Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cape York for World Heritage listing: is it ready?

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

By Nick Skilton, University of Wollongong
World Heritage sites in Australia have often been born out of battles between conservationists and development-oriented state governments. Little regard has been paid to land owners: until now.
February marks an annual deadline for new site nominations. In 2013, the Federal Government aims to submit a Cape York site nomination to UNESCO. Working towards this deadline raises problematic issues. Interestingly, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has publicly statedthat a nomination can only proceed with the consent of Traditional Owners. This is unusual because it potentially gives Traditional Owners the final word on nomination.
Cape York is surrounded by two other World Heritage sites, the Great Barrier Reef and the Queensland Wet Tropics. Cape York residents are therefore no strangers to World Heritage issues. Far-north Queensland has well-documented natural “outstanding universal values” under World Heritage criteria.
Historically, peak interest groups were not opposed to joining together to further a World Heritage agenda for Cape York, as demonstrated by the aspirational 1996 Cape York Heads of Agreement. However, 30 years of inaction on economic issues, poor infrastructure, and failed policies now form a background for oppositional politics in Cape York. The organisations that confront conservation, pastoral, or Aboriginal issues in Cape York must deal with legacy and ongoing tensions that converge on the subject of World Heritage. These include the contentious Wild Rivers Act 2005 and “consultation fatigue”.
Since the Queensland Liberal National Party government committed to repealing Wild Rivers, a major obstacle preventing inter-organisational cooperation on ascertaining heritage values and explaining World Heritage to communities has been removed.
What then is the problem?

Seisia, Cape York. hindesite/Flickr

The tyranny of distance and the legacy of bureaucracy

Cape York in many ways exemplifies the new frontier of transforming remote places into conservation estates, and many pastoralists and Aboriginal groups are disgruntled with the way the conservation agenda for Cape York has defined the recent political trajectory of the region. For them, Wild Rivers was an indicator of policy and governance that failed the test of inclusion for community engagement and consultation in Cape York.
“Consultation fatigue” is common throughout Cape York communities, Aboriginal or otherwise, largely due to the many bureaucratic and academic studies that have been conducted with little material results. Breaking through consultation fatigue to achieve the requisite “informed consent” should raise serious concerns about a February 2013 nomination deadline.
At last year’s World Heritage Symposium in Cairns, some speakers warned that the considerable resources invested in the nomination process meant failure to proceed with a nomination would be an unacceptable outcome. In my recent research, one interviewee argued that “people are being consulted about things that aren’t really their concern or agenda”.

Lockhart River Cairns Peace by Peace

These issues, combined with pre-existing consultation fatigue, begins to lend the issue of consent an unsettlingly coercive colouring. Under such circumstances, government acquisition and return of pastoral land to Aboriginal people in exchange for supporting conservation objectives may appear to be a form of bribery – a bribery of customary Aboriginal land no less.
Much of the conservation agenda, including Wild Rivers and World Heritage, is aimed at preventing increased mining (despite some Aboriginal support for mines). World Heritage is seen as an opportunity to develop an alternative conservation economy. This would include carbon farming, increased tourism and a number of other initiatives. It broadly aligns with Jon Altman’s “hybrid economy” modelling of market, state and customary components.
The conservation economy fails to address what many see as more pressing economic concerns such as infrastructure (which will in turn facilitate tourism) and land tenure restrictions in an area geographically distant from the traditional market economy. These two issues and more could be included in a broad-scale economic plan for the region, but to date no plan has ever been drafted.
The federal or state government should consider this a fundamental step in explaining World Heritage opportunities when consulting with communities.

Confronting the issues

Across-the-board support for increased tourism is just one of many issues that could be used to build bilateral support and inter-organisational trust in the region. Problematically, where there is opportunity for agreement, past infractions and ideological conflict prevent cooperation.
Ideological conflict can stem from the culture of the organisation, or from particular people in positions of authority. The remote and parochial nature of the region means that people have often had a long time to develop particular grievances – perceived or otherwise – against other organisation members.

Abattoir Swamp, Cape York Charlie Brewer

To facilitate an inclusive World Heritage listing, should it go ahead, organisational figures may be required to confront their prejudices for the sake of representing the region’s heritage values.
Recent developments, such as the withdrawal of the Queensland government from the World Heritage consultation process they have been facilitating for the last two years (citing procedural duplication with the Federal Government), will only seed more distrust and confusion for World Heritage within communities.
February 2013 may be a good opportunity to find closure on a 30 year issue. However, this deadline places unnecessary strain on community engagement and marginalises those that do not wish to participate. Responsibly resolving inter-organisational disputes without a looming deadline will be central to an empowered community that protects what is important to it. Only then should World Heritage follow.
Nick Skilton does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation
This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kamerunga plays at the Cairns Casino on Australia Day holiday

Catch KAMERUNGA in concert free of charge at the Cairns Casino (Vertigo Bar) on Australia Day Monday (Jan 28th) between 8pm and 10pm in what might well be the band's only local performance in 2013. Kamerunga will be preceded by Snake Gully (6pm-8pm). Kamerunga audio and video located at: http://www.sonicbids.com/kamerunga

Friday, January 11, 2013

Do bushfires emit more carbon than burning coal?

Fact check: do bushfires emit more carbon than burning coal?

By Philip Gibbons, Australian National University

“Indeed I guess there’ll be more CO2 emissions from these fires than there will be from coal-fired power stations for decades.” – acting Opposition leader, Warren Truss, January 9, 2013

On Wednesday, leader of the National Party and acting Opposition Leader, Warren Truss claimed carbon emissions from the current bushfires are equivalent to decades of carbon emissions from coal-fired power.

The current bushfires are so large that the statement by Warren Truss seems plausible.

This spurred me to do some research to find out.

Coal-fired power stations in Australia emit around 200 million tonnes of CO2 per year. This does not include emissions from our coal exports.

Around 30 tonnes of CO2 per forested hectare were emitted by the Black Saturday Fires in 2009.

Bushfires this year have so far burned around 130,000ha of forest, so have emitted nearly 4 million tonnes of CO2.

So, the bushfires this year have emitted an amount of CO2 equivalent to 2% of Australia’s annual emissions from coal-fired power.

The current bushfires must burn an area of forest greater than Tasmania to generate CO2 emissions equivalent to a year of burning coal for electricity.

And the current bushfires must burn an area of forest the size of New South Wales to generate CO2 emissions equivalent to a decade of burning coal for electricity.

However, the carbon emitted from bushfires is not permanent. Eucalypt forest regenerates after fire, and will quickly begin to sequester from the atmosphere the carbon that has been lost from the current bushfires.

The same cannot be said of coal-fired power stations.

Warren Truss’ statement reflects a view that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are insignificant relative to natural events such as bushfires that have occurred for millennia in Australia.

However, when one drills into the data, the current bushfires provide a stark illustration of the opposite: the amount of carbon that is emitted by bushfires is insignificant relative to our principle sources of greenhouse gas emissions such as coal-fired power.

Read more about the relationship between bushfires and emissions.

Philip Gibbons receives funding from the Australian Government, the Government of the Australian Capital Territory and the Australian Research Council.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mark and Carlie's Excellent Adventure

Mark and Carlie Schmitt, former owners of El Mundo Tapas in Edge Hill are now embarking on a round the world bike adventure:

You can follow their adventures on their bloghttp://www.rtwbymotorbike.blogspot.com.au/

Monday, January 7, 2013

Blast from the past: Georgia Lee

From YouTube: "Australian Indigenous (aboriginal) cabaret singer and occasional actress Georgia Lee - otherwise known as Dulcie Pitt - was a habitué of the bohemian world of artists like Donald Friend and Russell Drysdale and the jazz and blues nightclub circuit in Sydney and Melbourne during the 1950s.

The girl from Cairns (northern Queensland) eventually sang with the bandleader Geraldo and his light orchestra in London in BBC radio broadcasts. A nervous collapse and homesickness put an end to her international career but she continued to sing in Australia and was even belatedly crowned the Queen of Jazz. In 1962, she released what's believed to be the first full-length studio album to be recorded by an Indigenous artist, Georgia Lee Sings the Blues Down Under. She was also one of the first artists to be recorded in full stereo."

This video contains three excerpts from the album :

1. 'Nobody Knows the Trouble I have Seen'
2. 'Born To be Blue'
3. 'Down Under Blues'