New nature refuges for FNQ equal 4,000 Suncorp Stadiums

07 October 2022

Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs

The Honourable Meaghan Scanlon


Two parcels of land in Queensland’s far north equal in size to 4,000 Suncorp Stadiums will be added to the state’s protected area network in an agreement struck between the Palaszczuk Government and South Endeavour Trust.


Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon today announced new nature refuges, the Mount Gibson Nature Refuge and the Oakey Scrub Nature Refuge, would be established south-west of Cooktown as part of the state’s ongoing push to protect its great lifestyle.


Nature refuges are a class of private protected area under the state’s Nature Conservation Act and are administered by a legally binding conservation agreement between a landholder and the government.


“Queenslanders have made it clear: they want us to continue to protect our environment and grow our protected area estate. This new agreement does just that, building on the record $262 million we announced in the budget to create new national parks,” Minister Scanlon said.


The proposed Mount Gibson Nature Refuge is on Mount Gibson Station, a property of exceptional conservation significance acquired by South Endeavour Trust with the generous financial support of The Wyss Foundation (a private US charitable foundation) in late 2021.


“The property contains more than 34,000 hectares of remnant vegetation comprising a diversity of vegetation communities across 29 regional ecosystems.


“These include four ecosystems with an ‘endangered’ biodiversity status and two that have no current representation in protected areas in Queensland.


Local Member for Cook Cynthia Lui welcomed the announcement and said the property also supports habitat for a range of threatened species including the endangered spotted-tailed quoll (northern subspecies), northern quoll, ghost bat, Semon’s leaf-nosed bat and the Cooktown orchid.


It is also highly likely to support the vulnerable northern greater glider and the wet tropics sub-species of the yellow-bellied glider.


Molly McUsic, the President of The Wyss Foundation, said the foundation was proud to support the expansion of the private protected area network in the uniquely biodiverse Queensland through their investment in the acquisition of Mount Gibson.


“The science shows that we need to protect at least 30 percent of world’s lands and ocean by 2030 to help safeguard our planet’s incredible biodiversity.


“No one person or organization alone can meet this goal.


“It will take the collective effort of governments like Queensland’s, NGOs like South Endeavor Trust, philanthropy like the Wyss Foundation, and local communities working together on specific projects aimed at identifying and protecting critical lands.


“This is precisely how this conservation success was achieved for Mount Gibson and is a prime example of how Queensland can help the world meet the 30x30 goal,” Ms McUsic said.


Ms Lui said the proposed Oakey Scrub Nature Refuge was approximately 11 kilometres south-west of Cooktown and covered some 64.7 hectares.


“It contains a complex mosaic of vegetation types described across six regional ecosystems,” Ms Lui said.


“What we’re seeing is a connected area that’ll be preserved for our environment and protected for generations to come.”


South Endeavour Trust Director Tim Hughes said the new nature refuges would provide connectivity with several other protected areas in the region.


“The Mount Gibson Nature Refuge connects with the adjoining Mount Windsor National Park; the Springvale Station Nature Refuge; the nearby Ngalba Bulal National Park, Daintree National Park and the Kings Plains-Alkoomie and Caloola Nature Refuges, which are also owned by South Endeavour Trust.


“The Oakey Scrub Nature Refuge, meanwhile, provides additional landscape-scale connectivity with the nearby Annan River (Yuku Baja-Muliku) National Park.


“We purchased these lands not only for the ecosystems they include, but also for their strategic location providing valuable connectivity between lands already listed as protected in Queensland,” Mr Hughes said.


“South Endeavour Trust now owns and manages more than 145,000 hectares of land west of Cooktown that are declared, or soon to be declared, as nature refuges.”


Minister Scanlon acknowledged Queensland’s nature refuge landholders, saying they were dedicated to the environment by preserving their land for future generations.


The state’s nature refuges, which will number 555 when the new refuges are declared, cover more than 4.4 million ha – almost a third of Queensland’s protected area system, which itself totals 14.2 million ha or 8.2% of the state’s total land area.


“Queensland has the largest private protected area network in Australia by land area protecting a diversity of ecosystems and threatened species,” Minister Scanlon said.


“By dedicating their land as nature refuges, these landholders help to ensure the ongoing success of Queensland’s protected area programs.”


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Media contact: Francis Dela Cruz – 0420 592 078