Skip to main content

Cape York Peninsula

Cape York is a vast, intact landscape boasting extraordinary natural beauty and ancient Indigenous heritage – but all of this is under threat from mining.

Top three reasons to protect Cape York Peninsula

1. Indigenous value: Natural and cultural values are interwoven, diverse and abundant in Cape York. Managed for tens of thousands of years by traditional owners, it is truly one of the last great Aboriginal homelands on earth. The Cape's traditional Indigenous cultures and languages reflect the incredible diversity of this environment – revealing a rich expression of human interactions with nature tens of thousands of years old.

2. Diversity of nature: Compared with other natural World Heritage Areas, Cape York contains larger rainforests than the Daintree, more old growth forest than Tasmania, more river biodiversity than the Franklin, larger reef systems than Ningaloo, bigger wetlands than Kakadu and larger dune systems than Fraser Island. It's safe to say that Cape York richly deserves more signficant protection when it can boast such diversity. Cape York is an incredible and unique interconnected mosaic of savanna, wetlands, coastline, rainforests, dune fields and coral reefs.
 
3. Vast scale: A remarkably intact wilderness, Cape York is twice the size of Victoria but has only 1% of its land cleared. The wilderness values of Cape York are of such scale and integrity that it is the largest and most intact tropical savanna left on Earth. Cape York's biodiversity is truly staggering – it contains half of Australia's bird species, one-third of the country’s mammal species, and a quarter of the species of frogs and reptiles. Just last year, conservation scientists and Indigenous knowledge holders identified five new animal species!
 

The threat

Until now, Cape York has mostly been spared the impacts of the rampant expansion of the mining industry in Australia. However, eight new bauxite, sand and coal mines are proposed for the Cape with about a quarter of the region under exploration for further mines.
 
These new mines will industrialise the Cape region and destroy its potential World Heritage values. These mines will inevitably be the catalyst for the clearing of tens of thousands of hectares of previously untouched wilderness, the opening of new mining roads and ports, the building of dams, pollution, dredging and increased shipping through the Great Barrier Reef. 
 
Protecting Cape York also protects the Great Barrier Reef. Not only is the unprecedented wave of mining development projects (and the removal of river protection laws by the Queensland LNP state government) undermining the potential for a World Heritage listing for Cape York, but the associated damage is a major new threat to the most pristine and healthiest section of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area that should be an alarming development for all Australians.
 

What we're doing about it

When significant parts of Cape York Peninsula are listed as a World Heritage Area in recognition of the region’s extensive natural and cultural values - we've reached our goal. The Wilderness Society advocates a mixed World Heritage nomination of natural and cultural values, with a strong focus on cultural landscapes. One large encompassing area is optimal for protection and management across the natural values and ecological systems of the region.

It is the Wilderness Society's policy that we will only support a World Heritage nomination that has the consent of Traditional Owners. The process to determine whether there is consent from the relevant Traditional Owners should be afforded the necessary support and resources from the federal and state governments, with reasonable timeframes set in which Government can be sure it has informed agreement of the Traditional Owners.

Securing political and community support for Cape York World Heritage protection will mean that the federal government must be a strong national and international champion of our campaign outcomes. At a state level, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and the LNP must back the World Heritage program because of the Commonwealth resources that would be made available if traditional owners agree a World Heritage nomination. At the state and national level, strong community awareness and support for World Heritage, gives state and federal governments a mandate to act.

The quintessential values of Cape York Peninsula are its rich biological and ecosystem diversity and its enduring Indigenous culture - both past and present. What makes the Cape particularly special is its sheer size; the scale and vastness of these attributes are simply mind-boggling and an obvious global treasure. 
 
The boundary for a proposed World Heritage area should reflect the vast extent and integrity of these values across the Peninsula, and the need to safeguard them for the future.
 

Our vision

It is critical that values are protected across significant areas of the Cape to support climate adaptation. Giving these areas the best chance to continue thriving for generations to come should be a priority

Ecosystem-based climate change solutions may present particularly important and exciting economic development opportunities for regions such as Cape York Peninsula, including as a result of emerging carbon markets and indigenous carbon farming industries.  

A World Heritage listing would be a fantastic outcome for the people, lands, waters and wildlife of Cape York Peninsula, but Traditional Owners of the region must consent before any nomination is made. It is has been their land for tens of thousands of years and the choice is ultimately up to them.
 

What you can do

You can help us achieve World Heritage in Cape York Peninsula. Donate to the Wilderness Society today and be a part of something incredible for Australia.