Environmental Management

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Regional Goal

Our natural and cultural environment is an asset that is protected, preserved and enjoyed through sustainable management.

Program Goal

The Program Goal is identical to the Regional Goal.

Program Objectives

This program component will contribute to sustainable environmental management by:

  • promoting the sustainable management of natural resources
  • managing the effects of climate change, tidal inundation and erosion
  • increasing the utilisation of renewable energies
  • reducing the environmental impacts of waste management
  • improving land management for future generations.
Program Deliverables

The Environmental Management Program is delivered by the TSRA's Land and Sea Management Unit.

The program deliverables are to achieve the outcomes from the:

  • Fisheries Project
  • Land Project
  • Garden and Horticulture Project
  • Biodiversity Project
  • Invasive Species Project
  • Seagrass and other Research Activities Project
  • Land and Sea Rangers Project
  • Climate Change / Coastal Erosion Project and to:
  • strengthen cultural heritage
  • share information and promote research.
A photograph showing three workers monitoring seagrass

Seagrass monitoring.

Program Expenditure 2012 - 2013

Table 2-4 Environmental Management Program Expenditure 2012 - 2013

Budget $'000's Actual $'000's Variance $'000's
5,597 3,948 -1,649

Torres Strait Development Plan Outcomes

  • Improved animal management and pest control for the protection of the natural environment
  • Reduced waste management issues and environmental impact
  • Increased utilisation of renewable energies
  • Managed effects of climate change, tidal inundation and erosion
  • Sustainable management of natural resources
  • Improved land management for future generations
A chart illustrating details of the environmental management program

Environmental Management Program Projects and Achievements

Project Name: Terrestrial Biodiversity Conservation

Project purpose

To develop a baseline for terrestrial biodiversity inventories, assessments of ecological condition, identification of threatening processes and the development and implementation of key management actions.

Achievements for 2012 - 2013

Terrestrial biodiversity management profiles about the plants, animals and habitats of Masig, Poruma, Warraber, Saibai, Dauan and Ugar were completed, providing the basis for ranger priorities and activities, and future investment.

Fire Management Profiles were completed on Badu, Moa, Erub, Boigu, Saibai and Dauan, including community consultation and review.

Ecological fire management was undertaken on Badu, Moa and Dauan. Formal fire training was completed for seven ranger groups on Badu and Moa.

Under the National Environmental Research Program Tropical Ecosystems program, in partnership with Environmental Management Program staff, including Rangers, research commenced to:

  • determine disease dynamics across the Torres Strait and improve approaches for disease detection and management
  • determine the status of regional mangrove and freshwater ecosystems.

The MangroveWatch Program continued in the Torres Strait, with Rangers trained and equipped for field monitoring.

Project Name: Invasive Species Management

Project purpose

To support monitoring and management of invasive species in the Torres Strait.

Achievements for 2012 - 2013

Thirty-nine Environmental Management Program staff were trained in weed identification and control, including through the provision of specialised equipment and control program planning.

Several ecological and classified weeds have been targeted for control across 13 islands.

Rangers monitored pest animal impacts; supported the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (including Biosecurity Australia) in conducting island plant and animal health surveys; and followed up their recommendation with targeted control programs.

Pest rodent (rat) control programs were put in place on Warul Kawa Island, with support from the University of Queensland and the Traditional Owners.

Pest pig control was carried out on Moa and Badu.

Environmental Management Program Projects and Achievements

Project Name: Sustainable Horticulture

Project purpose

To provide Torres Strait communities with access to a wider range of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs at affordable prices.

Achievements for 2012 - 2013

Department of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry funds a Regional Landcare Facilitator to promote and support Landcare and food gardening activities.

A Project Advisory Group chaired by the Environmental Management Program, with membership from TAFE, Queensland Health, the Torres Strait Island Regional Council, Community Enterprises Australia (as the Community Development Employment Projects provider), and community representatives met quarterly to share information, facilitate partnership opportunities and guide future activities.

The Horticulture in Schools program was run in partnership with Tagai State College Independent Public School. This project, which is being delivered as part of the school curriculum, includes food-growing activities on campuses.

Community fruit tree planting projects were completed on 12 islands.

Project Name: Dugong and Turtle Management

Project purpose

To implement community-based management plans for the sustainable management of dugong and turtle in the Torres Strait.

Achievements for 2012 - 2013

James Cook University (JCU) and TSRA have conducted research suggesting that the Western Torres Strait is Australia's largest continuous seagrass meadow.

Large-scale aerial surveys enabled spatial models to be developed showing the distribution and abundance of dugong. Twenty-five year of surveys suggest dugong relative density has not changed significantly over time. JCU research also indicates that the Torres Strait has the highest population of dugongs in Australia, and possibly the world.

The TSRA plays a critical role in promoting the sustainable, community-based management of dugong, much of this through its Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Ranger Program.

Community-based dugong and turtle management plans have been completed for all 14 Torres Strait communities and endorsed by Traditional Owners.

The development of a Dugong and Turtle Catch Monitoring Database has been finalised.

The communities of Masig, Badu, St Pauls and Mabuiag are undertaking trials to develop a harness that can be used by traditional hunters to euthanase green marine turtles humanely. A Steering Committee has been formed to oversee the trials; it includes representatives from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, RSPCA, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, JCU, the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the University of Queensland, Queensland National Parks, and the national Indigenous Advisory Committee Chair.

TSRA Environmental Management Program staff participated in the Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee on the JCU research project ‘Importation of Dugong meat by the Torres Strait Diaspora: quantities, motivations and potential effectiveness of management options'.

Environmental Management Program staff gave presentations on the Torres Strait Turtle and Dugong Management Plans at the Oceania Society for Conservation Biology Conference and at the First Australian Marine Turtle Bi-annual Symposium.

Environmental Management Program Projects and Achievements

Achievements for 2012 - 2013 continued

JCU, in collaboration with the Environmental Management Program, undertook a dugong satellite tracking project at Boigu. The project highlighted the need to modify the current equipment and for participants to undertake training on shallow water dugong catching. Another survey is planned for 2013 - 2014.

With the assistance of the Malu Ki'ai Traditional Owners of Boigu Island, the Environmental Management Program have successfully undertaken monitoring surveys of Warul Kawa (Deliverance Island) for Flatback marine turtles. Participants tagged a total of 46 turtles, including foraging Green and Hawksbill turtles as well as Flatback turtles. They also assisted JCU staff to conduct a beach profile and marine debris surveys. Regular annual surveys are planned for the future to maintain up-to-date information on turtle numbers.

Environmental Management Program Staff, in conjunction with Traditional Owners and the Tagai State College, successfully conducted the annual nesting Green turtle tagging project at Dauar Island and Maizub Kaur (Bramble Cay). The results show that the number of nesting Green turtles in both locations is greatly reduced from previous years due to habitat loss from Queensland flood events.

The Environmental Management Program facilitated engagement between Torres Strait and Cape York Traditional Owners in discussing the issues surrounding the decline of successful nesting and hatchling success for Green turtles on Raine Island, which supports the world's largest Green Turtle rookery.

The Environmental Management Program continues to liaise with PNG Traditional Inhabitants and the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation in planning and discussing agreed shared management arrangements for dugongs and turtles, particularly through the treaty cycle meetings led by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Project Name: Seagrass Monitoring and other Related Research Activities

Project purpose

To support community-based seagrass monitoring activities to assess the health, condition and extent of seagrass beds throughout the Torres Strait.

Achievements for 2012 - 2013

Community volunteers and Rangers successfully undertook seagrass monitoring at 14 sites in eight Torres Strait communities. The monitoring program seeks to establish seagrass growth and abundance trends and detect any early effects of climate change which could impact the health of the animals that rely on this important resource and habitat.

Badu and Mabuiag Rangers have been accredited in sub-tidal seagrass video-monitoring techniques. The training is part of an ongoing Torres Strait Dugong Sanctuary seagrass monitoring program undertaken in collaboration with James Cook University to monitor the health of the seagrass in the sanctuary.

Environmental Management Program staff and Rangers collaborated with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in a Torres Strait Coral Reef Biodiversity Survey project.

The TSRA and AIMS installed data loggers at 13 sites to monitor marine water temperatures and coral distribution, health and bleaching under the Northern Environment Research Program Tropical Ecosystems (NERP TE) Coral Monitoring Project. The monitoring will help to predict the occurrence of coral bleaching events in the future, enabling the TSRA to develop and implement corrective measures, if possible, and to develop educational and awareness products for the community, including fishers.

Environmental Management Program Projects and Achievements

Project Name: Land and Sea Ranger Program

Project purpose

To employ Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Land and Sea Rangers to look after their land, sea and culture by carrying out on-ground works that address priorities identified by local communities.

Achievements for 2012 - 2013

Thirty-eight Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Rangers are delivering natural and cultural resource activities across the 14 communities on 13 islands.

Funding is provided by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities through the Caring for our Country (Working on Country) Program.

Three Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal trainees have been employed. They have commenced formal training towards Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management.

All Rangers have undertaken professional development as part of formal qualifications in Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management and Certificate II in Transport and Distribution (Maritime Operations).

All Rangers have completed or are undertaking a number of accredited activities as part of the training, including first aid, advanced 4WD and recovery, fire accreditation, Coxswains, MangroveWatch, Seagrass-Watch, and ‘I-Tracker' training.

Four Rangers participated in an exchange to the Solomon Islands as part of the World Indigenous Network.

Two Rangers attended the Saltwater Women's Gathering hosted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Two Rangers have completed Certificate II in Indigenous Leadership.

Two staff completed the Training Rural Australians in Leadership program.

Ranger Vessels have been deployed to the Badu and Boigu communities. A further five will be delivered, in late 2013, one each to Saibai, Erub, Mer and Mabuiag and one to be shared between Warraber and Iama.

Project Name: Indigenous Protected Areas

Project purpose

To deliver the Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) program in the Torres Strait.

Achievements for 2012 - 2013

The TSRA helped Traditional Owners and Rangers to manage the existing IPAs of Warul Kawa and Pulu Islet.

The TSRA coordinated consultation with Traditional Owners of Warul Kawa and commissioned the development of a Plan of Management for Warul Kawa IPA.

The TSRA coordinated consultation with Traditional Owners of the Warraberalgahl Native title area on the proposed declaration of an additional IPA.

The TSRA commissioned the development of a draft Plan of Management for the Warraberalgahl and Porumalgahl IPA; consultation is underway.

Environmental Management Program Projects and Achievements

Project Name: Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)

Project purpose

To establish a traditional ecological knowledge recording system for the Torres Strait, to enable land and sea planning and management activities to be informed by Ailan Kastom using appropriate intellectual property and communication protocols.

Achievements for 2012 - 2013

The TSRA supported the development of a community-owned traditional ecological knowledge database system on Boigu Island. Boigu Rangers and community members are gathering traditional knowledge and information and recording it in the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) database.

A trial was conducted on Moa, Mabuiag and Badu Islands to expand the TEK database.

Rangers and community members were trained on the use of the database system, including on the management of culturally sensitive data.

Project Name: Climate Change and Coastal Management

Project purpose

To manage coastal hazards and climate change issues in the Torres Strait.

Achievements for 2012 - 2013

James Cook University undertook Water quality hazard assessment through National Environmental Research Program (NERP) funding. Monitoring will continue in 2013 - 2014 subject to funding.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) installed a sea surface temperature monitoring logger network as part of a collaborative project to monitor coral reefs. The project was funded through NERP.

A Geographic Information Systems officer is now in place to support and manage the use of spatial information (maps and other products).

The CSIRO hosted a regional workshop to consider sustainable futures and drivers of change in the Torres Strait. This was funded through NERP.

The CSIRO, on behalf of the TSRA, completed revised downscaled climate projections for the Torres Strait.

Minor coastal erosion control projects were delivered on Iama, Saibai, Mer, Masig, Poruma, Warraber, Erub, Mabuiag and Hammond islands in collaboration with Community Enterprises Australia.

Sand replenishment works were completed at Masig.

An oceanographic water circulation model was developed for the Torres Strait, funded through NERP.

Dr Kevin Parnell from James Cook University has completed studies on climate change driven coastal erosion and inundation on all island communities.

Environmental Management Program Projects and Achievements

Project Name: Fisheries

Project purpose

To increase employment in the fishing industry and create sustainable businesses whilst ensuring ecological sustainable management.

Achievements for 2012 - 2013

The Board's Indigenous Fisheries Advisory Committee (IFAC) met twice to provide advice and make recommendations to the TSRA Board on fisheries issues, including capacity building and support, the management of Torres Strait fisheries and research priorities.

Through the Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) consultative structure, the TSRA helped IFAC members and other representatives to contribute to Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal fisher and community perspectives at eight meetings.

The TSRA provided grants to two community fishing enterprises to assist with the development of fishing capacity in Torres Strait communities.

The TSRA represented Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people's interests and aspirations for ownership of access to fisheries resources at the PZJA level and through consultative forums.

Key Performance Indicators – Portfolio Budget Statements

Number of communities participating in natural resource management activities

Number of ranger groups in place to assist communities to carry out land, sea and cultural resource management activities

Number of sustainable land use plans developed

The TSRA helped 14 Torres Strait communities to participate in natural resource management activities across land and sea country. The Environmental Management Program provided information, technical support and access to resources and equipment to enable Torres Strait communities to carry out local projects and engage in regional and national projects important to the local region. The ranger groups on the islands played an integral part in facilitating these activities. Communities and Traditional Owners continue to be engaged in all stages of project design and delivery to ensure local and cultural priorities are adequately addressed. Ranger groups carry out cultural and natural resource management activities that encompass community environmental and cultural priorities. Funds have been secured under the Working on Country program for ranger operations to continue for the next five years.

Short-term benefit description

Increased employment and sustainable economic development opportunities.

Benefit target Progress COAG target
Rangers employed in all 15 island communities by 2012 - 2013. 38 full-time Rangers, including three trainee Rangers, are employed in 14 communities on 13 islands. COAG Target 6 – Halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade.

Short-term benefit description

Improved community skills and capacity to cultivate food and other crops.

Benefit target Progress COAG target
Eight communities supported to establish sustainable horticulture activities by 2011 - 2012. A Regional Landcare Facilitator is promoting and supporting Landcare and food gardening. COAG Target 1 – Close the life expectancy gap within a generation.
  Four pilot communities are actively involved in sustainable horticultural activities.  
  Four additional communities are supported in conducting a preliminary analysis for implementing sustainable horticultural activities.  
  An environmental education program that embeds sustainable horticulture within the school curriculum is being delivered.  

Short-term benefit description

Number of sustainable land use plans developed.

Benefit target Progress COAG target
All communities have sustainable land use plans in place. This benefit has been achieved.
All communities have the plans in place and are using them in local planning decisions.
COAG Target 1 – Close the life expectancy gap within a generation.
  The state government is currently developing a draft Local Government Plan for the region; the land use plans have been incorporated.

The benefit achievements above are fully aligned to the Torres Strait Development Plan benefit targets.

A photograph showing rangers visiting Maza Guiya.

Ranger visit to Maza Guiya.

A photograph showing Arnarvon Islands ranger exchange, Badu Island

Arnarvon Islands ranger exchange, Badu Island.

Additional Key Performance Indicators – Torres Strait Development Plan

Monitoring in place; baseline regional environmental data available

Baseline terrestrial and marine biodiversity datasets continue to be acquired to guide sustainable planning, priority setting, investment, project design, implementation and evaluation. Research through the National Environmental Research Program Tropical Ecosystems Hub, and previous programs, is contributing to the development of more comprehensive regional baseline datasets.

The TSRA has facilitated the development of partnerships between scientists and communities to identify and assess trends and the impacts of environmental change on key species and ecosystems in the region.

Short-term benefit description

Monitoring in place; baseline data established and trend assessment in progress.

Benefit target Progress COAG target
Trend analysis contributing to environmental management initiatives realised progressively from July 2010. There are now environmental baseline data to support sustainable land use planning for all inhabited islands.
Biodiversity profiles for all outer island communities have been completed.
Fire management profiles are available for Moa, Badu, Mabuiag, Saibai, Dauan, Boigu and Erub.
Vegetation datasets and regional ecosystem maps have been completed for all communities.
Currently there are 16 seagrass monitoring sites throughout the Torres Strait, including the communities of Mabuiag, Mer, Iama and Badu and also the Kaiwalagal area (Inner Islands) of the Torres Strait.
Currently 15 data logger and potential coral monitoring sites have been identified and established.
One real-time sea level temperature monitoring station is in place, with a second due for installation in July 2013.
TSRA and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) have commenced a new project to review coral health, density and distribution. A recent survey highlighted the existence of coral bleaching in the Torres Strait.
COAG Target 1 – Close the life expectancy gap within a generation.

Short-term benefit description

Monitoring in place; baseline data established and trend assessment in progress.

Benefit target Progress COAG target
  Turtle and Dugong catch data provided by community members continues to be processed.
Census records for green turtle foraging and nesting collated since 2006 suggest little change in projections. Preliminary results from annual Green turtle surveys completed at Dauar Island and Bramble Cay show that nesting turtles are in decline, but this could be due to limited food due to cyclone damage.
The Environmental Management Program has been working closely with the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage on Raine Island Green Turtle research. Predictions suggest that there will be a catastrophic decline in the next 10 years due to a collapse of hatchling success. A number of strategies are being implemented to reverse this decline.
James Cook University and the Environmental Management Program are establishing baseline data for Hawksbill and Flatback turtles.
Flatback turtle surveys were recently completed at Warul Kawa (Deliverance Island). Preliminary results show successful signs of hatchlings and a reasonable population of nesting females. More research is planned for February 2014.
Only one Hawksbill turtle survey was conducted in 2009 at Masig (Yorke Island) which failed to locate any turtles. A survey is planned for March 2014 at Sassie Island, where preliminary reports suggest Hawksbill turtles are present.
Aerial surveys indicate that the current population of Dugongs is more than 12,000 animals and that there has been no significant decline in the population in the Torres Strait since the mid-1980s.
The Environmental Management Program continues to monitor the impacts of climate change through data retrieved from the established sea surface temperature monitoring network, the installation of tide and sea level gauges and baseline data on coastal erosion.
Dr Kevin Parnell from James Cook University has completed research on coastal erosion and inundation research for all inhabited islands. The research provides a basis for technical analysis and modelling of erosion and inundation, preventative measures and consequences, and community input into preferred options. On some islands, community consultation is ongoing.
 

Short-term benefit description

Monitoring in place; baseline data established and trend assessment in progress.

Benefit target Progress COAG target
Coastal engineering reports were completed, providing options for mitigating sea water inundation at Boigu, Saibai, Poruma, and Iama.
The Environmental Management Program has continued to establish the regional tide gauge network (four gauges) and sea level rise monitoring program (one National Tidal centre sea level gauge).
An ocean circulation model has been developed for water movement in the Torres Strait.
Water quality hazards have been assessed for a range of potential pollution sources, including shipping and development in Papua New Guinea.
Gauging boards have been installed on Saibai, Iama and Mabuiag, to collect data on high tide levels in the communities.

Improved Understanding of Island and Marine Environments

Ranger Working on Country Plans have been drafted for all communities that have Rangers. These plans document the cultural and natural resource issues for each island and the surrounding marine environment, as well as the aspirations of the communities. The information will guide ranger work plans and future environmental activities. The Environmental Management Program will use the Plans to ensure there is community engagement in, and support for, the Torres Strait Land and Sea Ranger Project activities.

Short-term benefit description

Improved understanding of island and marine environments

Benefit target Progress COAG target
Ranger groups in place on all 15 islands to assist communities to carry out land, sea and cultural resource activities. There are 38 Rangers in place in 14 communities on 13 islands.
Ranger Working on Country Plans are in place in seven communities; another eight are underway.
Terrestrial biodiversity profiles have been completed for seven islands; a further six island profiles are in preparation.
A traditional ecological knowledge database system is under development to assist communities to access information about the cultural and natural values of island and marine environments.
A Geographic Information System capability has been established to map and use spatial data.
Dr Alana Grech from James Cook University has undertaken a marine habitat risk assessment for current and potential threats.
COAG Target 6 – Halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade

Improved Community Skills and Capacity to Cultivate Food and other Crops

Using a whole-of-government and community-based approach, the TSRA is facilitating a healthier lifestyle program for people in the Torres Strait, targeting the regional school curriculum, and delivering on ground projects at community level.

Short-term benefit description

Improved community skills and capacity to cultivate food and other crops.

Benefit target Progress COAG target
Eight communities supported to establish sustainable horticulture activities. All 15 communities have engaged in the project.
The horticulture in schools program engaged all schools in Torres Strait by embedding horticulture in their curriculum and encouraging food growing activities at campuses.
Small-scale pilot horticulture projects have been maintained in the Horn, Hammond, Masig, and St Pauls communities.
Community fruit tree planting projects have been undertaken on Mer, Boigu, Moa, Erub, Mabuiag, Badu and Thursday Island.
COAG Target 6 – Halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade.

Number of Communities Engaged in and Becoming Aware of Climate Change Impacts

The TSRA is working with all Torres Strait communities, government agencies and researchers to support whole-of-government policy coordination, research, planning and adaptive management for the threats posed by climate change, coastal erosion and inundation. The TSRA is also partnering with Community Enterprises Australia and the Torres Strait Island Regional Council to deliver minor coastal works programs on eight communities.

Short-term benefit description

Sensible and appropriate adaptation planning including for sea level rise.

Benefit target Progress COAG target
Regional climate change modelling and adaptive planning strategies are in place for communities by 2011 - 2012.



A Climate Change Strategy Action Plan is to be developed by 2011 and implemented progressively from 2011.
Sea level modelling and coastal erosion and inundation studies have been completed.
Lidar data have been compiled for inhabited islands.
A tide gauge network is being installed to measure tidal dynamics and sea level rise and to improve the accuracy of datum points.
Coastal hazard mapping is being incorporated into local government planning schemes.
The action plan has been developed. Major research and modelling components have been completed. The environmental and climate change monitoring framework is being developed.
A regional and community-based Adaptation and Resilience planning process is being developed.
COAG Target 1 – Close the life expectancy gap within a generation.