13-Jul-2005 - As the previous incomplete visit established, this Confluence Point lies inside the Australian Defence Force Mount Bundey Military Training Area (MBTA) where access is strictly controlled. However, Defence came to the party and we found them to be most reasonable, accommodating, helpful and deadly efficient throughout.
Thank you ADF, my sincere thanks for supporting this confluence visit because we caused you quite a bit of work; we are impressed not only with your efficiency but with your consideration and flexibility.
My two page application, complete with maps, received the following rather awesome response:
“Your request to access the MBTA to undertake an activity under the auspices of the degree confluence project is granted based on your party agreeing to the following conditions:
a. Access will only be allowed when military use of the TA provides a safe window of opportunity for the activity;
b. Access will only be allowed at a time when Range Safety staff are available in location to monitor and control the activity;
c. All persons involved in the activity must formally sign the attached MBTA General Access Request and agree to abide by conditions of entry as stipulated in Range Standing Orders;
d. All persons involved in the activity must indemnify the Commonwealth against all acts of negligence, deliberate act and/or omission as detailed within the attached MBTA General Access Request;
e. You may be required to accept conditions stipulated within an Environmental Certificate of Compliance for any activities conducted by you on the TA;
f. Before you enter the TA, you will be required to attend a safety briefing at Range Control and be prepared to meet a number of safety criteria, these may include reporting onto and off the range, your being escorted during periods of access into any areas of potential danger and the maintenance of communication schedules while on the TA.
I wish you all the best with your project.”
Well, we were happy to do all of those things and more but we still couldn’t get in for three months because the Northern Territory Government had closed the only access, the gravelled Jim Jim Road, because of Wet season flooding. Then there was an armoured regiment in there training for Iraq. As a result this project stalled awhile.
Once the landscape had dried out, and 2nd Cavalry had gone to Iraq, Range Control at Robertson Barracks, Darwin checked us out and decided that we could be trusted on range unescorted but would carry a radio and report throughout. We also got permission to cross the perimeter fence, at just the point we wanted to instead of using the gates; this cut our walking down to 14.7 kilometres and meant we could get my definitely non-4WD station wagon right up to the entry point on a now reopened and nicely regraded Jim Jim Road.
Range Control also moved some feral pig shooting contractors out of our sector for the day in case we looked too much like pigs. So, drive two hours from Darwin, check in at the MBTA, pick up the radio, get a briefing, twenty-two kilometres down the gravel road, slip through the perimeter fence at a gully crossing and we are on our way.
We first tried following this nice, shady dry gully but it meandered around and didn’t stay so dry, reverting to billabong and buffalo wallow at intervals. It forced us to climb out and wade through kilometres of this dry spear grass instead. The grass was tedious but large sections of it had burnt out and the going there was easy enough.
Steve took us on a compass bearing for three kilometres without any correction from me and the GPS and passed within eight metres of the CP! Not bad through trees where you can’t walk in a straight line and good training for our next week’s rogaining. Got in, got out, celebrated at the Bark Hut Inn on the Arnhem Highway on the way home, back in Darwin in time for tea, no problems, another mission accomplished.
A military training range doesn't immediately suggest itself as a wildlife refuge but this often seems to be the case and is certainly so at Mt. Bundey; the ADF is extremely environmentally aware and looks after this piece of Australia very carefully. The range effectively fences off a huge area of the Northern Territory and tightly controls any human activity inside so that there is little or no adverse effect on the local flora and fauna; in fact, by controlling feral pig and buffalo and managing a fire regime it is probably better off than if it were left truly wild.
The MBTA is right next to Kakadu National Park but is of great natural significance in its own right. It is a refuge for the endangered Gouldian finch and provides a valuable early Wet season feeding and breeding habitat for waterbirds, crocodiles and amphibians. It contains a high diversity of significant fauna habitats including the seasonal Melaleuca and grassland floodplains, which we walked through, and the permanent waterholes in the Mary and Wildman Rivers, which provide valuable Dry season refuges. It also supports ecologically and botanically significant monsoon rainforest patches, which form less than 0.2 per cent of the vegetation cover in the Northern Territory and provide important seasonal refuge for species such as the Rufous owl.
I think that the Australian Defence Force would appreciate it if this CP was considered done once and for all; we used up quite a bit of their time facilitating this access and although Defence was faultlessly supportive first time around I would have every sympathy with them if they were less enthusiastic about a repeat. If it is ever done again I would leave it to the ADF to do it themselves.
...and don’t even think of doing this on the sly and go trespassing. Even if you manage not to get shot, lasered, blown up or run over by an ASLAV the ADF will become very interested in you. They keep close watch over this range and for good reason, when confluence hunters aren’t here this is one of the things that goes on . The 2nd Cavalry Regiment shown here at Mt Bundey in 2004 was training for Iraq and was deployed with the Al Muthanna Task Group, Iraq at the time of this posting. This range is serious.
Coordinator's Note: As this point is inside an active military training area we would discourage future visits to this confluence point.