5 March 2024

'Flawed' World Heritage process leaves Cape York freehold owners in the dark

| Lyndon Keane
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Despite about 30 per cent of her 12,300-acre freehold property falling within the Quinkan Country land parcel being considered for World Heritage listing, Mountain View owner Joy Marriott says she has had no engagement from the State Government about what she describes as a “flawed” consultation process. Photo: Lyndon Keane.

The Queensland Government will not explain why it has failed to consult with freehold property owners who will be impacted by a state and federal push to obtain World Heritage listing for parts of Cape York.

The joint plan was revealed earlier this year, with the Miles Government currently undertaking cultural heritage studies to determine the makeup of the tentative World Heritage list.

However, a Lakeland landholder, whose 12,300-acre freehold property falls within one of the areas currently being assessed for inclusion on the tentative list, is demanding to know why the government is refusing to engage with non-Traditional Owners as part of the process.

About 30 per cent of Mountain View, which has been owned by the Marriott family for nearly four decades, is captured by the Quinkan Country National Heritage List area, which was added to the Australian National Heritage List on 10 November, 2018.

The Cape York Land Council (CYLC), which has been engaged by the State Government to undertake consultation with Traditional Owners about the make-up of the tentative list, is currently meeting with the Balnggarrwarra clan group, and Possum and Kuku Warra native title groups about whether they want to see Quinkan Country receive World Heritage status.

The CYLC held an “information meeting” with Possum and Kuku Warra stakeholders on 29 February, 2024, while a meeting is scheduled with the Balnggarrwarra clan group on 6 March.

READ ALSO Traditional Owner says hands off to ‘already protected’ Cape York

According to CYLC advertising, the meetings let Traditional Owners “ask questions of representatives of the State of Queensland and the Commonwealth” and “discuss the next steps in the engagement process” regarding a tentative listing.

Joy Marriot said the process was “flawed” and asked why freehold owners with undisputed property rights were being left out of the conversation.

“I’ve had no notification,” she told Cape York Weekly.

“The first thing I saw was one of my TO friends sent me a screenshot of the Cape York Land Council up on their Facebook for a meeting in Cooktown.

“I put up on Facebook I was going to gatecrash it, but then it was cancelled at the last minute.”

Ms Marriott said the irony of being ignored was that she was “the most likely landholder who’s non-Indigenous in Cape York to support World Heritage”.

“As a freehold owner of the land, and going from National Heritage to World Heritage, which is controlled by UNESCO, I may well agree to that … I may be convinced [but] there’s no proposal for a management agreement if that happens.

“I’ve lost control of my property and it’s devalued my property.”

A map showing the Quinkan Country National Heritage List parcel of land, which Traditional Owner groups are currently discussing to determine whether it will be put forward as a prospective World Heritage site. Photo: Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

The State Government has repeatedly stated it had adopted a “rights-based” approach to World Heritage, including the make-up of the tentative list, and that parts of Cape York will only be considered “if the relevant Traditional Owner groups have provided their free, prior and informed consent”.

Not once in government publications, including on its information website, does it reference whether non-Indigenous freehold property owners will also need to provide the same consent.

When asked whether freehold owners would be consulted, Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leanne Linard was unable to provide either a definitive answer or specifics around the overall engagement process.

“We are currently working with some Traditional Owners who have previously been interested in World Heritage, and only considering areas that are under Indigenous ownership or already part of Queensland’s protected area estate for tentative listing,” Ms Linard said.

“It is not a blanket nomination of all of Cape York Peninsula, and any land included must have landholder consent.

“If a tentative listing is successful, more detailed and wider consultation will occur in the preparation of a subsequent more detailed nomination.

“A broader consultation will happen after this initial tentative listing process is complete.”

Ms Marriott said she believed the lack of detail proved the government had no interested in gauging the views of non-Indigenous property owners, either intentionally or by oversight.

“The process is flawed and they haven’t done the groundwork,” she said.

“I will have my message heard; I won’t be intimidated.”

READ ALSO Letter from the Editor: Cape York World Heritage proponents need change of song sheet

Shadow Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Sam O’Connor said Cape York residents deserved the truth about the current engagement process.

“The importance of current and future economic opportunities for the people of this region cannot be overstated, and must be a key consideration in any decision,” he said.

“Concerns have been raised directly with the LNP that the consultation has been inadequate.

“The LNP has demanded the State Government explain who has been consulted, what the results were, and to guarantee local communities have been offered the chance to make their views known.”

Ms Marriott said she would not stop fighting for the right to be heard as a property owner who would be impacted by a tentative listing of Quinkan Country.

“I would have just appreciated being consulted or spoken to, or notified as an interested party,” she said angrily.

“I don’t want to go to court.”

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