Close to 40 years ago, a group of activists put their bodies on the line to prevent a road being built through the Daintree Lowland Rainforest from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown. The Bloomfield Track was eventually built, however, resulting from the protests known collectively as the Daintree Blockade, the Wet Tropics rainforests of North Queensland were inscribed on the World Heritage list. Many people assumed Australia’s most biodiverse rainforest would be protected forever.
“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.” - IUCN
Unfortunately, plans have resurfaced for further development in an area most Australians thought was secure from development. Now, the threat is even more significant: renewed calls for a bridge over the Daintree River and an $18.75 million commitment from the federal government to supply reticulated electricity to the Daintree, at a time when it has no money for conservation.
This is one place where conservation should come before development, yet there is no shared vision for the Daintree’s future.
The Australian Government once protected the area by supporting its listing as a World Heritage Area, yet construction, at a cost of $18.75 million, has already commenced on a renewable energy microgrid, complete with a solar farm, battery and hydrogen plant, to connect the Daintree to reticulated electricity. While renewable energy is a much better option than the gas-fired power plant originally proposed, it doesn't address the biggest issue - that infrastructure like this will inevitably lead to increased pressure for urban development in the Daintree. There are also calls for a bridge or second ferry to increase vehicle access to the Daintree Lowland Rainforest.
In the mid-1980s, a pro-development state government inappropriately rezoned leasehold and freehold in the Daintree Lowlands Rainforest, enabling a developer to subdivide it into 1,136 blocks. This has resulted in inappropriate road building, clearing and development of high conservation value rainforest. In the 1990s and 2000s, the Douglas Shire Council and the Queensland and Australian governments all contributed financially to the purchase or ‘buyback’ of freehold land aimed at preventing development and winding back the impacts of the subdivision. For 25 years, this has been complemented through acquisitions by local and national non-profit conservation organisations. These new proposed developments would give support for further rural residential development and must be stopped.
Cr. Michael Kerr, Douglas Shire Council Mayor.
The Hon Meaghan Scanlon MP, Queensland Government Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Australian Government Minister for the Environment.
We, the undersigned, call on the Douglas Shire Council, Queensland Government and Australian Government to dismiss current plans for further development in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest that include a bridge over the Daintree River and the establishment of reticulated mains electricity in the Douglas Shire Local Government Area.
The Daintree Lowland Rainforest is a place of extraordinary scientific, biological cultural values that are irreplaceable. It is a foundation of the regional economy and an icon that Australians thought was adequately protected. Yet it has no overall vision. The mix of world heritage, national parks, traditionally owned land and freehold title mean management responsibility is spread between agencies, local residents and traditional owners with poor co-ordination across key issues like clearing, weeds, pests, domestic animals, visitor facilities, presentation, community infrastructure, transport and access. It is therefore proposed the local, state and Australian governments design and fund a community-based Conservation Management Plan covering the entire ecosystem of the Daintree Lowland Rainforest, regardless of tenure. Key interests are Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Daintree National Park (CYPAL), Native Title and freehold land.
We call on the Douglas Shire Council, Queensland Government and Australian Government to work together and with other stakeholders to develop a conservation management plan before any further investment in infrastructure is considered in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest.