The Pilbara is special to each of us

The Enduring Pilbara report, an initiative of Partnership for the Outback, brings together sound scholarship and ground-truthed awareness of local challenges and opportunities as the basis for an inspiring but realistic conservation vision for the Pilbara. It is a vision we support and an important step forward in the collective effort to achieve sustainable outcomes for the Pilbara that acknowledge nature.

The Enduring Pilbara is also a benchmark reference document for those seeking to understand and manage the Pilbara’s magnificent environment, its threats and opportunities. The report recognises the complexities and uniqueness of the Pilbara’s landscape and ecology and its enduring First Nations peoples, their rights and connections to Country, and their pivotal place in the emerging Pilbara conservation, land management and restoration economies. The Pilbara is special to each of us.

Importantly, the report also grapples with economic realities – recognising that mining and pastoralism will continue to be dominant land uses and economic mainstays and calculating the investments needed to also build a thriving conservation economy, which would support and complement existing industries. We believe that the vision of the report is highly ambitious but achievable:

By 2031 the Pilbara is the world-leading exemplar of landscape-scale conservation in a region of critical economic importance. Cultural and conservation land management is comprehensively implemented across all tenures, delivered through partnerships between Traditional Owners, industry, government and community.

The report aligns with much existing work, including our own. As the world moves rapidly towards decarbonised economies, the Pilbara must illustrate how that transition can be realised, especially given its crucial role in the wider Australian economy. The move to a renewable energy net zero economy and the other big transitions needed for sustainability require effective partnerships between government, industry and community. Partnerships are the bedrock of the conservation vision in the Enduring Pilbara report.

Although much touted, achieving effective partnerships is challenging – they require genuine commitments and considerable investment of time, energy and funding. The partnerships needed to achieve landscape-scale cultural and conservation land management in the Pilbara will need support to sustainably lift the capacity and capability of Traditional Owners, and also, just as importantly, investment in the capacity and willingness of state agencies, pastoralists and miners to jointly manage with Traditional Owners the land and its inherent cultural and natural values.

We encourage all those who care for and have interests in the Pilbara’s land and waters to read the Enduring Pilbara report and embrace its vision.

Professor Stephen van Leeuwen is the BHP Curtin Indigenous Chair of Biodiversity and Environmental Science at Curtin University. He is a respected South West Boojarah Wardandi Noongar leader with a profound respect for Country who engages and builds collaborative relationships with Traditional Owners and other land managers to co-deliver novel and enduring outcomes for biodiversity conservation, bio-cultural land management, and the stewardship of Country. He has a diverse research pedigree extending from threatened flora survey, fire ecology and threatened flora and fauna management through to biological survey, arid zone ecology, plant taxonomy and pollination biology.

Professor Peter Newman AO is Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University. He has written 23 books and over 400 papers on sustainable cities and regions. He has worked to deliver these ideas at all levels of government, including as an advisor to three premiers and on the Board of Infrastructure Australia and the Prime Minister’s Cities Reference Group. He is the Co-ordinating Lead Author for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Transport. In 2014 Peter was awarded an Order of Australia for his contributions to urban design and sustainable transport. In 2018/19 he was the WA Scientist of the Year.