On TRACK for better river and coastal management in tropical Australia 


Charles Darwin University (CDU) researchers will play a leading role in a major new multi-million dollar research initiative focusing on Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRACK).

The renewed interest in waterways of the tropical north follows the announcement yesterday by Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell of $8 million for the establishment of a world-class research hub funded from the Commonwealth Environmental Research Facility (CERF) program.

The TRACK research hub, to be physically hosted at CDU Casuarina campus, was one of three selected from almost 150 proposals. It is led by Dr Michael Douglas and Prof. Stephen Garnett from CDU, Prof. Stuart Bunn from Griffith University, Prof. Peter Davies from University of Western Australia, Assoc. Prof. Jon Olley from CSIRO, Joe Morrison from the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance and CRC Tropical Savannas Management and Jim Donaldson from Land & Water Australia.

The $8 million to be provided by CERF over the next 4 years will complement a $3 million investment from Land & Water Australia and substantial support from the TRACK partners, including $4.8 million in kind from the NT Government.

CDU Vice-Chancellor Prof. Helen Garnett said the TRACK research hub is of vital importance to the future development of the Territory if we are to avoid the environmental degradation that has occurred elsewhere in Australia.

“There is increasing pressure on the water resources in northern Australia as water becomes scarce in the rest of the country. This project will assist in the future management and planning for these resources,” Professor Garnett said.

“We have an historic opportunity to get it right in northern Australia and to avoid mistakes made elsewhere,” said CDU Water Research Theme Leader Dr Michael Douglas. “But to do this requires a much better understanding of how Australia’s tropical rivers and coasts work and to ensure that developments will be sustainable in the long-term.”

The TRACK research hub aims to increase our knowledge of the important natural assets and ecosystem services provided by tropical rivers and coasts; understand the implications of potential developments and identify opportunities to foster genuinely sustainable enterprises in the region.

A critical feature of the research will be engagement with Indigenous people, who own and manage large parts of the region’s catchments and coasts.

“Indigenous knowledge is of paramount importance to natural resource management in northern Australia,” said Joe Morrison, Executive Officer of the North Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance. “The involvement of NAILSMA in the TRACK consortium will ensure substantial Indigenous involvement in all programs.”

The TRACK research hub has been developed under the Tropical Science Knowledge and Innovation collaborative framework between the NT, Queensland and WA governments and was assisted by funding from the NT Research and Innovation Board.

“Many of the same issues affect all of Australia’s tropical jurisdictions,” said Professor Stephen Garnett, Professor of Tropical Knowledge at CDU, “the TRACK research hub will greatly improve the level of co-ordination in research and management of the rivers and coasts across the region.”

The TRACK research hub will bring together over 50 leading tropical river and coastal researchers and managers from 10 agencies across Australia to focus on the sustainability of rivers and catchments from Cape York to Broome.

The TRACK research hub will draw on Land & Water Australia’s considerable experience and expertise in managing national, integrated, research programs.
For further information, contact:

Dr Michael Douglas, Theme Leader, Aquatic Ecosystems and Water Resources (Charles Darwin University, Darwin) - Ph: 08 89 467 261, or 0408 467 000
Professor Stephen Garnett, Professor of Tropical Knowledge (Charles Darwin University, Darwin) - Ph: 08 89467115, or 0408832109
Mr Joe Morrison, Executive Officer, NAILSMA, Darwin - Ph: 08 8946 6702
Christine Bond, CDU Media Manager - Ph: 08 8946 6019, or 0438 868 048