By Xavier La Canna
NORTHERN TERRITORY: A new national park which takes in a marine conservation zone, spans more than a million hectares of land and includes a stunning natural rock formation known as ‘The Lost Cities’ has been formally declared in the Northern Territory, just weeks out from elections.
After a two-decades fight to have the Limmen National Park created, local Aboriginal people and environmentalists welcomed the decision on Tuesday.
“This day means a lot to me,” said Emily Evans, 29, a woman from the Marra people who are traditional owners of some of the land at Limmen.
NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson and other ministers in his government travelled to remote Nathan River Homestead to make the announcement.
“This has been an enormous piece of work,” Mr Henderson said.
As well as the one million hectare Limmen National Park a marine park in Limmen Bight, including the culturally sensitive Maria Island, was also declared.
Mr Henderson scoffed at suggestions the decision, which comes less than six weeks out from the NT election, was made to coincide with the poll.
“This was in the too hard basket. It has been in the too hard basket for over 15 years,” Mr Henderson said.
“These parks are now declared and now we will sit down with the TOs (traditional owners) and work out a management plan that will provide for jobs and opportunities,” he said.
Limmen is located just below Arnhem Land on the Gulf of Carpentaria and is home to waterways, beaches, threatened animal species and rock art sites.
Majestic sandstone formations known as Lost Cities are expected to be a tourist drawcard.
Limmen is now one of the largest national parks in Australia, and is about half the size of Kakadu.
Campaigner with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Jess Abrahams, welcomed the new park but said he was concerned with the concessions that had been made to the mining industry.
Limmen is thought to be home to a large iron ore deposit and other minerals.
Western Desert Resources Ltd is well progressed in its iron ore mining plans.
When the park was created the government excised several parts of the proposed area that was rich in iron ore from the plans.
Traditional owner Samuel Evans said many of the local Aboriginal people were still concerned some sacred sites could be damaged by roads built by mining companies.
“It might change the land altogether,” said Mr Evans, who was at Nathan River.
But NT Environment Minister Karl Hampton pledged that no sacred sites would be harmed.
“It (Limmen) has been one of the sleeping giants of the Northern Territory in terms of economic and environmental issues,” Mr Hampton said.
“That sleeping giant is well awake, and we have got a world class national park, a marine park as well,” he said.