Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Minister Kelly to sell the Crown Jewels

“Minister for Lands, Tony Kelly, has become a real estate agent for the disposal of important high conservation lands protected from development and sale since the days of the Greiner Government. Unless the Premier intervenes at least 162 parcels of wilderness across the State will be sold for a pittance. The planned conversion of leasehold land to freehold title would compromise over 100,000 hectares of wilderness,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“On conversion to freehold title, these back country overflow grazing areas will be developed. The flimsy protection offered in covenants will not stop this damage. The Department of Lands privatisation agenda is an outmoded 1980s ideology that Premier Iemma should block before it's too late", Mr Muir said.

“Mr Kelly instead should be our custodian for all Crown lands, particularly protecting those lands with conservation values. The uncertainty of climate change brings with it a need for the Government to fully use its residual rights in Crown leases. These powers have protected the native vegetation and wild streams of intact headwater catchments for over 100 years. After sale, there will be no chance of protecting wild rivers, such as the Timbarra River in the Washpool Wilderness. The planned protection measures over freehold won't be half as good, and our survival in these increasingly arid times ahead will depend on how well we secure these areas,” he said.

“The vision of large intact wild parks is at risk from Kelly's land disposal program. National parks will become further fragmented with enclaves of private development and exclusive hideaways. Increased park and environmental maintenance will cost his Government much more than any short term benefit from a fire sale. In 1989 Nick Greiner intervened to stop the sale of high conservation value areas. Morris Iemma should follow Greiner's example and say "NO" to the bean counters in the Department of Lands whose inflexible fire sale agenda now threatens his Government's green credibility,” Mr Muir said

“Governments of all persuasions have acquired the rugged escarpment country along the Great Divide. Piece by piece iconic parks such as Washpool, Oxley and Guy Fawkes were built up through voluntary acquisition of Crown leasehold land,” he said.

“Wilderness has not been protected in any way under regional vegetation plans, private land logging codes or under logging approvals. Now a 20 year moratorium of the disposal of wilderness leases is to be broken. This is a pretty crummy way to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Wilderness Act, Mr Iemma,“ said Mr Muir.

For more information contact Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)