The Kimberley and Northern Territory coastal waters

NT coastal waters funding ends

In March 2017, in the third year of our funding commitment to the NT Coastal Waters campaign, we expressed dissatisfaction with progress, and advised we were unlikely to fulfil our Year 4 financial commitment to the campaign.

We said meeting our commitment would depend on the NT Government’s coastal waters strategy expressed in its 2018 legislative program.

Regrettably, specific assurances about the Government’s support for coastal park proposals and reform of habitat management were still not available when the Board met in March 2018, and with our intention to wind up the Foundation by June 30, 2018, it was resolved that no further support would be provided.

“We separated from the campaign with the hope that our commitment has contributed to building a platform on which success can be achieved over time,” Thomas Foundation chairman David Thomas said. He also noted that much had been achieved with the Kimberley waters campaign, including creation of the Great Kimberley Marine Park.

Kimberley and Northern Territory Coastal Waters Background

While the Federal Government declared extensive marine protected areas in waters under its control, gaps remain in coastal marine protected areas. With Foundation support ($1.8m), the Pew Environment Group (PEG) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) are campaigning to fill some of these gaps in the Kimberley and the Northern Territory coastal areas.

In the Kimberley, objectives are

  • declaration of the Great Kimberley Marine Park, covering 1.9m hectares of State waters
  • identification of areas of high conservation value within the Park for full protection
  • engagement of both recreational fishers and traditional owners in achieving these objectives

Recent developments include:

  • The WA State Government is actively driving its 2013 election commitment to extend the Great Kimberley Marine Park from the Horizontal Falls to the NT border, with an additional new park in Roebuck Bay
  • Release of a draft plan for the Roebuck Bay park
  • Release of the Horizontal Falls stage of the park which includes eight sanctuary zones covering 24 per cent of the park’s area

Gains in terrestrial areas associated with the Great Kimberley Marine Park include:

  • Removal by the WA Govt of 175,000 hectares of bauxite mining leases from the Mitchell Plateau
  • A ban on further mining and exploration leases over 2m hectares of the Kimberley coast
  • Commitment to establish the Wandjina National Park – if proclaimed as planned it will be Australia’s biggest national park
  • A new national park around the Horizontal Falls

In the Northern Territory, objectives are

  • protection of 20% of the Territory’s 7.2m hectares of its marine estate
  • 10% of this marine estate to be a no-take zone
  • support for traditional owners in banning sea-bed mining and commercial fishing in specified reserves
  • engagement of both recreational and commercial fishers in achieving these objectives.

Building relationships with recreational fishers and coastal communities is an important aspect of these campaigns. It’s also vital in defending the integrity of existing marine parks where previous agreements on no-take zones have been rescinded or are threatened. The Foundation is engaged with the Australian Marine Conservation Society in a three-year program to build broad understanding of the case for marine sanctuaries in key areas.