Protecting Cape York Peninsula

Protecting Cape York Peninsula’s environment and ensuring a conservation and cultural economy flourishes has long term benefits for Cape York communities.

Cape York — conservation and cultural economy

Cape York faces increasing development pressure and conservation risk, and Indigenous communities remain significantly disadvantaged. Its unique environmental and cultural values need to be protected and managed by its community.

A conservation and cultural economy values land and culture, and in doing so provides long-term economic opportunities for the region. 

We actively support Indigenous communities through land tenure processes, application for World Heritage listing, and provide assistance to Indigenous community partners on conservation and cultural issues.

Cape York — returning land to rightful owners

The Cape York land tenure reform process is overseeing the return of land to Traditional Owners. It seeks to correct the historical wrong of dispossession of country, returning it to its rightful owners for joint management.

So far over 1,500,716 hectares of land has been returned to Traditional Owners. It is an important first step toward securing long term economic and environmental sustainability on Cape York, providing a foundation for economic initiatives.

Read about the Cape York land tenure process. 

So far over 1,500,716 hectares of land has been returned to Traditional Owners. It is an important first step toward securing long term economic and environmental sustainability on Cape York, providing a foundation for economic initiatives

Cape York Peninsula — World Heritage listing

We are committed to nominating appropriate areas of Cape York Peninsula for World Heritage listing with the consent of Traditional Owners. We believe with proper investment in culturally and environmentally appropriate economic enterprises, Cape York’s communities can fully benefit from a World Heritage listing.

We are committed to advocating for a Cape York World Heritage economic package to assist communities on the Cape. This should include:

• Resources for the operations of land and sea centres
• Investment in natural and cultural heritage management
• Indigenous-driven national park and World Heritage administration
• Employment and economic strategies in conservation sector jobs
• Training, education and skill capacity building initiatives

With suitable foundations such as these in place, World Heritage listing has the potential to then will provide Cape York Peninsula with long term conservation and cultural protection, and bring tangible socio-economic opportunities to the region.

Read about the incredible natural and cultural features of Cape York that are worthy of World Heritage listing.

Indigenous partnerships

Wuthathi people

Since the 1980s we have enjoyed a strong partnership with the Wuthathi people from Shelbourne Bay, on the north east coast of Cape York. Our alliance with The Wuthathi was formed to prevent sand mining at Shelburne Bay.

The Wuthathi are gaining tenure and exclusive rights to almost all of their traditional homelands through the land tenure reform process and the Commonwealth’s Native Title process. One of the most significant parcels of land to be returned to Wuthathi ownership has been the 80,000 hectare Shelburne pastoral lease.

Read about the Wuthathi Cultural Regeneration Project and how we are working towards building a culture and conservation economy in Cape York Peninsula.

Kuku Yalanji people

ACF has worked with the Kuku Yalanji people, from Mossman to Cooktown on the southern east coast of Cape York, to produce the Yalanji Warranga Kaban Yalanji People of the Rainforest Fire Management Book.

We are currently assisting Kuku Yalanji in their investigations into an Indigenous Protected Area community planning project with the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation.

Click here to read more about the Indigenous Protected Area planning project.

The Queensland Government's Cape York Regional Plan

The Queensland Government promised to protect Cape York during the last election in 2012 but their draft Cape York Regional Plan fails to provide any meaningful protection and leaves most of Cape York vulnerable to mining and other forms of development.

The centrepiece of the Queensland Government’s Cape York Regional Plan is a three-tiered zoning map that identifies national parks, what it calls ‘strategic environmental areas’ and 'general use zones'.

In summary, over 50% of Cape York has been zoned as 'general use' where, according to the draft plan, economic development will be prioritised over biodiversity.

The strategic environmental areas which include iconic landscapes such as Shelburne Bay only receive non-statutory protection.  Extensive savanna, vast wetlands, rich plateau forests and river corridors and a diversity of other rich tropical habitats are still vulnerable to mining and development. While there is a proposed ban on open cut and strip mining, there is no definition and this can be changed at the discretion of ministers.

ACF’s recommendations to the Queensland Government are to:

  • Increase the extent of the strategic environmental areas
  • Provide statutory protection of the these areas to ensure mining is prohibited
  • Provide better  protection to biodiversity throughout the region

Read an update

Read ACF and CAFNEC's summary and key asks on the Cape York Regional Plan.

Read ACF and CAFNEC's full submission to the Cape York Regional Plan.

Read ACF's Cape York Regional Plan background briefing.