Pat yourselves on the back, Australia – your children will thank you. Congratulations, you have saved some of the most stunning landscapes in this wide, brown land for the following generations.
Even in the midst of the all-powerful resources boom, sometimes communities put their collective feet down, taking on governments and industry to defend and conserve these stunning areas. Of course, there are still many battles being fought and to be fought. But in the meantime, here are seven triumphs – landscapes of great environmental, cultural and sentimental significance (and, of course, commercial value) that your grandkids and their grandkids can will be able to experience and enjoy.
1. Koongarra, NT
Kakadu National Park’s boundaries were declared in 1979, but an area near the famous Nourlangie Rock (famous for indigenous rock art) was excluded from the park because of a large uranium deposit there. For years Jeffrey Lee, the senior Djok traditional owner of Koongarra, was courted by mining companies to use the land but he insisted it be incorporated into Kakadu. Finally, in 2013, the Kakadu Project Area Act was repealed and this extraordinary part of the region was included in the National Park and World Heritage Area.
2. Franklin River, Tasmania
Probably Australian environmentalists’ most famous battle and one that was ultimately successful. In 1982-83, 1272 people were arrested at Warner’s Landing, 6km from the junction of the Franklin and Gordon, during protests against the Tasmanian government’s plan to dam the Gordon. These concerted protests (during a federal election campaign) meant the river was saved in 1983 after actions by the Hawke Government and a High Court decision.
3. Arkaroola, SA
This wilderness reserve in northern Flinders Ranges, about 600km north of Adelaide, was described by Dick Smith as one of Australia’s finest arid landscapes. Sir Douglas Mawson also often brought his Adelaide University students here on field trips. Until 2011 the area was under threat from uranium mining, but after a community campaign in July of that year, the government announced that mining would be banned in Arkaroola, aiming eventually for a World Heritage listing.
4. Hattah Lakes, Victoria
Hattah Lakes wetlands, part of the Murray-Darling river system, did not experience a proper flood between 1996 to 2010. Too much water, mostly for irrigation, was being taken out of the wetlands (one of Australia’s most significant) for the natural floods, which are vital for the area’s birds and animals, to occur. Recently an environmental works program is bringing Hattah’s river redgums and animals back to life in this stunning series of freshwater lakes.
5. Mary River, Queensland
The Queensland government wanted to flood the Mary River Valley at Traveston Crossing, near Gympie, to shore up Brisbane’s water supply. The plan threatened the habitat of Australian lungfish, Mary River cod and Mary River turtle, and would have flooded large tracts of farming land. After a community campaign, then Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett invoked Commonwealth environmental powers to stop the project.
6. James Price Point, WA
A plan to build a gas processing plant at James Price Point, 50km from Broome on the Kimberley’s coastline, faced opposition from environmentalists, who said the plan posed risks to whales, dugongs, bilbies and dinosaur footprints in the area. There was also a strong opposition from the land’s traditional Goolarabooloo owner Richard Hunter. But in mid 2013, after protracted court action, the gas project was shelved, the companies opting to obtain the gas from a floating platform out at sea instead.
7. Mt Everard, Harts Range and Fishers Ridge, NT
Some of Australia’s most arid landscapes, Mt Everard and Harts Range (near Alice Springs) and Fishers Ridge (NT, near Katherine) had been shortlisted as possible radioactive waste dump sites. But all three sites, of great environmental and cultural significance, have since been removed from consideration after various community campaigns.
Thanks to the Australian Conservation Foundation for use of information and resources.