Issue 21, January - April 2002

NT breakthrough for mining | Top End special unit takes on more recruits | Rainforests harvest the skies | Goat exports increase | Trainspotters ahoy | Feral dogs |

NT breakthrough for mining

THE Northern Land Council and mining giant Rio Tinto have reached an agreement that paves the way for the approval of about 50 exploration licences on Native Title land in the Northern Territory. The licence applications cover an area of some 31,000 square kilometres. Much of the exploration will follow known ‘envelopes’ of micro-diamonds which can apparently indicate the presence of diamonds.

The new agreement marks the end of a stand-off between the NT’s former Country Liberal Party (CLP) government and the NLC which saw a halt to processing of applications in 1996. The agreement claims to guarantee indigenous site protection, community benefits including employment and training opportunities and strong environmental protection for exploration projects.

Top End special unit takes on more recruits

NORFORCE, a specialist army unit operating in remote areas of the Northern Territory and the Kimberley, is to start training more Aboriginal recruits.

The North West Mobile Force conducts surveillance and reconnaissance over a vast area of northern Australia; more than 1.8 million square kilometres in an area stretching from Alice Springs to Broome in the west, the Gulf of Carpentaria and the wetlands of Arnhem Land.

NORFORCE operates in conjunction with two other Regional Force Surveillance Units, the Pilbara regiment in WA and the 51 Far North Queensland regiment which covers Cape York, the Gulf and the Torres Strait Islands.

The unit was raised in 1981, but traces its history to the 2/1North Australia Observer Unit formed in 1942, in response to the threat to Australia’s north posed by Japan during WW II. These men, who often worked for months on end in some of the nation’s harshest and most isolated areas, were known colloquially as the ‘Nackeroos’.

Like their predecessors, their role is not to engage a hostile enemy, but instead to locate and observe them. With a core of 50 full-time personnel, most of NORFORCE’s 600 soldiers are Reservists, and almost 50 per cent are Aboriginal. The Unit celebrated its 20th anniversary of service to the Top End in July last year.

Go to Defence Website - see web link below .

Rainforests harvest the skies

UPLAND rainforests harvest vast amounts of water from the clouds in addition to what falls directly as rain, north Australian researchers have discovered, adding billions of litres of extra flow into tropical river systems. The finding has major implications for the care and management of the world’s remaining rainforests and tropical river systems, as well as global water security. Dr Reddell and Dr David McJannet lead a team in the Rainforest CRC, involving scientists from CSIRO and James Cook University. Early indications are showing that rainforests may pull up to 40 per cent more water out of the clouds than is measured as rainfall in a rain gauge.

Go to: Rainforest CRC see web link below .

VIETNAM is emerging as a potential new market for Queensland’s livestock sector with goat meat now added to shipments of live beef and dairy cattle. According to the Queensland Government, the state’s goat meat exports increased by more than $13 million last financial year. Taiwan and the United States are currently the dominant buyers of Australian goat meat, but two shipments of goat meat were recently exported to Vietnam. Australia’s total goat exports are valued at about $40 million.

Trainspotters ahoy

THE first piece of track was laid for the Adelaide to Darwin railway at a ceremony in Katherine on 8 April. NT Chief Minister Clare Martin, SA Premier Mike Rann and Senator Ron Boswell (representing the Prime Minister) unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion. The SA–NT railway is due to be finished by 2004. Track will be initially laid south of Katherine and north of Tennant Creek. Tracklaying then starts north of Katherine towards Darwin and south of Tennant Creek towards Alice Springs in 12 months.

Go to: AustralAsia Railway Corporation - see web link below .

Feral dogs

A ONE-off, large-scale dog baiting campaign is on the books for Queensland’s state parks. The campaign aims to reduce the growing population of wild dogs in the state’s west. Of the approximate 15 million ha managed by the State’s agencies about 11.4 million ha is native forest and national parks. Wild dogs are now a problem in these parks, and producers say their efforts to reduce the animals on their own properties are being undermined by those breeding and living in the state’s parks. 1080 baits will be distributed by air.