The federal government is keeping Cape York off a list of potential world heritage sites until it can achieve support for the controversial proposal from Aboriginal landowners.
Environment Department spokesman James Shevlin told a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday that Cape York had been excluded for the time being from a tentative list of sites being considered for submission for UNESCO world heritage listing.
He said Environment Minister Peter Garrett was holding off on the cape’s inclusion until the outcome of consultations between the Queensland government and indigenous groups.
“It’s really just a heads-up,” he said.
Cape York leader Noel Pearson has claimed the proposal, when combined with the Queensland government’s wild rivers laws, will restrict development around impoverished indigenous communities on the cape.
Queensland Sustainability Minister Kate Jones said the state government was developing a program to achieve support for the heritage listing from indigenous communities across the cape.
“We will not proceed with a formal world heritage nomination without the express and informed consent of traditional owners,” she said.
Environmental lobby group the Wilderness Society said the state and federal governments needed to take their time in developing a proposal for listing to take to the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2013.
Spokesman Glenn Walker said the listing did not amount to “locking up the cape” as had been suggested.
“There are always scare campaigns around this, that it’s going to be a lock-up, people aren’t going to be able to live there – it’s not the case,” he told AAP.
“I envisage the nomination for the cape will be mixed – it will have national parks, indigenous properties and pastoral properties which are managed to a very high standard.”