Governments could do more to protect inland river systems by helping graziers to control weeds and pests rather than making 'symbolic' declarations to protect already protected areas from major development, a western Queensland community leader believes.
The Queensland Government extended Wild Rivers declarations to the Cooper, Georgina and Diamantina catchments in western Queensland last weekend, which it says will prevent the development of large dams and mining projects in the region. The Government has also announced funding for 10 new indigenous rangers to monitor the newly declared Wild Rivers area.
However Boulia Shire mayor and cattleman Rick Britton believes the declarations are largely symbolic, because local catchment plans are already in place to stop developments such as like large-scale irrigation and mining in the river systems.
He fears that all it will do is create more red tape that will make it harder for landholders to undertake necessary on-property developments, such as replacing ageing stock water infrastructure with new technology and poly pipe designed to save water and labour.
Speaking to Beef Central on Tuesday evening, Cr Britton said it didn’t make sense to put further impediments on the people who were doing the most to maintain the pristine natural environment.
Landholders and local Governments throughout the Lake Eyre Basin catchments were constantly working to control weed incursions such as Prickly Acacia and Parkinsonia, mostly at their own time and expense and with little direct assistance or funding from the Government.
In his own case on Goodwood Station, he estimated that weed control work consumed at least six weeks of direct time spread across the year, not including day to day monitoring.
“I could have 10 rangers in my shire alone working if you really wanted to impact on the weed control,” Cr Britton said.
He believed landholders did not receive adequate recognition for the role they played in managing the local environment.
The rushed process that saw Wild Rivers declarations announced less than two weeks after public submissions closed has fuelled perceptions that the announcement was motivated to bolster environmental votes for than Queensland Government in urban areas at the expense of remote rural landholders and communities.
“If you had a survey right across the Lake Eyre Basin, I would say most people would be opposed to the Wild Rivers legislation,” Cr Britton said.
“Bob Katter did get something right – every three or four months the green monster has to be fed.
"It is just going to be another round of red tape, that will be the impact, and there is nothing to say we’re going to help you fight the control of pest animals and weeds."
Cr Britton’s call for greater Government assistance for pest management has been mirrored by a group representing inland shires.
The Remote Area Planning and Development Board, which represents seven Central Western Queensland regional councils, said several Queensland Government ministers had been approached with a regional plan to tackle pest management back in July, but they had still not addressed the matter.
RAPAD chairman, Winton shire mayor Ed Warren, said it was “not the desire of the majority in the region” that Wild Rivers legislation be enacted over Lake Eyre Basin rivers. However, despite vehement opposition from some groups, all stakeholders had participated proactively in Wild Rivers consultations with the Government.
Significantly, the three major stakeholders in the region – Local Government, AgForce and natural resource management group Desert Channels Queensland – had struck an agreement to work regionally and strategically on pests. However, the agreement had to be matched with State Government funding and personnel support.
“The time has now come for the State to come to the party given the initiatives we have put in place,” Cr Warren said.
Central Western Local Governments already outlaid many millions of dollars in pest management activities, Cr Warren said.