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Australian indigenous groups win legal battle to develop ecotourism hotspots



Indigenous people in Australia have won a battle in the federal court to overturn legislation made in 2009 that restricted development around three rivers in Cape York, Queensland.

 A four-year legal battle to undo development restrictions, originally imposed by Queensland’s former Labour government, has finally been won by the indigenous groups.

The Archer, Lockhart and Stewart basins were put under development restrictions by the local authorities in April 2009 – a move made feasible by the Wild Rivers Act of 2005. Federal court judge Andrew Greenwood has declared this invalid.

Martha Koowartha, a traditional land owner and the widow of renowned land rights campaigner John, said she was “so happy” outside of court earlier this week. The decision brings to an end the battle between the Cape York land council and the federal court.

Tracey Ludwick, of campaign group Give Us A Go, said the judgment would enable her people to start new ecotourism projects.

She added, “This frees up the rivers again that they claimed were wild. We’ll probably see a lot more of ecotourism and different types of things like that up in Cape York.”

The appeal was launched on behalf of the Wik, Umpila and Lama Lama people of the Cape York peninsula.

The challenge focussed on the declarations made by former Labour environment minister Stephen Robertson, who made the development restrictions in 2009.

Deputy premier of the Liberal National party, Jeff Seeney, said the party were planning to press ahead with its plan to repeal the Wild Rivers Act entirely, by August this year.

He said his governmental plan for Cape York would ensure traditional owners and indigenous communities have a say in economic opportunities for the future.

Photo credit: Lee Bailey

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