A message to corporate vandals: our protected areas are a no-go

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) weren’t in Hawaii for a holiday.

Instead, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress on the 9th September, they adopted a powerful motion calling on governments worldwide to ban environmentally damaging industrial activities or infrastructure development in protected areas—including Indigenous Protected Areas. 

This has keen relevance for those of us protecting our country in the Kimberley, and so does the next part of their motion, the part that calls on governments, decision makers, community and private landowners, to give a high priority to avoiding environmental damage of sacred natural sites and areas conserved by Indigenous peoples and local communities.

KRED Enterprises wholly supports the IUCN’s motion. We too, believe the business community must respect protected areas as no-go zones, if their proposed activities are environmentally or culturally damaging. We too, believe that development activities need to be compatible with conservation outcomes.

When it comes to environmental, cultural and social impact assessments, Indigenous groups should settle with no less than best international practice. No industrial or development activities should proceed on our Traditional Lands without free, prior and informed consent, in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. 

There’s a challenge in the motion too.

The IUCN urges companies, public sector bodies and financial institutions, not to fund, not to invest in, not to partake in, any activities that negatively impact protected areas, or, in fact, any areas of importance for biodiversity.

It’s not without muscle, without thought. These ideas, which companies, governments and Traditional Owners in Australia should make manifest, dovetail with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Protected areas play a crucial role in mitigating the impacts of climate change. It was discussed in Paris. Indigenous groups across Australia are taking action. It will be discussed again.

For us, the overarching principle is that companies may not access our land without our consent, and they may not conduct activities without international-standard environmental and social impact assessments. An internationally recognised body like the IUCN doesn’t condone environmentally or culturally damaging industrial activities or infrastructure development damage in protected areas. 

Nor do we.