Federal recognition for the Wet Tropics
THE Wet Tropics has been recognised for its indigenous cultural significance to Australia.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke will today announce the indigenous heritage values of the region will be added to the existing Wet Tropics national heritage listing.
The region, which stretches from Cooktown to Townsville, includes the Barron Gorge and Daintree national parks and has been long known as home to some of Australia's most rare mammal species.
Mr Burke said the region's indigenous heritage had been overlooked.
"Australia's ancient heritage doesn't only live in its environment," he said.
"We have a deep cultural heritage spanning back centuries and millennia."
"This should have been recognised in the Wet Tropics when the heritage listing was first made but I'm glad to say that from today cultural heritage is fully and permanently recognised."
Any new development or project considered to have a significant impact on any of the indigenous national heritage values will now require federal environment approval. But the listing will not affect land ownership or native title.
Indigenous Advisory Council chair Melissa George said the listing would be welcomed by traditional owners.
"It's recognition of the cultural values that have always existed in the Wet Tropics," she said.
"It's now an opportunity for cultural values to be managed in a framework and traditional owners can be a part of that. It's really good the minister is able to recognise the hard work the traditional owners went through."
But Ms George said many of the original owners who had campaigned for recognition had since passed away.
"This is a process that has been undertaken progressively over 20 years and unfortunately there's a lot of senior people who have since passed on and aren't here to celebrate that," she said
The Wet Tropics was added to the heritage list in 2007.
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Recognition: Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke.