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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2311


Senator KILGARIFF(11.34) —I refer to the anticipated action of proclamation of additional areas for inclusion in Kakadu National Park, namely, the Gimbat and Goodparla pastoral leases. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a letter from Professor J. D. Ovington, Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Mr Paul Everingham, concerning the proclamation of additional areas in Kakadu National Park. I also seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard Mr Everingham's reply to his letter.

Leave granted.

The documents read as follows-

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

22 March, 1984 Co-ordinator General

Department of the Chief Minister

Chan Building

Mitchell Street

Darwin N.T. 5794

I am writing to bring to your attention the attached Notice of Intention to Prepare a Report Recommending Proclamation of Additional Area for Inclusion in Kakadu National Park, namely, to include the Gimbat and Goodparla pastoral leases.

I would be pleased to receive any comments you may wish to make in regard to the Notice.

Professor J. D. Ovington Director

CHIEF MINISTER DARWIN

23 May 1984 Professor G. D. Ovington

Director

Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service

G.P.O. Box 636

Canberra, A.C.T. 2601

Dear Professor Ovington

Your reference 83/634 of the 22nd March 1984 invited comment concerning the Notice of Intention to prepare a report recommending proclamation of additional area in Kakadu National Park.

The Northern Territory is opposed to the proclamation of Gimbat and Goodparla Pastoral Leases as additional area for inclusion in Kakadu National Park. Such wholesale dedication, using existing pastoral lease boundaries, would appear to be for administrative convenience rather than for rational conservation purposes .

The Northern Territory queries the justification for adding a further 6726 square kilometres to Kakadu National Park without clearly identifying the park or conservation value of each sq. km. There is very little within either of the two pastoral leases not already represented in Stage 1 and 2 of Kakadu. Declaration of the whole area as national park would seriously inhibit the utilisation of resources available for development within the Territory.

While there is no question about the need to arrange for the conservation of further land in the Territory it is essential that this be done in a rational manner and having regard to achieving a balance of developments in each region. The Alligator Rivers region is clearly contributing a maximum proportion of its land to national park use as things stand and it is of great concern to this government that an unreasoned pursuit of opportunity should cause the sterilisation of further regional resources.

It must be recognised that both Gimbat and Goodparla have potential for multiple land use pursuits some of which could be commenced immediately, subject to suitable security of tenure, and others which require further investigation and proving for technical and commercial feasibility.

This is not to say that there are no pieces of land on the leases that require conservation for park or recreational use but simply that, following the initial and illogical north-south, east-west pastoral decisions is perpetrating errors that the Territory needs corrected.

The Gimbat/Goodparla lease areas do have a high potential for tourism and recreation. The government believes that this potential can be best realised without the encumbrance of a national park status over the whole area. The lessee of Gimbat has already introduced controlled access through Gimbat and has proposed the establishment of significant tourist facilities and controlled safari hunting. The development of facilities to promote recreational needs embodying outdoors experience is considered most appropriate and in fact, tourist development within both Gimbat and Goodparla could alleviate certain pressures on Kakadu National Park itself. For instance Gimbat has good resources for development of safari hunting type operations that could not be done in Kakadu.

The two pastoral leases form part of the uranium/gold province of the Alligator Rivers region and are considered highly prospective for copper, lead, zinc, gold , silver, uranium, tin and tungsten. A number of small high grade gold-uranium deposits were worked prior to the administrative freeze on mining and new exploration in the early 1970's. These deposits yielded some 972 tonnes of U3O8 and 11,000 ounces of gold. The excision of five mineral leases for Dampier Mines within Stage 1 of Kakadu attests to the highly prospective nature of the area.

Less than 1/3 of the Gimbat/Goodparla lease has been explored but an indication of the perceived mineral potential is reflected in the number of mineral and exploration leases held prior to the declaration of the mineral reserves.

The mining industry has a key role to play in the Territory's development by providing major capital investment, job opportunities, export earnings and the economic basis for ancillary industries. Accordingly, the Northern Territory believes that mineral exploration should proceed unimpeded to adequately assess the potential for the area. It further considers that there is adequate N.T. legislation in place to safeguard the river catchments should mining be proven and allowed, following environmental assessment. The N.T. government believes that the industry should be allowed to investigate the mineral potential of this area in accord with normal expectations of exploration.

In the longer term, given that marketing and changes in technology will be determinant factors, there is potential for both animal and crop production on both Gimbat and Goodparla. The extensive grazing of cattle as permitted under the original granting of the leases is no longer appropriate and stricter control of stock will be necessary. The stricter control over stock will allow differentiation of land for improved pastures and agricultural crops. Further investigation will be required before this potential will be realised but the government believes that resource research is an ongoing activity that must be maintained. The Goodparla lessees have expressed an interest in a buffalo domestication programme.

No in depth economic appraisal of the various land use options has been undertaken because of the uncertainties with the Kakadu Stage 2 proposal.

The Northern Territory believes that the tenure of Gimbat/Goodparla should revert to the N.T. so that these issues can be adequately considered.

It further believes that the roads in the region currently maintained by the Northern Territory should be retained as public roads, e.g.

1. Kakadu Highway

2. Goodparla Access Road

3. Gimbat Access Road

4. Waterfall Creek Access Road, and

5. Old Jim Jim Road.

In addition, a track extending south-east from the existing Gimbat access road to the Katherine River should also be excluded as a public road. While not maintained by the N.T., it is used for access to the upper reaches of the Katherine River.

As part of the upgrading to sealed standard of the Kakadu Highway, the N.T. is currently investigating realignments of the Kakadu Highway and an additional access to Waterfall Creek from the north west. It is essential that in order to permit the inclusion of the area as an active part of the land resource of the Territory economy all roads and alignments be under Territory control and deemed public roads.

A 100 metre road reserve should be set aside for all roads identified in the area under consideration, i.e. 50 metres either side of the centre line of existing road.

The Control Of Waters Act is administered by the Northern Territory government. Specific areas of interest in Gimbat/Goodparla relate to monitoring of existing assets and the investigation of further ground and surface areas. These areas of interest must be maintained under Northern Territory legislation and access to conduct these investigations must be unhindered.

The Northern Territory advocates the return of the two pastoral leases to Territory control to allow investigation into the best mix of land use for the pastoral properties and their proper placement in the Territory resource bank. As mentioned, this proposition does not exclude the declaration of properly identified conservation values for park purposes.

Yours sincerely,

PAUL EVERINGHAM


Senator KILGARIFF —I thank the Senate. I also seek leave to table a map of stages 1 and 2 of Kakadu National Park.

Leave granted.


Senator KILGARIFF —Thank you, Mr President. I am concerned that Professor Ovington of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service has taken such a strong bureaucratic view. It is certainly a very strong centralist attitude, hardly democratic, and definitely not conforming to the principles of consultation about which we hear so much today. It is a matter of such strong public interest and debate that I am taking this action to encourage discussion. I am raising this matter in the Senate this evening so that people with an interest-the mining companies, lessees, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Aboriginal people and associations, pastoralists, members of the tourist industry, and the man in the street-can consider for themselves whether the action being taken by the ANPWS is really rational and properly considered.

I ask that the points made by Mr Everingham be considered and that the people offer their opinions. Let me speak briefly to the points Mr Everingham has made in his letter. The Northern Territory Government opposes the proclamation of Gimbat and Goodparla pastoral leases as a national park. This appears to be for administrative reasons rather than for rational conservation purposes. There are very few land types within either of these leases that are not already represented in stages 1 and 2 of Kakadu. The declaration of these lease areas would seriously inhibit the utilisation of resources available for development, which is most essential in the north. Gimbat and Goodparla have potential for multiple land use, for example, tourism, pastoral, recreation and mining.

Tourist development of the Gimbat and Goodparla leases could alleviate recreational pressures on Kakadu National Park. For example, Gimbat has good resources for development of controlled safari hunting-type operations which could not be done in a national park. Both leases also have good potential for mining for they are part of the uranium province. In this area too there are very strong indications of gold, copper, lead, zinc, silver, tin and tungsten. Yet, if Professor Ovington has his way, these two areas will be tied up forever.

The Territory Government and the majority of the people of the Territory believe that the mining industry should be allowed to investigate the mining potential of this area. The mining industry has a key role to play in the development of the Territory, although it is being frustrated to quite a degree at the moment, and it is helping to develop the Territory wherever it can. It could do so to quite a considerable degree in this instance in the proposed Kakadu area by providing major capital investment, job opportunities and export earnings. In the long term Gimbat and Goodparla have good potential for animal and crop production. The Northern Territory Government believes tenure of these leases should revert to the Northern Territory so that these issues can be considered adequately. Mr President, I thank you for giving me your time and for hearing me at this late hour. As this is a matter of such public concern in the Northern Territory I ask that it should be aired, and I encourage people to give their views on the matter.

Although it is late, I will refer very briefly to a news release I received today. No doubt all other senators have received it too. It quotes Vice- Admiral Leach and says that there will be a farewell flight to mark the end of the Grumman Tracker operations. Tomorrow there will be a fly past over Parliament House and this will be the end of the Tracker aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm. As a person from the north, I take the opportunity to thank the crews and all those within the Tracker aircraft system who have played such a major part in the surveillance and protection of the north. I refer particularly to that period when so many refugee boats came down from Vietnam in enormous numbers. There were other illegal boats in the Indian Ocean which were landing on our northern shores, and the people in the S2 Grumman Tracker anti-submarine aircraft from the Royal Australian Navy played a very major part in protecting the north. At that time surveillance of the north along the coast was not particularly strong, and I believe we were very fortunate in having these air crews from the Fleet Air Arm to cover that area, so I personally thank them.

Unfortunately we have seen the end of the Fleet Air Arm and I hope these crews will find suitable employment in other spheres. I understand some of the air crews are finding employment in air forces of countries friendly to Australia while others have gone into commercial flying. We have seen the breaking up of the Fleet Air Arm. I know that there has been a lot of heartbreak and there have been a lot of personal problems for the air crews. Young men who have given their lives to the Fleet Air Arm have suddenly found that they are without work and they have had to readjust and find other employment. I wish them all the best, and in so doing once again I raise my hat to them, to the work that they have done over some 16 years. As the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Leach said:

The Trackers have made a remarkable contribution to the nation during their 16 years of service in the RAN . . . They have flown more than 67,000 hours on a variety of tasks-anti-submarine operations and training, coastal surveillance, oil rig patrols, search and rescue missions and Fleet support.

It is a tribute to the aircrews and maintainers that in all that time only one aircraft has been lost in a flying accident.

Even more remarkable is that there has not been a single fatality-a record which bears testimony to the skills of all concerned with their operations.

So, Mr President, tomorrow we will see the flypast at, I think, 10.45 a.m. This will be the last that we will see of these aircraft. Of course what goes with them is the A4 Skyhawk, the Navy fighter aircraft. These have been tremendous aircraft but they are now no longer to be. I hope that in the disposal of these Skyhawks they go to the Royal New Zealand Air Force. I also hope that they will be provided to the New Zealand Air force at a very reasonable price. New Zealand is an ANZUS partner, and it has Skyhawks already. If we cannot find a place for our Skyhawks I hope we will ensure that they go to New Zealand where they can still participate in this region of the globe.