Two new marine parks have been declared on the remote Kimberley coast, including the Horizontal Falls, a popular tourist attraction.
The Lalang-garram/Horizontal Falls and North Lalang-garram Marine Parks will cover almost half a million hectares of coastal waters north-east of the Kimberley town of Derby.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob travelled to Derby to launch the new marine parks.
“This area is particularly significant because here we’re talking about the Horizontal Falls first and foremost, one of the most iconic attractions of the Kimberley,” he said.
The two new marine parks, and a third that Mr Jacobs is planning called the North Kimberley Marine Park, will total more than 3 million hectares.
“To put that into context, the current entire area of marine parks for the state of Western Australia is only 1.5 million hectares, so these two parks and the next one that we will create, essentially triple the size of our marine park estate,” he said.
The new marine parks will be co-managed with the Dambimangari traditional owners of the area.
Chairman Francis Woolagoodja welcomed their creation.
“For us it’s a role that we can play monitoring and preserving our area. The second part is identifying that these areas are well known around the world and it’s putting WA on the map,” Mr Woolagoodja said.
“So it’s exciting for us as the Dambinmangari traditional owners, and it’s also exciting for WA.”
Traditional owners opposed to national park around falls
There has been interest in mining around the Horizontal Falls, and the Environment Minister said that area was being considered for a terrestrial national park.
“We’re still in negotiations for the terrestrial side around Horizontal Falls,” Mr Jacobs said.
While traditional owners welcomed the new marine park, Mr Woolagoodja said they were opposed to a terrestrial national park.
“We see that we can have a partnership with the state to manage country on water, but as far as land, we’ve always pushed the idea that that’s going to be our thing,” Mr Woolagoodja said.
“There’s a lot of highly sacred areas to us, a lot of burial sites. If it’s a national park, we’re not comfortable with people just going there willy-nilly.”
The new marine parks will provide new opportunities for tourism, according to Mr Jacobs.
“We see this as a huge potential for tourism, and really for economic development in the Kimberley, and that’s part of the reason why we’re creating them with joint management agreements with traditional owners,” he said.
“It’s Aboriginal job creation and Aboriginal career pathways in some of the remote parts of this state that otherwise might not exist.”
Tourism operators who drive boats through the turbulent water of the Horizontal Falls will be regulated, according to Mr Woolagoodja.
“It gets a bit dangerous when you’ve got people going through willy-nilly, not being watched and monitored,” he said.
“We can put things in place to say who goes through it and that they’ve got to be qualified to go through it. And we could use one operator to push everybody through.”
Concern over sanctuary zones
“If you make too many sanctuary zones it is going to push recreational fishers, the commercial fishing up there, all into a smaller area and that’s going to increase the impact,” Ms Hennessey said.
“It’s just impacting on a much smaller area, and then yeah, there is a chance of over-fishing or human impact on the environment.”
But it is the lack of sanctuary zones in the North Lalang-garram Marine Park that is of concern for environmentalist Tim Nichol, from the Pew Charitable Trust.
“That’s an issue that needs to be dealt with in the longer term, but today we’re very happy about what’s being announced at the Horizontal Falls,” Mr Nichol said.
“The Barnett Government has made a huge contribution towards conservation in the Kimberley.
“There’s still more work to be done, but it’s important now to recognise what has been achieved.”
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