Keywords: wild rivers, wild law, Cape York, scientific knowledge, indigenous knowledge, ecosystems, river systems, wilderness, Queensland, Australia, legislative acts, statutes, legislation, natural values, aborigines, aboriginal people, nature, complex bioregions, synergistic bioregions, catchments, human–based activities, catchment areas, natural processes, adverse effects, indigenous communities, economic development, indigenous peoples, traditional ways, traditions, conflicting systems, knowledge systems, resource management, liability, scientific enquiry
Wild rivers, wild accusations – wild law in the Cape York wilderness
The contentious Wild Rivers Act 2005 (Qld) was enacted to protect the natural values of Queensland's few remaining wild rivers. The law is remarkably enlightened in that it is consistent with current emerging philosophies of ecosystems as a series of complex and synergistic bioregions, and aims to manage human–based activities within catchments rather than managing the catchments or natural processes instead. A precautionary approach minimises harm from activities that are likely to have adverse effects on poorly understood ecosystems. The Act has at present very limited application, only nine far northern Queensland river systems in all. It has divided indigenous communities, some of whom accuse it of stifling much needed economic development while other indigenous people embrace Wild Rivers as enabling them to continue with their tradition way of life. This paper suggests Wild Rivers is wild law and investigates conflicting knowledge systems impacting upon the enactment of sound resource management legislation.