6th June - Buckaringa Sanctuary

Until one meets the full fury of public servants running amok then one has no idea of the destruction they can cause. If every business in Australia meets 1% of the problems Earth Sanctuaries does because of disgruntled public servants then there is no doubt why Australia is in the mess it is. On the other hand, the solution is very clear.

It is important for anyone trying to do anything in Australia that they understand the public servant mind. Otherwise they will achieve nothing. One of the problems soon encountered by Earth Sanctuaries was an increasing belief throughout society in general that Earth Sanctuaries had not been thankful for the help it had received from the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. The fact of the matter, of course, is that Earth Sanctuaries had received no help. However, that was not what was commonly thought. These feelings were summed up in February 1995 in a letter to the Mount Barker Courier from Gary Ling of Mylor. He summed it up with the phrase, “Mr Wamsley (our spelling) conveniently forgets the many thousands of dollars worth of assistance which that system (National Parks) has given to Warrawong to enable its platypus project to get off the ground... Perhaps Mr Wamsley might consider repaying some of that assistance from the large profits which he now appears to be making from keeping these animals...National Park personnel are doing their best within an organisation which  does not have the access to the unlimited funds apparently available to Mr Wamsley.”

Since this belief were causing Earth Sanctuaries considerable harm, Earth Sanctuaries offered to sue Gary Ling for defamation. He produced a remarkable document in his defence. This document had been prepared by Peter Macrow of the National Parks. Its intention was to list the support given to Earth Sanctuaries by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of South Australia. We cannot reproduce the whole document here. However, it should be compulsory reading by every schoolchild in Australia. It gives an incredible insight into the public servant mind.

It started with the statement that in 1982 Cleland (a zoo run by the SA National Parks) offered Warrawong 1 pair of swamp wallabies, 1 pair of red-necked wallabies and 3 dama wallabies. It did not say that when Warrawong turned up to get these animals they were told they were not available.

It went on to give examples of permits, management plans, etc required by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. When they used our land to release excess wildlife they were helping us. When they took animals from our land they were helping us. When they visited us to inspect us they were supporting us. It was indeed an incredible document.

When they sold us excess animals they were supporting us. The document was thinly based on fact. However, it was false, malicious and extremely damaging. When we offered to sue then for defamation they replaced the 7 page document with a 2 page document which stated that Earth Sanctuaries had given more assistance to the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service than vice versa.

The next war we were to have with the SA National Parks was to be over Buckaringa Sanctuary. This was another useful example where, in the end, it was ruled that the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service was not making decisions for the benefit of wildlife but rather to damage Earth Sanctuaries.

In 1990 a contract to purchase over 1,000 hectares at Buckaringa Gorge in the Flinders Ranges was entered into. The reason for this purchase was because the South Australian authorities had made it quite clear they would not allow native animals to be reintroduced onto Yookamurra Sanctuary. Buckaringa-Middle Gorge contained the largest remaining colony of Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies. Approximately 120 individuals lived on the ridge between Buckaringa and Middle Gorge. Removal of foxes and goats from the area would allow this colony to grow tenfold.

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Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby

at Buckaringa


Although this land was purchased legally from a farming family who had owned it for generations, the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service stated, quite clearly, they would not allow the transfer of title on this land. At that time, at Port Augusta the people responsible for Buckaringa Sanctuary, the Department of Environment and the Department of Lands occupied the same building and had the same head.

In 1992 an application was made to the South Australian Planning Commission to develop an Earth Sanctuary at Buckaringa. This development included fencing the whole 1,600 hectares with feral-proof fencing, eradication of ferals and using about 40 hectares as an eco-tourism development to fund the ongoing care of the area.

The application was opposed by the “Resource Conservation Management Division of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in South Australia (National Parks and Wildlife Service) and the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia. Both made identical submissions. This gives a better understanding of how the National Parks and Wildlife Service operates. Since they are part of the public service, they are not supposed to have a public opinion, so they formed a charity called the Nature Conservation Society which then becomes the political arm of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Then, when they want to argue something they put forward their own argument and the same argument via the Nature Conservation Society. Then the public think that the argument is being put forward by both the greenies and the government.

The important part here is that they both opposed the feral fencing of the whole area. Two years of public arguing followed with the officers of the National Parks and Wildlife Service swearing that they were giving an opinion based on what was best for the colony of yellow-footed rock-wallabies living at Buckaringa.

When the Development Assessment Commission handed down its opinion in 1994, it stated quite clearly that it did not believe the submissions put forward by the National Parks and the Nature Conservation Society. In fact it stated that “No construction work relating to the ancillary tourist accommodation shall occur until the proposed vermin proof fence has been erected and is functioning in a satisfactory manner.” It further stated that it had given this consent because “Sanctuary development promotes the conservation objectives of the Development Plan”

This is extremely important because here is a case of a government department ruling that another government department is not acting in the interests of that other department. The National Parks and Wildlife Service, in this case, was proven to be acting purely for malicious reasons against Earth Sanctuaries.

Normally, compensation would result from such a decision.

The greatest bit of bureaucratic nonsense I have ever seen was about to befall us. To develop Buckaringa Sanctuary we had to close the gorge itself to public thoroughfare. The road through Buckaringa Gorge was a bush track. It displayed a council sign which said, “Dry weather road only”. However it serviced the back door of two sheep stations and they required access. It was therefore necessary for us to construct a road to bypass the sanctuary. To replace the existing road with a road of equal standard would have cost about $25,000.

However, you cannot replace a road with a road of equivalent standard. Oh! No! You can only build roads up to minimum standards. To replace the road would cost $600,000. I approached the Minister for Tourism in South Australia. I argued that since the cost of this road was almost totally due to government policy and since the road went nowhere anyway, it was reasonable for the government to bear some of the cost. The SA Government paid $200,000 towards the cost of the road. Earth Sanctuaries paid a further $400,000 towards the construction of the road. Since it was a bit embarrassing to spend so much on a road to nowhere we also purchased land for a lookout at the top of the road.

The incredible result is that this expenditure is not looked on as us spending $400,000 on a government owned road going to a public lookout. We are told that it goes down on the record as the government giving us $200,000 in assistance to developing our sanctuaries. Therefore we are told we are not able to gain further assistance since we have already had our share.

It was at Buckaringa that our present day war with Adelaide Zoo was to commence in earnest. On a visit to Buckaringa Sanctuary, Proo and I were amazed to see staff from Adelaide Zoo catching yellow-footed rock-wallabies on our land without either our approval or knowledge. This would be exactly the same as our staff entering the Zoo and stealing their animals.

I approached them, took their photographs and asked them what they were doing. I gave them the choice of appearing on the front page of every newspaper in the world or negotiating a reasonable reintroduction program for our rare and endangered wildlife. They chose the latter. I was silly enough to believe them. This prompted them to release stone curlews at Yookamurra Sanctuary. However, they made sure the release failed. The promised bustards never materialised and the whole agreement fell into tatters when the CEO of Adelaide Zoo wrote a letter to the Adelaide Advertiser abusing me over a comment I had made about zoos many years before.

Whereas in the 1980’s the scams came from the private sector, that has changed today. The Australian Securities Commission has done an excellent job in restoring our faith in business. However, no-one has worried about the public sector or the so-called NGOs. There would be more scams centred on wildlife today than anything else. Anyone can call themselves a fancy name, register as a charity, get tax-deductible donations and do what they like with the money.

So, we have Wallaby Watch travelling the world watching wallabies, the Bilby Recovery Group travelling the world talking about bilbies, etc. We even have the Great Chocolate Easter Bilby Scam, collecting money from the sale of chocolate bilbies to spend on collecting money from the sale of chocolate bilbies.

One thing is certain. Very little, if any, of the money donated to an NGO involved in conservation actually finds its target. Our Federal Government spent $1 billion from the sale of TELSTRA on the environment. It would be interesting to see an honest breakdown of what is actually achieved in the end. The problem being that we measure the result by expenditure in dollars rather than gains made.

We may as well have a great bonfire each year and burn a few billion dollars in the name of the environment. The results would be the same. In Australia today, the biggest wildlife scams must be those run by our zoos.

Here in South Australia we have a problem with feral koalas on Kangaroo Island. At present we are spending a fortune on desexing some of them and thereby we are solving the problem. Of course we are not. It is really just a bit of Wotton-Hill nonsense. However, I think everyone agrees that koalas should never have been put on Kangaroo Island in the first place.

It is very important that we learn by our mistakes, especially in relation to putting animals where they once did not live. In South Australia they are about to repeat this mistake by putting bilbies on Thistle Island.

There are very good reasons why bilbies never lived on offshore islands. There are also reasons why our sea birds nest on offshore islands. It is because there were no bilbies there. Bilbies will eat birds and their eggs if they get a chance. Yet this vandalism is not being carried out by some money hungry private sector developer. It is being carried out by the South Australian Government.