Wilderness camp battle
The fight for WA’s most pristine stretch of coastline is heating up as pastoralists along the Ningaloo Coast accuse the State Government of dodgy tactics in gaining public opinion on future management of the region.
Ningaloo and Warroora Station operate wilderness camping along the coastline but a draft management plan put forward would see camping areas formalised and infrastructure such as ablution blocks and boardwalks constructed.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife is running a survey but Phil Kendrick, partner of Ningaloo Station owner Jane Lefroy, said the timing of it and lack of questions regarding preferred management “smacked of bureaucracy”.
“They’ve done it in the cyclone season when there are no tourists around,” he said.
“Campers have complained to us because a lot of them are senior citizens who don’t have computers (to fill it in online).”
Mr Kendrick said the style of camping at Ningaloo and Warroora was a product not available anywhere else and should be left untouched.
A DPaW spokeswoman said the creation of public reserves would ensure appropriate protection, public access, tourism development and potential for Aboriginal employment.
“This survey is an opportunity for the community to provide information about what they value about the Ningaloo Coast, the type of experiences they seek, the facilities they currently use and if there are any other services or facilities that would enhance or detract from their current experience,” she said.
“All revenue received by the department from camping fees will be reinvested into management of the coast and employment opportunities, including an Aboriginal Ranger program.
“The State Government will continue to offer opportunities for the broader community and commercial businesses, including neighbouring pastoralists to be involved in managing the coast.”
The spokeswoman said there were no plans for new camping areas, with the plan instead focusing on upgrading existing sites on an as-needed basis.
Mr Kendrick said there was no reason for the Government to take over management of the coastline, given how successful the pastoralists had been to date.
“If you want facilities, that is fine, go to places such as the national park, where there are communal toilets, showers and barbecues,” he said. “The International Union for the Conservation of Nature made it very clear we had kept it in very pristine condition, so why not allow us to continue looking after it, and at no cost to the taxpayers.”
Lands Minister Terry Redman said pastoral leases were not an appropriate land tenure for tourism and conservation purposes
“Successive State Governments have recognised the unique natural beauty and ecological diversity of Western Australia’s Ningaloo Coast, and have moved to secure public access to the coast now and into the future for all Western Australians,” he said. Mr Kendrick said if successful, the plan would push three generations of Lefroys into unemployment.
“By pushing us out of here, we lose our house, we lose our shearing shed, we lose our income, we lose everything, and we get no compensation,” he said.
Mr Kendrick said the family would be open to turning the station into a conservation reserve, so long as they could keep their tourism venture.
The DPaW survey will be open until at least the end of November and has so far received about 900 responses.
Phil Kendrick, of Ningaloo Station.