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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 792

Mr SCHULTZ (8:15 PM) —Recently, Sue Bradley, a pastoral leaseholder who also runs a B&B, what is commonly referred to as a station stay business, within the proposed Kimberley heritage listed area—some 17 million hectares—raised the issue of the need to protect a small section of the Kimberley. She quite rightly was initially interested in protecting ancient Bradshaw stick-figure paintings of people, certain sections of the Mitchell Plateau and features of the north-west Kimberley coast. She was shocked when Minister Garrett nominated such a huge area, encompassing working pastoral, mining and business centres.

From past experience of declarations of wilderness areas, I can tell you that this proposed World Heritage listing will guarantee an explosion of introduced feral animals, vermin and noxious weeds. It will increase the potential for massive wildfires fed by unmaintained fuel on the ground, which naturally follows lock-ups of so-called wilderness and heritage areas, which because of size cannot be appropriately managed by government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Conservation Western Australia. They simply do not have the finances or personnel to adequately manage an area of that magnitude.

I recently visited the Kimberleys with my wife and we stayed at El Questro Station. El Questro operates as a pastoral lease and as a wilderness experience for tourists. It cohabits with nature. It protects the environment while running an eco-friendly pastoral business. The Kimberleys have been aptly described by many as a national treasure as well as a vital and critical part of Western Australia’s and Australia’s economies. This beautiful and productive part of our country has been responsibly managed, nurtured and protected by the people who settled it and live in it in a sustainable way, and who have done so for decades.

That description of the Kimberleys could be applied to the Kosciuszko National Park. I raise the issue of the Kosciuszko National Park as a means of advising my parliamentary colleagues, who may not be aware, of what will happen when you declare wilderness areas—areas that were previously inhabited by man and responsibly managed in company with nature for many, many decades. The Kosciuszko National Park was locked to pastoralists 30 or 40 years ago. Over the following decades there was an explosion of introduced animal pest species and noxious weeds. Despite governments of both political persuasions wanting to shut down Kosciuszko to anybody other than bushwalkers, it deteriorated to such an extent that in 1992 I made a prediction about what would happen. I warned my then volunteer bushfire brigades not to go into the Kosciuszko National Park if a lightning strike hit it because the fire would consume anything and everything in its path, and the intensity of the fire would destroy all the genes of the natural fauna and flora there.

Sadly, that came to pass in 2003 and it did not surprise me that it did. Unfortunately, the fire not only destroyed the genes of much of our native flora and fauna—because the fire was so hot it sterilised the earth 60 feet below the surface in some areas—but also created a massive social problem because it killed people and it destroyed property. That is the sad reality of going down the path of declaring wilderness areas that you cannot manage and to which you do not allocate sufficient resources to ensure that the weeds and the feral animals that have been introduced by man into those areas are responsibly managed, as they are when you have pastoralists and other businesses working in the area looking after the ecology of our natural environment in this great country of ours. So I caution all of these people pushing for this huge wilderness area in the Kimberleys to think very seriously about what I have just described. (Time expired)