Helena and Aurora Ranges. Photo – DBCA
Helena and Aurora Ranges. Photo – DBCA

Welcome to the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) 2020–21 Annual Report.

DBCA Director General Mark Webb

It has been a challenging and rewarding 12 months, as we navigated another year shaped by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and entered a period of unprecedented investment in our national and marine parks. I reflect on the past year with a sense of pride at what we have achieved, and excitement at what the future holds for our department and the lands and waters we manage. Throughout this ongoing era of change, DBCA continued to deliver world-class park management and conservation.

As part of our COVID-19 response, we helped to deliver the McGowan Government’s WA Recovery Plan. Some of the most iconic natural areas managed by DBCA are seeing significant upgrades, including in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area, and national parks across Western Australia. This year across DBCA, $17.36 million was spent upgrading visitor access and facilities, and 16 projects were completed including a new boardwalk at Beedelup Falls in the Greater Beedelup National Park, refurbishments to Gloucester Lodge in Yanchep National Park and upgrades to the Jane Brook picnic area in John Forrest National Park.

Investment in tracks and trails continued to be a focus, with Western Australia set to become a world leader in providing for outdoor adventures. Trails projects beginning this year included construction of new and upgraded mountain bike and walk trails in the Perth Hills, and upgraded walk, paddle and mountain bike trails in the Great Southern Region. Work also continued on the $8.5 million Dwellingup Adventure Trails and the $10 million Collie Adventure Trails.

We continued to progress the Plan for Our Parks initiative. So far, seven parks and reserves have been created, encompassing 313,746 hectares. This year, we celebrated the creation of the Nyinggulu (Ningaloo) coastal reserves. Other achievements included creation of the Badimia conservation reserves in the Midwest and stage one of the Helena and Aurora Ranges National Park. I want to acknowledge the expertise of our staff and their substantial work to manage these and other Recovery Plan and Plan for Our Parks projects.

This year also saw significant progress in our partnerships with Aboriginal people across the State. The signing of the first tranche of Indigenous Land Use Agreements associated with new parks and reserves is taking place. Agreements come with a host of benefits for our Aboriginal partners, including ongoing joint management capacity, employment opportunities and new infrastructure, and will lead to genuine joint management of these parks when they are gazetted. An integral part of the success and expansion of our joint management relationships has been the professionalism of our staff and the connection and trust they have built with traditional owners across the State.

Round three of the Aboriginal Ranger Program saw $4.75 million shared among 10 projects, bringing the total allocated under the program to $20 million over five years. As we celebrate the success of the first phase of the program, planning is now well underway to deliver $50 million in the second chapter of the project.

Staff involved in fire management continued to work tirelessly to keep local communities and assets safe by proactively reducing risk from bushfire. DBCA carried out prescribed burns across more than 3.7 million hectares in 2020–21. DBCA also responded to several challenging bushfires. Interagency pre-formed management teams were deployed to six bushfire incidents around the State, including the fast-moving Wooroloo bushfire in February 2021 where 320 department personnel assisted in frontline, incident management or support roles. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the huge effort to respond to these fires.

Our science programs continued to deliver high-quality, targeted science to support DBCA's operations. We developed innovative monitoring tools using remote sensing, audio recording and camera units in terrestrial and marine environments, and eDNA techniques for monitoring and assessing plants, animals and ecological condition. We developed a fire severity mapping tool, undertook a biological survey of Lake Carnegie and completed a review of wetland values across the Swan Coastal plain.

During 2020–21, DBCA worked with the Commonwealth in establishing the Biodiversity Information Office focused on capturing, storing, analysing and providing access to biodiversity data for more effective environmental assessment and protection. This initiative will mobilise biodiversity data from government, industry and community sources and is central to the State Government’s digital transformation of environmental assessment and approvals processes.

DBCA facilitated the implementation of the Streamline WA virtual one-stop shop for tourism-based operators on the WA.gov.au website. A new commercial activity application form, maps and guidelines were developed to simplify the application process for commercial activities in the Swan Canning Development Control Area.

DBCA continued to deliver and assist with key strategic and tourism-focused projects, including completion of the Perth Water Buneenboro Locality Plan, finalisation of commercial seaplane and hospitality operations on the Swan River, and facilitation of tourism activities on Matagarup Bridge.

The transition of the Swan and Canning rivers oxygenation program from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation to DBCA was completed. The oxygenation plants are a critical management tool that provide refuge for aquatic species and reduce nutrient loss from sediment during deoxygenation events by providing artificial oxygenation to around 14km of the upper parts of both rivers.

As always, our achievements were strengthened by the hard work of our volunteers. More than 6000 registered volunteers contributed to projects as diverse as wildlife rehabilitation, campground hosting, and plant and animal surveys and I thank them for their dedication. 

I would also like to thank the Chairs and members of the boards associated with the department for their guidance during the year. And finally, I would like to acknowledge the Ministerial contribution of Hon Stephen Dawson MLC and Hon Paul Papalia CSC MLA to the department over the past four years, and welcome Minister for Environment Hon Amber-Jade Sanderson MLA and Minister for Tourism Hon David Templeman MLA.

Mark Webb signature

Mark Webb PSM
Director General
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions
September 2021

Page reviewed 20 Sep 2021