Annual Report 2010-2011
Output 1.2 Land and Natural Resource Management
In the Central Land Council’s region, traditional Aboriginal landowners own 407,985 square kilometres of Aboriginal freehold land under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. This represents more than 52 per cent of the 776,549 square kilometres of land covered by the CLC’s nine regions.
While the land continues to be of immense traditional importance and spiritual significance to its Aboriginal owners, much of it is arid or semi-arid, there are few surface waters, and it is ecologically fragile, remote and often inaccessible. Much of the land is unsuitable or only marginally suitable for pastoralism.
There is increasing recognition that the region contains natural environments of national significance. Not only are these areas often dynamic cultural landscapes, but they support many of Australia’s most threatened species and have an extremely high conservation value.
However, there are a number of complex and difficult management issues facing Aboriginal landowners in Central Australia, including impacts of weed management, feral animal control, fire management, mineral exploration and mining, tourism, and other threats to biodiversity conservation.
One of the CLC’s main natural resource management objectives is to build traditional landowners’ on-ground capacity to deal with the challenges and opportunities involved in the sustainable management of their country. This approach ensures that core environmental and cultural values are protected and managed, while participation in employment and training is increased and community development progressed.
The ability of Aboriginal people to visit and look after their country remains a priority for most Aboriginal landowners and there is very strong support from communities for young Aboriginal people who wish to be involved.
The CLC’s Land Management Unit is structured into the following operational units:
- Regional Land Management Support
- Community Ranger Programs
- Joint Management and Tourism
- Rural Enterprise
- Administration and Information (new this year, reflecting thegrowth in staff numbers and added focus on information systems)
- Aboriginal Benefit Account (ABA)
- Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC)
- Territory NRM - formerly
- NT Natural Resource Management Board
- SEWPAC - Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities - formerly DEWHA
- Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)
- NT Department of Natural Resources, Environment, Arts and Sport (NRETAS)
- Tourism NT (TNT)
COMMENT ON PERFORMANCE
The CLC’s land management functions continue to expand with increased demand from the CLC’s constituents with respect to the use and management of their land and an increasing range and number of externally-generated opportunities and agendas.
Again the ranger program has been outstanding, and the year has seen the rangers consolidate and build on their knowledge and significantly progress their academic qualifications.
However, a number of factors continue to impact negatively on land management operations, including difficulties in recruiting suitable staff to Central Australia and housing shortages in communities.
Operations were at times severely hampered by record rainfalls for the last two financial years leading to a number of cancellations of meetings and field work.
Land Resource Information
A key objective was to construct a land resource information database to support sustainable land management activities and traditional owner aspirations. Coordination rested with the CLC’s Land Resource Information Officer (LRIO) whose primary responsibility was to manage and enhance the information for the CLC and traditional owners to:
- Guide ongoing management actions and decision-making
- Guide and inform thestrategic direction of land management activities• Provide land resource assessments to enable informed land use and development decisions on Aboriginal land
- Provide a basis for monitoring land condition and the effectiveness of CLC activity in managing the cultural and natural resource values of Aboriginal-owned land and environmental threats to those values
- Monitor the effectiveness of CLC programs in meeting land use aspirations of traditional owners and the land management issues affecting Aboriginal land.
As well, the LRIO coordinated increased research into the requirements and development of a proposed Land Resource Information Management System (LRIMS), including a thorough analysis of the data management needs of land management staff using business analyst consultants. Recent technological developments including the Ara Irititja program and new ESRI (GIS software providers) products were investigated for CLC needs.
A fully functioning LRIMS will supersede the CLC’s ninesub-regional resource condition reports which have been used to guide land management activity until now.
The continuing enhancement ofthis information is increasingly building capacity to undertake meaningful land condition assessments. An ever-growing network of survey sites is also providing the basis for long-term monitoring of the environmental condition of Aboriginal land.
Within the existing database systems, the LRIO continued to build a comprehensive and centralised knowledge base of the cultural and natural resource attributes of Aboriginal land and related CLC activity, including:
- Collating fieldwork biodiversity survey results and, along with data collected from government work on Aboriginal land, updating CLC flora, fauna and weed atlases, with links to GIS layers showing the location of related survey activity
- Preparation of GIS layers showing the extent of land management activities across the CLC, including ranger group work areas, EMU projects, Fire Committee boundary, Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA’s) and Indigenous pastoral enterprises
- Adding a range of biodiversity layers to the CLC’s LandInfo Online on the intranet. These were shared with the Territory NRM
- Obtaining relevant plant and weed records from the NT Herbarium and NRETAS weeds branch for Aboriginal lands
- Conducting ongoing discussions on the use of remote sensing tools for broad-scale landscape analysis and monitoring.
Related outputs in land resource information and assessment included:
- Pastoral land condition monitoring at five sites on Yuendumu ALT grazing licence
- Compiled land resource and other relevant information for development of a management plan for CLC Region 3(North West)
- Prepared GIS maps for traditional owners of the Santa Teresa and Ahakeye ALT and the proposed South Tanami Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) feasibility project
- Prepared GIS layers and a regional poster showing priority flora and fauna survey areas for ranger group work planning
- Prepared fire scar maps on Pmere Nyente ALT for fire management planning
- Mapped recent princess parrot records for Haasts Bluff ALT regional planning
- Development of a management plan for the eastern half of the Haasts Bluff ALT as a precursor to potential IPA feasibility assessment
- Updated the resource condition report for CLC Region6 (Tennant Creek)
- Held initial meeting of 15 traditional owners of Atnetye II ALT regarding land management aspirations and priorities.
The CyberTracker Project
The capacity to collect biophysical data for Aboriginal land was given a significant boost with the appointment of a Regional CyberTracker Coordinator to implement the SEWPAC-funded Central Desert CyberTracker Project.
This project is a direct response to recommendations made at a DEWHA-funded CyberTracker workshop hosted by the CLC in May 2009 and attended by cross-border Indigenous land management agencies,
IPA managers and Indigenous ranger staff from Central and Northern Australia.
CyberTracker is a hand-held computer which uses sequences of pictograms rather than words or numbers to spatially record cultural and natural resource information.
Above: The cybertracker being used at the 2011 CLC Ranger Camp
It is particularly suited to people with poor literacy and numeracy, but highly refined tracking knowledge, to make unique and otherwise unobtainable contributions to biodiversity management. CyberTracker use as a tool for Indigenous land management in Central Australia continues to grow.
The Regional CyberTracker Coordinator liaised with other organisations and individuals using CyberTracker technology in the NT and other jurisdictions and convened three CyberTracker Steering Committee meetings attended by CLC representatives from CLC, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Council, Western Desert Land Council (Martu) and SEWPAC.
The use of CyberTracker data management was extensively reviewed to improve efficiency. As a result the CLC designed and implemented several sequences to streamline surveys such as those of feral animals and weeds.
The CLC also developed a series of scripts to enable mapping of line data features (burn lines or weed infestation boundaries) and retrieving waypoint data in the field and revised other sequences to ensure they were scientifically sound and addressed the management needs of ranger groups and IPA governance committees.
A significant level of training was delivered in CyberTracker use by Indigenous ranger groups and land management staff across a number of jurisdictions.
The CLC advises and assists constituents with strategically addressing fire management issues on Aboriginal land across the region. The expansion and consolidation of this role during the reporting period was made possible through the presence of a dedicated Fire Management Officer funded from a number
The Minister has now approved a permanent core–funded position for this increasingly critical function in Aboriginal land management after the CLC demonstrated significant gains on previous years.
The CLC also continued to pursue other measures to add to this capacity in the face of extreme fire seasons ahead arising from prolonged rainfall and resultant high fuel load accumulation in 2010-2011 (see rainfall graph above). Initiatives also continued to build the capacity of Aboriginal land managers to participate in fire management activity, to represent their interests and perspectives and to raise the profile of efforts being made to proactively address fire management issues on Aboriginal land.
Representation, Resourcing and Awareness
There was further development of the Tanami Regional Indigenous Fire Management Committee – also known as the “Warlu Committee”.
Established in July 2009, the Warlu Committee was the key outcome of a strategic assessment undertaken by the CLC to investigate mechanisms for greater recognition and representation of Aboriginal interests in regional fire planning and decision-making. This step was taken in response to past marginalisation of Aboriginal interests in Central Australia within the NT Government’s Regional Bushfire Committee structure. Historically administered throughBushfires NT, the primary concern of that committee has been pasture protection and pastoral infrastructure.
The Warlu Committee provided strategic fire planning and management direction for the broader Tanami region. Itcomprises representatives and senior rangers from seven key Tanami communities: Lajamanu, Yuendumu, Nyirripi, Willowra, Tennant Creek, Ali Curungand Daguragu.
The committee also considered a CLC Tanami Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) repatriation and archiving project to develop resource material about traditional fire management practices recorded with senior knowledge holders of the Tanami region.
Warlu Committee objectives and achievements for fire planning and management improvement on Aboriginal land across the broader Tanami region were presented in a number of forums and formats during the year.
The CLC also participated in related meetings and forums relevant to promoting and advancing its fire management activities and objectives. In particular it made a number of successful funding submissions to agencies to increase the readiness and capacity of the CLC and Aboriginal ranger groups to respond to the severe wildfire conditions anticipated for the 2011 fire season.
Fire Planning and Strategic Actions
The CLC Fire Management Officer worked with other CLC land management staff and the network of community ranger groups to increase fire planning and prescribed burning activity with traditional owners.
Significant technical and
coordination support was provided to all ranger groups and IPA staff in the development and implementation of fire management.
The following fire planning initiatives were facilitated with traditional owners and relevant supporting ranger groups to identify priority areas for prescribed burning and wildfire abatement activities:
- Annual fire planning workshop with Tjuwanpa ranger group coordinators and rangers with input from NT Parks and Wildlife and Bushfires NT staff
- A fire planning workshop in Lajamanu with the Northern Tanami IPA management committee and the Wulaign Rangers
- Consultations with Warlu Committee Tennant Creek members regarding proposed 2011 fire management activities.
Areas to be targeted include parts of Mungkarta ALT, Karlantijpa South ALT and Jarra Jarra, Kumunu, Mangalawurru, and Kalumpurlpa outstation firebreaks.
The CLC also carried out fieldwork and engaged consultants to prepare a fire management strategy review for the Petermann region, a fire management plan for Loves Creek station and a fire management strategy for Haasts Bluff ALT.
An expanded prescribed burning program was undertaken across the region ahead of the anticipated extreme fire seasons in the next two years. Activities were primarily aimed at protecting biologically and culturally significant sites and reducing the risk of broad-scale wildfires threatening community infrastructure and other assets. This work included:
- Aerial burning on the Rodna and Roulpmaulpma ALTs and fire protection for the Hermannsburg community and neighbouring national park estate
- Support to a range of burning projects involving traditional owners, Warlpiri Rangers, IPA development staff, Bushfires NT, Aboriginal pastoral companies and neighbouring pastoral properties to the South Tanami IPA. Prescribed burns were undertaken on the Central Desert ALT, Yunkanjini, Lake MacKay, Pawu, Karlantijpa South, Ngalurrtju (formerly Central Mount Wedge) and Wirliyajarrayi ALTs
- Joint fire management work initiated with Bushfires NT at Tennant Creek including Warumungu ALT firebreaks assessment and clearances to extend the Tennant Creek township firebreak
- Assistance to Mungkarta ALT to undertake burning of country near Nguyarrmini outstation
- Negotiating assistance from the MacDonnell Shire to create firebreaks around the Mt Liebig, Papunya and Haasts Bluff communities
- Two ground-based burning trips and one aerial incendiary program conducted on Loves Creek station with traditional owners and Santa Teresa rangers as part of the Greening Australia’s MacDonnell Ranges Biodiversity Hotspots grant
- The use of additional funds from Territory NRM to conduct 10 burning trips on the Petermann ALT.
Inter-Agency and Landholder Collaboration
The CLC has played a major role in planning and collaborating with Bushfires NT and other stakeholders for the coming fire season.
It has participated in fortnightly meetings of the Southern Regional Fire Planning Working Group with NRETAS, Bushfires NT and other regional stakeholders to plan fire management for the upcoming 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons which are potentially the most severe wildfire period in 30 years due to prolonged rainfall and high fuel loads.
It also represented constituent interests at a crisis meeting of the NT Police, Bushfires NT and FaHCSIA to assess organisational and community readiness to respond to the extreme fire season.
The CLC has been pivotal in designing a south-west cross-border fire management strategy between traditional owners and representative partner agencies in South Australia, Western Australia and the NT. Consequently, CLC submitted an application through the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country (CFOC) program for funding to support the project.
A formal agreement was made with Suplejack Pastoral Co. for a jointly-resourced construction of a 60-kilometre firebreak between Suplejack and the Northern Tanami IPA, and it consulted with Mt Doreen and Newhaven Sanctuary management regarding fire management to protect values on the pastoral lease, sanctuary and adjoining Aboriginal land.
Climate Change and Carbon Economies
In a year of fluid political and legislative developments, particularly in relation to the Federal Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative, the CLC participated in a number of forums and discussions toward establishing a better understanding of potential implications and opportunities for Aboriginal landowners and native title holders across the CLC region. These included:
- A meeting with representatives from the Department of Climate Change to establish how the emerging federal greenhouse policy and Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) relates to CLC’s Indigenous fire management activities
- A meeting with scientificstaff from Bushfires NT and the CSIRO to discuss considerations for potential future greenhouse gas research directions on Aboriginal land in the Tanami region
- Participation in a Department of Climate Change workshop in Darwin aimed at developing appropriate methodologies to account for greenhouse gas emission savings by altered fire regimes across thenorthern savannahs
- Representation of CLC interests at the National Indigenous Climate Change Forum held in Alice Springs over 2 days in March 2011 at which the National Indigenous Climate Change Steering Committee was formed. The CLC’s interests were subsequently represented in a submission made by this group in April 2011 to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications Inquiry into the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011.
Water Resource Management
The CLC continued to assist traditional owners to manage and protect culturally significant surface water resources affected by the detrimental impacts of unmanaged stock, feral animals, weeds and other threats
Haasts Bluff ALT
The CLC supported the traditional owners and the emerging Papunya Ranger group to look after waterholes at Muruntji rockhole, Talipata Gorge, Ilpili Springs, Alampara swamp and other culturally significant rockholes in Walimpirri and Ilpili areas (Patuwarritji and Tipulnga) on the Haasts Bluff ALT.
Karlantijpa South ALT
The CLC negotiated with the lessee of Tennant Creek Station to protect the culturally significant Porcupine Swamp (Junja) from the impact of the station’s cattle.
The CLC organised involvement of traditional owners and Kaltukatjara Rangers with NRETAS staff in waterhole condition monitoring in the Petermann ALT as part of the NRETAS Camel Impact Monitoring Program, an element of the SEWPAC-funded Australian Feral Camel Management Project.
Water-related work was also done on behalf of traditional owners of the Santa Teresa ALT, the Warumungu ALT and the Dulcie Ranges National Park, and the CLC represented its constituents in a number of forums including the Great Artesian Basin Water Allocation Plan.
Invasive Species Management
Feral Animal Control – Camels
Feral animal control efforts continued to be primarily directed at broad-scale environmental degradation caused by feral camels over large areas of Aboriginal-owned land, particularly in the CLC’s west, southwest and southeast subregions.
The CLC expanded its participation in a cross-jurisdictional, cross-sectoral consortium of government and non-government organisations that was successful in obtaining four-year funding of $19 million through the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country (CFOC) program to reduce feral camel numbers.
The Feral Animal Project Officer was originally funded by the ILC. Funding arrangements negotiated with the program host Ninti One Limited allow for staffing and operational costs associated with consulting traditional owners about reducing feral camel numbers on Aboriginal land under the Australian Feral Camel Management Program (AFCMP).
In 2009-2010, traditional owners granted consent to control camel numbers on a number of land trusts, and resources in 2010-2011 were mainly devoted to preparing to implement those decisions.
Consultation and Communication
During the reporting period, the CLC’s camel management consultation and communication work included the following:
- Liaison with owners/managers of pastoral properties at Numery, Ringwood, Andado, Mt Doreen and Haasts Bluff leases and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, regarding camel management activities on adjoining Aboriginal lands
- Monitoring field trips with traditional owners of the Pmere Nyente ALT , Simpson Desert, Katiti and Petermann ALTs
- Exclusion area mapping exercises with traditional owners on Pmer Ulperre Ingwemirne Arletherre, Haasts Bluff, Katiti, Petermann Atnetye and Pmere Nyentye ALTs.
Camel management consultations were also carried out with traditional owners at Haasts Bluff, Kintore, Papunya and Mt Liebig, Karlantijpa North ALT, Atnetye ALT, Lake Mackay ALT, Kalkaringi and the North Tanami IPA.
A number of videos, newsletters, posters and presentations were produced to increase awareness in communities of the feral camel problem.
Representation,Capacity and Preparation
The primary focus is to raise Aboriginal community awareness of the detrimental impacts of camels and of their management options, and to consult with traditional owners in relation to implementation of control measures.
A second staff member was recruited to build capacity and participation in long term feral camel management activity such as skills in mustering, trapping, culling and butchering camels, with rangers and allied Indigenous land managers.
Camel management plans were completed for ranger groups at Kaltukatjara, Santa Teresa and Hermannsburg.
The CLC also assisted in developing NRETAS’ aerial camel culling standard operational procedures (SOPs).
As well, constituents were represented by the CLC at a number of levels and the CLC identified and lobbied for Indigenous engagement opportunities in aerial surveys and water monitoring exercises.
The CLC’s activities in the area of camel harvesting included the following achievements:
- Negotiated access to feral camels in Rainbow Valley National Park for a commercial harvest proponent (traditional owner of the area)
- Presented to a camel industry stakeholder meeting, coordinated by Ninti One, on processes necessary to developing an agreement to commercially harvest camels on Central Australian Aboriginal land
- Advised proponents on the process of applying for permission to harvest camels on Aboriginal lands
- Accompanied a commercial camel musterer on an assessment of a potential mustering water-point on the Karlantijpa South ALT
- Obtained Work Area Clearances in the Petermann ALT for a local Indigenous camel harvesting proponent.
Feral Animal Control – Other
- The CLC also carried out the following activities regarding other feral animal populations:
- Liaison with Anmatyerr traditional owners and a grazing licensee regarding feral dog control on the Ahakeye ALT and a permit application to NRETAS to enable wild dog control measures
- Consultation with Eastern Arrernte traditional owners regarding a proposed University of Tasmania feral cats research project
- Undertook a feral horse survey across Loves Creek station.
Invasive Species Control - Weed Management
Weed control work on Aboriginal land was mainly carried out by the CLC ranger groups, which included the following work:
- At Papunya the new ranger group was provided with weed eradication equipment, chemicals and training. The rangers worked to eradicate rubber bush, Mossman river grass and buffel grass in the area
- Santa Teresa rangers worked to eradicate two weeds of national significance – the prickly pear and athel pines on Loves Creek station – and also treated Mexican poppy, parkinsonia, buffel and couch near Santa Teresa
- The CLC created a generic, scientifically sound weed sequence for CyberTracker units for roll-out across ranger groups on Aboriginal lands
- Weed surveys were carried out on the Pawu ALT and Wirliyajarrayi ALT, the proposed Katiti-Petermann IPA (on Petermann ALT), Yuendumu ALT and in the Nyrripi and Willowra vicinities
- A weeds control project at Tjwata outstation near Docker River was carried out with Kaltukatjara Rangers
- A weeds survey was undertaken by Warlpiri rangers in November along Kirridi Creek and north of 4 Mile bore, locating over 200 Rubber Bush plants by GPS for follow-up control
- Warlpiri Rangers undertook heavy spraying of parkinsonia and rubber bush in various localities
- Weed spraying was undertaken at Nongra Lakes by the Wulaign Rangers as part of a parkinsonia eradication project with Victoria River District Conservation Association on Inverway station
- Management of populations of parkinsonia in the Hooker Creek catchment close to Lajamanu was undertaken
- Staff identified and treated populations of Mossman river grass at locations on the Mungkarta ALT with Nguyarrmini community members
- The CLC continued to represent traditional owners on the Alice Springs Regional Weeds Reference Group, the National Athel Pine Management Committee and in discussions with the CSIRO.
Soil Erosion Control
During the reporting period the CLC:
- Facilitated a soil conservation planning field trip to Urremerne Outstation in the Deep Well locality with traditional owners and a technical expert to discuss erosion issues and solutions
- Consulted residents of Nguyarrmini outstation on Mungkarta ALT regarding the management of soil erosion issues affecting access and the community’s environment, and initiated a funding application through the Australian Government’s Caring For Our Country - Community Action Grants Program to undertake soil erosion mitigation works.
In accordance with section 23(2) of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 the CLC conducted a number of biodiversity management programs through collaborative and independent initiatives for the protection of wildlife on Aboriginal land.
Much of the effort focused on vulnerable or endangered species under NT and/or Commonwealth legislation but also occurred in relation to species of cultural significance to traditional owners.
Many of these activities are also related to continuing development processes for proposed Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) in the region and are being given increasing recognition for contributing significantly to the knowledge and management of biodiversity values across Central Australia.
Associated fieldwork with traditional owners, increasingly undertaken in collaboration with specialist staff of the NT Department of Natural Resources, Environment, Arts and Sport (NRETAS) and ecological consultants, utilises both Indigenous ecological knowledge and Western scientific approaches, and frequently builds long-term management capacity through engaging Indigenous ranger groups.
Significant Initiatives for 2010-2011
The Warlpiri Rangers, Traditional Owners and the Proposed Southern Tanami IPA
Significant initiatives involving the proposed Southern Tanami IPA, traditional owners and Warlpiri Rangers during the reporting period included:
- An annual fauna monitoring survey and fire management to protect and enhance core bilby habitats along the Lander River and in the Yinapaka (Lake Surprise) locality on the Central Desert ALT
- A rock wallaby survey and targeted fire management activities on the Karlantijpa South ALT
- Two rock wallaby surveys and related fire management activities on the Lake MacKay ALT
- A warrana (great desert skink) research trip to Sangster’s Bore with traditional owners and scientists from Macquarie University.
Traditional owners and the proposed Katiti-Petermann IPA
Significant initiatives involving the proposed Katiti-Petermann IPA and traditional owners during the reporting period included:
- Consultations with senior traditional owners from Mutitjulu, Docker River and Areyonga regarding priority areas for flora and fauna surveys
- A fauna survey in the Lake Amadeus area (Katiti ALT)
- Fauna and rare plant surveys in the Lake Neale region
- A threatened species planning meeting in the Petermann ALT
- Responses to requests for assistance in reintroducing brush-tailed possums on the Petermann ALT
- Great desert skink monitoring.
Other Threatened Species
Work related to other threatened species during the reporting period included:
- Continued liaison with Kaytetye/Anmatyerr traditional owners and scientists regarding identification of a potentially new and critically endangered plant species (a Typhonium lily) on the Alyawarra and Angarapa ALTs
- Liaison with NRETAS staff and traditional owners regarding identification and protection of remnant habitat for princess parrots on the Haasts Bluff ALT from unauthorised tourist access
- Fieldwork with traditional owners and Santa Teresa rangers for the monitoring and management of a slater’s skink population on Loves Creek station
- Work carried out with the NT Herbarium to prepare maps highlighting priority areas for flora and fauna surveys across the CLC region to guide ranger group work programs
- Developed standardised survey methodologies.
The CLC continued to represent the aspirations and views of its constituents for the management of their land in a number forums, initiatives and reviews relevant to biodiversity management, threatened species, and related issues on Aboriginal land.