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Parks Australia’s management of Federal protected areas slammed in National Audit Office report

Parks Australia’s management of Federal protected areas slammed in National Audit Office report
June 21, 2019

Australia’s six commonwealth national parks - including the internationally acclaimed Kakadu and Uluru - are not being effectively managed by the government corporation tasked with preserving them, according to a just released audit.

In a report released today, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) said Parks Australia had failed to meet benchmarks set by auditors to probe the agency’s management of some of the nation’s most precious land.

The audit found the Director had no “robust” way of knowing that park management and operational plans were being implemented. The agency’s work within the six parks was also “not effectively measured, monitored and reported on”.

Among seven recommendations within audit, which have been accepted by Parks Australia, the ANAO said a review was required to ensure the Director of National Parks was “meeting the requirements of the EPBC (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation) Act”.

The report advised "the director does not effectively manage risks to the objectives of the parks."

Under the EPBC Act, the Parks Australia agency is tasked with conserving and managing biodiversity and cultural heritage of 2.1 million hectares across three mainland and three island national parks (Christmas Island, Norfolk Island and Pulu Keeling). It must establish a 10-year park management plans to protect the sites, benefit traditional owners and enhance their value as tourism destinations.

Three of the mainland parks – Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu as well as Booderee – are jointly managed by the Director of National Parks and traditional owners.

However, the report advised that the agency had not established “constructive relationships with traditional owners at the jointly managed national parks”.

In one case study, eight green parrots died in a translocation project after they transferred from Phillip Island to Norfolk Island.

While the parrots were moved in early April 2017 and had died by the end of June 2017, key executives were not told of any issues until August. Even then, the project’s status was only changed to 'amber' and a report on the deaths was not filed until November.

While the Director had established five-year climate change strategies for the six parks, they had expired in 2017, with the report advising "there has been no specific climate change plan or strategy in place since 2017."

The report also highlighted that the agency’s policies suggests 'high risk' corrective action tasks should be completed within seven days, yet at Kakudu alone during the time of the audit there were 26 outstanding tasks dating back to September or December 2016. There were similar findings at Uluru-Kata Tjuta.

Lyndon Schneiders, National Director at the Wilderness Society, said he was “not surprised” the ANAO had “found a range of deep and systemic problems”.

However, Schneiders advised that the Federal Government had “largely washed its hands of looking after national parks and protected areas”.

Schneiders told the Guardian Australia "we need a completely new system where the government takes responsibility of our national parks."

Parks Australia accepted the audit’s seven recommendations, which called for a review of its internal processes.

In a statement it advised "the director is committed to continuous improvement in the delivery against legislative and related objectives for commonwealth national park management.

“Working in partnership with traditional owners, improving the governance and performance of the joint boards of management for Kakadu, Booderee and Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa national parks will be a particular and ongoing focus.”

Images: Wildlife in Kakadu National Park (top) and Uluru-Kata Tjuta (below).

Related Articles

27th February 2019 - Developer plans appeal after Council knocks back plans for camp in Tasmanian World Heritage Area

15th October 2018 - Traditional owners to jointly manage six Victorian National Parks

19th May 2018 - World’s protected areas suffer ‘shocking’ human impact

25th February 2018 - Kakadu to build on Australian Tourism Awards’ success with upgraded infrastructure and major events

1st November 2017 - Climbing Uluru to be banned from October 2019

31st October 2017 - Parks Australia looks to appoint Kakadu Park Manager

9th August 2017 - Australia’s great outdoors needs to be more accessible for nature-based tourism

20th June 2017 - Luxury ecotourism development approved for Christmas Island

8th April 2016 - $13 million upgrade to Cascade Pier on Norfolk Island

22nd March 2016 - Parks Australia looks to develop ecotourism concepts on Christmas Island

10th October 2015 - Federal Environment Minister orders inquiry into Kakadu bushfire

18th November 2014 - Conservationists call for action in Kakadu

12th November 2014 - Only one in four protected areas is well managed

16th April 2014 - Traditional owners uncertain on tourism development around sacred sites and national parks

31st May 2010 - National park returned to traditional owners

6th May 2010 - Wilderness Society Splits in Management Dispute

14th July 2009 - Uluru Management Plan Needs Partnership Approach

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