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The Australian Conservation Foundation has called on the Queensland Government to respect the purpose of the state’s national parks and to continue the process of returning land on Cape York to Traditional Owners.
Speaking at the Queensland Parliament’s inquiry into the future and continued relevance of government land tenure across Queensland, ACF’s acting Northern Australia Program Manager, Andrew Picone, said it was important that the government not lose sight of the reason national parks are declared in the first place.
“Queensland’s parks legislation is clear that the main purpose of national parks is to preserve an area’s natural condition and protect its cultural resources and values,” Mr Picone said.
“We urge the government to continue to respect this primary purpose for our parks.
“The State’s current program of returning state land, including national parks and selected pastoral leases on Cape York Peninsula, to Aboriginal ownership is consistent with this purpose and we urge the state government to continue with it.”
Since 2004 ACF has been closely involved in the program to identify the most culturally important and environmentally significant land on Cape York and return it to Traditional Owners.
Through this process close to two million hectares of land has been returned to Aboriginal ownership. It includes more than a million hectares of existing national parks and around 300,000 hectares of new conservation reserves. Nearly 700,000 hectares has been returned as Aboriginal freehold for economic purposes.
“ACF strongly supports the Queensland Government’s process of returning existing national parks on Cape York Peninsula to Aboriginal ownership while negotiating new national parks and Aboriginal freehold areas with the consent of Traditional Owners,” Mr Picone said.
“The Queensland Government’s approach to conservation and Indigenous outcomes on Cape York Peninsula could become a model for other parts of the state.”