NT cattle station bought for conservation

Beef Central, 06/10/2011

A Northern Territory cattle property will be turned into a conservation reserve to be managed by the Indigenous Land Corporation following its sale this week.

The Federal Government today announced the purchase of the 178,000 hectare Fish River Station on the Daly River 150km south of Darwin for $13 million.

The property was purchased with $8.6 million from the Gillard Government's Caring for our Country program, $1.4 million from the Indigenous Land Corporation and $3 million from international conservation non-profits, The Nature Conservancy and Pew Environment Group.

Federal environment minister Tony Burke said the purchase represented a new model for Australia's National Reserve System.

"For the first time the Gillard Government has helped buy high value conservation land with the intention of handing it over to its Traditional Owners to manage its spectacular environment forever," he said.

Mr Burke said Fish RIver Station had high conservation values including billabongs surrounded by savannah woodland and pockets of rainforest rising to spectacular ranges.

Its wetlands were home to the pig-nosed turtle, another seven freshwater turtle species and a huge diversity of fish, from barramundi to the threatened freshwater sawfish and the critically endangered spear-toothed shark. It is home to another three nationally threatened animals: the northern masked owl, the northern quoll, and the Gouldian finch.

"This Top End property protects long stretches of the mighty Daly, and its wetlands, escarpment and savanna woodlands are habitat for nationally threatened animals and more freshwater turtle species than anywhere else in the country,” Mr Burke said.

"Indigenous Rangers will play an important role in looking after country – from controlling weeds and feral animals, caring for threatened species and managing fire."

The Indigenous Land Corporation will initially hold Fish River Station on behalf of local communities working with them to manage weeds and feral animals, to care for threatened species and mange fire. Ownership of the property will eventually be transferred to its traditional owners.

The purchase also expanded the Trans-Australia Ecolink, a conservation corridor through central Australia from Port Augusta to the Top End, which was designed to give native species room to adapt to a changing climate, fire and drought, Mr Burke said.

ILC Chairperson Shirley McPherson said the organisation's first purchase of a property for conservation was already helping to close the gap of Indigenous disadvantage.

"Already seven Indigenous rangers have jobs on the station and an Indigenous business is removing feral animals.

“They're sending buffalo to the Indigenous-run Gunbalunya abattoir to process for human consumption by local communities, the Sydney market and restaurants at the ILC's Ayers Rock Resort.

"There will be more jobs to come in fencing, cultural site protection, plant and animal surveys, soil conservation, regeneration of threatened flora and fauna and a host of other work to protect this ecosystem for future generations of all Australians.

She said Fish River offered the opportunity to the traditional owners to renew their connection to country, to pass on cultural knowledge to their children and eventually to own and manage the land.


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