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27 September 2006 - Heritage protection for Australias last wild rivers       

Heritage protection for Australia’s last wild rivers

Sydney, 27 September 2006                              
                                                                                                                                  

In an effort to preserve one of Australia’s last remaining wild and free flowing rivers, Humane Society International has nominated the Paroo River Catchment for listing as ‘National Heritage’ under Australia’s national environment laws.

Described as the last natural river system in south-eastern Australia, the Paroo River catchment covers an area of about 76,200 square kilometres in north-western New South Wales and south-western Queensland. It is the only one of 26 river catchments in the vast area of the Murray Darling Basin that has not been seriously altered by water extraction.

The catchment encompasses a diversity of inland wetlands (saline lakes, freshwater lakes, near-permanent riverine waterholes, claypans and lignum swamps) which support a treasure trove of aquatic wildlife and are a magnet for up to 250,000 waterbirds during peak floods. Rich in Aboriginal heritage and spirituality, the Paroo catchment is also an integral part of Australia’s development as a nation built ‘on the sheep’s back’.

HSI’s nomination follows a recommendation from respected water expert, Professor Peter Cullen, to the Prime Minister in 2002 that Australia’s last remaining wild rivers should be protected as National Heritage under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The listing of National Heritage places is the responsibility of Federal Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell. Once listed as National Heritage, any action that could significantly impact on the river catchment would require the approval of the Commonwealth Government through the Federal Environment Minister.

“In light of the water crisis facing the continent, HSI asks that Senator Ian Campbell expedite protection for Australia’s last remaining wild rivers, including the Paroo, as National Heritage to ensure they do not follow Australia’s other waterways into ecological disrepair”, said HSI Director Michael Kennedy

“National Heritage listings for Australia’s major wild rivers would be an important tool with which the Commonwealth government could show its leadership in managing the continent’s precious water resources”, said Mr Kennedy.

HSI welcomes the Howard Government revitalising its approach to Australia’s water crisis with the establishment of an Office of Water Resources within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 





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