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Located in the northern Flinders Ranges, Arkaroola is widely recognised for its outstanding geological, paleontological, biodiversity, conservation, landscape, wilderness, cultural, educational and tourism values.

The Arkaroola area is primarily part of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, a pastoral lease that has not been stocked for over 30 years and primarily managed for conservation and tourism.

Community interest and debate about the conservation of Arkaroola led to the State Government preparing a draft policy document, Seeking a Balance, proposing future management arrangements for balancing mining and conservation. The policy was released for consultation in late 2009 with the purpose of applying a higher level of regulation and more specific locational controls on exploration and mining activities, and engaging with the community on land access and mining regulation. By the close of consultation, 485 submissions were received which led to further consultation with directly affected parties about the conservation management framework for Arkaroola.

On 22 July 2011, the South Australian Government announced that Arkaroola would be permanently protected through the establishment of the Arkaroola Protection Area. The area comprises most of the Arkaroola Pastoral Lease and also includes the Mawson Plateau region of the Mount Freeling Pastoral Lease. The area is approximately 590 km² (view map).

The following steps have been made in order to protect the area:
  • The Arkaroola land was reserved from the operation of the Mining Act 1971 and the Opal Mining Act 1995 by a proclamation of the Governor (no such mechanism exists in the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000). This was done on 29 July 2011 in the Government Gazette.
  • The Arkaroola Protection Act 2012 was developed and came into operation on 26 April 2012. The purpose of this Act is to establish the Arkaroola Protection Area; to provide for the proper management and care of the area; and to prohibit mining activities in the area.
  • The area entered in the State Heritage Register on 27 July 2012.
  • The area was nominated for National Heritage Listing in February 2012 and will be considered by the Australian Heritage Council for inclusion in its 2013/14 work plan. The details of the nomination have been entered in the Australian Heritage Database and can be viewed here. There is also the view to have the area placed on Australia’s Tentative List for World Heritage.

The Arkaroola Protection Area meets international and national standards for what is considered a protected area. Indeed, not only does it meet the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) definition of a protected area, but the Arkaroola Protection Area specifically meets the definition of a “category II National Park” under the IUCN framework. The Arkaroola Protection Act 2012 is therefore unique in establishing the Arkaroola Protection Area with the same legal status in South Australia as a National Park under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.