National heritage good news and bad news
Humane Society International (HSI) expressed its extreme disappointment at the limited number of natural areas that have been prioritised by the Government for assessment and potential listing on the National Heritage List (NHL), released by Minister Garrett this week.
This sour note however is counter balanced by the announcement that a very large area of the Kimberley in Western Australia (17 million hectares) will be assessed over the next year, along with the West MacDonnell National Park in the Northern Territory. HSI has played a small role in ensuring that a broad assessment of the Kimberley region occurs*, and we applaud the concept of attempting to list large and hopefully contiguous biodiverse areas under heritage laws.
HSI Campaign Director Michael Kennedy said that, “While we heartily welcome the coming assessment of the Kimberley and the West MacDonnell National Park, the rejection of so many other important areas nominated by HSI and other interested parties, is of very serious concern.
The Government has rejected the following HSI nominations: the Great Western Woodlands in WA; Lake Eyre and Elliot Price Conservation Park in SA; Brisbane Water National Park in NSW; Cape York in QLD; Barrow Island and its surrounding waters in WA; Paroo River Catchment in QLD & NSW; Australia's Antarctic Territory (AAT) and Whale Sanctuary (EEZ); the Daintree Lowland Rainforest in QLD, and various areas important for Dingo populations. Many other areas have also been rejected, including Tasmania’s Great Western Tiers.
Mr Kennedy continued, “Barrow Island has been an important priority for the Australian Heritage Council for many years, and one can only assume that resource politics is blocking its addition to the NHL. Similarly, adding the AAT/EEZ is an easy matter for an area controlled by the Commonwealth (only penguins to consult), while in a time of drought and dangerous climate change, why not move to protect the Paroo River and Lake Eyre nationally. The mega-biodiverse Daintree lowlands are crying out for Federal protection. These HSI nominations have all been rejected by the Government - but for what reason?”
Mr Kennedy concluded, “The normal response is that the Department does not have enough money or resources to do a comprehensive job. This disclaimer on responsibility is running chronically thin, and is no longer an acceptable answer. If Minister Garrett wants to effectively implement his desire to give “habitat protection” priority in Australia, then he MUST allocate a good portion of the “Caring for our Country” budget (and there is plenty of cash unallocated) to the heritage assessment program in general and for HSI’s outstanding nominations in particular. The conservation of Australia’s biological diversity demands such action”.