May 272013

by Murrandoo Yanner at

WE ARE often told about the extreme greens – but what about those that are at the other extreme?

Those mining corporations that want no “green or black tape” on mining so they can mine wherever they like without any protections, or big agribusiness corporations that want no land-clearing laws and are too foolish to realise that the destruction they cause to the country will cause much greater damage to their productivity and image than any greenie will.

Indigenous activist Murrandoo Yanner wants an honest chat with the Premier over Wild Rivers legislation.

Indigenous activist Murrandoo Yanner wants an honest chat with the Premier over Wild Rivers legislation.

It is with this in mind that I have been following the Wild Rivers debate. I supported the Wild Rivers legislation; it provides some protection from the destruction that had been so commonplace under Joh Bjelke-Petersen. My fear was that a new LNP government would get in and do the same.

The Wild Rivers legislation aligns well with our ethic to look after our rivers, and protect the lifestyle that those rivers support for us. Our rivers are our supermarket. They sustain us and provide a focal point for maintaining our culture.

I haven’t been around that long, but even in my short life I have watched Koories and Murries down south despair at what’s been done to the natural values of their country.

People that grew up being able to catch cod in the Murray can now only catch carp. Elders watching their sacred trees dying on the banks of the Darling or Murray because some greedy rice or cotton corporation lobbied the government and because they had no means to do the same.

You couldn’t really call me the moderating voice on anything, but here I find myself stuck in the middle between those that would lock it all up and those that want open-slather development at any cost. I am pro mining – it’s a means to an end. A means to get our kids educated, to get them off welfare and into jobs and assist our people to move into a modern economy and not be left behind.

But not at any cost. If we are to protect our country and culture, development needs to be undertaken with the strictest possible environmental and cultural regulations – which includes staying the hell away from the rivers, the arteries of country.

We don’t want to end up with our version of an Ok Tedi mine where they stuff up river systems long term for the sake of short-term dollars. Likewise, let’s look at some small-scale horticulture and irrigated agriculture, but let’s not start down the path to another Murray-Darling disaster.

The Wild Rivers legislation is not a barrier to development. Development can occur under its provisions – in a sustainable manner. As well as the protections, the legislation brought ranger jobs for Aboriginal people out here. Campbell Newman committed to supporting the highly successful indigenous ranger program created by the Wild Rivers legislation and he’s definitely on our Christmas card list for that reason.

However, some extremists in his government want to throw the environmental progress we have made in the last 20 years out the window. The LNP is proposing removing the Wild Rivers legislation protections from the Gulf country rivers, against the wishes of Aboriginal people here.

Waterbirds of the Archer River declared Wild River Area

Waterbirds of the Archer River declared Wild River Area

I also understand removal of this legislation is proposed in Queensland’s Channel Country. Again – against the wishes of Aboriginal people. Removing this protection will allow miners into river channels and floodplains, into sensitive waterholes and wetlands.

The reality for the Gulf country is that it will allow big irrigators to extract massive amounts of water from fragile rivers without limit.

Campbell Newman has said that he believes Aboriginal people have not been consulted properly over Wild Rivers. I’m willing to take him at his word, and I invite him to come fishing with me, have a look at the rivers that are the lifeblood of our country out here.

I can work with reasonable development and I can work with Campbell Newman, but he needs to convince me he is listening to us, and will protect our rivers. Sitting out here on a riverbank or the causeway with a fishing rod is a great place for an honest conversation. How about it Mr Premier?

The Cooper Creek Basin Wild River Area

The Cooper Creek Basin Wild River Area

Murrandoo Yanner is chairman of the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation

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