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Wild Rivers and Indigenous Rights co-exist

Larissa Waters says Tony Abbott’s bid to overturn the Queensland Wild River laws would open the door to massive dams and mines all along Cape York, threatening the indigenous jobs the legislation has already created and the tourism industry and natural values of this spectacular area.
Wild Rivers and Indigenous Rights co-exist

Wenlock River from the air. Photo: Kerry Trapnell

If Tony Abbott overturned these laws he would enable sand mining in the Aurukun wetlands and strip mining for bauxite across the Cape. Queenslanders would and should be horrified by that prospect. The thousands of tourists who trek up the Cape every year aren’t there to see giant mining trucks. Every one of the roadhouses, tourist lodges, ferries and camping grounds – some of them indigenous enterprises – rely on the unique natural wonders of this region.

Tony Abbott has fallen victim to the misinformation campaign about wild rivers, believing outlandish claims that the laws stop indigenous economic opportunities – they do not. The Wild Rivers legislation stops environmentally destructive proposals like in-stream mines and dams. It does not stop indigenous hunting, fishing, grazing or the building of community infrastructure and it does not override native title rights.

It might be an inconvenient truth to Tony Abbott and Noel Pearson, but there was no preference deal for Wild Rivers between the Greens and the Labor government in 2009 or in any other state election.

It is not a choice between indigenous rights and protecting rivers – the wild river laws safeguard both and that’s why the Greens support them. The wild river laws promote clean, green indigenous enterprises and have provided indigenous full-time wild river ranger jobs which protect these pristine rivers for future generations.

Many indigenous leaders support the wild river laws, including:

From our point of view, we don't see any way in which Wild Rivers is going to cost any jobs, and we actually see ways in which it can create jobs.

- Gina Castelain, Director of Wik Projects, Wik-Waya Traditional Owner. The Australian, 9 Jun 2009

As well as better protection for the environment [with Wild Rivers legislation], there will also be more jobs.

- Richard Barkley, Tanquith Traditional Owner. Western Cape Bulletin, 18 Jul 2007

The Wilderness Society (who are not affiliated with the Queensland Greens) have published a fact sheet on the Wild Rivers legislation: Wild Rivers Wilderness Society Fact Sheet

Larissa Waters is the Australian Greens lead Senate candidate for Queensland -


by Kerry Trapnell

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