INDIGENOUS NEWS

WITJIRA NATIONAL PARK DRAFT MANAGEMENT PLAN

Witjira National Park draft management plan released A draft management plan for Witjira National Park in the far north of South Australia has been released for public comment.

Witjira National Park near Oodnadatta

Witjira National Park near Oodnadatta

Trevor Naismith from the Department for Environment and Heritage (DEH) said the draft plan reflects the Indigenous Land Use Agreement and Co-management Agreement signed by the Minister for Environment and Conservation with traditional owners in August 2007.

“Witjira National Park has been subject to joint management arrangements with DEH since 1995,” he said. “It is now a co-managed park and under the control of the Witjira National Park Co-management Board.

“It’s important that we have a clear plan to ensure the park is managed in a way that respects both contemporary and traditional culture, knowledge and skills. “DEH worked for over two years with the previous Witjira Board of Management to prepare the plan.

“The shared vision for management means that the co-managers can respect and promote indigenous culture and conserve the outstanding natural values of the park, while encouraging ongoing visitor access.

“It’s a further positive step towards reconciliation with the area’s traditional owners, the Lower Southern Arrernte and Wangkangurru people, represented by the Irrwanyere Aboriginal Corporation.”

Mr Naismith explained that another important outcome of the planning process was the development of the Dalhousie Springs Zone.

“Witjira National Park is a unique area containing several cultural and natural features of national conservation significance and tourism interest, including the Dalhousie Great Artesian Basin Mound Springs complex,” he said.

“To continue to protect the 120 or so thermal springs in the Dalhousie complex, which are home to unique species of fish such as the Dalhousie hardyhead and other rare aquatic and bird life, we have established a five kilometre no-mining zone around all known spring vents and spring tails, and a buffer around the outflow tail of the mound springs complex.

“This area is over 50,000 hectares in size and will protect the outstanding natural, cultural and tourism values of the springs.

“As a positive outcome for the park, the development of the Dalhousie Springs Zone can be compared to the creation of the Coongie Lakes National Park in protecting a key arid landscape.”

Witjira National Park is an area of 7,700 square kilometres located in the far north of South Australia, about 100 kilometres north of Oodnadatta.

In 2004 the Government of South Australia introduced innovative legislation to amend the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 to enable the Minister for Environment and Conservation to enter into comanagement agreements over National Parks and Conservation Parks with relevant Aboriginal groups.

Witjira is the fourth park in South Australia to be co-managed by DEH and Aboriginal people under this legislation, the others being the Mamungari Conservation Park, the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park and the Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park.

On Thursday 11 September 2008, Mr Naismith attended a ceremony at Dalhousie Springs at which the Federal Court handed down a Consent Determination over the Witjira National Park, as part of the overall settlement of native title claims for the area.

“DEH hopes that the provision of co-management or other arrangements over parks will make a significant contribution to the South Australia’s Strategic Plan goal to have 75 per cent of native title claims resolved in their entirety by 2014,” he said.

The draft management plan is available for public comment until 18 December 2008.
The plan is available from the DEH Information Line (Level 1, 100 Pirie Street, Adelaide; email
dehinformation@saugov.sa.gov.au; telephone 8204 1910), the DEH Port Augusta Office (9 Mackay
Street), the Alice Springs Town Council Civic Centre (Todd Street), the Roxby Downs Council (Richardson Place) and the Coober Pedy District Council (Hutchinson Street).
The plan may also be viewed at, and downloaded from
http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/management/plans.html.

Coober Pedy Regional Times