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Natural Heritage Trust

Media Release
Joint Statement by Senator Robert Hill, Federal Minister for the Environment,
Hon. John Anderson MP, Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, and
Hon. Di McCauley MLA, Queensland Minister for Local Government and Planning

$40 MILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDING FOR CAPE YORK PLAN


16 February 1998

The Howard Government will invest up to $40 million in protecting Cape York Peninsula's outstanding environmental and heritage values while providing new opportunities and greater certainty for people on the Cape and the region's pastoral industry, the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments announced today.

"The Cape York Natural Heritage Trust Plan delivers on John Howard's election commitment to protect the conservation and heritage values of Cape York," Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill said.

"It is a Plan that will see the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments working in partnership with local government and the Cape's residents to ensure that the region's values are maintained.

"The Plan takes into account the information collected during the CYPLUS process."

"The Plan recognises that the most appropriate way to achieve best conservation outcomes is by involving the community and working with stakeholders rather than by imposing decisions from Canberra or Brisbane," Queensland Local Government and Planning Minister Di McCauley said.

"Much of the Plan will therefore rely on the voluntary participation of pastoralists, Indigenous communities and other residents.

"Cape York residents understand better than most the environmental and heritage values of their region. We are therefore confident that the overwhelming majority of people on the Cape will embrace the opportunities that this program will provide," Federal Primary Industries and Energy Minister John Anderson said.

"The Plan also should provide greater security for those that live and work on the Cape and will provide new opportunities for important industries like tourism and the pastoral sector."

"Community involvement in the delivery of the Plan will be assisted by the establishment of a Cape York Regional Advisory Panel which will provide advice to both Governments on the implementation of the Plan and act as an assessment panel under the Natural Heritage Trust," Senator Hill said.

"We are delighted that Mr Gordon Arnold and Ms Fran Seagren have accepted the position of Chair and Deputy Chair of the Panel," Mrs McCauley said.

"A range of organisations and individuals representing local government, Indigenous communities, industry, pastoralists and conservation interests will be invited to serve on the Panel."

Senator Hill said that the Plan was comprehensive and far reaching in its scope.

"Key elements of the Plan include up to $23 million for a voluntary property planning process, for the voluntary acquisition of properties that contain the highest conservation values and for working with Indigenous communities to protect environmental and heritage values on their lands.

"Through the voluntary Property Planning process we hope to ensure that the Cape is managed in an ecologically sustainable way and that areas of conservation and cultural significance are protected.

"We will also be making available expertise to pastoralists and other leaseholders on how they can improve the sustainable productivity of their land."

"To oversee the Property Planning process, both Governments will be establishing a small Property Planning Technical Group which will be chaired by Mr Peter Stanton and include people with pastoral and Indigenous land management experience."

"To start the process we will be inviting the leaseholders of six properties - Merluna, Lilyvale, Running Creek, Kalinga, Artemis and Kimba - to participate and we understand that they are prepared to become involved.

"We will also be undertaking a Property Planning process on the Kalpowar properties which were purchased by the Queensland Government for conservation purposes.

Senator Hill said that an important component of the program would be the acquisition of areas of highest conservation value.

"Any such acquisitions will, however, be on an entirely voluntary basis - no property holder will be forced to sell their land or relinquish their lease.

"Equally important will be the support that we will provide to Indigenous communities to assist those communities manage conservation and cultural values on their land.

"Again, arrangements we enter into with Aboriginal communities will be co-operative and voluntary."

Senator Hill said that other key elements of the plan include additional resources for the Cape York National Park and reserve system; funds for heritage site management, support for feral animal and weeds projects, a land rehabilitation program and a community grants component.

"We will also be providing nearly $2 million for measures to help protect the Cape's endangered animals and plants.

"I am pleased to indicate that we will be immediately providing $65,000 for two endangered species projects that will increase our knowledge and help protect the Gouldian Finch and the Golden-shouldered Parrot.

"I can also confirm that, through the Plan, the Howard Government will contribute $350,000 towards the proposed Cooktown Interpretative Centre. This will match funding already offered by Premier Borbidge for the Centre.

"This is an exciting project which will increase the community's understanding of the Cape's unique environment and, at the same time, provide a home to the valuable Vera Scarth-Johnson collection of illustrations of the Cape's plants.

"We look forward to now moving towards the rapid implementation of the Plan which will provide a unique opportunity to sustainably manage and protect this important region," Ministers said.

For further information:
Matt Brown (Senator Hill's office) 02 6277 7640; 0419 603 515
Claire Munro (Mrs McCauley's office) 07 3235 4289; 017 839 653

Commonwealth of Australia