Further Buyback Needed to Protect the Daintree Rainforest

Kelvin Davies explains why land in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest is at risk of development and makes the case for ongoing "buyback" to protect the Daintree forever.  

One of many for sale signs in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest. 

Many Australian’s believe the Daintree Rainforest is protected in a national park, however, that's not the reality. In the mid 1980’s the Queensland government approved an 1,100-lot rural residential subdivision in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest resulting in two-thirds of the lowland rainforest (between the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation) being excluded from protection in the Daintree National Park and Wet Tropics World Heritage Area that was declared in 1988.

The development that followed the subdivision resulted in fragmentation of the rainforest through the construction of 50 km of roads and the building of hundreds of houses. Settlement has introduced exotic plants that have become weeds and domestic dogs and traffic that are a threat to wildlife. Because the land in question is in private ownership, the only option to resolve the issue has been the purchase and protection of additional lands for conservation and to expand Daintree National Park.

Clearing for development in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest. 

The Douglas Shire Council, Queensland and Australian governments have all contributed financially to the purchase or ‘buyback’ of freehold land aimed at preventing development and winding back the impacts of the subdivision. For twenty-five years this has been complemented through acquisitions by local and national non-profit conservation organisations that have acquired 75 properties.

Today it’s estimated that 170 undeveloped freehold properties remain zoned as having development potential and therefore they remain at risk. Population growth, changes to the economy, pressure to provide mains electricity, a bridge rather than the ferry, and improved telecommunications could see the risk of development in the Daintree increase.

The reasons for protecting the Daintree Lowland Rainforest are many and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature have conveyed this succinctly, saying; “Within the region, the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation coast has a special status. It is the last surviving, essentially intact, tropical lowland rainforest in Australia. It has one of the highest diversity of plant families anywhere in the world. Its rarity, fame and superlative beauty make it one of the foundations of the region’s economy. It is the only place in the world where two World Heritage Areas meet".

Clearly, there is a need for more buyback by non-profit organisations and at an increased rate. Rainforest 4 is supporting this process through its project Land Purchase to Save the Daintree.

Please, make a tax-deductible donation to buy back land in the Daintree Rainforest. 

History of Development and Conservation in the Daintree lowlands: 

  • Mid 1980’s: A pro-development State Government inappropriately rezoned leasehold and freehold in the Daintree Lowlands Rainforest, enabling a developer to subdivide it into approximately 1,100 blocks. This has resulted in inappropriate road building, clearing and development of high conservation value rainforest.
  • 1988: Declaration of the expanded Daintree National Park /Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
  • In 1993: Bush Heritage purchase one property in Palm Road to create their Fan Palm Reserve.
  • 1994: The Daintree Rescue Program, funded by the Australian and Queensland governments, provided $23 million. $11 million was used to purchase 83 properties totalling 1,640ha for their natural values. The remaining funds were used for management purposes such as visitor facilities.
  • 1999: The Daintree Rainforest Foundation began the purchase of properties with the assistance of Rainforest Rescue. In 2009 the two organisations merged with Rainforest Rescue continuing to purchase land through their Daintree Buy Back and Protect Forever Project. By February 2019 this had resulted in the purchase of 30 properties.
  • Mid 2000’s: The Australian and Queensland governments provided funding to the Australian Rainforest Foundation (ARF) for the acquisition of properties. In 2016 the ARF aligned with Rainforest Trust and became Rainforest Trust Australia, who then purchased additional properties. This has resulted in the purchased of a total of 43 properties.
  • Mid 2000’s: The Douglas Shire Council placed a levy on the Daintree River Ferry and used the funds for the purchase of 11 properties before objections saw the levy removed.
  • 2004: Douglas Shire Council placed a moratorium on development while a new planning scheme was developed. This ultimately placed limits on development in specified areas north of Alexandra Range and removed development rights from 350 freehold properties.
  • 2006-2008: The Queensland State Government created the Daintree Buyback Scheme to purchase land impacted by the Douglas Shire Council planning scheme. Landholders were given the option to sell to the state government or be compensated for the loss of development rights. The Queensland government provide $15 million and 350 properties were acquired for the Daintree National Park.

 The Current status and Land at Risk 

  • Between 100-170 undeveloped freehold land parcels with development rights remain in the Daintree lowlands.
  • Continued residential development increases pressure for a bridge and mains electricity across the Daintree River which could in turn fuel further inappropriate development.

Rainforest 4 is supporting land purchase and protection through its project Land Purchase to Save the Daintree

Please, make a tax-deductible donation to buy back land in the Daintree Rainforest. 

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