In one of the most significant environmental initiatives in Western Australia’s history, the State Government has announced the formation of the Kimberley Wilderness Parks, including the State’s largest interconnected system of marine and terrestrial parks covering more than 3.5 million hectares of one of the world’s last great wilderness areas.
Created under the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy, Premier Colin Barnett said the new parks would include four new marine parks, a new national park and additional conservation reserves. “The creation of the Kimberley Wilderness Parks will almost treble the area of marine parks and reserves in WA, from 1.5 million hectares to 4.1 million hectares,” Mr Barnett said. “The north-west Kimberley is one of the most pristine areas remaining in the world and the Government is committed to protecting the natural character of the Kimberley wilderness for future generations. Last year we gave a commitment to establish a marine park at Camden Sound, added to this will be three new parks in the North Kimberley, at Roebuck Bay and Eighty Mile Beach.”
The Kimberley Wilderness Parks will contain more than half of the known terrestrial bird and animal species found throughout the Kimberley and will protect many unique animals including six species of rare and endangered turtles, Australian snubfin dolphins, Humpback and Minke whales, dugongs and sawfish.”
The Premier said the move would also better protect significant animals including the Northern Quoll, the world’s smallest known rock-wallaby, the endangered Golden-backed Tree Rat, the Scaly-tailed Possum and the rare Rough-Scaled Python. Together, the four new marine parks will protect the largest Humpback whale calving area in the southern hemisphere, some of the nation’s largest mangrove communities, significant turtle nesting areas, extensive coral reefs, sponge gardens and the area’s outstanding scenic values.
Mr Barnett said Camden Sound and North Kimberley marine parks would be managed together as the Great Kimberley Marine Park, which will extend from Montgomery Reef in the south up to Cape Londonderry in the north and will cover more than 17 per cent of WA waters. The Great Kimberley Marine Park will include two sanctuary zones which are designated no-take areas, that will exclude extractive uses such as commercial and recreational fishing; shell collecting; aquaculture; seismic survey and mineral or petroleum exploration; drilling and production. Permanent moorings will also be developed in sanctuary zones and other vulnerable areas to protect the habitat, particularly coral reefs, from boat anchors while still maintaining access to the public.
The Premier said that the Kimberley Wilderness Parks would include WA’s 99th national park, with the spectacular Prince Regent Nature Reserve upgraded to a class A national park.
Environment Minister Donna Faragher said joint management with traditional owners will be central to the creation and future of these new conservation reserves. The State Government will invest $10million over four years in partnerships with traditional owners, pastoralists, conservation groups and other land managers. The Government will also invest $2.7million in nature-based tourism to improve visitor facilities in Kimberley parks.