The Cape York NRM region (137,000 km2) extends north from the Mitchell River catchment to ‘The Tip’ of Cape York Peninsula. It encompasses diverse landscapes including 16 complete river basins with their systems virtually unmodified (the Annan River being the exception). The region contains 30 broad vegetation groups including 72 different types of rainforest comprising 20% of Australia’s remaining rainforest.
An area of the Mitchell River catchment north of the “CYPLUS” line (Figure 1) is known as the Joint Management Area (JMA). Both Cape York NRM and Northern Gulf Resource Management Group (NGRMG) have community, industry and government engagement responsibilities within the JMA. Both organizations apply for funding and manage projects within the JMA in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding (dated 7th June 2011).
Although much of the biodiversity has yet to be systematically surveyed, Cape York is known to have 3338 terrestrial plant species (379 of which are listed as rare and threatened and 264 of which are only found in Cape York). Cape York’s diverse fauna includes 60% of Australia’s butterflies, 25% of the frog species, 25% of the reptile species, 50% of the bird species and 33% of the mammals and the richest freshwater fauna in Australia (88 species, 41 of which are only found in Cape York).
Cape York has a rich historical and living cultural landscape. There are about 45 distinct Aboriginal languages with several hundred dialects. The diversity of its ecological zones – drier central highland, wetter northern region and wetter and more continuous rainfall in the east – has allowed for the development of contrasting kinds of cultural landscapes. The way water moves across the landscape is the basis underpinning Cape York’s clan estates, language groups and regional alliance groups.
The population of Cape York in 2011 was 15,400 56% of whom are Indigenous (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012). Most people live in towns and there is a high level of unemployment (16%) (Chester & Driml 2012). There are 10 local governments (8 of which are Indigenous). The major primary industry based on both land use and income is cattle grazing. The other main industries include mining, horticulture, tourism and commercial fishing.
Land use includes 14.3% national park, 23.3% Aboriginal Shire Lease, DOGIT or Land Trust, 52.9% is leasehold (with 33.9% pastoral lease). Less than 1% of Cape York is freehold land
(Chester & Driml 2012).