11 January 2024

Concerns raised as ALP pushes to close off Cape under World Heritage

| Matt Nicholls
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Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek with Olkola Elder Mike Ross last year.

Traditional Owners across Cape York have expressed concern that the Labor Party is pushing for a World Heritage listing for huge chunks of the Peninsula later this year.

The news was broken by The Australian last week when it was reported that Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett – a former federal Labor MP – was leading the push to secure a World Heritage nomination.

Last year, Cape York Weekly endeavoured to interview Mr Garrett as he travelled around the Cape with environmentalist Don Henry, but our requests were denied.

They travelled to Lockhart River and other parts of the Cape, including Normanby Station, the home of the Harrigan brothers from Black Image Band.

Traditional Owners from the Cape have rejected a World Heritage proposal before.

There was a push in the early 2010s, before the Newman LNP government withdrew the state’s support in 2013.

Many believe that a World Heritage listing would impact economic opportunities in the region.

Lockhart River mayor Wayne Butcher told The Australian he was concerned about the push from Labor ahead of a state election in October.

“They are pushing it pretty hard and from what I heard there’s a bit of a rush on it,’’ he told reporter Michael McKenna.

“We are being told that they are focusing first on existing ­national parks and then going from there.

“There needs to be a lot more discussion, and open forums, about what value this is going to bring to Cape York and to Traditional Owners.”

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said her government was pursuing a number of World Heritage listings.

“We are lucky to be home to some of the most unique places in the world, we want to see their value celebrated on the world stage,” she said.

“That’s why we’re pushing for World Heritage listing for a number of sites including Cape York, Murujuga Cultural Landscape, Flinders Ranges, West Kimberley, the Parramatta Female Factory, and Victorian and Broken Hill trades halls.”

Mapoon Traditional Owner Jack Wilkie-Jans slammed the move to close off parts of the Cape.

“This policy is a dead horse, obsessively flogged by Garrett and Labor at almost every election. Yet again it’s being proposed and without any detail,” he said.

“But it’s a policy which the peoples of Cape York – both white and black – have consistently stood and voted against.

“It will impact economic opportunities across National Parks, as well.

“Carbon Farming, low-impact grazing, fire practices etc–forget about it under World Heritage listing.”

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