Cape York seems to go on forever — and that’s not just because the roads require a fairly gentle pace of travel. It’s big — almost 15 million hectares — but it’s sparsely populated. Just 19 thousand people call the place home, living in an area of unique beauty and sometimes confronting challenges.
One of the big talking points on Cape York right now is the prospect of the area being included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 1972, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization met in Paris and devised a process by which national governments could nominate places and structures for protection by declaring them part of the World Heritage List. Natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universal value could be listed by virtue of scientific and conservation values or natural beauty.
The Federal Government is working on a nomination for Cape York Peninsula that could be lodged with UNESCO within months, and claims to be consulting residents. The Queensland Government recently distanced itself from World Heritage consulations, but its position paper is online
There’s a diversity of views among Cape York residents on World Heritage listing. There’s support for environmental protection, but not at the cost of jobs in the few industries on the Cape – like mining, agriculture and cattle. There’s a lot of questions being asked about the way the Federal Government consultation process has been conducted. And there’s a sense that decisions are being made in Brisbane or Canberra – or the international capitals – a long way from Cape York Peninsula.
Listen to some views from the Cape on World Heritage listing.
We heard, in order, second generation cattleman Cameron Quartermaine at Watson River Station, Brad Allan at the Archer River Road House, and Glen Shephard from Lilyvale Station, near Princess Charlotte Bay, with the ABC’s Charlie McKillop.