Queensland’s Wild Rivers Act was a contentious creature long before then premier Peter Beattie steered it through Parliament in 2005, with strong support from the Wilderness Society. Environmentalists loved it. Opponents said it sold out far north Queensland in return for “green” electoral support in the south-east corner. Cape York people said it restricted economic opportunities, especially for indigenous folk.
The Wild Rivers Act said the Government could regulate or prohibit “certain activities” on or near rivers that met certain environmental criteria by declaring them to be “wild rivers”. Several Cape York rivers have since been declared “wild rivers”.
The new Queensland Government had said it would review the Act and withdraw the declarations made under it. Since taking office, the Government is on record as saying it will replace the “wild rivers” process with a Cape York bio-regional plan. Work has commenced on that plan.
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Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps says “wild rivers” was a politically driven process. Mr Cripps has told ABC Far North its replacement will consider Cape York mining and other development proposals “on their merits” and “politics won’t be getting in the road”.
Click on the audio player to hear Andrew Cripps with our reporter Nikolai Beilharz.
The first project likely to be considered under the new system is Cape Alumina’s Pisolite Hills bauxite mine, on hold since the Wenlock River was declared a wild river in 2010. Cape Alumina M.D Graeme Sherlock explains the project to the ABC’s Lauren Day.
The Wilderness Society’s Gavin McFajin says the Pisolite Hills project should not go ahead.
For more on this issue go to http://www.abc.net.au/rural/regions/farnorthnorthqueensland/