Government officials visit Kimberley for insights into regional biodiversity

[September 2015]

Representatives from the Australian Government Department of Environment visited the Kimberley this month to gain a better understanding of local priorities and threats.

Rangelands NRM Operations Manager, John Silver and Kimberley Program Manager, Grey Mackay met with Acting First Assistant Secretary Biodiversity Conservation, James Barker and Director Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory Section, Biodiversity Conservation, Keith Armstrong in Broome.

Rangelands NRM through funding from the Australian Government support a number of groups and projects aimed at conserving Kimberley flora and fauna species and managing threats to biodiversity.  

Mr Mackay said the visitors met as many local community groups and organisations as was possible to gain a broad appreciation for the diversity of the Kimberley and some of the complexities associated with working in the region. 

“We have a number of dedicated and passionate community groups managing threats to flora and fauna species and culturally significant sites and we wanted them all to have the opportunity to speak with the Departments representatives," he said.

The pair were welcomed to the region with a Yawuru welcome to country before visiting the Ramsar-listed Roebuck Bay, meeting with local Yawuru Rangers, community representatives from SKIPA’s (Society for Kimberley Indigenous Plants and Animals), Seagrass Monitoring, and the Roebuck Bay Working Group.

They toured Roebuck Plains Station to see how cultural and environmental interests can be managed alongside pastoral enterprises, before travelling up the Dampier Peninsular, investigating recent Bilby burrows and speaking with local traditional rangers. 

They heard presentations from Bardi Jawi and Oorany Rangers, and met with Nyul Nyul Rangers to look at Monsoon Vine Thickets and see efforts to manage weeds and fire. 

“We also managed a catch up with rangers visiting from the Desert — the Paraku and Ngurrara women Rangers,” said Mr Mackay. 

“The delegation gained a good understanding of fire management in the region, viewing recent early season prescribed burn areas, as well as driving past a late season wildfire,” he said.

“They also met with representatives from our partner organisations — Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Environs Kimberley, Kimberley Land Council and WWF Australia to discuss broader Kimberley assets and threats.” 

Mr Mackay said seeing the places first-hand was important for the government to better understand the diversity and fragility of the Kimberley environments and the work being done by community groups to protect and conserve it.

Managing threats to biodiversity in the Kimberley

The Kimberley region of Western Australia (WA) is a vast area characterised by high landscape connectivity. This means processes threatening biodiversity are operating over large scales.

The key threats are altered fire patterns, introduced vertebrate species and weeds; resulting in local extinctions of several vertebrate species, with several others in decline.

Active management of threats, and an understanding of threat interactions, is essential to prevent further degradation and improve ecological health of the region.

Major faunal assets in the Kimberley include:

•      Northern Quoll

•      Spectacled Hare Wallaby

•      Golden-backed Tree-rat

•      Purple-crowned Fairy-wren

•      Buff-sided Robin

•      Gouldian Finch.

Threats to biodiversity in the Kimberley are:

•      changed fire patterns

•      feral and pest animals

•      weeds.

Images
1.  James Barker (Left) and Keith Armstrong (Centre) of the Department of Environment meeting Kandy Curran of the Roebuck Bay Working Group and Rangelands NRM Broome staff John Silver and Grey Mackay in Broome.
2. The delegation visit Middle Lagoon, Kimberley.
3. The delegation visit Minyirr, Kimberley.