Qld Premier Bligh pledges to beef up Wild Rivers laws

Anna Bligh Nicholson River System
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Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh spent part of last week 'fishing for votes' in Far North Queensland, promising to protect more waterways under the Labor government’s Wild Rivers laws.

After a fishing trip with members of a remote Cape York indigenous community, Bligh praised her party’s environmental commitment and credentials and promised that, if re-elected, Labor would push ahead with plans to declare for protection eight additional Cape York river basins, including the Coleman River adjacent to Pormpuraaw, adding to the 13 Queensland river systems already listed.

'Without doubt this is some of the most beautiful country on earth and our job is to make sure we look after it well,' she told the throng of reporters who were more keen to see her land a fish.

The premier said the laws would be 'at risk' under a Liberal National Party government. 'You couldn't get a starker reason not to vote for Campbell Newman,' she warned.

She also pledged to work towards declarations for Cape York's Jeannie, Jacky Jacky, Ducie, Jardine and Holroyd rivers, along with the appointment of 50 more indigenous rangers by 2015.

Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott has previously vowed to overturn the state government's Wild Rivers laws, arguing that indigenous communities should have a greater say and economic opportunities.

The LNP, which is on track to win the March 24 state election, has also flagged a repeal of the Wild Rivers laws in Cape York.

Shadow environment Minister Andrew Powell said today the LNP was committed to protecting high conservation areas, balanced with appropriate economic development opportunities on the Cape.

Ms Bligh stressed that the laws, criticised for restricting indigenous economic opportunities, did not prevent all development on the rivers but only those that impacted on river flows.

The Premier, who was 'very disappointed' not to catch a fish when she went out on the Chapman River this morning, said the laws also did not remove fishing or grazing rights.

Lenny Ned, a senior ranger with the Wild Rivers program, said protection of the Coleman River system was important. He also said it was crucial that local indigenous communities were involved in the management of their rivers.