Cape York Aboriginal leader Gerhardt Pearson has told Queensland’s government that powerful indigenous groups are gearing up for a major Wild Rivers-style fight against its proposed tree-clearing crackdown.
Mr Pearson, executive director of Balkanu, an economic development organisation for Cape York, said Labor’s vegetation management bill would “snuff out” economic opportunities for the far north’s traditional owners.
“Since 1873 when Cooktown opened for goldmining, our mob has been displaced and it’s only since 1992 that we’ve been getting our land back,” Mr Pearson said.
“This will lock up the land again … it’s the way they tried it with Wild Rivers — we fought them on that — and my message to the government is we’ll fight you on this too. We’ve shown we can campaign for a long time. Our intention is to work with parties and community groups to ensure this legislation is thrown out by the next government.”
Mr Pearson and other Cape York leaders, including his brother Noel, led a campaign against the Bligh Labor government’s Wild Rivers economic protection legislation that eventually resulted in a court declaring parts of it invalid in 2014.
Labor has reintroduced its vegetation management bill after it was defeated by the hung parliament during Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s first term of government. Its second iteration goes further, tightening restrictions for clearing regrowth, as well as again banning broadscale clearing. The legislation axes the Newman government’s high-value agriculture permits, which allowed farmers to apply for permission to clear large tracts of land to plant crops or graze cattle.