Huge national park declared in Northern Territory

By David Hancock 21 March 2012
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Remote Limmen NP, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, has stunning sandstone formations, rare species and wild river systems.

A NEW NATIONAL PARK in the Northern Territory protects significant seagrass beds on the western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, as well as turtle, dolphin and dugong habitats. The park also safeguards rugged sandstone country and two pristine rivers.

Limmen National Park and Limmen Bight Marine Park covers an area of 10, in the gulf region of the Territory, about 600km south-east of Darwin, 305km east of Katherine and 76km north of Borroloola.

“The proposed marine park area contains significant seagrass beds that are home to the largest population of dugongs in the NT as well as containing nesting sites for the threatened flatback turtle,” NT Minister for Resources, Kon Vatskalis told reporters.

Limmen sandstone formations

Importantly, the park includes Maria Island and surrounding waters where many turtles nest and feed, along with large colonies of silver gulls.

Much of the mainland section is isolated and rugged with weathered sandstone formations and alluvial valleys – two areas, known as The Lost City are some of the most spectacular formations in northern Australia.

The Towns and Limmen Bight rivers that run through the new park are popular fishing and camping destinations, as is Tomato Island in the north. Presently, access to sections of the park is limited along the Nathan River Road, a well-maintained gravel thoroughfare that runs from Roper Bar in the north to Cape Crawford in the south.

Limmen National Park map

Limmen National Park is on the Western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria. (Credit: NRETAS)

Traditional owners of the Marra, Alawa and other Aboriginal clan groups will play a role in management of the park. It is expected indigenous rangers will be involved with patrolling and protecting the waters.

Indigenous park rangers

However, the boundaries of the Limmen National Park and Limmen Bight Marine Park are about 20 per cent smaller than the original proposal, to allow mining companies to explore for minerals in the region.

The government says that prospective tenements held by iron ore explorer Western Desert Resources have been excluded from the land park’s boundaries. The minister said that “The NT Government has struck the right balance in regards to providing long-term protection of our natural environment, while supporting the resource industry’s need to progress with new developments.”

Dr Stuart Blanch, director of the NT Environment Centre, a conservation group in Darwin, congratulated the government on declaring the park, but said it had been unnecessarily generous to miners.

“The park and marine park must become a cornerstone of efforts across the Top End to protect and restore ecological connectivity on land and sea,” he said. “The massive excisions from the long-proposed Limmen National Park total around a couple of hundred thousand hectares. Most of the area is not prospective. We will be working to ensure the vast majority of these excised lands will be added back to the park over the next five to ten years.”