In Western Australia, Crown (public) land comes in many flavours. They include parks, schools, and open spaces. A Class 'A' Reserve is the most highly protected class of crown land, where public consultation and acts of parliament are required to initiate changes.

Class 'A' Reserves are created for a single, specific purpose -- generally (but not necessarily) related to environmental protection. The most common uses for a Class 'A' Reserve are as a national park, nature reserve, or conservation park. Such reserves (like Rottnest Island) are havens for wildlife and indigenous flora.

In practice, A Class 'A' Reserve on status on land, means no mining, logging, or development can take place, so the forests stay where they are, no open pits mines, no concrete resorts or tract housing. A marine reserve status means no fishing and strict restrictions for ships passing through.

Of course, that doesn't mean all Class 'A' Reserves are created for altruistic purposes. It has been suggested that some are created to assist commercial interests. Barrow Island in North West of WA is a Class 'A' Reserve -- except for the bit that has the natural gas processing plant on it. The Island has been in the news recently (2005) as the State Government is planning on enlarging the plant as part of the AU$11 billion Gorgon gas field development. Some sceptics claim the Island has been designated a Class 'A' Reserve simply to grant the government more power over a particularly valuable piece of real estate.

Nonetheless, in most cases Class 'A' Reserves in the State are an excellent opportunity to interact with the Western Australian outback.

Creating a Class 'A' Reserve Class 'A' land reserves must first be proposed by the Minister for Lands. They are then created under the 1997 Lands Administration Act.

Marine reserves are proposed by the Minister for the Environment and created under the 1984 Conservation and Land Management Act. Perhaps tellingly, a marine reserve must have the consent of the Ministers for both Mines and Fisheries.

Making Changes to a Class 'A' Reserve Once a Class 'A' Reserve has been created, it can only be used for its designated purpose. Making any changes to the reserve requires an announcement be made 30 days prior to the change in a State-wide newspaper. The proposed change is then laid before both houses of State Parliament (The Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council). Either house can then disallow the change if a sitting member raises a disallowance motion within 14 days, and the motion is passed within 30 sitting days.

Current WA Class 'A' Marine Reserves

  • Marmion
  • Ningaloo
  • Rowley Shoals
  • Swan Estuary
  • Shoalwater Islands
  • Shark Bay