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Issue #1633      April 2, 2014

Hackles raised over draft Cape York plan

Traditional owner (TO) groups on Cape York are up in arms about the draft Cape York Regional Plan, saying it lacks protection for cultural and environmental heritage and was written without sufficient consultation.

Pormpuraaw TOs have gone as far as to completely reject the draft plan.

The Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Council, Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) Trustees and TOs have demanded a veto against mining, exploration and dams.

A written statement accuses the Queensland government of being “one-eyed” in a 10-year battle to ban mining and promote conservation investment across the Pormpuraaw region. “Our people were ready to get on board with Wild Rivers,” the statement says. “We are for protecting our untouched rivers so they keep flowing all year round.

“We do not want water to be taken from our rivers for mining, exploration or dams. We worry for the top catchments of our big rivers as they are undisturbed by development with good clean water.”

Pressure is building on the Queensland government to extend consultation on the regional plan beyond the March 25 deadline, after promises were made to TOs in Mareeba.

“On our homelands there can be no mining, no exploration, no dams,” the Pormpuraaw statement says. “We reject the draft regional plan as it is today.

“The Queensland government must respect our community’s wishes. It must not take preference over us.

“But the Queensland government has been listening to outside interests. It has listened to our community with only one ear. We want small-scale development only at our speed and under our control.”

Western Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation chair Alwyn Lyall said the draft plan had no references to cultural heritage or TOs’ environmental concerns.

“It’s the way that the State government has colour coded the map, there’s a lot of the green areas are open for development; well, at this moment a lot of those green areas hold a lot of cultural and sacred sites amongst them that haven’t been mapped so the government’s not taking any notice of our cultural heritage,” he said.

“Red area”

“We feel that some of these zones that they put in, they’re not really strong enough because in a national park if they want to extract a resource they just change legislation and, boom, they’ve got a resource reserve in a red area.

“So, if they can continue to do that now in highly environmental places, what’s it say for the rest of the areas?”

Laura TO and former Wujal Wujal mayor Desmond Tayley said the plan didn’t have enough protection for cultural and sacred sites.

“Say, for example, the Quinkan Rock Art Galleries on east Quinkan area – that cultural heritage was one of our main priorities, as was trying to get more protection over that area, and we all know it’s a world-renowned rock art area,” he said.

LNP Cook MP David Kempton said if TOs had major concerns about the plan he would take them back to the government. “But the overriding issue is the protection of these cultural features, in particular rock art, and I’m not sure that the Cape York Regional Plan is the process by which they will be protected anyway,” he said.

Mr Tayley said TOs were also concerned about the lack of consultation for the draft plan. “To date, we haven’t had an audience with David Kempton other than the forum that we had to go to, uninvited, and make our presence known there so David could meet with myself and a few of the other TOs from the Laura area,” he said.

“There’s people on country outside of the urban footprint of local government in Cape York and those people haven’t been consulted.

Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said that while official consultation on the draft plan closed on March 25, that was not the end of the process.

“The Queensland government is prepared to take as long as is necessary to get this plan right, and I can reassure communities on the Cape that all their submissions and comments will be considered in finalisation of the plan,” he said.

“We have always made clear that we are open to the community’s views on the draft maps, the protections afforded to the areas mapped, and the possibility of making amendments to those areas.”

Mr Kempton was due to meet with TOs in Laura and Lakeland after the Koori Mail had gone to press.

Koori Mail

Next article – AWH inquiry – History of Labor and Liberal corruption

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