The supporting services/benefits outlined below are considered to be important or noteworthy in the context of maintaining the character of the site, but are not considered to represent critical services/benefits in the context of the considerations outlined in section 3.1.1 of this report. In this context:
The supporting services/benefits are not, in isolation, thought to fundamentally underpin the listing criteria. However, supporting services/benefits may, in combination with other elements, underpin nomination criteria.
Some supporting services/benefits are already partially covered by other critical components, processes or services/benefits.
The supporting components, while not critical, are important to wetland functioning and are noteworthy in this regard.
In addition to these services, it is recognised that the Katherine River provides a source of water for the township of Katherine (Simon Ward, pers. comm. 2010). The specific values of the site in maintaining these flow regimes and water resource values for Katherine have not been quantified, and this represents an information gap in the context of this ECD.
3.8.1Recreation and Tourism
Kakadu National Park is an iconic destination for both international and Australian visitors. Tourists are attracted to Kakadu National Park for its wildlife and magnificent landscapes, as well as for its ancient cultural heritage including impressive galleries of Aboriginal rock art (Commonwealth of Australia 1988, Director of National Parks 2007). Furthermore, the World Heritage listing of Kakadu National Park is also likely to contribute to the attractiveness of the Ramsar site as a tourist destination (Director of National Parks 2007). International visitors are principally from the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States (Figure 3-23).
Tourist access is controlled through the Kakadu National Park Management Plan 2007-2014 (Director of National Parks 2007). Specifically, the Management Plan aims to maintain ‘a strong and successful partnership between traditional owners, governments, the tourism industry and Park user groups, providing world’s best practice in caring for country and sustainable tourism’. Evaluation of achievement of the aim is measured through the (Director of National Parks 2007):
level of Bininj satisfaction with the nature, scope and impact of recreational and tourism opportunities in the Park
level of visitor and tourism industry satisfaction with recreational and tourism opportunities in the Park, and
the extent to which Bininj gain economic benefit from commercial tourism opportunities.
Major tourism infrastructure is provided at locations such as Gagudju Lodge Cooinda and Aurora Kakadu Resort, including accommodation, restaurants, pubs and service infrastructure. Camping sites, caravan sites, boat ramps, lookout points, walkways and information bays are also provided at a number of locations throughout the Park. Other notable features include the Bowali Visitor Centre that features displays, audio-visual presentations and information staff, the Marrawuddie Gallery of Aboriginal fine arts (located at the Bowali Visitor Centre), and the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre that displays detailed information about local Aboriginal culture.
A variety of tourism enterprises exist, including commercial boat cruises, recreational fishing tours, cultural interpretive tours, bird-watching tours, four wheel drive and waterfall tours and multi-day tours throughout the park. Substantial numbers of tourists support these enterprises. For example, it has been estimated that 100 000 people take commercial boat cruises per year (R. Murray pers. comm. cited in BMT WBM 2010). However, it is also noted that many tourists travel independently of these tours.
Closely linked to tourism, the Ramsar site provides opportunities for a range of recreational activities. In particular, people from Darwin, Katherine and Pine Creek regularly use the Park for recreation. Recreational activities within the Ramsar site have a predominant conservation focus, including bushwalking, swimming, boating and fishing. Highlighting the significance of recreational activities within the Ramsar site, 20 percent of the Northern Territory’s recreational barramundi fishing occurs within Kakadu National Park (Tremblay and Boustead 2009).
The tourism industry is the main source of employment in the Kakadu National Park region, followed by recreation and conservation (Bayliss et al. 1997). As such, tourism and recreation are very important for the regional economy as well as that of the Northern Territory. Kakadu National Park contributes significantly to the Northern Territory economy (M. Triggs pers. comm. cited in BMT WBM 2010). Furthermore, the economic significance of the park is evidenced through purchase of significant quantities of goods and services from regional suppliers (Director of National Parks 2007).
Figure 3 43 Main reasons for visiting Kakadu National Park (source: Tremblay 2007)
Figure 3 44 Total international visitors numbers for Kakadu National Park (1998-2003 combined) (source: Morse et al. 2005) Tourist visitor numbers to Kakadu National Park have increased significantly since the Park was declared, increasing from 45 800 visitors in 1982 (Commonwealth of Australia 1988) to an average of 230 000 visitors in the 1990s (Kakadu National Park Board of Management and ANCA 1996 cited in Bayliss et al. 1997). The trend in increasing tourist numbers during the 1980s (around the time of site listing) is shown in Figure 3-24 below. However, visitor numbers have displayed gradual declines over the past 15 years (Morse et al. 2005). In terms of recent data, it is known that 228 899 people visited Kakadu National Park in 2008 (S. Murray pers. comm. cited in BMT WBM 2010).
Figure 3 45 Annual visitor numbers to Kakadu National Park in the 1980s (source: Commonwealth of Australia 1988)
3.8.2Scientific Research and Education
As demonstrated by this ECD, Kakadu National Park provides a wide range of habitats that present opportunities for scientific research activities. In particular, the near-natural nature of wetlands within the Ramsar site makes it an ideal ‘reference’ or ‘benchmark’ location for scientific research. Of further relevance with respect to scientific importance, several specimen type localities for species are located within the Ramsar site (for example, for endemic fauna and flora, refer Section 2.5.3).
A great diversity of scientific research has been undertaken within the Ramsar site. Research activities, like other activities in the Park, are regulated under the EPBC Act and the Kakadu National Park Management Plan. The following organisations are particularly noteworthy in terms of their contribution to scientific research within Kakadu National Park:
eriss undertakes a range of scientific monitoring and research activities into the environmental impact of uranium mining in the Alligators Rivers Region of Kakadu National Park. The eriss head office and research laboratory facility is located in Darwin, and a field station is located at Jabiru. Examples of ecological research undertaken by eriss include studies on fish (for example, Bishop et al. 1981, 1986, and 1990), flora (for example, Cowie and Finlayson 1986, Cowie et al. 1988, Finlayson et al. 1989, 1992 and 1994, Brennan 1996), frogs (for example, Tyler and Cappo 1983, Tyler and Crook 1987) and birds (for example, Dostine and Skeat 1993, Morton et al. 1991).
Several universities have had a long-standing interest in the site, especially Charles Darwin University (CDU). For example, CDU post-graduate students have researched sea turtles (Vanderlely 1995), magpie geese Anseranas semipalmata (Whitehead 1998), mammals (Watson 2008) and Melaleuca distribution (Staben 2008), as well as a range of geomorphological studies.
The Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Savannas Management (Tropical Savannas CRC) was established and supported by the Australian Government. Researchers that are part of the Tropical Savannas CRC have conducted research that has focussed on land-management issues such as fire and weeds within Kakadu National Park (for example, Edwards et al. 2003, Price et al. 2005).
Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) is a research consortium led by CDU, CSIRO, Griffith University, Land and Water Australia, the North Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance and the University of Western Australia. TRaCK coordinates social, economic and environmental research in order to sustainably manage the opportunities and expectations for rivers and water resources of northern Australia.
Various Northern Territory Government departments have conducted scientific research within the Ramsar site. For example, Parks and Wildlife Service (within NRETAS) have conducted research on marine turtle nesting (for example, Chatto and Baker 2008).
A number of knowledge gaps that require further scientific research have been identified for each of the critical components, processes and services/benefits (refer Section 7.1). As such, the Ramsar site is seen as a critically important for expanding scientific knowledge. Furthermore, baseline monitoring studies are an important component of future scientific research in order to ensure that the values of the Ramsar site does not become degraded over time.
In terms of environmental education, the Park is regarded as having outstanding education and interpretive displays and information material that is showcased at the Bowali Visitor Centre and at various attractions throughout the Park. The Ramsar status of the site is specifically highlighted in signage at the Mamukala wetlands located in the South Alligator River floodplain (refer Figure 3 -46).
Figure 3 46 Ramsar signage at Mamukala wetlands (source: BMT WBM)
3.8.3Historical Cultural Heritage
Kakadu National Park is home to the world’s oldest living culture. With respect to the historical cultural heritage of the Ramsar site, Kakadu National Park has exceptional cultural traditions as well as records of former civilizations that have influenced the ecological character of the wetlands. Thermoluminescence dating suggests that Bininj have occupied Kakadu National Park for between 50 000 and 60 000 years (Jones and Negerevich 1985, Chaloupka 1993, Brockwell et al. 1995).
The Kakadu National Park landscape contains exceptional records of Bininj occupation. Through their activities, Bininj have left a large assemblage of archaeological material including occupation sites, rock art, shell mounds and middens, stone tools and burial sites. Excavation of such material has provided detailed insight into the hunter-gatherer lifestyle over many thousands of years (Brockwell et al. 1995). These archaeological records are widely distributed within the Ramsar site, found in open sites on the flood plain, wetlands and coastal plains, in rock shelters and open sites throughout the valleys and outliers of the Arnhem Land plateau and in rock shelters in the sandstone country on the escarpment plateau (Brockwell et al. 1995). The South Alligator River floodplain alone contains an archaeological assemblage of possibly 25 000 000 artefacts (Meehan et al. 1985).
A number of Bininj languages are used in Kakadu National Park, including Gundjeihmi, Kunwinjku and Jawoyn. These languages are maintained through their everyday use in Bininj communities, through documentation and through using the Bininj language name for places in the park, bush tucker and in interpretive material (Director of National Parks 2007). The maintenance of language is recognised as an important component of protecting the cultural heritage and reservoir of traditional ecological knowledge for Kakadu National Park.
As described in Critical Service 3 above, Aboriginal communities have a strong relationship with ecosystems of the Ramsar site. In particular, ecosystems are important with respect to provision of biological products including traditional foods (termed ‘bush tucker’) as well as materials that are useful for various purposes. While the diet and customs of Aboriginal communities may have changed since European colonisation, many traditional biological products are still sourced from ecosystems.
Species that are known to be included in the traditional diet are listed in Table 3 -19 below. As indicated in the table, a large proportion of the bush tucker species originate from floodplains and billabongs. Of particular note are magpie geese Anseranas semipalmata and their eggs, which are regarded as one of the most important animal staples in the traditional diet (Lucas and Russell-Smith 1993). Other major sources of animal protein include freshwater mussels, fish, turtles, and crocodile eggs. The most abundant sources of carbohydrate include several species of water lily Nymphaea spp. and water chestnut Eleocharis dulcis, with a variety of other plant species used as minor sources of carbohydrates (Cowie et al. 2000).
Biological products have a variety of customary uses such as medicine, craft, weapons and utensils. The following examples of resources that are derived from biological products are provided in Cowie et al. (2000):
common swamp reed Phragmites vallatoria is used for fighting spears or goose spears
a bamboo Bambusia arnhemica is used for spears, craft and didgeridoos
common bulrush Typha domingensis is used for spears
bark from paperbarks Melaleuca spp. is used for carrying or wrapping food, for shelter, for torches and as traditional medicine, and
bark from freshwater mangrove Barringtonia acutangula is used for poisoning fish.
Other notable examples of materials include swamp banksia Banksia dentata that is used as fire sticks, and spring pandanus Pandanus spiralis that is used to make dilly bags, mats and baskets (Wightman and Brown 1994).
Table 3 19 Native animal and plant species in the Aboriginal diet (source: Lucas and Russell-Smith 1993)
Note: ‘Bininj (Gundjeyhmi) name’ means Aboriginal name in the local Gundjeihmi language
3.8.5Sites and Items of Cultural Significance
There are several items and sites of cultural significance that are important in terms of gaining an understanding of the historical cultural heritage, as well as sites and items that continue to have significance in terms of the contemporary living culture of the Kakadu National Park Ramsar site. These are detailed as follows:
Traditional Camping Areas
Traditional camping areas, or occupation sites, are found throughout Kakadu National Park from the coast, along the rivers, to the floodplain and into the outliers and main escarpment area. These camping areas can be a focal point for artefacts and middens, as well as rock art.
It is estimated that there are at least 10 000 art sites throughout Kakadu National Park, primarily located in the escarpment and its outliers (Brockwell et al. 1995). The rock art tells a story of landscape change over thousands of years (Chaloupka 1993), and enhances other archaeological research by providing details of economic activities, technology and material culture, as well as insights into ideology, religion and traditional life (Brockwell et al 1995). The rock art of Kakadu National Park is internationally significant due to its extensiveness, antiquity, exquisite beauty and artistic excellence, and as it is the world’s longest continuing art tradition (Chaloupka 1993, Brockwell et al. 1995).
Shell Mounds and Middens
Shell mounds and middens are found on the floodplains, rivers and coastal regions. Specific sites include Ngarradj Warde Djobkeng, Malakunanja, Nawamoyn, Paribari and Malangangerr. These sites are dated as far back as 7000 years before present, during Kakadu National Park’s ‘big swamp’ period when the mangrove landscape provided abundant molluscs for exploitation (Hiscock 1999). Comparison of midden variability in faunal composition, location of middens, time period and intensity of use, and associated artefacts (for example, stone tools) have contributed greatly to the understanding of the archaeological record of Australia.
Stone and Organic Tools
Early stone tools found in Kakadu National Park rock shelters from at least 20 000 years ago include flaked stone artefacts, grindstones, ground ochre pieces and hafted edge-ground axes (Brockwell et at. 1995). More recent stone artefacts (approximately 5000 years ago) include finely worked small stone points and steep-edged chisels, while organic artefacts (from approximately 7000 years ago to present) include tools made from bone, wood and shell (Brockwell et al. 1995).
During the last thousand years, freshwater floodplains developed and created plentiful resources able to support higher levels of human occupation, and as such extensive scatters of stone artefacts are found on the floodplain. Stone artefacts such leilira blades (large points) and use-polished flakes appear during this period. Furthermore, organic materials such as wooden, fibre, bone and shell artefacts and the food remains of plant and bone are preserved in Kakadu National Park (Brockwell et al. 1995).
Fish traps made from stone or basketry are believed to pre-date the arrival of Europeans (Hiscock and Kershaw 1992). Within Kakadu National Park, permanent fish traps have been found on the Wildman River. Examination of these traps provides information on the hunter-gatherer society of Kakadu National Park prior to European arrival and influence.
Dugout canoes were produced by cutting down a large tree and hollowing out a canoe from the trunk, a process observed by Baldwin Spencer in 1900 (Spencer 2009). Several dugout canoes have been discovered in Kakadu National Park, including some retrieved from the banks of the East Alligator River that have been preserved as cultural heritage items.
Sites of cultural significance include areas that relate to the activities that took place during the creation era and the travels of the first people, significant rock art and occupation sites, burial sites, ceremonial sites, story places, increase sites, dreaming places and others (Brockwell et al. 1995, Brockwell et al. 2001). Dreaming places may be named after animals and may be significant for the reproduction or control of the relevant species (Brockwell et al. 1995). For example, wetland sites of Kakadu National Park include Whistle Duck, Goanna, King Brown, Hawk, Gecko, Barramundi and Turkey Dreamings. The maintenance of these sites is important for the continuation of each these species and certain Bininj may have specific responsibilities related to these Dreamings. Cultural protocols and totems may also place restrictions on the ability of some Bininj to eat certain species of animal.