Protected areas are the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation efforts worldwide.
They are intended to be managed to conserve threatened species, wildlife, habitats and entire ecosystems, plus provide for public enjoyment and enable Indigenous people to care for Country.
Through its Territory Icons campaign, the Environment Centre NT is seeking to have half the Territory managed primarily for nature conservation within a large, interconnected network of protected areas by 2030, and a third by 2020.
A key short term goal is to have Limmen National Park declared in the southwest Gulf Country.
In September 2011, around 12% of the Territory was conserved within the National Reserve System, but this figure may soon jump to around 21% with the potential declaration of new Indigenous Protected Areas in the Tanami Desert and in the southwest corner of the Territory.
Should this major expansion occur, the Territory Government’s policy in te Territory 2030 Strategy of protecting 20% of the land by 2030 in ‘protected systems’ would be exceeded.
The largest expansion of the National Reserve System in recent years has occurred through the declaration of Indigenous Protected Areas and private wildlife sanctuaries.
National Parks and other government-managed protected areas are fundamental to nature conservation, eco-tourism and growing the conservation economy.
But only 3.5% of the Territory is managed by the Territory Government’s Territory Parks & Wildlife Service in National Parks, Nature Parks, Reserves and Conservation Areas.
This figure is tiny and Territory Governments must commit to buying more pastoral leases of high conservation value for conservation.
Protected areas are defined by IUCN – The World Conservation Union as
An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.
Protected areas include a wide range of land and sea management approaches, including National Parks, Indigenous Protected Areas, Conservation Areas, Nature Parks, marine parks, private wildlife sanctuaries, covenants over pastoral leases or freehold land, and local government reserves.
Protected areas also provide many benefits to Territorians and the Territory economy. These include tourism, jobs in regional and remote areas, access for fishermen and sustaining fish stocks, provision of water and other ecosystem goods and services, sustainable wildlife and plant use by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, carbon storage, beauty and peace of mind in a hectic world.
Since Territory Labor took office in August 2001, the Territory Government has not bought any pastoral leases to create new National Parks. This represents a major failing to commit adequate resources to expand the National Reserve System, ease tourism pressures on the existing parks, and support jobs in the conservation economy in remote regions.
We support the Framework for the Future program which has seen 27 national parks becoming jointly managed with Indigenous Traditional Owners over this past decade, ensured consent is sought and gained by traditional owners for parks to be declared, and guaranteed jobs for Indigenous Rangers managing the parks.