Fitzgerald River National Park Improvement Project
Friends’ Position Statement
The Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP) is an internationally recognised UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is listed for its natural values on the Register of the National Estate of Australia. A major $40 million upgrade in roads and Park facilities is currently underway as part of the ‘FRNP Improvement Project’ funded by the Federal and Western Australian Governments.
The Project has three main components:
(1) sealing roads to improve tourist access to the eastern and western ends
of the park;
(2) upgrading recreation facilities, and
(3) development of a coastal walk trail
The Friends of the FRNP consider the roads and facilities will be a positive benefit for the local communities without negatively impacting the Park and do support this part of the project. They have major concerns, however, with Stage 1 of the coastal walk trail which will link Hamersley Inlet and Point Ann through the Wilderness Zone of the Park. The current concept prescribes trail markers and overnight camping facilities a day’s walk apart.
Detailed information on the concept plans for the Improvement Project can be viewed on the Department of Environment & Conservation’s website.
Friends' Final Submission in response to DEC's proposed amendments to the Fitzgerald River National Park Management Plan 1991-2001
Clear links have been demonstrated between the spread of Phytophthora dieback and walk trails in the Stirling Range National Park (which is now 80 per cent affected by the disease). Walk trails in both Tasmania and New Zealand have also been wicks for accelerating the spread of the disease through their National Parks.
As the Department of Environment and Conservation’s (DEC’s) own data reveal that 20 per cent of Stirling Range National Park visitors also visit the almost dieback-free Fitzgerald, the Friends of FRNP are gravely concerned for the future of the Fitzgerald River National Park due to the high potential and strong precedent for the introduction and spread of Phytophthora dieback into the Wilderness Zone.
The Friends are of the strong view that the trail remain an unmarked track without infrastructure development until DEC has been able to demonstrate that it has arrested the spread of Phytophthora in the Stirling Range National Park and is capable of managing further loss of biodiversity by this disease. If the resources and commitment exist to extend that as yet unattained management capacity to the Fitzgerald Biosphere Reserve, only then should development of the core of the FRNP be considered.
The Friends believe that tourism in the Ravensthorpe Shire will be best served by adding good walk trails between Culham Inlet and Hamersley Inlet – the Recreation Zone of the Park. East Mt Barren provides fantastic potential for an interpreted geological and flora walk from Culham Inlet to Mylies Beach. This is where the $4 million funding allocated for the ‘coastal walk trail’ should be allocated, not towards encouraging increased visitation with its unmanageable dieback risks into the core wilderness and biodiversity reservoir of the Park.
DEC has stated that this walk trail “will require minor amendment to the management plan”. We believe that although individual prescriptions may require “minor” changes, these changes will underpin a major dilution of the management philosophy for the Wilderness Zone. Increased vehicle visitation for maintenance of toilets and water points will be required, as will access for rescue – let alone illegal access, which DEC at present has difficulty controlling.
Proposed Amendments to the Fitzgerald River National Park Management Plan 1991-2001 can be viewed and downloaded at www.dec.wa.gov.au/haveyoursay Closing Date for Submissions has passed.
Copies of the management plan amendments can be obtained from DEC at Technology Park, Western Precinct, Dick Perry Ave, Kensington and DEC's South Coast Regional Office, 120 Albany Highway, Albany
For further information please contact:
Anne Gadsby (President) (08) 9837 4063
Gillian Craig (Immediate past president) (08) 9838 1071