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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 795

Dr WASHER (8:26 PM) —I rise to support the motion moved by the member for Kalgoorlie. On 6 February 2008, the Commonwealth and WA governments agreed to commence a formal assessment of the national heritage values within the Kimberley region. The completion date for the assessment by the Australian Heritage Council has been set for 30 June 2010. The area being assessed is around 17 million hectares, generally extending from Roebuck Bay in the west to the Hann River in the east—including Drysdale River National Park—and from the Fitzroy River in the south to and including the Bonaparte and Buccaneer archipelagos in the north. Although the entire area is being assessed, it does not mean that the entire area will be recommended for listing.

Under the EPBC Act, actions that have or are likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national and environmental significance require approval from the minister, and national heritage is a matter of national environmental significance. Therefore, if parts of the Kimberley are placed on the National Heritage List any future proposal for development in these parts may require approval from the minister under the provisions of the act. Current pastoral business practices would not be affected by the listing, only future investment and development—and that is where the member for Kalgoorlie is concerned. Proposals are then usually approved with specific environmental conditions imposed so that the impacts on the national heritage values will be minimised. If the proposal can be assessed by WA state processes, the minister must make a decision on assessment within 30 business days. It is vital that that happens, if this is the case.

There are legitimate concerns that the government has not adequately communicated with the various interested holders in the region. This has led to confusion and concern about how they will be affected by the possible listing. It is critical that the government urgently address this issue and explain what the possible listing means for future development in the region. Once the assessment period has ended and areas selected for listing have been decided, the government must then identify and commit the necessary resources that will be required for management and protection.

It cannot be disputed that certain areas of the Kimberley must be protected for future generations. However, these areas cannot be listed simply to gain political kudos. These areas must be legitimately protected and maintained, and those stakeholders affected must clearly understand what is involved in the protection of those areas. Unnecessary red tape and impediments to future responsible pastoral and mining activities must be avoided at all costs—as the member for Hasluck said. The Kimberley region has been managed by humans for at least 50,000 years, and it would be impossible to achieve the heritage value of this region without human intervention—particularly for fire management and management of feral animals and plant pests. Continued engagement with our native populations and increasing their opportunities in constructive employment is vital for their future and that of the Kimberley.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms JA Saffin)—Order! The time allotted for his debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.