New conservation area on Curtis Island is “smoke and mirrors”

Conservationists are cynical about the “expansion” of conservation areas on Curtis Island, asking what good is a conservation area if a world heritage area can be bulldozed to make way for three LNG plants?

Last week environment minister Andrew Powell visited Curtis Island with representatives from each of the three LNG projects there, to announce a “landmark” initiative which will set aside two thirds of the island as a conservation area.

The Queensland government has bought back rights to the Monte Christo cattle property, and have earmarked $34.5 million over 25 years to manage the protected areas.

The Gladstone Conservation Council (GCC) has said the move was no more than “smoke and mirrors”, as land on the island which was already listed as a world heritage area or national park has already been bulldozed to make way for the LNG plants.

The GCC said nothing can make up for the land and vegetation cleared for industrial purposes, and that changes had weakened environmental laws to benefit industry.

Gladstone Conservation Council president Jan Arens said that environmental offsets were supposed to replace the environment that had been destroyed on the island.

“This is typical manipulation,” he said.

“The island was already listed in the world heritage area and yet it was allowed to be bulldozed for industry.

“They've removed hundreds of hectares of ecosystem that is significant.

“It irks me that once again Curtis Island is being manipulated.

Minister Powell said the intent was always to offset as close to the environment being disturbed.

“First we look to avoid the impacts on environmental matters, then look to mitigate them and if we can't do either of those then we look for an offset,” he said.

“It's certainly a priority that we look for that as close to where the industry or activity is occuring.”

Arens said given previous changes it was unlikely the conservation listing would be able to protect the environment there.

“What does the world heritage title give you as a listing? No protection. National Park, State Park – there's no protection.

“Where does the environment, in real terms, benefit from this?”

Image: Brenda Strong

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