It is fairly typical that at this time of year we look back and see what we have done. And this year is no different. When I do look back I am astounded about what we have achieved. It has been a big year for the Authority, and one of the things I am really excited about is how we are growing stronger partnerships that are delivering terrific outcomes for the World Heritage Area.
One of the most significant of these from 2016 was commitments of both the Commonwealth and State Governments to fund an ongoing program to eradicate yellow crazy ants from in and near the World Heritage Area. As a result the Authority is ramping up the program to meet the challenge and has established an operational base. The commitments is a result of the strong community support the Authority has generated in partnership with the agricultural, tourism and development industries as well as dedicated community members and conservation groups.
This year the Authority introduced a series of ‘Wild Talks’—topical and interesting presentations and talks on a range of issues about this great World Heritage Area. The talks were held at the very comfortable Cairns Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre. The turnout to these Saturday morning sessions were always high, with the audience enjoying an exciting array of discussions from wild walks to wildlife. Children who attended were excited by the opportunity to pat some of our furry friends and we all walked away with a greater knowledge and appreciation of the fantastic area we live in. We appreciate Cairns Regional Council for making this venue available, as well as partnering with us on a series of displays and walking and biking events.
This time last year we were talking about the Garner’s Beach Cassowary Rehabilitation Centre and how it was in danger of closing. Thanks to Rainforest Reserves Australia the centre has received a new lease of life, after taking over the day to day running of the centre in March. The non-profit organisation has taken on the important work of rehabilitating sick, injured and orphaned cassowaries so that they can be released back into the wild. This is an extremely important outcome for one of our iconic species, the cassowary. The positive outcome was achieved through a lot of collaboration between the Authority, the Cassowary Recovery Team, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and Rainforest Reserves Australia.
Cassowary Recovery Team
The Authority and the Cassowary Recovery Team have also worked closely with the Department of Transport and Main Roads to look at options to reduce road fatalities for cassowaries. This has resulted in the trial of electronic signage at a high fatality area, which the department will monitor for its effectiveness.
Recently the Minister for Transport and Main Roads, the Hon Mark Bailey met with members of the Recovery Team, the Authority and Terrain NRM to discuss a range of options for further reducing cassowary fatalities on roads.
One of the stories in this eNews details the Authority’s efforts during 2016 to strengthen collaboration and ties with Rainforest Aboriginal people. These initiatives are important steps as we prepare to take forward more programs within the World Heritage Area that engage and support Rainforest Aboriginal people in the management and presentation of the Area.
As the Executive Director I need to recognise and acknowledge the great work the team has done in delivering all of these, and many other great, initiatives this year. It has been a very busy year for a relatively small organisation. The team has engaged broadly and enthusiastically with all our partners, recognising that World Heritage management is a critically important, multi-faceted calling that requires collaboration across many groups and many levels. I want to thank the staff of the Authority for such a great effort in ensuring we continue to conserve and protect the natural values of the World Heritage Area and that the Area has a function in the life of the community.
The staff have been ably supported by our fantastic Board, who have worked diligently to ensure that they meet, and mostly exceed, their obligations. The Board have been busy getting out and about, meeting the great people that live in and manage land in the Area as well as looking at the issues first hand. The Board have set themselves key performance targets, available on our website, to ensure that they deliver on the strategic priorities of the Authority.
Before I close off, towards the end of the year we have had two significant events that highlight our progress towards re-invigorating the Authority’s commitment to engage meaningfully with the Wet Tropics community. The later of those events was the recent induction meeting of the new Community Consultative Committee and the Scientific Advisory Committee. The re-establishment of these two committees was a priority of the Board, and I am very excited by the quality of applications we received and the range of skills and expertise that exists in both committees. The Chairs of the committees are also Board Directors (Ann Clarke and Iain Gordon)— ensuring that there is a direct line of communication between the committees and the Board. Importantly there will be two way communication, and there will be an expectation that the Board report back to committees.
The second big recent event was the highly successful Cassowary Awards held at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. More than 200 guests attended this prestigious night and celebrated the successful 22 finalists who were recognised for their contribution to the conservation and presentation of the World Heritage Area. There are some great pictures on our website and a more detailed story in this edition of the eNews.
Again, I wish you all a great festive season, and an exciting new year. The Authority looks forward to working closely with you in 2017.