OPINION: Habitat conservation must be visible, tangible and free from exploitation

DEAR News Of The Area,

I AM writing in response to the article by Andrew Vivian (‘$600,000 investment in Aboriginal Koala conservation’, p5, Coffs Coast News Of The Area).

This NSW Government commitment to provide $600,000 to support an Aboriginal koala habitat conservation project is potentially excellent news for both koalas and our Indigenous community.

However, if it is to ‘insure’ meaningful conservation of critical habitat, it must be visible, tangible and afforded guaranteed protection from exploitation.

Not wishing to be cynical, this must not simply be a means of trying to appease conservationists for their rightful disapproval of the recent extension of logging licences in old growth forest areas by the same government.

That the proposed project is to be implemented along traditional custodian land management lines, using cultural techniques and knowledge is very commendable and a measure of respect for the Gumbaynggirr community and all Aboriginal people.

It is particularly encouraging that cultural knowledge of fire management is to play a significant role; knowledge that has been effectively used in North Queensland and the Northern Territory.

As a former national park ranger, I can recall working with respected research botanists Peter Stanton and Geoff Tracey, both major proponents of the North Qld Wet Tropics being inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Stanton and Tracey pioneered re-introducing traditional aboriginal methods of seasonal, fuel reduction burns in drier areas adjoining tropical rainforest.

As botanists they recognised that since European settlement, the cessation of seasonal controlled burns to reduce fuel loads, as had previously been practised by the local Indigenous people for centuries, was the major cause of rainforest margins on the western slopes of the Great Divide being destroyed by wild-fires.

They respectfully took the time to consult with Traditional Owners, and as a result applied their techniques very effectively in fire management and the conservation of critical forest habitat areas.

God has blessed us with a beautiful place to call home; we have a moral responsibility to keep it so, both in diversity and quality.

We are all, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, custodians of His wonderful creation and I appeal to you all to be thankful for what we have now, and to thank God for it.

Let’s look after it for future generations – koalas and people!

A Christian Conservationist,
St John the Baptist Anglican Church, Nambucca.

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