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New fire management needed for Kakadu

Posted: Fri, October 09, 2015

THE Northern Land Council says the devastating fires in Kakadu over the past week, caused by poor fire management by Energy Resources of Australia, raise broader concerns about the company’s capacity to meet its obligations to rehabilitate the Ranger uranium mine.

"ERA must bear full responsibility for the destruction caused by its negligence in conducting poorly planned and untimely back-burning last week," NLC CEO, Joe Morrison, said.

"The Australian and Northern Territory governments must move to sanction ERA under the full force of relevant legislation.

"The fires have also highlighted the pressing need for the Australian Government to reinstate traditional fire management practices delivered by Aboriginal people across the Park. Kakadu is listed for its environmental and cultural values and it’s time to deliver outcomes that deliver on its cultural values in addition to its environmental values.

"This is the second year in a row that ERA has created havoc in Kakadu with its damaging fire management practices. It is unacceptable. Last year Traditional Owners were promised new protocols and practices to prevent a recurrence. They have amounted to nothing.

"The Australian Government, which manages Kakadu, must immediately move to implement a carbon farming agribusiness in Kakadu before next year’s dry season."

Mr Morrison said Traditional Owners must now be supported in their efforts over recent years to directly manage fire in Kakadu by reinstating traditional burning practices which would reduce harmful late dry season fires and the large volume of greenhouse gas emissions. An initial assessment by the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) found that carbon farming has the potential to provide about 80,000 carbon credits and create more than 20 seasonal jobs in the region.

"Large parts of the park have burnt over 10 times in the past 14 years. We say there is a significant opportunity to reduce this fire frequency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions coming from the park," Mr Morrison said.

"Kakadu’s 10-year average emissions are some 266,702 tonnes of CO2 every year, and the fires that produce them have crippling effects on local flora and fauna. More recent work by the Aboriginal Carbon Fund updating emissions estimates suggests that these greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by one-third, creating significant revenue and employment opportunities for Indigenous ranger groups in Kakadu.

"The Federal Environment Minister, Mr Greg Hunt, cannot delay this. He must move now to ensure that this carbon agribusiness is in place at Kakadu prior to the next dry season, otherwise the government further risks a reputation of trashing World Heritage, Australia’s largest national park and sites of significant and enduring cultural significance."