Defence suspends its hazard reduction operation
The Defence Practice Area Exclusion Zone in place around Quail, Bare Sand and Djadjalbit islands has now been suspended with the onset of the wet season in the Top End. Almost half of Quail Island has now been cleared, but some deeper items will need to be exposed using an excavator or backhoe. Operations are planned to resume in April 2013.
UpdateThe exclusion zone is a circle of 5,500 metres radius from the centre of Quail Island and a similar height (18,000 feet) over that circle. Please refer to Newsletter 9 for more information.
As part of the process towards finalising grant of recommended areas claimed in the Kenbi (Cox Peninsula) land claim under the Commonwealth Government’s Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, the Northern Territory has been working with the Northern Land Council representing Traditional Owners, and the Commonwealth Government, to resolve associated issues.
Quail, Bare Sand, and Djajalbit Islands located in Bynoe Harbour 50km southwest of Darwin are all part of the Kenbi claim, being unalienated Crown land. Nevertheless, since 1910 these islands (together with the northern tip of Grose Island) have been under Commonwealth control as a ‘defence practice area’ (all land and water within a radius of 5,500m from the centre of Quail Island) and since 1957 reserved by declaration for defence practice purposes, including use as a bombing area and for air-to-surface weapons firing. The defence practice area is administered by the Department of Defence.
A number of bombs did not explode and remain buried. This is known as Unexploded Ordnance (UXO), which poses a risk to anyone entering the area and can remain in a dangerous condition indefinitely. The slightest disturbance by movement, vibration or temperature extremes may cause UXO to explode. Defence has rated the risk of unexploded bombs in the area as substantial.
The defence practice area is no longer required for that purpose, and the first stage of the Quail Island hazard reduction operation has commenced to enable remediation of the area and render it safe for visiting. The Northern Territory and the Northern Land Council support commencement of rehabilitation and the necessary exclusion of persons from the area between 9 May 2011 – 31 October 2011 this dry season. The Department of Defence has given notice of its Mitigation of Unexploded Ordnance at Quail Island, and that persons found trespassing within the Quail Island Defence Practice Area exclusion zone may be prosecuted. The exclusion zone extends for 5.5km from 130°25’48” E 12°31’19” S as depicted in the map below.
Bare Sand Island in particular presents a natural harbour for yachts, its turtle nesting and visitation sites are of valuable ecological interest and the area is popular for fishing. Indigenous, tourism and recreational interests will all benefit from the safer environment to be brought about by the hazard reduction operation. Persons wishing to find out more about the progress of this program running over three dry seasons, the exclusion zone, or negotiation of access on a strict conditional basis, should follow this link.