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Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery

Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar at risk with World Heritage values in danger

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Gnaraloo has many different sides, more than you may realize at first glance.

It is not often you get to look up at a pitch black sky and see all the stars, but at Gnaraloo, there is no light pollution from towns, cities or suburbs, so when you look up, all the stars shine bright and all your worries wash away.

Wildflower season at Gnaraloo offers stunning colours and designs of native species. From the smallest of flowers to the largest can be found in the beautiful Gnaraloo Wilderness Area, all awash with colour.

Wildflower season at Gnaraloo
Gnaraloo Dark Sky

Work by Deloitte Access Economics values the contribution of the Ningaloo Coast to Western Australia (WA) at more than $110 Million during 2020. Ningaloo is estimated to have supported more than 1,000 full time jobs in WA in 2018-19, with employment concentrated in tourism-related industries. Since then, there has been ever increasing tourism demand on the Ningaloo Coast. Responsible management is required to protect the Ningaloo asset by looking after its heritage values.

A recent issue at Gnaraloo is of great concern to the GWF

Listen to Radio interview of GWF Chair Karen Hattingh

The Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar area is an important location at Gnaraloo with unique Aboriginal and environmental heritage values. The area is in the Carnarvon Basin National Biodiversity Hotspot with fossil remnants within its dune systems. The area falls in and immediately adjacent to the Ningaloo National Heritage Area, the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area and the Ningaloo Marine Park.

The Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar area is one of the most unique reference sites for the Ningaloo Coast and the new Ningaloo Reserves given previous unusually low human and stock impacts and disturbances over decades in this area. The area is noted as an “Area of Environmental Management Priority with high conservation value which should be managed to a high status of protection(Ref. State Government 2004), with endemic flora species and a Karst sub-surface environment that are habitat to Troglofauna and Stygofauna species, some of which are rare and believed to face extinction.

The Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar area is being damaged by uncontrolled tourism activities.

This stems directly from the Shire’s decision on 24 November 2020 to open the unsealed track in the area that had previously been closed-off to public use. The management responsibility for the surrounding land lies with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and the Nyinggulu Joint Management Body which includes the Traditional Owners.

There is no safety, risk and other management measures in place to protect the public or the area.

This matter is placing national and world heritage values at risk, including important paleontological, cultural, archaeological, geological and biodiversity values as well as Aboriginal heritage.

Illegal beach camping in the important Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Turtle Rookery during the active turtle nesting season – January 2021
Illegal beach camping in the important Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Turtle Rookery during the active turtle nesting season – January 2021
New 4WD tracks in the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Turtle Rookery which are hazardous to its turtles – January 2021
New 4WD tracks in the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Turtle Rookery which are hazardous to its turtles – January 2021
New 4WD tracks in the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Turtle Rookery which are hazardous to its turtles – January 2021
New 4WD tracks in the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Turtle Rookery which are hazardous to its turtles – January 2021
Vegetation disturbance and destruction in the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Turtle Rookery in the Ningaloo World Heritage Area – January 2021
Vegetation disturbance and destruction in the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Turtle Rookery in the Ningaloo World Heritage Area – January 2021

Some of the main concerns are that:

1. The public’s safety has been placed at serious risk. The track is unsealed and rough in a harsh area where there is no water or proximate recovery services. There is a myriad of side tracks that run off the unsealed main track and people have already become lost as the track often forks in different directions. It is only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt, including possibly due to inexperience in handling and driving in difficult 4WD conditions. No signs with directions were put up on the north or south entrances of the track and there are not adequate warnings about the hazardous nature of the 4WD track and that people must carry sufficient water and recovery gear for emergencies.

2. Another serious matter is that the public has not been adequately warned about the extreme risk to their dogs in the large Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar area. There is an active feral animal control program to protect the turtles with poison baits and dog traps anywhere and families risk losing their pet dogs who will die a cruel death if they take a bait or step in a trap.

3. The opening of the unsealed track to the public without adequate assessments and management in place is damaging the unique heritage values of the area. There is now increasingly uncontrolled public use of the area with illegal camping, 4WD traffic in sensitive beaches and dunes as well as illegal fishing in the adjacent Farquhar Marine Sanctuary Zone of the Ningaloo Marine Park. People are driving, camping and fishing during the current sea turtle season (November to May), disturbing threatened, vulnerable and endangered turtles in the important Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery. Aboriginal heritage is being damaged with 4WDs being driven over objects and souvenirs possibly being removed.

4. This affects several listed ‘Matters of National Environmental Significance’ under the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act).

5. There was no consultation about the decision to open the unsealed track to the public with external experts or independent bodies such as the GWF among others. It appears that the Shire acted in disregard to the advice presented to it internally as well as not seeking external advice. The on-ground outcomes of this have been to the serious detriment of heritage values of the previously almost pristine Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar area.

The situation being allowed to occur at the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar area is akin to the Juukan Gorge case example in the Pilbara during 2020 which caused worldwide concern.

We have called on the Government to take urgent action to stop the damage and destruction of the heritage values of the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Area and to put adequate management in place for responsible visitor access and enjoyment.

The GWF has taken action to make formal written submissions to multiple bodies and agencies, including:

Hon. Benjamin Wyatt MLA, Minister for Finance; Aboriginal Affairs; Lands & The Treasurer (WA)
Hon. Stephen Noel Dawson MLC, Minister for Environment; Disability Services (WA)
Hon. David Alan Templeman MLA, Minister for Local Government; Heritage; Culture and the Arts & Leader of the House (WA)
• The Nyinggulu Joint Management Body which is comprised of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and the Traditional Owners of the Ningaloo Coast (WA)
• The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and its Resilient Reefs – Ningaloo Reef program (WA)
• The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) c/o the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (WA)
• The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (WA) including its Aboriginal heritage legislation compliance branch (WA)
• The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (Cth) including its World Heritage compliance branch and its branch responsible for referrals under the EPBC Act (Cth)
• The Shire of Carnarvon
• The Nganhurra Thanardi Garrbu Aboriginal Corporation for the Traditional Owners of the Gnaraloo locality (WA)

You can read one of our submissions here.

So far, we have not received any encouraging advice back from Government about action to stop the damage and put adequate management in place.

It appears that these bodies and agencies are willing to let the unique Gnaraloo Farquhar coastal area continue to be compromised every day without acting to protect it.

The Gnaraloo locality is indicative for the Southern Ningaloo Coast National and World Heritage Area, and the southern portion of the Ningaloo Marine Park. These parts have historically received little financial investment and management resource allocation by Government.

Loggerhead turtle track at the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery - Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program 2016/17
Loggerhead turtle track monitoring at the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery – Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program 2016/17

What can you do to help?

If you want to help, you can do something real:

– Share our videos and posts about what is happening to this pristine place.

– Express your concern via:

Members of Parliament in Western Australian Government

Members of Parliament in Federal Australian Government

 

The GWF is the lead NGO for Gnaraloo with a long established reputation, presence and scientific knowledge of the location. We can only do as much for Gnaraloo as our resources allow. You can support action by the GWF by:

– Supporting us, at the cost of a coffee a week, or join as one of our corporate sponsors through the “Be A Gnaraloo Friend” subscription.

– Donating here. All donations are tax deductible.

– Signing up for our newsletters here.

– Watching our documentary here.

KEEP GNARALOO WILD

Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery
Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Sea Turtle Rookery – January 2017
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