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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP



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Joint Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
Queensland Minister for the Environment
The Hon. John Mickel

7 July 2004

Internationally significant habitat rescued

The last intact freshwater swamp and complex sand dune system in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area's coastal lowlands will be protected under a land acquisition deal announced today by the Australian and Queensland Governments.

Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, and Queensland's Environment Minister, John Mickel, said the area near Russell Heads, about 45 kilometres south of Cairns, had been acquired by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments.

The ten hectare site was gazetted in the 1800s as the township of Woolanmarroo but was never developed.

"This nationally and internationally significant area is enormously important because it is the last example in the region of the way our coastline has developed over thousands of years," the Ministers said.

"Acquiring the freehold land and including it in the national park estate will ensure it remains undisturbed, protecting an area adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.

"Its preservation will also allow researchers to monitor past and present effects of environmental change on our coastal shores providing information which will influence future coastal management and planning policies.

"This is the only area within the bioregion where a wide variety of wetland ecosystems can be guaranteed long-term survival through the protection of their total catchment area.

"Several important species live in the area including the endangered southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius ); the endangered ant plant (Myrmecodia beccari) ; and the estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). "

The property comprised 98 freehold lots which had been zoned for 'rural' by the Cairns City Council but it was never drained for agricultural use or developed for housing. The previous owner of the land, William Pursche, purchased the lots almost 30 years ago. Mr Pursche's decision not to develop the site ensured it was kept in its natural state and retained its conservation values.

"Acquisition of the land for National Park was the best option to protect the World Heritage values contained in this fragile dune ecosystem. It also overcomes potential problems of servicing a remote residential development within a World Heritage Area" the Ministers said.

The acquisition of the lots was negotiated as part of a comprehensive compensation package between Mr Pursche and the Wet Tropics Management Authority.

Commonwealth of Australia