainable and match the desires of the target market for Kakadu.

The Tourism Master Plan includes sections on visitor experiences, facilities, access, commercial opportunities, protection of Kakadu from adverse tourism impacts, and the ways in which tourism can promote and appreciate the values of the park and be consistent with the aspirations of Bininj/Mungguy.


 

The development of experiences and opportunities for visitors under the Tourism Master Plan and individual visitor experience plans—to be developed for each of the visitor precincts in the park— will take into account a range of traveller types, including:

·      Group inclusive travellers who pre-purchase the bulk of their holiday through a travel agent or specialist commercial operator.

·      Free and independent travellers, including 4WD touring and grey nomads, who tend to like the freedom of planning their own arrangements.

·      Partially packaged travellers who have aspects of their travel pre-booked, such as airfares and accommodation, and arrange commercial or self-guided tours after they arrive.

·      Visitors to friends and relatives who will be similar to the independent traveller, but will be dependent upon their hosts to inform experience in the park.

·      Backpackers who are the ultimate free and independent travellers who prefer a highly independent and unstructured approach towards travel and will look for opportunities to experience more adventurous and less commercial activities.

·      Business travellers who are generally regarded as one of the highest yielding inbound segments because of their high spend per person. Kakadu is not on the conference circuit, but does benefit from delegates that take the opportunity to have a side trip to Kakadu when in Darwin.

·      Education travellers who are usually students travelling as part of a structured educational excursion, either specifically to the park or as part of a tour of destinations within the Northern Territory or Australia more broadly.

Kakadu is part of Australia’s Timeless North National Landscape, a partnership between conservation and tourism aiming to provide new and engaging visitor experiences within this remarkable natural landscape. The Australia’s Timeless North Experience Development Action Plan (EC3 Global and Middle Star 2013) identifies the current and needed products, infrastructure and experiences required to meet and exceed visitor expectations of the region, including Kakadu.

To encourage greater levels of visitation it is important to not only maintain the existing experiences but to also refocus promotion and develop new visitor experiences including multi-day and repeat stays.

Existing experiences that are popular within the park include:

·      Bushwalking

Kakadu provides a range of opportunities that enable visitors to undertake day walks and overnight bushwalks and is sought after as one of the major bushwalking destinations in the Top End. A draft Kakadu walking strategy developed in 2013 conducted an audit of walks in the park, provided suggestions on grading of walks, and aims to promote walking as an activity in the park.

·      Camping

Visitors to Kakadu seek different camping opportunities, from quiet and remote places where campers are self-sufficient to more accessible places where facilities are provided.


·            

·      Recreational fishing and boating

Fishing is a major recreational activity in the Top End of the Northern Territory, and Kakadu includes some of the prime recreational fishing areas. Most fishing in the park is undertaken by boat, though opportunities are also taken to fish from river and creek banks. The catch and release method of fishing is encouraged and supported in the park and is commonly practised by recreational fishers.

·      4WD touring

For visitors who enjoy taking the road less travelled, there are a range of visitor sites that are only accessible by 4WD vehicle. Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are only accessible by 4WD and travellers enjoy the remoteness of West Alligator Head. Camping opportunities at these sites and at Gunlom are ideal for the 4WD enthusiast.

·      Swimming

In the hot, tropical climate of the Top End swimming is an enjoyable activity. However, there are a number of potential risks and impacts associated with swimming or entering waters for other purposes, particularly below the escarpment (Section 9.1: Safety and incident management).

·      Viewing rock art

Many visitors enjoy viewing rock art in the park, and public access is provided to three art sites: Burrungkuy (Nourlangie Rock) and Nanguluwurr (in the Nourlangie region) and Ubirr (in the East Alligator region). Walking tracks, boardwalks and interpretative materials are provided to offer the best possible controlled experience for visitors at these sites, to provide accurate interpretation and to reduce visitor impacts.

·      Cultural experiences

Many people come to Kakadu to learn more about Aboriginal culture and to have interactions with Aboriginal people. Visitors to Kakadu can do this by participating in the ranger walks and talks, engaging a Bininj/Mungguy guide or joining a Bininj/Mungguy tour where there are opportunities to hear traditional stories and learn about the living Indigenous culture in the park.

·      Wildlife watching

Kakadu offers many opportunities to see some of Australia’s most iconic species, as well as an extraordinary diversity and abundance of birdlife. A Kakadu Birds iPhone application has been developed to assist visitors to identify common birds in the park.

·      New visitor experiences

Access to some visitor experiences is managed via the use of permits and licences. Over the life of the plan new experiences to encourage new and repeat visitation will be considered consistent with this plan, the Shared Vision Principles and processes in this plan for the assessment of new proposals (Section 9.5: Assessment of proposals).

Management issues

·      With changing markets and visitor needs, new experiences are needed to improve the number, diversity and quality of experiences on offer in the park.

·      Enhancing existing experiences and developing new experiences can be constrained by funding, environmental and cultural considerations.

·      Much of the visitor infrastructure in the park is ageing, in need of constant maintenance and needs refreshing.

·      Fluctuating visitor numbers have had an impact on park revenue and therefore the ability to maintain facilities and services in the park.

·      There is a need to monitor market trends against visitor needs/expectations to ensure the experiences on offer are meeting market demands and visitor expectations.

·      Exceptional experiences need to be available to visitors, so that they will become ambassadors for the park, telling positive stories when they return home, helping to promote the park and its values.

·      There is a need for ongoing education, both within the park and more broadly, on where fishing can legally occur within the park, the type of equipment that may be used for recreational fishing and fishing bag limits.

Policies

6.1.1              Tourism and recreational opportunities in the park will be managed in accordance with this plan and the Shared Vision Principles.

6.1.2              Visitor experiences in the park will be as safe as reasonably practicable, be consistent with and have minimal impact on park values and provide opportunities for both independent travellers and commercial tour groups.

6.1.3              A range of diverse experiences will be offered in the park that present, communicate, and protect the park values and meet the needs of the target markets.

6.1.4              Infrastructure development will be managed consistent with Section 9.4 (Capital works and infrastructure) and Section 9.5 (Assessment of proposals).

Actions

6.1.5              Take all practicable measures to ensure that a diverse range of experiences are available to visitors and that they present, communicate, and protect the park values and meet the needs of a range of target markets.

6.1.6              Review the Tourism Master Plan in the first and sixth years of this plan and progressively implement its recommendations.

6.1.7              Prepare precinct plans for key visitor areas in accordance with the Tourism Master Plan.

6.1.8              Investigate, develop and implement strategies (consistent with the Shared Vision Principles and Tourism Master Plan) to enhance Indigenous business opportunities and increase annual visitor numbers to the park, including the spread of visitor numbers across the seasons and the average length of stay in the park.

6.1.9              Continue to monitor visitor needs to inform decisions about investment and upgrade opportunities for visitor facilities and experiences in the park, from small quiet areas with few or no facilities to developed campgrounds with facilities for larger numbers of people. Where appropriate, consideration will be given to support investment and upgrade opportunities for existing and new experiences within the facilities.

6.1.10           In consultation with Bininj/Mungguy, develop, implement and progressively review a strategy for walking in the park that provides for a range of day and overnight walking opportunities and describes prescribed walking routes and permit conditions. Restrictions on the number of participants may be required for some walking routes to mitigate impacts on park values.

6.1.11           Undertake a review of fishing and boating in the park to provide recommendations to the Board on future management options and implement supported recommendations as appropriate (see also Section 5.3.42).

6.1.12           Continue to proactively engage with and advise visitors on which areas in the park are open to recreational fishing and which areas are sensitive and should be avoided, such as bird rookeries in and adjacent to the East Alligator and South Alligator rivers.

6.1.13           Continue to encourage and support (in collaboration with recreational fishing organisations) the use of sustainable fishing practices such as catch and release, including fish handling and other actions that may increase the survival of released fish.

6.1.14           Manage access to visitor sites using permits, commercial activity licences and leases (including subleases and occupation licences), and booking systems in addition to temporary or permanent closures of sites under the EPBC Regulations (see also Section 9.3: Authorising and managing activities).

6.1.15           Regularly review park use, facility and service fees, permit fees, and lease/licence fees for visitor experiences to ensure that they reflect current market rates and appropriate contribution to the cost of delivery (see also Section 9.8: Revenue and business development). This review must also take into account the importance of encouraging repeat and new visitation.

6.1.16           Continue to consider, plan for, manage and promote appropriate public gatherings consistent with the events policy for the park (see also Section 9.8: Revenue and business development).

6.1.17           Use best endeavours to ensure that public areas are open for as long as possible, particularly early in each year.

6.1.18           Consider implementing staged opening of sites over the shoulder season and providing exclusive use or access to sites.

6.1.19           Continue to monitor numbers and trends in visitation and feedback from visitors and the tourism industry, and consider alternative and more cost-effective means of data collection and analysis. Investigate opportunities to work with stakeholders or form partnerships to assist with this analysis.

6.1.20           Consider possible development of bicycle riding tracks in and around major population areas that travel through areas of natural beauty to provide an attractive option to visitors. [Note: Use of bicycles is restricted by Section 10.7.6 to vehicle access roads and vehicle access tracks unless other tracks for bike riding are provided by the Director in accordance with that Section].


 

6.2                Commercial tourism development and management

Outcomes

·      Visitors enjoy a range of quality commercial operations

·      The commercial tourism industry enjoys an encouraging and facilitating business environment

Performance indicators

·      Visitor satisfaction with the range and quality of commercial operations

·      Commercial tourism industry members are satisfied the business environment enables delivery of quality experiences in the park

Background

‘Walking is good. You follow track … you sleep, wake in morning to birds, maybe kookaburra. You feel country.’

Bill Neidjie, Bunitj clan

Well-managed commercial tour operations help visitors to experience, enjoy and learn about the park in a sustainable manner while providing an important contribution to the local and regional economies. Approximately 40 per cent of visitors to Kakadu, depending on the season, visit the park with commercial tour operators. The majority of these visitors are international. In addition, many independent travellers participate in boat cruises, scenic flights and other commercial tours while in Kakadu.

Commercial tours available in the park at the time of preparing the plan include standard land-based tours (coach tours and budget to luxury four-wheel drive tours), boat tours, fishing tours, safari camps, cultural activities, bushwalking tours, and tours to limited-access or exclusive-use areas. Depending on the type of tour, commercial operators are required to apply for either a permit or licence. Approximately 100 standard land-based tour operator permits are issued in the park annually. A number of commercial tour activities are also undertaken by Bininj/Mungguy and Bininj/Mungguy organisations (see also Section 4.3: Bininj/Mungguy training and other opportunities).

The park lease agreements between the Director and traditional owners require the Director to implement an induction scheme for tour operators and their guides. In 2005, the Board introduced compulsory entry-level Knowledge for Tour Guides training (facilitated by Charles Darwin University and co-funded by the Northern Territory Government) that can be delivered flexibly – e.g. through e-learning. The training is based on core competencies related to the interpretation of cultural and natural values, minimising visitor impact, understanding permit and licence conditions and cross-cultural awareness. Over 800 guides have completed the training since its inception.

A review of commercial tourism management in terrestrial Commonwealth reserves led to the development of a commercial activity licensing policy under which permits may be replaced by licences for ‘exclusive/unique or restricted’ activities or new commercial activities. At the time of preparing this plan 32 such licences were in place in Kakadu. To give greater certainty to commercial operators, a new three-year permit opportunity was also introduced for accredited operators.


 

Management issues

·      More opportunities are needed for Bininj/Mungguy to engage in and benefit from the tourism industry.

·      Given the importance of the park to tourism and the regional economy, new tourism opportunities are often being sought. Opportunities for appropriate and responsible commercial tourism products need to be facilitated in the park, that are environmentally, culturally and commercially sustainable.

Policies

6.2.1              Commercial tourism operators will be promoted and encouraged to provide new visitor experiences in the park consistent with Sections 6.1.17 and 6.1.18.

6.2.2              Authorisation of commercial tourism, including use of permits, leases (including subleases and occupation licences) and commercial activity licences will be managed in accordance with Section 9.3 (Authorising and managing activities).

6.2.3              Bininj/Mungguy will be actively encouraged to be involved in commercial tourism via Bininj/Mungguy or joint enterprises, tour guiding, filming and photography services, and other means. (See also Section 4.3: Bininj/Mungguy training and other opportunities.)

6.2.4              Commercial tourism leasing and licencing arrangements will assist to grow visitation and facilitate benefits to Bininj/Mungguy by including a requirement for joint ventures, employment and training and in-kind support in accordance with the Parks Australia Commercial Tourism Licence Policy and Commercial Leasing Policy.

6.2.5              Commercial tourism leasing and licencing arrangements will support Bininj/Mungguy enterprises through negotiation of appropriate discounted fees and, where appropriate, reserving the provision of particular experiences for Bininj/Mungguy enterprises, in accordance with the Parks Australia Commercial Tourism Licence Policy and Commercial Leasing Policy.

6.2.6              Consistent with Section 4.1.4, the Director will, as far as practicable, inform the tourism industry with 12 to 18 months’ notice when changes are made to visitor management in the park that will significantly affect commercial tourism activities.

Actions

6.2.7              Provide incentives, including through the length of commercial activity licences, to improve the quality and variety of tourism experiences available in the park.

6.2.8              Create partnerships with new and established tour operators who may wish to extend their operations to and within the park.

6.2.9              Continue to provide up-to-date information to the tourism industry through regular industry updates, road reports, workshops and other knowledge-sharing opportunities.

6.2.10           Engage local industry through the relevant Northern Territory government agencies, Tourism NT and the Australia’s Timeless North National Landscape steering committee. Through these conduits hold tourism industry forums or seminars to enable tour operators, guides and other stakeholders from the tourism industry to discuss and learn about park values, management issues and practices, and for industry to share opportunities, ideas and issues related to the park.

6.2.11           Review course content, mode of delivery and service arrangements for the Kakadu Knowledge for Tour Guides course as required.

6.2.12           Investigate opportunities for optional cross-cultural sharing in Kakadu as further training for tour guides and operators.

6.3                Promotion and marketing

Outcome

·      Promotion of the park presents accurate and appropriate images and information and contributes to increasing visitation

Performance indicators

·      Visitor numbers and length of stay

·      Kakadu website use

·      Compliance of commercial tour operator promotional material with the filming and photography guidelines for the park

Background

‘I want visitors to feel something they’ll never forget – and have in their heart and mind forever.’

Bessie Coleman, Wurrkbarbar clan

Promotion, marketing and media coverage of the park can influence visitor awareness levels, numbers, length of stay and levels of satisfaction. Accurate promotion through various media also helps to give people realistic expectations of their visit and is often their first introduction to the park. Promotion and media coverage can help the Board to communicate its messages to park visitors and the general public and assist with gaining public support for the park and, more generally, for the conservation of natural and cultural values.

The size and diversity of the park and the natural and cultural experiences available are best appreciated through multi-day visits at different times of the year. Appropriate promotion and marketing assist this understanding and can lead to increased and more rewarding visitation (longer stays, repeat visits).

Tourism NT, regional tourism associations and other members of the tourism industry are significant promoters and marketers of Kakadu as a major visitor destination and have contributed to the huge role that Kakadu now plays in attracting people to Australia from around the world. Conservation groups, researchers, professional photographers and filmmakers have also contributed to the name and images of Kakadu and aspects of the park’s natural and cultural values being well known nationally and internationally.

Implementation of the Shared Vision Principles led to the development of a new logo and branding for the park that was rolled out in 2008 and has contributed to raising the profile of the park as a unique visitor destination.

The park hosts over 100 commercial film and media projects per annum including the award-winning Kakadu documentary in 2013. Several accolades from the tourism industry – such as the best bird-watching destination in Australia (Australian Geographic), sixth-best sunset destination, and fourth best visitor destination – also provide invaluable promotion and marketing for the park. A commercial image capture survey was conducted early in 2015 and the findings of this survey will be used to develop guidelines and improve processes for commercial image capture in the park.

The increasing range and affordability of camera equipment and rapidly expanding use of social media makes it more challenging to ensure accurate and positive images of the park are taken and disseminated by visitors.


 

Management issues

·      Promotion and marketing material produced by Parks Australia and the tourism industry should be accurate, high quality and consistent with Bininj/Mungguy cultural protocols and contribute to increased visitation and safe and rewarding visitor experiences.

·      Commercial filmmakers and photographers require access to clear information and guidance material to ensure that their work accurately interprets and promotes the park values and is consistent with Bininj/Mungguy cultural protocols.

·      Image capture and dissemination – e.g. via social media by park visitors – should contribute to positive and accurate promotion of the park.

Policies

6.3.1              The park will be promoted and marketed in accordance with the Shared Vision Principles, the following key messages, and other messages as determined by the Board:

(a)      Kakadu is an Aboriginal place and a cultural landscape

(b)     the cultural and natural values of the park are of World Heritage significance and the park is listed as a Wetland of International Importance

(c)      Kakadu is jointly managed by Bininj/Mungguy and the Director through the Kakadu Board of Management

(d)     Bininj/Mungguy welcome visitors to their country and encourage visitors to learn about the cultural and natural values and joint management of the park

(e)     Bininj/Mungguy and the Director care about visitor safety and would like all visitors and tour guides to take good care of their own and other people’s safety while they are in Kakadu: your safety is our concern and your responsibility

(f)       If Bininj/Mungguy sites are closed for reasons of cultural significance, the closure will be announced in order to demonstrate and reinforce that the area is a significant living cultural area

(g)      Kakadu changes greatly though the seasons and offers unique and different experiences in each season.

Actions

6.3.2              Liaise with the tourism industry to ensure that promotion of the park helps to create appropriate visitor expectations about all activities, including swimming, and understanding of the associated risks. This will include awareness and understanding of seasonal changes and unique opportunities for visitors and commercial interests throughout the year.

6.3.3              Develop and implement a cooperative promotion and marketing strategy with the tourism industry and the Australian and Northern Territory governments and other stakeholder groups including Tourism NT and the Australia’s Timeless North National Landscape Steering Committee.

6.3.4              Develop information and guidance material (to be approved by the Board) to attract and assist commercial filmmakers and photographers to work in the park to meet their needs, promote the park and respect cultural protocols.

6.3.5              Continue to promote appropriate image capture and use by visitors, including the need to respect cultural protocols.

6.4                Visitor information

Outcome

·      Visitor experiences are enriched through quality interpretation and information

Performance indicator

·      Visitor satisfaction with the quality of park interpretation and information

Background

‘We need to make sure people are getting the right stories about country.’

Traditional owner

Well-prepared and accessible information enables visitors to understand the unique values of Kakadu and to plan their visit and enjoy Kakadu in a safe and appropriate way. Information and interpretation provided for visitors to the park generally relate to information on the values of the park, safety and the risks involved in visiting the park, and rules about visitor activities and sustainable tourism.

The park presents a significant opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of the oldest culture on earth. This is a key reason people want to visit the park, and the Board and Bininj/Mungguy are keen to provide visitors with information to assist in this understanding. The park also presents an opportunity to learn about the joint management arrangements.

Visitors are able to learn about the park from:

·      pre-visit information through publications, the tourism industry, Parks Australia’s website, and digital and social media

·      Bowali and Warradjan cultural centres

·      park brochures and publications

·      guided activities presented by park staff and Bininj/Mungguy

·      commercial tour operations

·      interpretative and regulatory signage

·      displays, videos and face-to-face contact with park staff.

The Bowali Visitor Centre located near Jabiru introduces visitors to Kakadu’s landscapes, plants and animals, as well as Bininj/Mungguy culture. Warradjan Cultural Centre at Cooinda focuses on Bininj/Mungguy culture, with displays of artefacts and information on traditional practices and resource use. The information available to visitors at Bowali and Warradjan complement each other and visitors are encouraged to visit both centres to enhance their experience and understanding of the park and its values.

Updates to tour operators, visitor centres, visitors and other stakeholders are provided through regular newsletters, workshops, forums, daily road reports and Facebook to keep people up to date with the latest information and activities.


 

A record number of visitors (53,000 in 2013) attended the free interpretative ranger activities presented as part of the park seasonal ranger programme. Many Bininj/Mungguy are involved in providing these talks and activities for park visitors and are employed by the park on a casual basis or work with Indigenous owned and operated businesses. Also during the life of the fifth plan the Kakadu Visitor Guide and park notes were updated to reflect the new park branding, the website was upgraded and a project to update signage across the park commenced.

Management issues

·      It is important that visitors are able to access accurate information about the park values, management of the park and safe behaviours via a range of tools before a visit and while in the park.

·      Visitor awareness of seasonal changes affecting access and experiences, particularly during the wet season, is important, and information on access and safety requires ongoing updating.

·      It is important to continue to provide regular updates to visitor centres both within and outside the park so that accurate and high-quality information is available for visitors at every point of contact.

·      Many visitors do not visit Bowali Visitor Centre; the benefits of visiting the centre need to be promoted.

·      Information technology is changing rapidly and the services provided from within the park need to keep up to date with developments in the provision of information and interpretation services and, where possible, facilitate visitors accessing information via a range of technologies.

·      Comprehensive mobile phone coverage is not available in the park. It is important to continue work with communication providers to improve mobile phone reception across the park so visitors can access high quality information and to provide emergency communications if required. (see also Section 9.1: Safety and incident management).

Policies

6.4.1              The Director may support the development of new interpretation products and media, including licensed products, subject to Board approval.

6.4.2              Signage in the park will enhance the visitor experience and be in accordance with the Kakadu Brand Identity Guidelines (2009), and conform with the signage manual for the park, and all Northern Territory and applicable signage standards and policies, where appropriate and relevant. Consistency will be maintained across all collateral, including marketing material, business naming, building names, road signage and directional signage.

Actions

6.4.3              Consistent with the key messages in Section 6.3.1, develop, implement and review an interpretation strategy for the park to ensure pre-visit, on-site and post-visit information accurately represents and upholds the park values and Bininj/Mungguy aspirations.

6.4.4              Continue to provide up-to-date information to visitors using a variety of means, including social media, the website, the tourism industry, visitor information providers, visitor guides and park notes.


 

6.4.5              Continue to provide a range of on-site and spoken interpretation programmes and interpretation via commercial tour guides, including Bininj/Mungguy guides.

6.4.6              Investigate and implement ways to attract more people to visit the Bowali Visitor Centre and Warradjan Cultural Centre during their stay, including incentives for commercial tours to include the centres in their itinerary.

6.4.7              Review the operation of the Bowali Visitor Centre and Warradjan Cultural Centre, including considering the possibility of different management arrangements.

6.4.8              Continue to provide and update interpretation through the Bowali Visitor Centre and Warradjan Cultural Centre.

6.4.9              Provide accurate information to visitor information providers through regular inductions and updates by staff, and maintain active relationships with these providers.

6.4.10           Continue to implement the signage project for the park, and review and update signage as needed.

6.4.11           Work with the tourism industry to ensure commercial tour guides are providing accurate and appropriate information to visitors, including correct interpretation of Bininj/Mungguy stories.


 

7                       Research and knowledge management

This section sets out the policies the Director of National Parks (the Director) will apply to carry out and manage research and monitoring, and the knowledge gained, to inform park management and improve understanding of the park. It includes any Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) provisions which directly relate to the Director, and the actions the Director will take over the life of the plan to work towards achieving the objective and outcomes of this section.

Objective

Management of the park’s natural and cultural values is evidence based, and practices are routinely refined through adaptive management processes

 

Background

Knowledge is the basis of good management. Knowledge is needed to:

·      define what plant and animal species and environments are present in the park

·      ascribe significance and priority to those values

·      identify threats to the park’s values

·      inform and refine management goals and objectives

·      formulate effective mechanisms to conserve values and control threats

·      inform visitors and residents about the park so their experience is enhanced

·      measure the effectiveness of management actions

·      report to various stakeholders on the park’s condition.

Knowledge derives from:

·      targeted and highly specific scientific investigation

·      law and experience handed down over countless generations by Indigenous and other landowners

·      the experience of rangers and managers

·      ongoing monitoring of changes in species’ abundance and environmental condition

·      the sharing of information among neighbours

·      sophisticated but increasingly accessible remote sensing.

As noted in Section 4.1 (Making decisions and working together), the Kakadu Research and Management Advisory Committee (KRMAC) provides advice to the Board of Management on research and management issues and priorities.


 

Consistent with recognised best practice, most research in the park has been undertaken using a collaborative approach. This approach has seen Bininj/Mungguy and Parks Australia work with researchers from government and non-government agencies across Australia and internationally.

As described in Section 5.3 (Managing park-wide threats affecting park values), the Supervising Scientist and ERISS have research and monitoring functions to perform in the park which relate to uranium mining operations. ERISS has an additional function to conduct research on environmental matters for other persons on a commercial basis. The Supervising Scientist and ERISS carry out their functions in accordance with protocols developed and agreed by the Director and the Supervising Scientist.

Research activities contribute to implementing the Parks Australia Management Effectiveness Framework, including adaptive management to take account of the latest information (see Section 9.10: Implementing and evaluating the plan). It is also important that Bininj/Mungguy and other stakeholders are kept informed of the results, outcomes and adoption of research. To allow this to happen, a range of approaches are used including Board of Management updates, community meetings, workshops and symposia, subsidiary strategies, media releases, publications and park reporting.

Part 13 of the EPBC Act provides for the conservation of biodiversity including listed threatened species and ecological communities, listed migratory species, cetaceans, and listed marine species. Actions in the park that affect individual members of protected species and communities require a Part 13 permit under the Act unless done in accordance with this management plan.

Part 13A of the EPBC Act and Part 9A of the EPBC Regulations prohibit and/or regulate the international movement of wildlife specimens for scientific purposes.

Section 10.12 (Research and monitoring activities and access to genetic resources) sets out the prescriptions for authorising and managing research and monitoring activities by other persons.

Figure 14 illustrates the line of sight for this section of the plan.

Figure 14:   Line of sight for Section 7: Research and knowledge management

Diagram showing the Line of sight for Section 7: Research and knowledge management

7.1                Research and knowledge management

Outcomes

·      Understanding and knowledge of park values, threats and use of the park improve over the life of the plan and is shared with others

·      Management actions are adapted to take account of new information and knowledge

Performance indicators

·      Extent to which priority knowledge gaps identified in the park research strategy are researched and filled where possible

·      Extent to which strategies for the implementation of management programs and management actions change as a result of research

Background

Projects related to researching and monitoring the natural and cultural values of the park prior to this plan, including six major research projects being conducted under the National Environmental Research Programme, included monitoring the impacts of cane toads on northern quolls and selected goanna species; ongoing monitoring of the status of threatened species including marine turtles; public rock art site monitoring; assessing potential impacts of climate change on natural and cultural values; monitoring the current and potential impacts of invasive plants; the development and adoption of risk management decision support tools; and ongoing fire plot monitoring.

Where possible all research and monitoring projects conducted in the park involve Bininj/Mungguy and incorporate their knowledge of country. The Board of Management has approved research guidelines developed by park staff and KRMAC that outline how Bininj/Mungguy want to work with researchers. These guidelines are incorporated in all relevant research undertaken in the park.

Management issues

·      There are many important knowledge gaps. Research and monitoring needs to be prioritised and planned and should provide information that contributes to the effective management of the park.

·      Research and monitoring activities in a park as large as Kakadu are expensive to undertake and partnerships and collaborations with others are important to help address resource constraints and knowledge gaps.

·      Some key information gaps, such as the implications of climate change for the park, may not be able to be addressed.

·      Effective methods for storing, managing and retrieving park data and information are required.

·      Resources for assessing and processing research permits are finite and research applications need to be prioritised to ensure identified knowledge gaps are filled.

·      The results of research and monitoring need to be clearly communicated to park staff and Bininj/Mungguy and, if appropriate, visitors and the general public.


 

·      Bininj/Mungguy interests and traditional knowledge play a fundamental part in understanding changes in and condition of park values and need to be incorporated into research projects.

·      Effective working relationships with the Supervising Scientist, ERISS and other key partners and stakeholders are essential.

Policies

7.1.1              The priorities for research will be directed to:

(a)      ensure that the park’s management is based on the best available evidence

(b)     fill the most important gaps in knowledge (those that most impede good management and achieving the objectives of this plan)

(c)      ensure that the best available knowledge is widely and appropriately available, accessible and applied, particularly to those implementing management (and that there are systematic and effective mechanisms for the storage and access of knowledge)

(d)     ensure that appropriate monitoring programmes provide accurate measurement of park management performance, and that such information is publicly available

(e)     establish or enhance research collaborations that facilitate significant, cost-effective research and ensure that knowledge and tools developed are shared among the neighbours of the park and other stakeholders

(f)       ensure Bininj/Mungguy and staff have opportunities to participate and receive training in research and to develop research and/or land management skills.

7.1.2              The Director may carry out research and monitoring that involves actions covered by ss.354 and 354A and Part 13 of the EPBC Act that are consistent with the objectives of this plan and helps improve management of the park.

7.1.3              The Director and the Board will consult and seek advice from the KRMAC as necessary (see also Section 4: Joint management).

7.1.4              Partnerships with institutions and organisations will be developed and maintained to ensure that the research priorities determined by the Board in consultation with the KRMAC are funded and addressed.

7.1.5              Research activities will be conducted in accordance with the research guidelines approved by the Board.

7.1.6              Research activities will contribute to implementing the Parks Australia Management Effectiveness Framework including adaptive management to take account of the latest information (see 9.10: Implementing and evaluating the plan).

7.1.7              Bininj/Mungguy will be consulted about research and monitoring activities in accordance with the research guidelines approved by the Board and Indigenous research protocols developed under Section 7.1.10.

7.1.8              Research and monitoring activities will be undertaken in collaboration with neighbours, regional agencies and others where possible so information, costs and outcomes can be shared.

Actions

7.1.9              In consultation with KRMAC, develop, implement, review and update a Research and Monitoring Strategy that:

(a)      identifies research and monitoring priorities and contributes to a strategic, evidence-based approach to research

(b)     contributes to the understanding of park values, use and management issues

(c)      provides for ongoing monitoring and reporting of park values, use and management issues (see Section 9.10: Implementing and evaluating the plan).

7.1.10           In consultation with the AAPA and traditional owners, develop Indigenous research protocols and review them along with ERISS research protocols, the research guidelines approved by the Board and conditions as needed. The Indigenous research protocols will ensure research:

(a)      incorporates Bininj/Mungguy knowledge and perspectives

(b)     reflects consultation with Bininj/Mungguy depending on expected level of impact

(c)      engages with and provides opportunities for collaboration with and employment for Bininj/Mungguy

(d)     is in accordance with the EPBC Act and this plan.

7.1.11           Develop, implement and review a knowledge management framework that prioritises:

(a)      protection of Bininj/Mungguy sensitive information.

(b)     adoption of standards and protocols for managing ecological, biophysical, cultural and demographic data collected within the park

(c)      recording information where management actions are implemented

(d)     access to the latest data, information and information management systems (currently spatial systems) at appropriate scales by park management and other relevant staff

(e)     mapping of priority areas for natural and cultural values for each key park landscape to inform management priorities

7.1.12           Promote opportunities for citizen science in the park.

8                       Living in the park – Jabiru and outstations

This section sets out the policies for Jabiru, outstations and living in the park, including any Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) provisions which directly relate to the Director of National Parks (the Director), and the actions the Director will take over the life of the plan. Residents of the park should refer to Section 10.3 for policies relating to living in the park.

8.1                Outstations and living on country

Background

Bininj/Mungguy outstations have been established in some areas of the park, and it is likely that Bininj/Mungguy will want to establish more over the life of this plan. The Kakadu Board of Management believes it is important for Bininj/Mungguy to be able to set up outstations to live in and maintain connection to country and culture. It is also important that outstations are set up by people with the right connection to the area; people or organisations who set up outstations make sure they are properly managed and resourced; and the impact of outstations on park values is minimised.

Establishment, maintenance and resourcing of outstations is the responsibility of the individuals or organisations concerned. It is not the role of the Director or the Board to commit resources to establish and maintain outstations, although non-financial assistance may be provided from time to time in response to specific requests – e.g. to help with grading an access track – subject to available resources and other park management requirements.

A guide to developing outstations was approved by the Board in 2014 to assist Bininj/Mungguy understand the process for establishing outstations, funding considerations and the role of the Board and Director. Advice is required from the Northern Land Council on the traditional rights of the proponents and proposed residents to establish outstations, and on the views of traditional owners and other relevant Bininj/Mungguy in relation to outstation proposals.

Management issues

·      Outstations in existence prior to the declaration of the park do not require a sublease; however, this may impact residents ability to seek funding to invest in outstation development.

·      Expansion of existing outstations may result in additional impact on the local environment and require consideration and assessment.

Policies

8.1.1              Development of new outstations will require approval of the Board, and approval may be given subject to conditions.

8.1.2              Outstations approved by the Board will be authorised by the Director by a sublease or licence (for outstations on Aboriginal land), or a permit or agreement (for outstations on other areas) that will be converted to a sublease or licence when the area becomes Aboriginal land.


 

8.1.3              Proposals to develop new outstations will be dealt with as outlined in the Outstations Guide to Development (2014) approved by the Board and summarised as follows:

(a)      the proposal will be referred to the Board to decide whether to give in-principle approval

(b)     if the Board gives in-principle approval the proposal will be referred by the Director to the NLC for advice as to the traditional rights of the proponent and proposed residents to reside at the place chosen

(c)      following consultation with the NLC, the impacts of the proposal will be assessed in accordance with Section 9.5 (Assessment of proposals)

(d)     the proposal is referred to the Board to decide whether to give final approval

(e)     if the proposal is approved by the Board, the Director will authorise the outstation in the manner provided by Section 8.1.2.

8.1.4              Residents of outstations that are on Aboriginal land that were either established before the proclamation of the park, or have been established since that date with the permission of the Board, for which a sublease has not been granted, may continue to reside at those places without a sublease but may request a sublease be granted. Where a request is received a sublease will be granted, subject to the Director obtaining consent of the relevant Aboriginal Land Trust.

8.1.5              Expansion of existing outstations which will increase the footprint of the outstation will require an assessment of the environmental impact of the proposal in accordance with Section 9.5 (Assessment of proposals) and Board approval.

Actions

8.1.6              Work with outstation residents to help minimise the impacts of outstations on park values, and to ensure compliance with approval conditions.

8.1.7              Provide information to Bininj/Mungguy to assist development of outstation proposals, including potential sources of financial and other assistance; and liaise and, where appropriate, work with relevant organisations (including funding and service delivery agencies) in relation to outstation development and management.


 

8.2                Jabiru

Background

Jabiru is located in the north-east of Kakadu. The town was established in line with recommendations of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry (1976–1977) as a closed town to provide housing for people directly or indirectly associated with uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region and for government employees. However, from the mid-1980s it has developed a key role as a service hub for the tourism industry and visitors, which use it as a base from which to explore the region, and more recently as a regional administrative centre. At the time of preparing this plan the majority of residents continue to be associated with the Ranger mine, with the rest of the population made up of those who work in the park, the tourism industry, Aboriginal organisations, government services and local businesses, and their dependents.

The town is part of the West Arnhem Regional Council Local Government Area Shire established under the Local Government Act (NT). Municipal services are provided in the town by the West Arnhem Regional Council.

Construction of Jabiru was primarily funded by the Ranger mine operator, Energy Resources Australia (ERA), and the Northern Territory Government, which entered into a cost-sharing agreement to provide mechanisms for each to recoup their costs from ‘new entrants’. At the time of preparing this plan there have been no new entrants and ERA maintains a significant proportion of the town’s essential services infrastructure, including the supply of electricity. It also maintains and provides access to the Jabiru airport within the Ranger project area, and has constructed a number of community facilities in Jabiru.

At the time of preparing this plan ERA’s authority to conduct the Ranger mine under the Atomic Energy Act 1953 requires mining operations to cease in 2021 and the site to be rehabilitated by 2026.

Jabiru is located within an area leased by the Director of National Parks to the Jabiru Town Development Authority (JTDA) in 1981. The majority of subleases granted by the JTDA in the town are held by ERA and government. Others are held by local businesses and organisations (including bodies owned by and representing the Mirarr traditional owners and other Bininj). The town lease and therefore all subleases will expire on 30 June 2021.

Under the town lease the Director may grant licences over land outside the lease area for roads and related works, the discharge of water, sewerage and water supply facilities, and electricity and telecommunications facilities reasonably needed for use in connection with the town. Some essential services infrastructure, such as power and water, is established in these areas. The Director may also grant licences for recreational use of areas by residents of the town. The Jabiru Gun Club is situated on land outside the lease and parts of the Jabiru Golf Course extend beyond the lease, although licences have not been formally granted.

The Mirarr people are acknowledged as the traditional Aboriginal owners of the Jabiru land and surrounding areas under Aboriginal tradition, and this was recognised by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. However, in line with the recommendations of the inquiry the town lease area was excluded from the land scheduled and granted as Aboriginal land under Land Rights Act in 1978. As town land the area could not subsequently be claimed under that Act. In 1997 the Mirarr applied for a determination of native title under the Native Title Act 1993 over the Jabiru lease area and two other adjoining areas of the park excluded from the grant, and are the registered native title claimants.


 

In 2009 an agreement was reached to settle the native title claim. Under the settlement the claim areas would be granted as Aboriginal land under the Land Rights Act and leased by the relevant Aboriginal Land Trust to a suitable lessee for the purposes of continued use as a town, and a new town plan would be made. At the time of preparing this plan the two claim areas adjoining the town lease area have been granted as Aboriginal land and leased back to the Director of National Parks by the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust. The settlement as it relates to the town lease area has not yet been finalised.

The establishment of Jabiru has resulted in a number of impacts on the environment within the town and surrounding areas of the park, such as the introduction of dogs, cats and weeds. Activities in Jabiru have the potential to cause other significant adverse environmental impacts including water and soil contamination. Jabiru has had a significant impact on Aboriginal people, lifestyles and traditions in the region; but also provides significant benefits as the commercial and social services hub for the region, including retail, financial, tourism and government services.

Under the previous management plan the Pets in Jabiru Policy was made to clarify and improve the management of allowable domestic animals in the town.

Under the EPBC Act (s.388) land in the town must be used and developed in accordance with park management plans and a town plan approved by the Director of National Parks. Management plans must include provisions for and in relation to the use and development of the township. A town plan must provide for the use and development of the township, and must include any matters specified in management plans or the EPBC Regulations. The town plan may apply, adopt or incorporate (with or without modification) the provisions of Northern Territory laws or other instruments as in force at a specified time or from time to time (EPBC Act s.389).

The Jabiru Town Plan was made by the Northern Territory Government under the Planning Act (NT) and approved by the Director of National Parks in 1981. Under the town plan all use and development of land that is not prohibited by the town plan requires a development permit from the development consent authority under the Planning Act. Under the Act as in force at the time of preparing this plan, development permit applications must be made or consented to by the landowner – i.e., for Jabiru, the Director.

The town plan will cease to have effect on 1 April 2019 under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003.

At the time of preparing this plan discussions were under way to develop a new planning scheme for Jabiru as part of the Jabiru native title claim settlement. The discussions included proposals that the planning scheme would be based on the general Northern Territory Planning Scheme; would provide a range of land uses and developments that could be allowed to proceed without the need for a development permit, generally in the town or in particular zones established by the scheme; and would introduce some possible changes to land use zones under the 1981 town plan.

Management issues

·           Ensuring impacts on the environment in and around Jabiru are minimised, including appropriately managing weeds, domestic animals, feral animals, sewage, waste, chemicals, fire and water, is necessary for maintaining the park’s values.

·           The impacts of the town on Aboriginal people, lifestyles and traditions need to be minimised while the benefits of the town for Aboriginal people are maximised.

·           The cessation of mining operations at Ranger is likely to have an impact on Jabiru and services to the park and park visitors.

·           The town lease and all subleases expire in 2021 and new long-term tenure arrangements need to be in place before the lease expires.

·           The Jabiru Town Plan ceases to have effect on 1 April 2019 and a new town plan is required under the EPBC Act to ensure development occurs in an appropriate manner.

·           The town should not impact on the Director’s resources to the potential detriment of other areas of the park.

·           The interests of other stakeholders in the town, such as residents and local businesses, and regional interests need to be considered. See also Section 9.7 (Neighbours, stakeholders and partnerships)

Note: The Policies and Actions in this Section of the plan need to be read in conjunction with the Policies and Actions in Section 10.3 (Living in the park) relating to Jabiru.

Policies

8.2.1              The Board and Director recognise the Mirrar people are the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land in and around Jabiru.

8.2.2              The Director will work with other parties to the Jabiru native title claim settlement to finalise the settlement as soon as possible.

8.2.3              Long-term tenure arrangements for the town should be put in place, if possible, before the lease from the Director to the Jabiru Town Development Authority expires on 30 June 2021.

8.2.4              The terms and conditions of any new lease or leases relating to the town must be consistent with the park’s values and minimising impacts on the environment, and include relevant obligations on the leaseholder(s).

8.2.5              A new town plan should be prepared to come into effect when the current town plan expires on 1 April 2019. The new town plan should include provisions to:

(a)      simplify development and approval processes, including allowing appropriate minor land use and development proposals to proceed without the need for development consent

(b)     ensure that potential impacts on the values of Kakadu and the environment around the town are considered in development consent applications and appropriate conditions are included where necessary to ensure impacts are minimised.

8.2.6              Subject to any changes implemented during the life of this plan:

(a)      Jabiru may continue to be developed in accordance with this plan and the 1981 town plan

(b)     the terms and conditions of the town lease will be maintained

(c)      the location and purposes of zones in the town will be as specified in the existing town plan.

8.2.7              The Director may, with the approval of the Board, agree new tenure arrangements for the town, and approve a new town Planning Scheme prepared by the Northern Territory Government.


 

8.2.8              Before making any decisions under Section 8.2.7 the Director will:

(a)      consult and, if possible, reach agreement with the Mirarr people

(b)     consult with and have regard to the views of other relevant Bininj/Mungguy and the NLC

(c)      consult with the JTDA and the West Arnhem Regional Council (or their successors)

(d)     refer the proposal to the Board for consideration and advice

and will only approve or proceed with a proposed action if it will provide more benefits than costs to the natural and cultural environment of the park, to Bininj/Mungguy, and to the appropriate use, appreciation and enjoyment of the park by the public.

8.2.9              The Director may, with the approval of the Board, issue permits and licences authorising recreational activities by Jabiru residents in areas adjoining the town.

8.2.10           In making decisions about liquor permits the Director will consult and have regard to the views of Bininj/Mungguy, the NLC, local Aboriginal associations and the body known as the Gunbang Action Group (or its successor).

8.2.11           The Director may take actions covered by ss.354 and 354A of the EPBC Act in Jabiru where they are necessary for preserving or protecting the park (or part of the park) and its values, or protecting or conserving biodiversity or heritage, protecting persons or property, or addressing non-compliance with the town lease(s).

Actions

8.2.12           Take all reasonable steps to support and finalise the Jabiru native title settlement.

8.2.13           Engage in initiatives aimed at developing beneficial outcomes for Aboriginal people, lifestyles, economic aspirations and traditions and minimising the adverse social impacts of Jabiru.

8.2.14           Delegate appropriate functions and powers of the Director under the EPBC Regulations to the West Arnhem Regional Council (or any successor to the functions of the council).

8.2.15           Provide information to Jabiru residents to encourage them not to introduce animals to the park, not to introduce weeds or allow them to spread, and to plant and cultivate only local native plant species.

8.2.16           Prohibit activities, or classes of activities, relating to native and non-native species pursuant to r.12.23A where it is necessary to protect the safety of persons or property or the environment.

8.2.17           Take all reasonable steps to:

(a)      have environment protection and waste management measures undertaken in Jabiru to a high standard

(b)     have an environmental management plan for Jabiru developed, implemented and regularly reviewed

(c)      ensure regular environmental monitoring of Jabiru and its immediate surroundings

(d)     have sewage and waste management in Jabiru reviewed, and necessary changes implemented as soon as possible

(e)     ensure weed and feral animal management in the sewage irrigation area and waste dumps is properly addressed.

8.2.18           Take actions to control other feral animals, such as wild dog and dingo cross-breeds, cats, and buffaloes in the town, if not effectively controlled by Northern Territory Government agencies.

8.2.19           Maintain and regularly review lists of plants:

(a)      under r.12.20 that may be taken into and kept in Jabiru

(b)     under r.12.21 that may be cultivated or propagated in Jabiru.

These lists may form part of lists kept in accordance with Section 5.3.7.

8.2.20           Seek, as far as practicable, to have the actions in Section 5.3 of this plan relating to weeds implemented in and in relation to Jabiru.


 

9                       Administration and business management

This section sets out the policies for administering Kakadu, including any Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) provisions which directly relate to the Director of National Parks (the Director), and the actions the Director will take over the life of the plan.

9.1                Safety and incident management

Background

Bininj/Mungguy feel a sense of responsibility for all people visiting their country, and feel distressed if a visitor is injured or dies.

The Director has a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of park visitors under both the common law and the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, and this is an important consideration in managing the park.

A range of measures are adopted in the park to reduce risks to visitors, including:

·      maintaining roads, tracks and visitor facilities in a safe condition

·      providing educational materials for visitors on safety risks and safe behaviour

·      controlling feral animals in the vicinity of roads and visitor sites

·      managing estuarine crocodiles in accordance with the park’s crocodile management strategy

·      planning and implementing fire management programmes to ensure protection of life, property and park assets

·      closure of sites which are considered to pose an unacceptable risk to human safety (e.g. under extreme weather conditions)

·      providing an emergency communication network in remote areas of the park

·      incident response in conjunction with the police and other emergency services.

All visitor safety incidents are reported, recorded and reviewed regularly. Using this information, the Director has compiled a Risk Watch List for the park that identifies and rates a range of risks, including risks to visitor safety. The Risk Watch List also specifies risk management measures that are carried out as required. The list is reviewed and updated regularly.

Both estuarine and fresh water crocodiles inhabit Kakadu National Park, and incidents resulting from human–crocodile interactions can occur. In such cases the risk of major injury or death is high. Crocodile hunting ceased in the 1970s and the population has been steadily increasing since then towards a normal carrying capacity for the area. Crocodiles are now moving back into waters they once inhabited prior to hunting. Since the late 1990s, crocodiles have been located in plunge pools at the base of the Arnhem Land escarpment each wet season.

Due to the potential interaction of visitors with crocodiles, the risks of swimming in the park are actively communicated through prominent signs near water bodies and warnings in information provided to park visitors. Visitors are encouraged to use the public swimming pool at Jabiru or pools provided at hotels and other commercial accommodation. A crocodile management strategy for the park was developed in 2004 and will be reviewed early in the life of this plan.


 

While the Director makes every effort to ensure visitor safety, there are occasions when incidents occur in the park that affect life, property and the environment. These include car accidents, slips, falls and injuries in remote areas that require search and rescue operations, bushfires, extreme weather events (flooding and cyclones) and chemical spills.

As noted elsewhere in this plan, the Director has the function under the EPBC Act of administering, managing and controlling the park. This gives the Director responsibility in relation to incidents in the park.

The Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service (NT FRS) has the role under the Fire and Emergency Act (NT) of responding to fires and emergencies in an ‘emergency response area’. At the time of preparing this plan an emergency response area is established for the Jabiru township. The NT FRS may also contribute to extinguishing or controlling fires or dealing with emergencies in other areas of the park if requested by the Director or the police. Jabiru members of the NT FRS respond to hazardous materials spills and road accident rescues along the Arnhem Highway and Kakadu Highway. In relation to bushfires, the Bushfires Act (NT) is also relevant.

Northern Territory Police is the lead agency for search and rescue operations and when a fatality occurs. Under an intergovernmental agreement, in complex rescues the police officer in charge controls the incident in liaison with representatives from each agency involved, including Parks Australia, fire and rescue and emergency services. The police officer in charge has powers to draw on available resources, wherever they are and whoever controls them. The local police also chair the Local Counter Disaster Planning Committee under the Disasters Act (NT), of which Parks Australia is a member, and is responsible for the overall control of counter disaster operations affecting the district in accordance with the local counter disaster plan.

When incidents occur in the park anywhere other than in or near Jabiru, park staff often reach the site before other emergency response agencies. Park staff are also often more familiar with remote areas of the park and may have more experience in responding to some types of incidents. As a consequence, park staff often have an important incident management role and may provide considerable operational support to the lead agency. To help manage incidents, a park emergency contingency plan and incident management procedures have been developed.

Management issues

·      Bininj/Mungguy feel considerable responsibility for the welfare of visitors and this features significantly in their responsibilities for looking after country. Cultural considerations are also a significant factor in making decisions about swimming in the park and access in remote areas in the park.

·      A number of the activities popular in the park involve a level of risk to visitors. Although the park makes information available, some visitors still appear unaware of or indifferent to potential risks.

·      Kakadu is subject to extremes in weather. Visitors need to keep themselves hydrated particularly in August to October each year and be aware of the risks that storms and floods can bring during the monsoon season.

·      The potential for interaction between visitors and residents and crocodiles is increasing as the crocodile population expands, and park visitors continually need to be reminded of the associated risks.

·      Cahill’s Crossing on the East Alligator River is extremely hazardous: there is a risk of being washed off the causeway at certain times and/or of crocodile attack.


 

·      Responding to incidents can be costly. While the Director has not sought reimbursement or contributions towards costs from persons involved in incidents prior to the implementation of this plan (e.g. for search and rescue operations), this may be considered during the life of the plan.

·      In a remote national park covering a large geographic area, response times to incidents can be lengthy due to difficult terrain, communications and mobilisation of experienced and equipped staff. Mobile phone coverage in the park is limited and needs to be improved.

·      Visitors are provided with a range of information on appropriate behaviour; however, some visitors inadvertently breach regulations through lack of awareness. Ongoing compliance needs to be supported by a range of communication tools and an improved understanding of the common risks.

·      Feral animals can pose a risk to residents and visitors (see Section 5.3: Managing park-wide threats affecting park values).

·      Given the location and size of the park and the high number of migratory species and park visitors, there is a need to be able to respond to potential large-scale incidents such as infectious diseases that may be transmitted by humans, wildlife or feral animal populations, for example bird flu. In these instances, park staff would cooperate with relevant Northern Territory and Australian Government agencies and follow agreed protocols. (See Section 5.3: Managing park-wide threats affecting park values).

Policies

9.1.1              The Director will comply with all relevant workplace health and safety legislation, including ensuring all staff are trained to deal with incident response.

9.1.2              The Director will continue to participate in the Local Counter Disaster Planning Committee and liaise with the Northern Territory Police, Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service, and other relevant agencies and stakeholders about incident response procedures, including responsibilities, personnel, training and resources.

9.1.3              Access to sites subject to seasonal closure within the park will be assessed and considered safe before being opened to visitors and residents.

9.1.4              Crocodiles will be managed in accordance with the crocodile management strategy for the park to minimise the risks of crocodiles to people while ensuring protection of the natural abundance of crocodile populations through the following measures:

(a)      educating and warning visitors, residents and tour operators about crocodiles and associated risks

(b)     maintaining data on crocodile numbers, size and behaviour, particularly in waterways frequented by park residents and visitors

(c)      assessing risks posed by crocodiles to people at public sites

(d)     implementing procedures to detect and remove estuarine crocodiles from any location where swimming is to be allowed

(e)     managing individual crocodiles in these and other locations that present a serious threat to human life

(f)       closing water bodies temporarily, seasonally or permanently if crocodiles present a serious threat to human life

(g)      ensuring that all staff involved in crocodile management are appropriately trained and experienced to carry out crocodile management activities

(h)     working with the Northern Territory Government conservation and land management agencies on interagency collaboration on crocodile management.

9.1.5              The Director will take all practicable steps to ensure appropriate park-wide communication is available for operational and emergency use, including key visitor sites have an operational emergency communication device.

9.1.6              Visitor safety will be a primary consideration in decisions about site access and in park interpretation material and visitor information.

9.1.7              Subject to legal requirements, the Director may seek reimbursement or contributions for the cost of responding to incidents, in particular search and rescue operations, in accordance with guidelines approved by the Kakadu National Park Board of Management.

Actions

9.1.8              Regularly review and update the Risk Watch List or similar risk monitoring and management systems, and prepare risk assessments of visitor sites and facilities, in addition to specific monitoring triggered by incident reports.

(a)      Based on the Risk Watch List and risk assessments, implement management measures to remove or minimise visitor risk.

(b)     Priority risks will include water crossings and priority sites will include Cahill’s Crossing and the Magela Creek crossing.

9.1.9              Continue to review, update, implement and communicate information about park incident management procedures, addressing in particular:

(a)      the roles and responsibilities of the Director and emergency response agencies

(b)     procedures for managing common and potential incidents that may affect life, property and the environment, including hazardous spills

(c)      legislative, training, reporting, record-keeping, debriefing and counselling requirements.

9.1.10           Continue to assess and communicate to visitors and park residents the risks associated with bushwalking, fishing, swimming and boating in the park, and camping both on land and on boats.

9.1.11           Provide appropriate safety information to visitors, such as keeping hydrated, staying on track, walking in the company of others, wearing appropriate clothing, applying sun screen, taking care when crossing waterways in vehicles and being crocodile aware around waterways.

9.1.12           Continue to implement the crocodile management strategy for the park, and review and update it early in the life of this plan.

9.1.13           Work with government and non-government agencies and other stakeholders to improve mobile phone coverage in the park.


 

9.2                Compliance and enforcement

Background

Encouraging compliance with relevant legislation is an important strategy for the protection of park values, park infrastructure, people’s safety and the interests of Bininj/Mungguy. In particular, the Director is required to comply with provisions of the EPBC Act, this plan, other relevant legislation and government policies, and the leases of Aboriginal land in the park. In 2003, the Director endorsed the Parks Australia Compliance and Enforcement Manual, which sets out the broad guidelines and procedures for managing compliance issues in Commonwealth reserves. In 2012 the compliance and enforcement strategy (2012–15) for the park was developed and it is being implemented.

A well-developed education and risk-based enforcement programme tailored to people who use the park is critical for effective management. Compliance with this plan will be promoted by increasing users’ understanding of the conservation values of the park and the objectives of this plan. Effective enforcement is supported through risk-based planning, incorporating targeted monitoring and surveillance, and the collection of intelligence from other sources. In this regard, strong links with Commonwealth and state enforcement agencies to share information and cooperate in joint enforcement activities are important.

The EPBC Act sets out civil and criminal penalties for breaches, and the EPBC Regulations set out criminal penalties. Administrative remedies, such as the issuing of infringement notices, may also be used in appropriate circumstances. Part 17 of the EPBC Regulations provides for permits to be issued, subject to conditions, for activities that are otherwise prohibited.

Staff may be appointed by the Minister under the EPBC Act as rangers or wardens, and exercise the powers and functions conferred on them by the Act and the Regulations. In addition, all members and special members of the Australian Federal Police are ex officio wardens, and officers or employees of other Australian, state or territory government agencies may be appointed by the Minister as rangers or wardens. The Australian Government requires that investigating officers be trained to standards prescribed in the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines. Rangers and wardens conduct monitoring and enforcement operations while on routine patrols and during specific, targeted programmes. Park staff not appointed as wardens and rangers cannot exercise these powers but can encourage compliance with legislation through education to raise public awareness of appropriate behaviour.

Northern Territory laws apply in the park to the extent that they can operate concurrently with the EPBC Act and Regulations and this plan.

Management issues

·      Effective compliance and enforcement requires appropriate resources and a strategic approach based on risk management principles.

·      Exercise of enforcement powers by park staff must comply with Australian Government policies, standards and guidelines.

·      Establishing and maintaining working relationships with other relevant compliance agencies can improve management of compliance issues that are of shared concern.

Policies

9.2.1              Park compliance and enforcement strategies will be based on the Parks Australia Compliance and Enforcement Manual, other Parks Australia policies, Australian Government standards, legal requirements, risk management principles, and Board priorities.

Actions

9.2.2              Continue to implement, review and update the compliance and enforcement strategy for the park and procedures to promote and encourage the protection of park values using complementary approaches, including:

(a)      informed self-regulation through education and communication programmes

(b)     assisted self-regulation, such as through verbal and written advice and warnings

(c)      application of administrative powers, such as issuing infringement notices and suspending permits

(d)     civil and criminal court proceedings.

9.2.3              Liaise and, where appropriate, collaborate with other relevant agencies involved in compliance and enforcement. This may include entering into agreements and making arrangements for wardens to be appointed as law enforcement officers under relevant Northern Territory legislation and for Northern Territory Government officers to be appointed as wardens or rangers under the EPBC Act.

9.2.4              Monitor the effectiveness of the EPBC Act and Regulations in relation to the park and recommend amendments to the Minister if required.

9.2.5              Provide ongoing compliance and law enforcement skills development and assessment for staff appointed, or likely to be appointed, as rangers and wardens. Provide training on the basics of park compliance and enforcement for new staff and relevant stakeholders.


 

9.3                Authorising and managing activities

Background

The values of Kakadu attract a wide range of researchers, visitors and commercial operators interested in learning about and experiencing Kakadu’s unique landscape and habitats. To ensure the park values are protected, the EPBC Act and this plan require that a range of recreational, commercial, research and day-to-day activities can only be undertaken in the park if authorised in accordance with this plan. Authorisation may be given in a number of ways: permits under Part 17 of the EPBC Regulations; approvals issued by the Director of National Parks; activity licence agreements; licences to occupy and use land; and leases (of non-Aboriginal land not under claim) or subleases (of Aboriginal land).

Following a review of commercial tourism in Commonwealth reserves, Parks Australia developed and implemented the Parks Australia Commercial Tourism Licence Policy for certain types of tourism operations in place of permits. At the time of preparing this plan 32 commercial activity licences were in place. Licences, which run for a minimum of five years (but can be longer depending on the circumstances), provide greater security for operators and increase revenue to support park management while ensuring park values remain protected.

Section 10 (Managing use of Kakadu National Park) sets out the overarching policies for activities covered by the EPBC Act and Regulations, including whether the activity can be carried on and the form of any required authorisation. Management of authorisations is a key function of park staff.

Management issues

·      Continued improvement in administrative processes for issuing and managing authorisations can reduce the burden on users and the administrative costs. For example, some application processes for permits and commercial activity licences are manual and would be improved by the development of suitable online systems.

·      Adequate resources are required to effectively monitor and manage authorisations.

Policies

9.3.1              Commercial activity licences, occupation licences, subleases and leases will be offered and used in accordance with the Parks Australia Commercial Tourism Licence Policy and Commercial Leasing Policy to authorise tourism activities that are exclusive or require restricted access or significant capital investment in infrastructure. Subleases and leases will be offered for periods necessary to provide security of tenure to attract and support the level of investment required for tourism activities and developments.

9.3.2              A panel that includes independent and tourism industry members will be used to assess applications for activity licences, occupation licences, subleases and leases and make recommendations on whether to issue a licence.

9.3.3              Fees for authorisations will be reviewed as required in accordance with Section 9.8 (Revenue and business development).


 

Actions

9.3.4              Review and, where possible, improve systems for the processing, administration and management of permits, licences and leases/subleases. This may include investigating the feasibility of developing an online system for self-generating permits and bookings for bushwalking, camping and special-access sites.

9.3.5              Continue to provide up-to-date information on the Department of the Environment’s website on permits and licences, the application and assessment processes, and relevant standard conditions.

9.3.6              Review the standard conditions for non-commercial permits at least every two years.

9.3.7              Develop a range of ecologically sensitive practices to be included in authorisation conditions to assist in the appreciation and protection of park values.

9.3.8              Consistent with the compliance and enforcement strategy for the park, ensure that permit holders fulfil all permit conditions, including provision of data and reports for research permits.

9.3.9              Review standard conditions for commercial tour permits annually and in consultation with the Kakadu Tourism Consultative Committee.

9.3.10           Review, as required, the number of commercial permits and activity licences available to be issued to ensure visitation levels for specific visitor activities and/or sites are sustainable.


 

9.4                Capital works and infrastructure

Background

Capital and infrastructure within the park includes management facilities (such as access roads and tracks, staff housing, bores, radio repeaters, district ranger stations, workshops and park headquarters) and visitor facilities (such as roads, walking tracks, campgrounds, signs, boat ramps, day use areas and visitor centres). Most of the capital works and infrastructure developments during the life of the fifth plan were associated with upgrading, maintaining or replacing these facilities. Asbestos removal was undertaken on a large number of park buildings and other infrastructure in 2013.

Infrastructure is also established and maintained by government agencies, Aboriginal associations, and businesses in Jabiru. Section 10.11 (Infrastructure and works), sets out how activities of these users will be managed.

The Northern Territory Government has responsibility for the care, control and management of the arterial road network in the park, being the Arnhem Highway, the Kakadu Highway, the Old Jim Jim Road and the Oenpelli Road, as well as the Cooinda Road and Gimbat Road up to the Koolpin Gate. The Director has responsibility for the care, control and management of other roads and tracks as necessary for visitor access and park management purposes. Aboriginal organisations are responsible for the maintenance of outstation roads and tracks, and lessees of areas within the park are responsible for maintaining roads and tracks in lease areas.

At the time of preparing this plan, a road management strategy for the construction and maintenance of roads and tracks in the park was under development by Parks Australia.

To maintain gravel roads and tracks, the Director has regularly extracted sand and gravel from gravel pits within the park. This reduces the risk of introducing weeds, pests and pathogens and is less costly than importing sand and gravel. Sterile crushed rock from quarries outside the park has been used for road works when required.

Prior to the establishment of the park, airstrips were constructed for a variety of purposes at a number of locations that are now part of the park. They supported pastoral activities, mining activities, tourism and research and provided transport for residents in the wet season. The main airstrips are located at Jabiru and Cooinda, which are not part of the park. A number of decommissioned airstrips are maintained to enable helicopter access for emergency and management purposes. Others have been closed and the land rehabilitated.

Management issues

·      Infrastructure in the park needs to be established and maintained in accordance with Australian Standards and with minimum levels of impact on park values.

·      Maintenance programmes and schedules for infrastructure and capital works need to be developed, costed and implemented across the park in a timely and cost-effective manner.

·      Park staff housing is expensive to maintain and depreciation of these assets forms a significant expense in the budget.

·      There is a serious shortage of gravel in some areas of the park.

·      Energy efficiency and reducing the carbon footprint of management operations should be a consideration in new capital works and infrastructure (see Section 9.6: Resource use in park operations).


 

Policies

9.4.1              The Director may carry on an excavation, erect a building or other structure, or carry out works in the park.

9.4.2              Sand, gravel and other earth materials may be extracted for park management purposes in accordance with guidelines for the operation of gravel pits, to ensure minimal impact to park values and the rehabilitation of affected areas.

9.4.3              The Director may bring inert treated crushed rock into the park for the purpose of road works.

9.4.4              New capital works and infrastructure and upgrades to existing infrastructure, will:

(a)      as far as practicable incorporate cost-effective environmental design, including efficient resource use and low-maintenance designs and materials

(b)     comply with all relevant laws, standards, and codes of practice and be consistent with other park policies and strategies

(c)      as far as practicable provide access for all members of the public, including the physically impaired.

9.4.5              Timber, including preservative-treated pine, may be brought into the park and used for park management construction purposes, subject to assessment in accordance with Section 9.5 (Assessment of proposals).

9.4.6              The Director may maintain landing areas, including helipads and airstrips, for management or emergency purposes or for other purposes as approved by the Board.

9.4.7              Where practicable the Director will offer road maintenance and other construction and maintenance contracts to local Aboriginal organisations in the first instance (consistent with lease agreements and procurement requirements of the Australian Government and the Director) (see also Section 4.3: Bininj/Mungguy training and other opportunities).

9.4.8              When and if required, the Director may commission the development of new bore sites to address water quality issues.

Actions

9.4.9              Coordinate road infrastructure management and maintenance with the Northern Territory Government to ensure timely and safe access to and within the park.

9.4.10           Maintain roads and tracks that are not the responsibility of the Northern Territory Government or Aboriginal organisations to a standard that provides for safe use by residents and visitors and for management purposes.

9.4.11           Develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Northern Territory Government regarding the management of roads in the park and work with them to develop and implement a road management strategy for the park.

9.4.12           Work with the commercial tourism industry to ensure infrastructure developments support commercial tourism activities.

9.4.13           Develop and implement a capital works and infrastructure management and maintenance system. The system will aim to extend the cost-effective life of assets, improve and maintain asset performance, and maintain infrastructure assets to a reasonable and safe standard.

9.5                Assessment of proposals

Background

Many activities proposed to be undertaken in the park by the Director, Bininj/Mungguy and external stakeholders such as the tourism industry and business people need to have their potential impacts assessed before a decision can be made on whether the activity should go ahead. Impacts that need to be considered include impacts on the park’s values and on Bininj/Mungguy.

Some activities proposed to be undertaken in the park may be ‘controlled actions’ (see Appendix G: Legislative context) and require assessment and approval by the Minister under the EPBC Act because they are likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance (such as the World Heritage or Ramsar wetland values of the park) or the environment generally.

The EPBC Act defines the ‘environment’ as including:

(a)           ecosystems and their constituent parts, including people and communities

(b)          natural and physical resources

(c)           the qualities and characteristics of locations, places and areas

(d)          heritage values of places

(e)          the social, economic and cultural aspects of a thing mentioned in paragraph (a), (b) or (c).

Proposed actions that do not trigger the assessment and approval provisions of the EPBC Act may still have impacts that require assessment before a decision can be made on whether the action should go ahead. Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines were developed in 2008 for proponents to outline the environmental impact assessment process in the park. Proposed actions of a routine nature that are authorised by or under prescriptions (i.e. policies and actions) in this plan generally do not require impact assessment.

The Director and the Board make decisions on whether proposals should be approved using the environmental impact assessment process for the park. Decisions regarding proposals and activities in the park are also subject to the process outlined in Section 4.1 (Making decisions and working together (Board of Management)).

Policies

9.5.1              The potential impacts of all proposed actions under this plan will be considered, and where necessary assessed, in accordance with Table 4 (Impact assessment process), the assessment matters and considerations outlined in Table 5 (Environmental impact assessment matters and considerations), and the following policies. Where a proposed action requires approval or advice from the Board of Management, the Board will be advised of the outcome of that consideration and any assessment.

9.5.2              Proposed actions that are considered likely to have more than a negligible impact but are not controlled actions under the EPBC Act will be assessed in accordance with the impact assessment procedures for the park.

9.5.3              Assessment of proposed activities that are not controlled actions may be carried out by Parks Australia, proponents of the proposed activity, or independent experts, depending on the nature of the activity, with the appropriate assessment being determined by Parks Australia.

9.5.4              Subject to the EPBC Act, the Director will recover from proponents the costs associated with administering, assessing and managing proposals.

9.5.5              Depending on the nature of the application, the Director may request that a proponent seek an independent Environmental Impact Assessment at their own cost.

Action

9.5.6              As a matter of priority, review the Environmental Impact Assessment guidelines for assessment of proposals to ensure adequate protection of the park’s values. A review of the guidelines will include consideration of the need to seek public comment on certain classes of proposals, such as those which have more than a negligible impact to park values and are likely to be of public interest.


 

Table 4:      Impact assessment process

Category

Example

Impact assessment requirements

Category 1

Actions considered likely to have no impact, or no more than a negligible impact, on the park’s environment and natural and cultural values, and on Bininj/Mungguy

 

 

·     Minor capital works e.g. maintenance, replacement, repairing or improving existing infrastructure in its present form

·     Regular/routine ongoing operations to implement prescriptions in this plan e.g. patrols, weed control, fire management

·     Seasonal opening/closing of visitor areas

·     Issuing permits for regular activities in accordance with this plan, e.g. land-based tours, camping, research

 

·       Preliminary assessment only required

·       Use minimal impact work practices when implementing actions

Category 2

Actions considered likely to have more than a negligible impact, but not a significant impact, on the park’s environment and natural and cultural values, and on Bininj/Mungguy

 

·     Moderate capital works, e.g. new infrastructure or moderate expansion/upgrade of existing infrastructure

·     Rehabilitation of heavily eroded sites

·     Developments for approved existing tourism activities that do not require major works, e.g. small safari camps

·     Minor new operations or developments to implement prescriptions in this plan

 

·       Assessment by park staff, proponent or independent expert

·       Assessment in accordance with procedures outlined in Table 5 and approved by Director and Board

·         An Authority Certificate from the AAPA under the NTASS Act is required where the action has potential impact upon a sacred site.

Category 3

Actions considered likely to have a significant impact on the park’s environment and natural and cultural values, and on Bininj/Mungguy

 

 

·     Major capital works, e.g. new major infrastructure or major expansion/upgrade of existing infrastructure

·     Major new operations or developments to implement prescriptions in this plan

·     Major/long-term changes to existing visitor access arrangements

·     Large-scale mine rehabilitation

·     Expansion of the Jabiru township

·     New types of commercial activities

·     New or major expansion of Bininj/Mungguy living areas

 

·       Director will consider whether action should be referred for consideration as a ‘controlled action’ under the EPBC Act

·       If action is referred and Minister decides it is a controlled action, no assessment is required by Park staff

·       If action is not referred, or it is referred and the Minister decides it is not a controlled action, assessment as for Category 2

·       An Authority Certificate from the AAPA under the NTASS Act is required where the action has potential impact upon a sacred site.


Table 5: Environmental impact assessment matters and considerations

Matters for assessment

Considerations include but are not limited to

1.      Environmental context

(a)     What are the components or features of the environment in the area where the action will take place?

·       Species and ecological communities in the park-wide and regional context

·       Matters of national environmental significance

·       Cultural features

·       Heritage features

·       Socio-economic values including Bininj/Mungguy uses and interests

·       Tourism and recreational values

·       Aesthetic/landscape values

·       Scientific reference areas

(b)     Which components or features of the environment are likely to be impacted?

·       Short- and long-term impacts on and off site

(c)      Is the environment which is likely to be impacted, or elements of it, sensitive or vulnerable to impacts?

 

·       Species and ecological communities,

·       Matters of national environmental significance

·       Cultural values (including sacred sites)

·       Heritage values

·       Tourism and visitor experience

·       Bininj/Mungguy interests, in particular relevant lease conditions

·       Cumulative impacts from a range of activities across the park on the environment or its elements

·       Uniqueness of elements within the park-wide and regional context

(d)     What is the history, current use and condition of the environment which is likely to be impacted?

·       Comparison with condition of similar sites elsewhere in the park


 

Matters for assessment

Considerations include but are not limited to

2.      Potential impacts

(a)       What are the components of the action?

(b)       What are the predicted adverse impacts associated with the action, including indirect consequences?

(c)        How severe are the potential impacts?

(d)       What is the extent of uncertainty about potential impacts

·       Include associated infrastructure and stages

·       Include indirect and off-site impacts

·       Consider scale, intensity, timing, duration and frequency

3.      Impact avoidance and mitigation

(a)     Will any measures to avoid or mitigate impacts ensure, with a high degree of certainty, that impacts are not significant?

(b) What certainty is there that avoidance mitigation measures will be implemented and sustained?

·       Include whether there are any alternative sites for proposal

4.      Significance of impacts

(a)     Considering all the matters above, is the action likely to have a significant impact on the environment?

 

·       If yes, the Director will consider whether action should be referred for Ministerial consideration under the EPBC Act

 

Note: this is a guide only, and is subject to change – the detailed environmental impact assessment process is included in the park Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines.


9.6                Resource use in park operations

Background

The Director supports environmental best practice principles in regard to the use of resources and management of waste products in the park. These principles are applied in matters such as the use of solar power for hot water heating in park houses and powering of bores, and building designs that minimise energy use for cooling. Environmental best practice principles are consistent with the need for conserving the park’s natural and cultural values and Kakadu’s status as a World Heritage area, and minimising the potential impacts associated with waste management practices.

An energy audit completed in 2009 (McMahon 2009) examined the park’s energy consumption and identified opportunities for more efficient use of energy in park operations. A number of other strategies are being undertaken to help ensure visitor and other human impacts and uses of the park are sustainable (see Section 5.3: Managing park-wide threats affecting