Another Wet Tropics year almost passed, with increasing recognition from sectors and the communities of the important role that the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area plays in the life of the community and region.
I feel fortunate as executive director to have worked with a terrific team at the Authority to face the challenges and to celebrate this year's achievements.
During 2015 the Authority continued to implement some of its tried and true projects that continue to deliver results for our stakeholders and communities. These have included:
- The Tour Guide Field School Program
- The Indigenous Small Grants Program
- Research Small Grants Program
- Wet Tropics Connect through wildlife carer workshops and event stalls
- The ongoing treatment of yellow crazy ant infestations in southern Cairns and Russett Park
- Wet Tropics poster competition
- Participatory 3 Dimension Modelling (P3DM)
Around the Wet Tropics, community groups have again contributed to the health and wellbeing of our World Heritage Area, undertaking tree plantings that connect and benefit our Wet Tropics biodiversity, and researching, monitoring and caring for our wildlife.
Sadly, this year has seen a spate of cassowary fatalities. This was followed by a concerted community push to reopen the Garner's Beach rehabilitation centre that demonstrated how passionate the community is about the iconic species. The Authority and the Cassowary Recovery Team have been working with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection to ensure a long term sustainable solution to injured cassowary care.
The Wet Tropics attracted some high level visitors during 2015. Officials from Papua New Guinea Conservation Environment Protection Agency and from Indonesia visited the Authority with a strong interest in how we manage the effects of infrastructure in the World Heritage Area and how we engage and balance the needs of communities respectively. Australia's Senator Lazorus also paid us a visit lending his support for yellow crazy ant eradication.
Opportunities to explore the Wet Tropics has increased with the Kirrima Range Road proving quite popular. A second Hinchinbrook lookout that was opened nearby the first and provides uninterrupted views of the channel is also a photographer's dream come true.
As the race to measure the impacts of climate change and diversity decline is heating up, major areas of research undertaken in the Wet Tropics this year included among others: Biodiversity and microclimate monitoring; Impacts of extreme weather events on biodiversity; Vulnerability of mountain top biota to climate change; Identifying rainforest refugia and hotspots of plant genetic diversity in the Wet Tropics and Climate change vulnerability and adaptation.
The Authority was also delighted to show their support and be part of the launch of the beautiful book entitled eternal endemism the wet tropics: endemic vertebrates of the Wet Tropics. The book by Craig Ward with Tim Hawkes captures the extraordinary beauty and diversity of our Wet Tropics endemic wildlife through high quality photographs and text.
The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area would not be what it is today without the assistance of our dedicated Wet Tropics community.
We thank all the passionate volunteers who help care for our World Heritage Area, and the ongoing support and collaboration from partners and stakeholders that ensure that management of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area continues to represent global best practice. We look forward to another fruitful year in 2016 and the opportunity to further support and serve the Wet Tropics community.
Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year to all.
Executive Director, Wet Tropics Management Authority