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Environment Centre NT - protecting nature, living sustainably, creating climate for a change

Save Maria Island

The Environment Centre NT welcomes the announcement in March 2012 by the Territory Government to declare Maria Island as part of Limmen National Park. This is great news for the Territory and a strategic conservation outcome for Australia’s Top End.

We urge you to support the plans by the Territory Government by making a submission here, by 18 May 2012.

The move comes after a strong campaign by Marra Traditional Owners, the Environment Centre NT and our partner conservation organisations (particularly the Australian Marine Conservation Society and Pew Environment Group), recreational fishermen, and many in the community across Australia.

Whilst the declaration, due to take effect in July 2012, will not legally prevent construction of the proposed pipeline to the island and iron ore processing plant, it will make it much harder for the miners to gain a social licence to place heavy industry on Maria Island.

Future governments would also find it harder to grant environmental approvals to heavy industry on the island.

The Environment Centre NT supported Marra people in their efforts to protect Maria Island in Limmen Bight from a pipeline being proposed to be built through their country to the island, where a large processing plant and port were planned.

This included supporting Marra to present a petition opposing the pipeline and processing plant to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory and the federal House of Representatives in November 2011.

Miner Western Desert Resources wants to mine iron ore in the area long proposed for declaration as Limmen National Park in the Gulf Country, and until late 2011 proposed exporting the iron ore through a buried slurry pipeline through the proposed park and Marra Aboriginal Lands Trust lands, along the seabed of the Limmen Bight, and out to the island.

Thanks to the strong opposition by Marra people to their plans the miner announced in November 2011 that it would investigate an alternative export option through the existing port of Bing Bong.

But the miners still say they want to build the pipeline to Maria Island through Marra lands in the years ahead, so we will keep supporting the Traditional Owners in the fight to keep heavy industry off the island.

The decision to spare Maria Island and the coastal country of Limmen Bight for now is welcome, but the impacts of bulldozing a new 160+km long haul road through the remote country of the proposed Limmen National Park and across Lorealla Springs Wilderness Park are likely to be very considerable and environmentally damaging.

The island, and adjacent high conservation value regions along the Limmen Bight coast, should be managed for their natural and cultural values as part of Limmen National Park, and spared from mining infrastructure.

The island is about 20 km offshore in the southwest corner of Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria.

The isalnd, called Kurrululinya in Marra language, is of very high cultural significance, with eight registered sacred sites and many other sites that are not registered.

The island is home to a large population of northern brown bandicoot.

Three species of sea turtles lay their eggs in the sand dunes around the island.

In the shallow marine waters in Limmen Bight live large herds of dugong, pods of coastal dolphins, and substantial seagrass beds.

The wetlands through which the miners have wanted to dig their pipeline are listed as nationally important, and satisfy the criteria for designation as a Ramsar Wetland under the international Wetlands Convention.

These wetlands, along with Maria Island and the whole Limmen Bight, have been ranked by the Territory Government as having international conservation significance.

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