Vast area of Nullarbor Plain protected

By AAP with John Pickrell 26 March 2011
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Nearly a million hectares of this stark and iconic wilderness have been protected from mining and development.

A 900,000 HA SECTION of the Nullarbor Plain in South Australia has been officially declared a Wilderness Protection Area, giving it the highest level of conservation protection.

The area stretches from the West Australian border across the Great Australian Bight and is twice the size of SA’s Kangaroo Island. It will now be protected from mining and mineral exploitation as well as other forms of development.

Touring the zone on Friday, SA Premier Mike Rann said it doubled to 1.8 million ha the total land in SA given wilderness status. “This higher form of environmental protection for the Nullarbor will help conserve our famous treeless plain, the towering Bunda Cliffs and the Nullarbor’s internationally renowned arid environment,” he said.

Nullarbor land protection will help provide habitat for native animals

“It will also ensure that these areas continue to provide important habitat for species such as the rare Australian sea lion, the largest population of southern hairy-nosed wombats, the pale knob-tailed gecko, the vulnerable slender-billed thornbill and more than 390 species of plants,” the premier added.

The entire Nullarbor, two thirds of which is in Western Australia, covers 270,000 sq km, making it the world’s largest limestone karst landscape, dotted with caverns and fissures.

“Many examples of the extensive cave and blowhole systems that provide habitat for a range of animals unique to the area, as well as being renowned for their outstanding archaeological significance, will also be conserved within the Wilderness Protection Area,” the premier said.


Grand initiative: SA doubles size of the Wilderness Protection Area estate

In 2010, when the SA government first aired plans for the wilderness zoning, lobbying group The Wilderness Society welcomed the plans. “With this announcement the state government has effectively doubled the size of the Wilderness Protection Area estate in South Australia, making it a grand initiative,” the organisation said. “The Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area will cover 900,000 ha, the same size as the famous Yellowstone National Park in the USA.”

South Australia’s far west is an important destination for travellers from interstate and around the world, and the new protection will help preserve it for them to enjoy. The new Wilderness Protection Area will be further developed in coming months, with the government working on a management plan in consultation with the local community.

The Wilderness Society is calling for an Indigenous Ranger Program to be implemented to manage the reserve.

The word “Nullarbor” is derived from the Latin for “no trees” and reflects what the first Europeans saw when they arrived here. But the arid landscape is covered with bluebush, saltbush and other drought tolerant shrubs, and is home to many species including the princess parrot, the southern marsupial mole and the Nullarbor quailthrush.