8 February 2022
Wildlife Queensland welcomes the State Environment Minister’s announcement of the acquisition of “The Lakes” – a 35,300 ha property north of Hughenden that is soon to be Queensland’s newest national park.
In the announcement, Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said it was the largest acquisition yet undertaken under Queensland’s Protected Area Strategy 2020–2030, a major plan to support the growth and management of our national parks and other protected areas.
“This purchase will ensure the future preservation of valuable, undisturbed ecosystems and habitat that will link up to an existing network of protected areas in the region,” Minister Scanlon reportedly said.
Wildlife Queensland agrees that this acquisition contributes significantly to Queensland’s Protected Area Estate (PAE), which is still only approximately 50 % of the internationally recognised IUCN target. There are 18 Regional Ecosystems (RE) captured by this acquisition, 10 of which, covering about 80% of the holding, are either not represented or poorly represented in the current PAE.
One RE of particular interest is RE 2.10.3, comprising eucalypt open forests with dominant ironbarks and spotted gums, scattered stringybarks, and rusty gums in places. It is a bioclimate isolate, supporting unusual occurrences of flora and fauna, such as the vulnerable northern Greater Glider (Petauroides minor). Lava tunnels here also support the largest known breeding colony of the little bent-wing bats (Miniopterus australis) in Tropical North Queensland.
The forests and woodlands, combined with large refugia areas and riparian corridors, provide significant habitat connectivity across the bioregion, and the hypersaline lakes are classed of Wetlands of High Ecological Significance. Previous cattle-grazing and associated infrastructure appear to have had a relatively low impact on the property.
Wildlife Queensland commends the State Government for working with the Nature Conservancy and the Wyss Foundation to ensure the limited funds allocated for acquisition in the Queensland budget are stretched further to acquire much-needed additional national parks. Wildlife Queensland has been assured that there were no negative conditions applied by the Wyss Foundation.
The only concern the Minister’s press release raised for Wildlife Queensland was the suggestion that they would “ … explore ways to make it accessible for visitors, who will definitely want to experience the incredible lakes, birdlife and walks for themselves.” Campgrounds and necessary infrastructure undertaken by the Department in appropriate locations, with as little impact as possible to facilitate park visitation and in keeping with the traditional cardinal principle of management of national parks, would not be opposed. However, Wildlife Queensland continues to strenuously oppose commercial development of infrastructure within national parks under the guise of eco- tourism.
Park visitation is a legitimate use, but it must be always come second to national parks’ prime purpose: the protection of our natural and cultural heritage.