Monday, 27 February 2012

Labor plans eight more Wild Rivers

Daniel Strudwick 
Monday, February 27, 2011
© The Cairns Post

Labor would expand its controversial Wild Rivers program if re-elected, declaring protections for eight more Cape York wetlands including the state's largest perennial river.

The laws have been criticised by prominent indigenous groups and the Liberal National Party, which has vowed to overturn Wild Rivers declarations on the Cape if elected next month.

On Saturday, Premier Anna Bligh threw a fishing line into the Coleman River at Pormpuraaw, which is one of three Far Northern ecosystems to be protected by Wild Rivers legislation during the next term of government under Labor.

Ms Bligh said she also wanted to start the declaration process for the Jannie, Jacky Jacky, Ducie, Jardine and Holroyd rivers. The environmental controls were introduced by the former Beattie Government to protect Queensland’s unspoilt river systems from the damaging effects of development such as mining and damming.

Thirteen river systems are currently controlled under Wild Rivers laws. "They are some of the most pristine river systems in Australia and all of them are home to very special and, in some cases, very unique flora and fauna," Ms Bligh said.

Campbell Newman’s LNP will scrap Wild Rivers in favour of its own policy to protect sensitive river systems through consultation with locals and stakeholders.
"Unlike Labor, the LNP will not adopt a one size fits all policy," the party’s environment spokesman Andrew Powell said.

But Ms Bligh insists the Government has a "special duty" to protect pristine river systems.
She said Labor would appoint an extra 50 Wild Rivers rangers by 2015, doubling the number of indigenous rangers employed under the program. "We want to make sure that these river systems are looked after by traditional owners and indigenous people through the Wild Rivers program and we want to make sure they’re protected from over-development," she said. "A Wild River declaration doesn’t mean that you can’t do things on this river system, it just means you can’t do things that interfere with the flow of the river."
The announcement was welcomed by the Wilderness Society and Queensland Greens, even though it falls short of Labor’s 2004 commitment to have 19 rivers protected during that term of government.

"It’s five years late, and the target has not yet been met, but at least we’re moving in the right direction," Greens spokesman Adam Scott said.
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