The Greens today welcomed the inclusion of the Koongarra mineral lease in Kakadu National Park, but said Kakadu would remain incomplete until the Jabiluka and Ranger mineral leases are returned.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam praised the efforts of Djok Traditional Owner Jeffrey Lee, who had been in the public gallery when the Bill was introduced in early February.
"When Mr Lee came to Canberra a few weeks ago to witness this Bill being introduced, he said ‘Money comes and goes but the land is always here... If we look after it, it will look after us.' ...It's difficult to comprehend the pressure Mr Lee withstood so we could get to this point, but I want to pay tribute to this fine and courageous man, a softly spoken and gentle man, who stood up to some of the most powerful interests on earth, and won," Senator Ludlam told the Senate.
Koongarra was finally recognised in June 2011 by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for having both cultural and environmental significance. Mr Lee has acknowledged the support from the Mirarr people; especially their senior Traditional Owner, Ms Yvonne Margarula.
"The 1,228 hectare area of Koongarra should have been in Kakadu long ago, but will finally have the protection it deserves upon passage of this Bill. This is a step forward for the integrity of the Kakadu World Heritage area, but Kakadu will not be ‘complete' until the Ranger and Jabiluka mineral leases have been reincorporated into the Park and custodianship restored to the Traditional Owners of the area."
"Ranger uranium mine is a toxic blot on the landscape that leaks up to 100,000 litres of radioactive water into the park every day. There have been over 150 leaks, spills and licence breaches since the mine opened. Despite ongoing problems and aging infrastructure, ERA is considering expansion at Ranger. I call on the Environment Minister to protect Kakadu from the ongoing threat of Ranger," Senator Ludlam told the Senate.
"Rehabilitating the mess at Ranger will be a long and difficult task, and one that won't begin until the Government gets it right and returns it to the Park. For today though, we can all celebrate this outcome."