Hinchinbrook Island National Park seems to have survived the threat of long-term leases, mass walking parties, infrastructure (pack-less day-walk Taj Majal “glamping”, roads for suitcase-trucking, accommodation supplies, helicopter pads etc).
Hinchinbrook Island National Park is now LEASE-FREE - something the Queensland government had told us, for more than 20 years, could not be done.
Thank you - to all the defenders of Hinchinbrook Island, including Cardwell residents and businesses, permit holders, local and far-away conservationists and self-reliant wilderness walkers, past Hinchinbrook Campaign activists, members of ASH (including overseas); and particularly to the Island’s Banjin people and their determined and absolute opposition to commercial leasing of their traditional country.
The irony is that the government terminated the old Cape Richards lease to make way (business-wise) for the proposed new Brett Godfrey lease over the 5-day Thorsborne Wilderness Trail.
The notice of invitation for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for commercial leasing of the Thorsborne Trail was published in October 2018. I’m informed that news of it reached Margaret Thorsborne, who was in nursing care in Cardwell, awaiting the end of her life. I’m convinced she knew exactly what to do: she chose that moment to leave us: October 16th 2018.
No need to organise a campaign – people came from everywhere to Margaret’s funeral in Cardwell, to honour her life and stand up for her greatest cause – the restoration of Hinchinbrook Island to its natural state. Arthur and Margaret Thorsborne, Friends of Hinchinbrook, Alliance to Save Hinchinbrook – we’ve all been working towards restoring Hinchinbrook Island to its pre-European condition (lease, gazetted road, esplanade, buildings, coconut plantation – and there’s still a bit to go).
An arrogant Queensland government had not bothered to investigate what opposition they might encounter to the commercialisation of Hinchinbrook Island, never mind consider the people with close ties to the Island and the Thorsbornes, or protective of the public interest – not even the traditional owners. It proved to be the end of Minister Kate Jones’ political career - she who’d said “the Nature Conservation Act allows it” (ABC) – knowing full well her government had repeatedly reneged on a repeated election promise that they would reverse the Newman government amendment that had turned the Nature Conservation Act into an instrument for private development.
THE THORSBORNE FAMILY HAS MADE A SPECIAL REQUEST
On the basis that Hinchinbrook Island is
ASH strongly supports this request. We encourage others to do the same.
Queensland’s national park story
110 years ago, some extraordinarily far-sighted citizens saw the value, for the unknown people of the future, in setting aside as a public good, tracts of land that had outstanding landscapes and biodiversity. A major influence was grazier Robert Collins, who had been inspired by a visit to Yellowstone National Park (USA).
By the 1920s these inspired people were led by Romeo Lahey and Arthur Groom; assisted by my late uncles Wallace, Malcolm and Allen Clelland (who in 1930 established the National Parks Association of Queensland), and others. The Binnaburra site was surveyed by my late father, Oswald Moorhouse Higginbottom and Romeo Lahey. These early leaders of the NPAQ were instrumental in exploring “the bush” to locate those most special areas deserving of national park declaration.
By the early 1930s some 30 national parks had been gazetted covering 63,330 hectares. Campaigning continued through the 1930s for Mt Barney, Mt Lindesay, Bellenden Kerr, Chillagoe caves, Cunningham's Gap, Dunk Island, Eungella, Hinchinbrook Island and all unalienated islands off the Queensland coast.
Hinchinbrook Island was gazetted and dedicated in 1932 and 1934; and later listed on the National Heritage Register, along with the Hinchinbrook Passage. The National Heritage Register was abolished in 2012.
To get the 1996 Commonwealth approval for the Keith Williams “Port Hinchinbrook” canal estate, the Queensland Borbidge government signed an agreement to write detailed world-heritage-protective coastal legislation. Presaged by strong interim arrangements, this very effective “no-adverse-impact” catchment-based legislation was enacted in 2003; and abolished by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh on 05 February 2012 – just before the state election that brought in the Newman Government. From the moment it was elected (2015), the Palaszczuc government spread the myth that the Newman government was responsible for every assault on the natural environment, including the loss of the coastal legislation that was actually abolished by Premier Anna Bligh and Minister Kate Jones. Even now, in 2021, a new environment minister had to be disabused of this disinformation.
National Park management and the Nature Conservation Act
The original object of the Nature Conservation Act (Queensland) (NCA) (gazetted 1992) was “conservation of nature” - known as the Cardinal Principle of national park management (see below). In 2014 the Newman Government removed the Cardinal Principle from the NCA. Hansard reveals that the Labor Party, in opposition, strongly opposed this amendment and promised to reverse it. Next, they made an election commitment to restore the Act to its original wording.
Nevertheless, every incoming Palaszczuk government repeatedly refused to restore the Cardinal Principle to the Nature Conservation Act. Although they amended the Newman Object clause to remove the business purpose he’d added, the Palaszczuk government refused repeatedly to delete the other Newman clauses that allow the Object clause to be bypassed; allowing the Palaszczuk government to hand national parks over to private business interests via 60-year leases. The legal and practical effect of long term leasing is to sell the use rights of the land leased.
As pointed out in the Romeo Lahey Lectures including by Allen Clelland (NPAQ newsletter 1970): although bushwalking is a fine activity, the purpose of national parks is for the preservation of nature. This became the Cardinal Principle, still formally stated on the QPWS website:
The first Hinchinbrook Island National Park management Plan (HINPMP) took 13 years of requests from Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne. The first draft for consultation was released in 1991. The final was released in 1999, not by the Minister of the day but by North Queensland Conservation Council (NQCC), after “someone” had anonymously delivered to the NQCC office a brown paper bundle containing the finalised and formally signed-off printed and bound official booklets. The withholding of the official release of this first HINPMP had occurred during the time that Keith Williams was trying to sell his acid sulphate soil blocks opposite Hinchinbrook Island on the promise of easy commercial boating access to the national park.
Fast forward 2012-2015:
During 2012-2014 the Newman government let loose terrible destruction in Queensland. They made multiple legislative amendments to trash the natural environment. With no Upper House to curb their excesses, the state of Queensland, one of the richest biodiversity hot spots on the planet was brought low. We saw:
Cattle in national parks!
Removal of land clearing restrictions!
Abolition of the Cardinal Principle of national park management!
2014: The Labor Party made pre-election commitments to re-amend the legislation to its original wording.
2015: In office, the newly-elected Palaszczuk government reneged on their promise.
The Palaszczuk government did not restore the Cardinal Principle in the Nature Conservation Act - while claiming loudly they had done so.
Instead, they retained certain Newman amendments precisely to negate the Cardinal Principle and to facilitate business in national parks, confirmed publicly by then Innovation Minister Kate Jones (ABC TV).
The Palaszczuc government used the rewritten Nature Conservation Act to trash the national park concept and hand over this public good for private business and recreational sports. There followed rapid invasion of national parks by sporting activities such as mountain biking, in frank negation of the Cardinal Principle.
QPWS Rangers are now little more than yard workers to clean up the impacts of commercial activities.
Two terms of the Palaszczuk government have shown that Queensland Environment Ministers no longer stand up for their portfolios. The Ministerial arrangements forbid ministers to express opinion or make any commitment without the Premier’s permission.
ESD and the Precautionary Principle: Further, from the Bligh government on, every Queensland Government has confirmed it will NOT apply Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) or the related Precautionary Principle; despite Queensland’s signature on the 1992 Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment (IGAE).
2018 - DITID – Department of Ignorance …
The ignorance of DITID (Queensland Department of Innovation Tourism and Industry Development) is such that (in its 2018 EOI advertisement) it insulted the world-famous Thorsborne Trail as “rudimentary” – as if a wilderness trail specified for self-reliant walkers should be blazoned across the landscape.
Demonstrating utter disrespect for UNESCO, the World Heritage Convention, and the world heritage area Operational Guidelines, DITID reinterpreted the UNESCO term Presentation.
Presentation is a world heritage duty secondary to Conservation (which includes Rehabilitation) – the UNESCO definition is appreciation of the Area for its intrinsic values – and that means, NOT for instrumental uses, NOT for extrinsic reward, NOT trashing the people’s place of natural beauty and solitude for cash, and NOT for mountain-biking and other competitive and ground-destroying sports.
Despite Hinchinbrook Island’s international renown for natural beauty and remoteness, DITID was detremined to trample the Island’s world heritage values; particularly aesthetic value (natural beauty) and wilderness value (remote solitude in nature). Unlike use values, Wilderness and Aesthetic values cannot be “managed”; they must be protected. “managing use” (in this context) always means “minimising” and “mitigating” damage.
Wilderness and Aesthetic values are the best protection the Island can have for its rich biodiversity and bio-abundance.
2021 Queensland Government double-speak:
See box below - Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES) web page 27 December 2021.
Para 1 states the Cardinal Principle of national park management.
Para 2 describes “other management principles” – as if these could be compatible with the cardinal principle.
The two dot points (para 2) are, however, entirely incompatible with the Cardinal Principle of national park management. To put it another way: if the Queensland government actually intended to implement the Cardinal Principle, they’d have made no reference to the lesser principle of “ecologically sustainable” use, (Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD)) supposedly applied in the nature-destructive context of development proposals and openly eschewed by every Queensland government since 2011.
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