The Steve Irwin Reserve on far north Queensland’s rugged Cape York faces the threat of mining, under new moves to water down the previous Bligh Labor government’s Wild Rivers law.
Liberal National Party state environment minister Andrew Powell released a paper on June 27 for a new management plan, which is expected to replace Wild Rivers laws on at least four far-north wilderness rivers.
The previous government had placed a 500 metre buffer zone on the Wenlock River, which had held up development of mining company Cape Alumina’s Pisolite Hills bauxite mine. Cape York Aboriginal communities were divided on the Wild Rivers issue, with conservative Murri leader Noel Pearson campaigning against the law.
Wilderness Society spokesperson Dr Tim Seelig told the Courier-Mail he feared the mine would destroy Wenlock, which has the highest number of freshwater species in Australia.
“We know Cape Alumina is just waiting to get its plans back on the table,” he said. “Once protection is removed, it will be open slather.”
“This will inevitably lead to more destructive development such as mining and dams in our free-flowing rivers,” Dr Seelig said. Eight new mines have been proposed for the Cape’s east and west coasts.
Seeling said the state government should “commit to protecting the environment ... as the first priority and only support truly sustainable economic activities”.