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SUBMISSION TO THE PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION - NT PARKS 2022-2052 MASTERPLAN CONSULTATION PAPER

12.11.2021

On 15 October 2021 Environment Centre NT drafted a submission to the Parks and Wildlife Commission regarding the NT Parks 2022-2053 Masterplan Consultation Paper.

A summary of the submission to the Parks and Wildlife Commission is below or download the full submission here.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide a submission in relation to the NT Parks Masterplan Consultation Paper (Masterplan).

The Environment Centre NT (ECNT) is the peak community sector environment organisation in the Northern Territory, raising awareness amongst community, government, business and industry about environmental issues and assisting people to reduce their environmental impact and supporting community members to participate in decision making processes and action.

The Northern Territory has some of the most biodiverse and unique landscapes in Australia, and the world.  These include the savanna woodlands of the wet/dry tropics, the vast wetlands and escarpment of Arnhem land, the magnificent gorges of Nitmiluk National Park and our pristine marine environments. Most land in the Northern Territory is owned and governed by Traditional Owners, with over 50% of its landmass owned under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth), and much of the remainder subject to native title rights and interests under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). The rich biodiversity of the Northern Territory sustains human and all other life, with our food and water all dependent on healthy, functioning, and resilient ecosystems. It also underpins its economy and social and cultural life through the creation of jobs and sustenance of livelihoods via nature-based tourism and land management, and providing opportunities for camping, bushwalking, cruises, tours, and engagement with Indigenous culture.

NT Parks, reserves and other protected areas are an integral part of the Territory lifestyle and to the health of our ecosystems. They provide essential “ecosystem services” (benefits of nature) including by protecting our rivers, coasts, forests and soils. They are vital to the survival of the Territory’s unique fauna and flora – found nowhere else in the world – and to our valuable tourism industry. Nitmiluk, Litchfield, Umbrawarra, Douglas River and Daly River, Cutta Cutta Caves, Judbarra, Keep River, Fine Gorge, Ormiston Gorge, Watarrka, and Limmen National Park are all key to the way we understand ourselves as Territorians, and others see us. They are iconic on a national and international scale.

Yet our natural places, including our parks, are under threat on multiple fronts. A new wave of mammalian extinction is affecting northern Australia, even in extensive natural areas managed primarily for conservation.[1] Land clearing is on the rise, destroying critical habitat and accelerating species decline.  Feral weeds such as gamba and buffel grass are accelerating their hold on the Territory landscape, causing hot fires that destroy biodiversity and critical habitats, perhaps irreparably. Feral animals such as cats, pigs, buffalo and cane toads have taken over our special places, with significant impacts on flora and fauna. Recent research indicates that Northern Australia’s tropical savannas, arid zone and coastal mangroves are three of 19 ecosystems in Australia that meet the criteria of being under collapse.[2] Climate change is projected to have significant impacts on the biodiversity of the Northern Territory by as early as 2030 and extreme impacts by 2070, including increased droughts, changed fire regimes, erratic rainfall and extreme temperatures.[3] Bergstrom et al suggest that it is imperative to understand how different threatening processes combine cumulatively (acting in what they term “threat webs”) to further threaten Australia’s collapsing ecosystems. As habitats become increasingly fragmented, populations become more vulnerable to other threatening processes, such as climate change, changes in stream flow regimes, predation by invasive species and destructive fires, and they lose the ability to recolonise suitable habitat.

 

[1] https://www.natureaustralia.org.au/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/documents/australia/Into-Oblivion.pdf.

[2] Bergstrom et al. 2021. "Combating ecosystem collapse from the tropics to the Antarctic." Global change biology 27(9):1692-1703.

[3] https://publications.csiro.au/rpr/pub?pid=csiro:EP154327.