Goss to trade national park

Issue 

Goss to trade national park

By Maurice Sibelle

BRISBANE — The state Labor government has angered conservationists with a proposal to hand over 60 hectares of Woodwark Bay National Park, north of Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday coast of north Queensland, to a tourist development.

Premier Wayne Goss and environment minister Molly Robson say they have struck a deal with the developers which will mean "a big gain" for conservation. It involves a swap of freehold land for national park land, an agreement from developers to set aside land as a "natural refuge", a further swap of state forest and an agreement to pay $175,000 a year towards the cost of national parks management.

Conservation groups claim that the land handed over to developers is of greater ecological value than that returned to the national park and state forest. Conservationists are also concerned that any commitment to set aside "natural refuge" may be rescinded at any time. And the companies do not have to pay the $175,000 until the year 2013.

Nicky Hungerford, spokesperson for the Queensland Conservation Council, charged, "The Goss government is misleading the public".

"This is not only about Woodwark Bay. It is also about the Kuranda Skyrail", she added. The skyrail project will proceed through a world heritage area.