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Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area Conservation Bill 1993



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House: Senate

Portfolio: Environment, Sport and Territories

Commencement: Royal Assent

Purpose

To provide a legislative basis for the implementation by the Commonwealth of the agreement with Queensland relating to the management of the North Queensland wet tropics heritage area.

Background

The Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area (the wet tropics) comprises an area of approximately 900 000ha of rainforest and associated vegetation between Townsville and Cooktown. The area consists of 620 parcels of protected land rather than a single block. The land tenure of the wet tropics is as follows:

State Forest 37.72%

National Park 28.69%

Lease 15.80%

Timber Reserve 8.55%

Vacant 6.16%

Freehold 1.98%

Reserves and Other 1.09%

The major feature that distinguishes the wet tropics and provides the basis for its world importance is the range of flora and fauna it contains. The wet tropics contains the most diverse representation of primitive angiosperm (flowering plant) families, and 13 of the 19 known families of such plants occur in the area. It is estimated that some of the trees in the wet tropics are over 3000 years old. Regarding fauna, the area contains, as a percentage of the total number of species in Australia, approximately:

marsupials 30%

bats 60%

frogs 30%

reptiles 23%

butterflies 62%

birds 18% 1

The wet tropics received world heritage listing in December 1988 and the listing was challenged by the then Queensland government. Following the loss of a High Court challenge to the listing and the change of government in that State in 1989, a further challenge was dropped and negotiations between representatives of the Commonwealth and Queensland governments commenced. In November 1990 an agreement dealing with the management and funding of the wet tropics was signed by the Commonwealth and Queensland governments. The agreement provides for the establishment of the Ministerial Council; a management authority which will advise the Ministerial Council; a management agency which will develop and implement management plans and programs; a community consultative committee which will contain representatives from a number of organisations including local government, conservation and industry groups and the Aboriginal community; and a scientific advisory committee. As well, the agreement provides for the Commonwealth to contribute to the costs of capital works in the wet tropics and the running costs of the management agency.

A draft strategic plan for the management of the wet tropics was released in 1992 for public comment. It is expected that a draft management plan will be issued for public comment shortly and the plan will be in place once time for public comment has passed.

The Commonwealth/Queensland agreement has been given force of law by the Queensland Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993 (the Queensland Act). This Bill will allow the Commonwealth to give effect to it obligations under the Queensland Act.

Main Provisions

Section 14 of the Queensland Act provides for a Board of Directors of the management authority which is to consist of six Directors, two of whom will be nominated by the Commonwealth. Clause 5 of the Bill will authorise the Commonwealth Minister to make those nominations.

Clause 6 provides for the Commonwealth Minister to make available to the management authority staff of the Australian Public Service and Commonwealth authorities.

The annual report of the management authority is to be tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament (clause 8).

References

1. All figures taken from the Wet Tropics Management Authority Draft Wet Tropics Plan.

Chris Field (06 2772439)

Bills Digest Service 27 January 1994

Parliamentary Research Service

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

Commonwealth of Australia 1994

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1994.