Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board Annual Report, 5 October 2012—30 September 2013

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Contents

  • Chair’s report
  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • WPA overview
  • Economic potential
  • Legislative package
  • Advisory Board meetings
  • Facts and figures
  • Defence use
  • Users views on co-existence
  • Conclusion
  • Attachment A - WPA Advisory Board Terms Of Reference

Executive summary

On 17 May 2010 the Government commissioned a Review to consider how to use the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) in a way that ensured that both its national security and full economic potential were realised. The Review recommended the establishment of the WPA Advisory Board.

The Australian Government subsequently established the WPA Advisory Board in October 2012. In accordance with the Board’s Terms of Reference (PDF) this report fulfils the requirement to report annually on the balance of interests in the WPA.

The Review concluded that the WPA is an important asset in the national interest, but that its full potential is not being realised. It was evident that introducing a comprehensive range management framework would improve the co-existence of national security and economic interests in the WPA.

The South Australian Government and Geoscience Australia have assessed that over the next decade about $35 billion worth of iron ore, gold and other mineral resources are potentially exploitable from within the WPA.

Most of the WPA is South Australian Crown land and is covered by pastoral leases and exploration and mining tenements granted by the South Australian Government. The WPA contains Indigenous freehold title, recognised traditional owners and claimants and significant Indigenous heritage sites. There are native title rights, interests and claims over most of the WPA.

Key transport infrastructure, including the Stuart Highway and the Adelaide to Darwin railway, bisect the WPA.

To implement the co-existence approach, the Review recommended that access be regulated by a model of zones and exclusion periods that recognises the frequency and location of Defence testing, its safety and security requirements, and that some areas within the WPA are used more often than others. These provisions would give non-Defence users greater certainty by granting guaranteed access to parts of the WPA for set periods of time.

It is necessary to suspend WPA access to ensure safety and/or security during Defence test and evaluation activities. During the reporting period a combination of pastoralist evacuation and/or activity restrictions were undertaken including road blocks for both major and minor roads.

During the reporting period work has continued on the development of a legislated permit scheme which would contribute to the co-existence framework. Defence has also been working with existing users to clarify their access arrangements.

The Board invited non-Defence users of the WPA to provide their views on access to and operating in the WPA during the reporting period. Overall the comments were positive, with comments largely focussing on the communication with, and support given by, the Woomera Test Range (WTR) and WPACO. Concerns were minimal and focussed on:

  • arrangements for emergency access
  • Approved Personnel applications
  • evacuation periods
  • future mine feasibility given evacuation requirements, and the
  • request for continued consultation.