Cape York development uncertainty must be removed

15 April 2016

AgForce has welcomed the State Government’s commitment to develop large-scale business and tourism ventures in remote indigenous communities, but said planned changes to vegetation management laws must be scrapped if the Government is serious about job creation in Cape York.

Representatives from the Queensland Investment Corporation, Treasury officials, Queensland Resources Council and Indigenous groups from Cape York, Palm Island and the state’s north-west discussed the plans at an investment forum this week in Cairns.

Queensland’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Curtis Pitt was reported as saying there was a lot of untapped potential in northern Australia.

“We’re hoping to draw out some of the needs and aspirations of people not only in the Cape but right across the state,” Mr Pitt said. (Source: ABC News Online, 14 April 2016)

AgForce President Grant Maudsley said the Queensland Government could start by removing the uncertainty over future agricultural development in places like Cape York by scrapping its planned changes to the State’s vegetation management laws.

“It’s clear both indigenous & non-indigenous graziers on the Cape will be prevented from developing their properties and growing more of their own hay to feed cattle,” he said.

“Traditional owners and long-time cattle producers are telling us that this issue has united them in a way that hasn’t happened for many years.

“They are angry that there has been little or no consultation by the Government about the proposed changes and this is creating frustration and confusion.

Independent MP Billy Gordon with his Labor hero, former PM Kevin Rudd. Gordon has been accused of dumping his indigenous constituents in return for re-admittance to the Labor Party

“If Curtis Pitt and his Government are fair dinkum about talking to Cape York communities about developing jobs, and a meaningful future, then they should start with existing businesses like the beef industry.

“It has traditionally been a significant employer and income-earner for indigenous communities and should be allowed to develop to its full potential. But that can’t happen if the tough new vegetation management rules apply.”

Wik Mukan tribal elder and cattleman Willie Lawrence told an AgForce Queensland workshop in Coen this week that he wanted the local State MP Billy Gordon to meet with traditional owners and understand what is at stake if the changes go ahead.

“If Billy Gordon came up here I can talk to him, he can get ideas from me about these new tree laws and the other things like National Parks locking us out of our traditional country,” he said.

“We can have a good yarn and he can understand me and I can understand him.” (Photos of Willie Lawrence at the AgForce workshop are available upon request)

AgForce has been holding workshops throughout Cape York this week and the workshops continue today in Laura and then in Cooktown on Monday.