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Wednesday, 22 June 1994
Page: 1934


Senator REYNOLDS (7.30 p.m.) —I also rise to speak about the concerns of many people in North Queensland with respect to this proposed development near Hinchinbrook Island and the impact that such a large-scale development will have on the Hinchinbrook Channel. Developments in the last 24 hours suggest that there is some rethinking at least about the scale of the proposal. I understand that it is now considered that the proposal may be scaled down by 25 per cent, and that is welcomed. It shows that someone is listening to the extensive concerns that have been raised in submissions received by the Office of the Coordinator-General.

  However, there are four key areas that I believe we still need a great deal more information about. First of all, I focus on the historic perspectives and parallels of this issue in relation to effective coastal management and protection of the environment and appropriate planning for eco-tourism projects over the past decade. I am familiar with much of the debate that went on at the time of Mr Williams's former development on Hamilton Island. Frankly, some of the issues that we are debating now, nearly 11 years later, give me a real sense of deja vu. I wonder what we have learnt in 11 years.

  The second area of major concern relates to the environmental assessment procedures. I compliment Mr Gerard Early on the nine-page submission that he submitted on behalf of the federal government's world heritage unit. Obviously, the key concerns relate to protection of world heritage values. I compliment Minister Faulkner for his decision to allow Dr Peter Valentine to assess just what values would be impacted on by the proposal as presently outlined.

  There is also the issue of the maintenance of the intergovernmental agreement on the environment. When we consider the environment it is so important that we do not just say, `There's the state boundary; that's where federal, local or state concern finishes.' If we as a nation are concerned about standards for environmental protection, we need to have local, state and federal government cooperation and close consultation. I am happy to say that the Office of the Coordinator-General is working closely on this at the moment, but I believe that process should have started some considerable time ago. Clearly, my major concern is the impact of Hinchinbrook Channel dredging on mangrove, seagrass and dugong populations.

  The third area of concern is the social impact of a development of this scale, even though it may be scaled down by 25 per cent. It is still a very considerable proposal for the small seaside resort of Cardwell. There are questions relating to the water supply and to the impact on land valuations and how that could affect the 40 per cent of local people who rent in the Cardwell community. If this development is of such a scale, what will the standard of accommodation for workers be? Will they be competing with the 40 per cent of the residents of Cardwell who are renting and who will find that rents and valuations will rise? There will be much greater competition for available property.

  The social impact also raises issues of health, including insect control and sewerage. Of course, the environmental impact affects these issues. These are just some of the issues that have been raised with me by local government. I spent a short time with the Cardwell Shire Council last week, and I have talked to a number of different representatives in the local community.

  The area that I would like to focus on in conclusion is the lack of consideration and consultation, and the lack of appreciation of the cultural heritage of this region; the failure to be in touch with new standards that apply following the extensive debate last year in relation to native title and the need to protect archaeological sites. At this stage I would like to acknowledge the presence in the public gallery of Mr Russell Butler, whose family and ancestors have long traditional links with the Hinchinbrook region. He is accompanied by Ms Susan Brown from the North Queensland Conservation Council. They, with a number of others, are working very hard to question the processes, the lack of consultation, the failure to seriously examine some of the very real concerns that have been raised in submissions to the Office of the Coordinator-General. I refer in particular to the fact that we have not had a real environmental impact or social impact statement; we have had a review of environmental issues—a very unusual process, I am sure many honourable senators will agree.

  I am concerned that the Lands Branch of the Division of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs facilitated a land workshop at Cardwell from 16 to 18 May this year, where the issues associated with Hinchinbrook and Oyster Point were canvassed. The resolutions in relation to Port Hinchinbrook were as follows:

That we seek more time to respond to the development reports and request funding so that we can employ someone to review the reports and to explain to us what the development is.

That an Aboriginal person—

supported by the local people—

be employed to monitor the building and operation of the resort.

We seek discussions with the developer about a range of issues.

Recommend a social impact study and an anthropological study regarding the development area should be done.

Identify and assess Aboriginal hunting, fishing and foraging rights in Hinchinbrook Channel and around the Oyster Point area.

Determine future access and traditional use of Oyster Point area if the development proceeds.

It is not only at the local level that these issues have been raised; the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in its submission raised the question of the cultural heritage impact—and I quote:

Ms Michelle Bird's Cultural Heritage Assessment of the specific site area records the fact that it was, in fact, carried out after the damage had been done, therefore the major value is in the comments and recommendations . . .

The general area represents an extensive Aboriginal domain which is about to be subjected to major tourism development and impact—particularly on Hinchinbrook Island.

There has been no attempt to assess the projected visitor numbers, destinations and use in a framework of social impacts related to destruction or desecration of cultural resources . . .

A four day cultural heritage assessment of a specific site is inadequate and inappropriate to address the broader concerns of the Aboriginal people . . .

Final project approval should not be granted until Aboriginal groups have been provided the opportunity to negotiate and agree to acceptable practical controls and decision making ability to ensure the protection and management of their heritage.

In the short time available to me this evening, I have outlined a range of issues. It clearly indicates to me that a development of this scale should not be rushed. We need much more time for consultation. We need much more information about the impact on the local community, because a development of this kind is there forever. We want to ensure that it is appropriate to this unique and special region.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Childs)—I call Senator Chamarette.


Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr Acting Deputy President, I take a point of order. I thought it was your practice to give the call to those from each side of the chamber. We have heard from Senator Woodley and Senator Reynolds, and now you are calling on Senator Chamarette—all from one side of the chamber. I point out that it was those three groups in the Senate who banded together to prevent the Senate having an unlimited adjournment debate, which would have enabled all of us to speak on this subject. But those three groups curtailed our free speech. For that reason, although I would not normally insist upon my right to speak, because those three groups have curtailed senators' free speech by restricting the adjournment debate, I do insist on my right to be called after a Labor speaker and a Democrat speaker, and before another one from that side of the chamber.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Chamarette has been gracious enough to accede to you.