Kimberley given protection it deserves
Humane Society International (HSI) welcomes the new protections Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke has announced today for the West Kimberley. Drysdale River and Prince Regent National Parks and many Kimberley islands are among the many iconic places in the Kimberley that will be protected as National Heritage under Australia’s national environment laws.
HSI nominated these special areas for heritage protection back in 2006 helping prompt the Government to assess the west Kimberley region for its heritage values. HSI was also a member of the inaugural Australian Heritage Council (AHC) which prioritised the Kimberley for national assessment.* The Commonwealth listing is now the largest listing so far under heritage laws (19 million hectares).
The Australian Heritage Council (AHC) advised the Minister that these places have outstanding heritage values to the nation.**
Natural areas in the region are described as evolutionary refuges that are rich in wildlife unique to the region. Also outstanding, and announced for protection today, are the region’s geological formations, dinosaur tracks and other fossils, as well as places that are of great importance to Indigenous traditions.
“Once listed as National Heritage site, Australia’s environment laws will allow this Minister and those that follow to give these places much stronger protection from the development pressures mounting in the Kimberley,” said Michael Kennedy, HSI Director. “HSI will remain vigilant to ensure the protection bestowed today is enduring.”
But Mr Kennedy also warned that, “proposals by Minister Burke to reform the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999 (EPBC) may eventually weaken the protections provided by today’s announcement, by devolving power to the States, limiting access to the courts, and relying too much on broad strategic assessments.”
*As a Member of the AHC, HSI’s Campaign Director also helped prioritised the Mitchell River NP for assessment and saw the transfer of the 1.5 million acre Yampi Defence Area onto the Commonwealth Heritage List. HSI was a key player in the passage of the EPBC Heritage amendments, and triggered the designation of the Kimberley as a national biodiversity hotspot.
**The Australian Heritage Council Assessment for the West Kimberley is at http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/ahc/national-assessments/kimberley/index.html