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Kelvin Thomson: Help protect Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Cape York Peninsula

Mr Kelvin Thomson (Wills) Monday, 8 February 2010

At the time of Steve Irwin's death in 2005 he was one of the most recognised and respected Australian faces here in Australia and even more so right around the world. Former Prime Minister John Howard, to his credit, arranged a $6 million federal government grant to purchase 135,000 hectares in northern Cape York, preserve it as part of the national reserve system and name it the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve as a tribute to the life and conservation work of Australia's crocodile hunter.

According to the federal Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, a stunning array of wildlife roams the property, including the endangered northern quoll and the great palm cockatoo. Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve is home to six highly vulnerable plant species. The nearby Wenlock River is the richest in freshwater fish diversity of any Australian river, including speartooth sharks, sawfish and the estuarine crocodile. Of the 32 ecosystems found on the reserve, 21 are threatened. Many of these are found nowhere in the world but in Cape York. The department of the environment says that preserving them is of global importance.

(Great Palm Cockatoo - courtesy of wikimedia commons)

You would assume, then, given this history, that nothing could possibly go wrong. Regrettable, this is not the case. A mining company named Cape Alumina has lodged a request to strip mine over 12,000 hectares in the western part of Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve for bauxite. The result, according to Steve Irwin's widow, Terry Irwin, will be a total loss of original biodiversity, including all vegetation and wildlife. She says regenerated trees will lack the hollows that are crucial for nesting birds, possums and goannas. She also says that removing the bauxite would dramatically change the natural water flows to the unique and fragile rainforest springs on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve and damage the Wenlock River system.

I want to join with my parliamentary colleague Senator Mark Furner, I want to join with the nine scientists who have submitted a detailed report on the area and I want to join with the over 217.000 people who have signed the petition to save Steve's place in saying there should be no strip mining in Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve.

In the south we have made a lot of mistakes. We have wrecked areas in the Murray-Darling Basin like the Macquarie marshes and the Coorong. I do not think they will ever be the same again. Can't we at least learn from these sad stories and resolve to do better with Cape York Peninsula, starting with the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve? I urge the Queensland and federal governments to reject the strip mining proposal. Do it for Steve, do it for those rare fish, birds and plants, and above all do it for all those children and young people who want this area to be as beautiful in 10 years, 20 years, 100 years as it is today.

What you can do

If you are a Queensland resident, please sign the e-petition on the Parliamentary web-site (see text below), The petition is open until 17 May 2009. If you live outside of Queensland, please sign the petition on the Save Steve's Place. ( web site.

Queensland Parliamentary e-petition

The petition of the residents of the State of Queensland draws to the attention of the House that the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve (SIWR), a 135,000 hectare property in Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula, is being threatened by strip mining. The SIWR is a wetland conservation property and tribute to Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, and is home to a set of three important spring fed wetlands which provide a critical water source to threatened habitat, provide permanent flow of water to the Wenlock River, and is home to rare and vulnerable plants and wildlife. Cape Alumina Pty Ltd has lodged mining lease applications which include approximately 12,300 hectares of the SIWR. Cape Alumina company documents indicate an intention to mine 50 plus million tons of bauxite over a 10 year period commencing 2010. The proposed area for mining on the SIWR contains the head waters of irreplaceable waterways and unique biodiversity which will not recover after mining operations are finished.

Your petitioners therefore request the House to ask the Minister for Mines and Energy to ensure that no mining applications are granted on any part of the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve (SIWR).

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