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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    The Honourable Vicky Darling


    The Honourable Vicky Darling

    Saturday, December 10, 2011


    Queensland’s iconic ‘Channel Country’ – the Lake Eyre Basin – will be protected from large dams and unsustainable industrial development under landmark Wild River declarations, Environment Minister Vicky Darling announced today.

    Ms Darling said the Bligh Government intended to make three Wild River declarations - the Cooper Creek, Georgina and Diamantina catchments.

    She said they would be complete with a squad of 10 Indigenous wild river rangers patrolling the region as guardians of its unique natural and ecological qualities.

    “This will be a watershed moment for the mighty Lake Eyre Basin in Queensland and its environmental protection now and into the future,” Ms Darling said.

    “It will also be a loud and clear show of praise and respectful recognition of the past and current custodianship of Traditional Owners and landholders who have looked after this river system for many generations.

    “This declaration will protect the proud legacy of good land management across the basin.

    “This is an election commitment we gave in 2009 and we intend to deliver it.

    “Only a Labor Government puts a premium on the ongoing sustainability of Queensland’s pristine river systems. Only a Labor Government will act to protect them.

    “The 1.2 million-square-kilometre Lake Eyre Basin is Australia’s largest inland river system (more than 500,000 square kilometres in Queensland) and does not have any major weirs or dams in Queensland.

    “It contains globally unique and largely intact ecosystems with extensive floodplains and wetland habitats.

    “In addition, it is essential habitat for a rich variety of native wildlife such as the Cooper Creek Catfish, the Cooper Creek Turtle, the Lake Eyre Yellowbelly, the bilby and the dunnart.

    “But all three basins have also supported a highly successful grazing industry for more than 150 years.

    “Put simply, they’ve been the lifeblood of far western Queensland.

    “But more recently its exposure to the threats of industrial expansion has become clear and imminent. In particular the petroleum and gas sector emerged as a common concern throughout the consultation period.

    “Our Government believes the sector has a place in the region, but it must not threaten the very values that have allowed traditional industries, particularly grazing, to thrive and native wildlife to flourish.

    “That is why Wild River declarations for the region will impose buffer zones from watercourses for development within the most sensitive and valuable areas.

    “That will strike a good balance between conservation and economic development by retaining natural flows and river processes including the famous “boom and bust” ecological phenomena that occurs in far western Queensland.”

    Specifically the new protection will:

    • Prevent open cut mines, large dams, irrigation and gas and petroleum production in areas known as High Preservation Areas (3.6 per cent of the Queensland Lake Eyre Basin);
    • Prevent open cut mines, large dams and irrigation in an areas known as Special Floodplain Management Areas (6.8 per cent of the Queensland Lake Eyre Basin);
    • Require gas and petroleum production and exploration to be 200 metres away from watercourses in the Special Floodplain Management Area; and
    • Put strict conditions on limited gas and petroleum activities in the Special Floodplain Management Area to ensure that wild river values are protected.

    Ms Darling said the declaration would allow all existing approved activities in all areas to continue.

    “Responsible grazing has ensured Lake Eyre remains in very good condition. Why would we do anything to threaten or penalise this sector for the excellent stewardship of this precious natural resource?” she said.

    “The declarations will protect the natural capital that supports the grazing and tourism industries and have contributed to the legendary status of this iconic part of Queensland.

    “This declaration will ensure the biodiversity and cultural heritage is protected, and that any developments are undertaken responsibly, without detriment to the natural values of the river systems.”

    Ms Darling said a 200 megalitre Indigenous water reserve had also been established under the Cooper Creek Water Resource Plan following extensive consultation with Traditional Owners.

    “This reserve can be used for commercial purposes to help Aboriginal people achieve their economic and social aspirations,” she said

    “We are conscious of the needs of indigenous communities in the area and will continue to work with them as the plan is implemented. Another demonstration of our commitment towards indigenous employment opportunities in the region is our plan to appoint indigenous wild river rangers for the region.”

    Ms Darling said the wild river declarations have no bearing on native title.

    “In fact, the rights of the Indigenous communities who have long standing connections with the wild river area are enshrined in the Wild Rivers Act,” she said.

    “The declaration will allow for economic development opportunities to occur in harmony with a healthy river environment.

    “Day-to-day pastoral activities and traditional Indigenous practices like hunting, fishing and gathering materials such as ochre, bark, traditional medicines and the growing of community gardens for domestic purposes will also continue to occur.”

    Consultation on potential wild river declarations for Lake Eyre began in 2009 and has involved extensive engagement with more than 140 meetings and the formation of the Lake Eyre Basin Wild Rivers Advisory Panel comprising 15 stakeholder representatives.

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