The Simpson Desert is truly spectacular. It is one of the largest areas of high-quality wilderness left in Australia, being almost three times the size of Tasmania. Of particular importance is the southern Simpson Desert - the Kallakoopah region.
The Simpson is subject to boom and bust climatic cycles, where droughts are followed by massive flooding events that bring the desert to life. Birds visit from all over Australia resulting in spectacular breeding events. Very little of the Simpson is formally protected.
In the lead up to the 2010 South Australian election, both the Labor and Liberal parties committed to progressing the Simpson Desert for Wilderness Protection. The declaration of a Wilderness Protection Area in the Simpson will deliver on the State’s NatureLinks Program and the Trans Australia EcoLink, a collaborative project between the SA and NT governments.
This is an opportunity to create one of the largest biodiversity corridors in the world.
The Simpson is home to a diverse range of plants and animals. Endless dune systems range in colour from burnt orange, through yellow to the white sands on the bank of the Kallakoopah Creek. Floodplains and salt lakes are important water sources following large, but infrequent rainfall events
that bring the desert to life. At this time a carpet of beautifully coloured wildflowers blanket what is the largest parallel dune system in the world.
The SA section of the Simpson Desert is the traditional lands of the Wangkangurru / Yarliyandi people. They maintain a strong connection with country and their stories are interconnected with the landscape. Many remain in the region in places such as Birdsville, Bedourie and Alice Springs.
Traditional life in an arid environment depended largely on a handful of mikiri – freshwater soaks that offered permanent water. Claypans, swamps and small salt lakes were important as secondary sources of food and water. These sources, along with rivers such as the Kallakoopah, Warburton, Macumba and Eyre Creek enabled travel through country.
Some of Australia’s famous early explorers, including Captain Charles Sturt and Burke & Wills were
defeated when they encountered the Simpson Desert. The first successful crossing by a European occured in 1936 by experienced bushman Ted Colson with the help of Peter Ains, an Aboriginal man from Oodnadatta. In 1939 the first biological survey of the desert was conducted by a team lead by Cecil Madigan.
Today, “Crossing the Simpson” is regarded as one of Australia’s great outback expeditions, attracting increasing numbers of people seeking a genuine wilderness experience in an iconic and remote landscape.
Threat of Mining/Petroleum
Mining and petroleum exploration has increased exponentially in recent years. There are currently three mining applications proposed for the Kallakoopah region of the desert. Coal was identified beneath the Simpson Desert many years ago; it is very deep and of a low grade.
Today, some companies believe that coal can be harnessed by contentious methods including coal seam gas / fracking and underground coal gasification. These technologies pose significant contamination risks to underground water resources, including the Great Artesian Basin.
What you can do to help
Call on the South Australian Government to proclaim a Wilderness Protection Area in the Simpson Desert. Write to the Premier, the Environment Minister and the Mining Minister and let them know the Simpson Desert is too precious to mine.
Hon. Jay Weatherill MP, Premier
E-mail: submit online to www.premier.sa.gov.au
Write: GPO Box 2343, Adelaide, SA, 5001
Call: (08) 8463 3166
Hon. Ian Hunter, Minister for Environment
Write: GPO Box 1047, Adelaide, SA, 5001
Call: (08) 8463 5680
Hon. Tom Koutsantonis MP, Minister for Mining
Write: GPO Box 2832, Adelaide, SA, 5001
Call: (08) 8463 6560
You can also visit your local member of Parliament.