Nature First is the theme of the 2013 environment forum, part of the Lines in the Sand arts festival and means putting the natural world first, after our human interests. Nature first is the principle that underpins (or it used to underpin) how protected areas are managed in Queensland, including national parks. It’s called the cardinal principle – – and is embodied in the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

But the cardinal principle is now being eroded as our state government opens up national parks to harmful activities like cattle grazing.

In Queensland, less than 5 per cent of land is set aside as national park. A national park is a special place where nature is fully protected in its own right and for its own sake.

In selecting places to be national parks, the aim is to protect examples of all the different habitat types across the state, as well as significant landscape features, cultural sites and values and as many species of plants and animals as possible, our biodiversity.

On a world scale, Australia is considered mega-diverse in terms of species, and many are endemic. On Stradbroke there are species found nowhere else on earth, like the swamp daisy and the spike rush. Our island is also home to many endangered species like the koala, the swamp orchids, the glossy black cockatoo, tiny acid frogs, and Stradbroke is the last refuge for bonsai heathlands. Special landscape features include ancient parabolic dunes, diverse wetlands and a unique, pristine lake that has remained unchanged for 7000 years, Kaboora (Blue Lake).

Fifty per cent of North Stradbroke Island is protected within Naree Budjong Djara National Park (My Mother Earth). Additional special places still need to be included in the park, notably the catchment that feeds Kaboora, the last tracts of undisturbed high dune country and koala refuges.

For millennia, the Quandamooka people lived sustainably with nature on Stradbroke, and their traditional burning practices helped shaped the island’s habitats. Today they have joint management of the park.

To look after Naree Budjong Djara, we can

Looking after nature simply makes sense. We depend on nature for clean air and water, climate regulation, soil formation, food, enjoyment, inspiration and cultural identity.

Let’s remember what the Quandamooka people say: we don’t own the land, the land owns us.

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