The traditional owners of the iconic Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park are overjoyed that their country is now officially off limits for mining and fracking.
As they found out at a meeting with the Central Land Council in the jointly managed park today, the NT government has declared a mineral and petroleum reserve over the entire park.
The declaration under the Petroleum Act reserves the park from the grant of an exploration permit or license.
“The reserves will provide significant levels of protection to the park that will exclude any future mineral or energy exploration and extraction,” the Department of Mines and Energy wrote to the Environmental Defenders Office in a letter dated 30 May.
The EDO had helped the traditional owners to take their campaign against mining in the park to Canberra in November 2015, where they applied for emergency protection under federal heritage laws after previous Territory governments ignored their appeals for years.
CLC Director David Ross congratulated the custodians on their victory.
“It just goes to show what can be achieved with a persistent, patient and united campaign,” Mr Ross said.
“The CLC told the Martin government 15 years ago that traditional owners were opposed to mining on their land.
It’s great to see that the Gunner government is fair dinkum about correcting the mistakes of the past.”
In 2012 traditional owners of the Watarrka Park Land Trust were notified of a proposed grant of two Exploration Permit Applications over the entire park.
They unanimously opposed the grant of those applications and sought to protect the park from any future mining or oil and gas activities, whether exploration or production.
The CLC and the EDO opposed the applications and campaigned for secure ongoing protection of Watarrka.
While this pressure swayed the Giles government to refuse the grant of the EPAs it ignored the custodians’ requests for ongoing protection.
The park continues to be subject to an application for protection under the federal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act and is being assessed for National Heritage Listing.