Queensland’s Liberal National Party will overhaul the state’s controversial Wild Rivers legislation if elected at next year’s poll, leader Campbell Newman says.
Mr Newman yesterday said the controversial environmental protections were “patronising” to traditional owners and landholders and an LNP government would replace or alter the legislation.
The legislation, which restricts development in basins classified as “wild rivers”, has come under attack from traditional owners in Cape York, including indigenous leader Noel Pearson.
Four rivers in the peninsula, which is home to a number of Aboriginal communities, have so far been classified as “wild” and critics argue the legislation will stifle economic development in already impoverished areas.
But others, including green groups and other traditional owners, support the protection the legislation offers.
Mr Newman said the LNP was committed to protecting environmentally sensitive areas in Cape York and the channel country in Queensland’s west but believed Aboriginal people and other landowners needed to be involved in the planning process.
“We’d create our own wilderness protection legislation, in consultation with traditional owners and other people who live on the Cape and in the channel country,” he told reporters in Cairns.
“You’re assuming I’m saying we’ll repeal it, we might well change it (the legislation).
“We will have the protections and we will involve the Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people in the planning of their country, and also other landowners.”
He claimed the existing legislation was aimed more at securing green preferences for the state Labor government than protecting the environment.
However, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh hit back, claiming Mr Newman’s comments were conclusive evidence that an LNP government would embark on “environmental vandalism”.
“Those people who care about the Queensland environment, those people who care about the precious and unique wilderness parts of our state need to understand that a vote for the LNP is a vote for the protection of those rivers to be stripped away,” she told reporters in Brisbane.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott last month reintroduced a private member’s bill to federal parliament which would change the Queensland legislation by forcing the state government to obtain consent from traditional owners before making a Wild Rivers declaration.
The Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2011 was reintroduced for a third time after previously lapsing before going to a vote.