Bush Heritage Reserves are helping to build local communities

Published 04 Mar 2014 

Charles Darwin Reserve and Bush Heritage are adding considerable value to the Mid-West Region of Western Australia and particularly the Perenjori Shire - one of the largest municipalities in the State.  It is not inaccurate to suggest that reserves such as Charles Darwin Reserve are on the cusp of working with the private sector and other NGOs to play a major role in re-imagining rural/remote economies.

Over the past decade since the Charles Darwin Reserve has been acquired Bush Heritage has worked co-operatively with local community and contractors to repair infrastructure including housing, workers accommodation, plant, power and water systems and roads. Over $1.8M has been invested in management and infrastructure to ensure the property remains viable and can safely accommodate workers and researchers.  All work and plant has been sourced from the regional community - mainly Dalwallinu and Perenjori townships.

In addition to this investment, there has been significant funds leveraged into WA's tertiary sector to undertake postgraduate Honours and PhD research on this Reserve.

Within 10 years of establishing itself and undertaking the necessary foundational investment in monitoring, infrastructure, basic land conservation management (feral plan and animal control/removal, erosion mitigation, fire management, cultural heritage protection) the Reserve is now starting to see its real impact on regional community and economy.  Charles Darwin Reserve still has much to do to strengthen its internal process and conservation programs however it is also beginning to leverage real influence and act as a catalyst for broader change - as follows:

1.  Bush Heritage recently co-hosted a Charles Darwin community open day and blues for the bush concert in partnership with the Perenjori Shire.  The event was developed to inspire and share with the regional community nature conservation and sustainable pastoralism.  This initial event was a resounding success with over 250 people attending the community open day and with a sell out crowd of 700 for the evening concert.  Perenjori Shire has a total population of 900 people.  Bush Heritage through its reserve location, management and organisational vision developed an $190,000 event and in this process we employed a local event manager ($30,000) - a local farmers wife whom has professional expertise in marketing and branding, but who had never experienced this kind of career opportunity in her 20 years in the district.  Over 90% of the event costs stayed in the region.

The event was viewed as such a success in inspiring and delighting regional and remote communities in a fresh and positive way that the Perenjori Shire and Bush Heritage have committed to running the event for the next 3 years.  This means Bush Heritage will be the catalyst for investing over $600,000 in the coming years.  This funding is being sourced primarily from local businesses and larger resource companies whom wish to support well thought out community events.  This event is also stimulating new conversation on how different sectors can work more effectively together and is further spawning new regional business opportunities.

2.  Bush Heritage is leading the rollout of a Regional Conservation Initiative across 2 million hectares surrounding the Charles Darwin Reserve.  The Gundawa Regional Conservation Association has initial funds of $400,000 and will continue to receive $100,000 per annum, provided as part of a Biodiversity Offset Package by two local mining companies.  This is in addition to the annual offset funds provided to Bush Heritage tied to Charles Darwin Reserve and other impacted neighbours to the Mt Gibson iron ore mine operations.  The Association is a collaboration of all landowners, NGOs, municipalities and agencies in the Gundawa region (currently Chaired by Bush Heritage) to leverage this Biodiversity Offset investment over the coming years to over $2M of projects focused on regional land management, scientific research and the development of a regional focused land management/ranger crew.  The Badimia People are the traditional owners of this land and through Gundawa engagement, there is hope that their community aspirations for work, culture and looking after country can be realised.

3.  Engagement and partnerships with the private sector is what will bring about the change needed to see ecological resilience restored to vast areas of our country.  Bush Heritage and the large conservation reserves act as a foci for leadership and initiating crucial conversations with a range of businesses on developing the new model of productive and conservation land management.  We hope to develop an innovative new approaches to conservation of WA Rangelands that leverages many millions of dollars in the coming years - stay tuned.

In my opinion our reserves, with the support of the governments, is critical in the refocusing of remote and rural Australia.  A conservation reserve is unlikely to employ hundreds of workers on a single site but these reserves if managed well can provide a range of professional and trade opportunities and support broader investment and sophistication of thinking, needed for positive change in rural areas of Australia.