New Protected Areas Secure Far North QLD Biodiversity

Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Innovation The Honourable Leanne Linard
Barramundi Lagoon at Abingdon Downs North Nature Refuge.


THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP Minister for the Environment and Water

THE HON LEANNE LINARD MP Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef

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A project co-funded by the Albanese and Miles Labor Governments is helping protect critical habitat for threatened plants and animals in Far North Queensland, including the home of Queensland's floral emblem, the Cooktown Orchid.

The project will support the 64,000 hectare expansion of the Crystalvale Nature Refuge, about 15km south-west of Coen, and establish the new 244,000 hectare Abingdon Downs North Nature Refuge, about 85km north-west of Georgetown.

Protection of these nature refuges contributes to the Australian Government's target to protect and conserve 30 per cent of Australia's landmass by 2030, the 30 by 30 target.

The Albanese Government is providing $3 million to the Miles Government through the Protecting Important Biodiversity Areas Program to support these two nature refuges and future additions to Queensland's private protected areas.

In total, these two nature refuges will protect more than 300,000 hectares of land – an area larger than the Australian Capital Territory. This means almost half of all land protected as private protected areas across Australia is in Queensland.

Combined with other protected areas like National Parks, close to 15 million hectares, or 8.6 per cent, of land in Queensland is now protected.

Protected land at Crystalvale Nature Refuge will cover 90,286 hectares of dry eucalypt woodlands and open forests in the upper catchment of the Holroyd River. Protected land at Abingdon Downs North Nature Refuge will span across dry eucalypt woodlands and wet eucalypt forests, including parts of the Red and Einasleigh River catchments.

These important riverine catchments flow into nationally significant wetlands, the Northern Holroyd Plain, the Northeast and Southeast Karumba Plains and the Southern Gulf Aggregations.

These nature refuges provide habitat for the near-threatened diadem leaf-nosed bat, the vulnerable Cape York rock-wallaby, freshwater sawfish and Macropteranthes montana (Antique wood), as well as the endangered red goshawk, the Black-throated finch and the Gouldian finch – some of which can only be found in these local bioregions.

The project is being delivered in partnership with the property owners – Corporate Carbon Group (Crystalvale Nature Refuge) and Gunn Agri Partners and the operating entity, Cunningham Cattle Co. (Abingdon Downs North Nature Refuge).

The Queensland Department of Environment, Science and Innovation (DESI) will work with the owners to ensure these properties continue to uphold their environmental significance and provide habitat for some of Queensland's unique and protected species.

Nature refuges are a class of private protected area under Queensland's Nature Conservation Act 1992 and are administered by a legally binding conservation agreement between a landholder and the Queensland Government.

Private protected areas are internationally recognised as an important part of protected area systems and, in Queensland, are formally represented by special wildlife reserves and nature refuges.

Abingdon Downs North and Crystalvale make up the largest dedication of private protected area in the past six years. The new and expanded nature refuges allow for sustainable livestock grazing and carbon projects on top of preserving their conservation values.

Learn more about Queensland's Private Protected Area Program here: The Private Protected Area Program | Environment, land and water | Queensland Government (

As stated by Federal Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek MP:

"We have set an ambitious target to protect and conserve 30 per cent of our landmass and 30 per cent of our marine areas by 2030 (the 30 by 30 target). And we continue to work closely with governments, First Nations groups, communities, business, and industry to reach it.

"Our investment in Crystalvale Nature Refuge and Abingdon Downs North Nature Refuge is a great example of what it's going take to achieve our target.

"With the additional protection of these two nature refuges, Queensland now hosts more than 45 per cent of Australia's private protected areas, a substantial contribution to the 30 by 30 target.

"We want to make sure our kids and grandkids can enjoy our beautiful environment – and that means acting now to protect and conserve more of what's precious and better manage it for the future."

As stated by Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Innovation, Leanne Linard:

"The Miles Labor Government is doing what matters by protecting areas of high environmental and cultural value in Queensland for the benefit of future generations.

"Queensland has the largest private protected area network in Australia, now covering almost 5 million hectares and accounting for almost a third of Queensland's total protected area system.

"The Miles Government is proud to work with private land owners to identify and secure areas that support our shared goals to maintain and improve areas of environmental significance.

"The 2024-25 State Budget included $2.4 million in funding to continue the NatureAssist program to incentivise private landholders to establish or extend private protected areas. We're also investing $400,000 to support environmental conservation on private land and implement the Australian Government's Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures.

"Our Private Protected Area Program complements our historic funding commitment of $262.5 million to expand and better manage Queensland's public protected area estate and enables us to continue our collaborative efforts with private landholders like Gunn Agri and Corporate Carbon."

As stated by Member for Cook, Cythnia Lui:

"Protecting areas of high environmental and cultural value on Cape York Peninsula is important to me and my community. It's also important to our government.

"I particularly welcome the expansion of the Crystalvale Nature Refuge near Coen, which will provide protection for the wide variety of species who call this area their home.

"I also acknowledge the landholders who are partnering with the ensure these areas are protected for the benefit of future generations."

As stated by Head of Advisory Services at Corporate Carbon Group, Dr Kate Dodds:

"As one of Australia's leading carbon abatement project developers and owners, we commend the government for funding this project, which supports cattle and carbon working together, ultimately driving forward an exciting opportunity for the agricultural sector," she said.

"Creating a ~500 000 ha continuous ecological corridor across three Cape York properties, this declaration and associated funding allows us to investigate and protect the cultural and ecological values of this land.

"In turn, this builds healthy country which benefits traditional owners, the local community, and landholders."

As stated by General Manager, Cunningham Cattle Company the operator of Abingdon Downs Ray Thieme:

"Gunn Agri Partners and the operating entity, Cunningham Cattle Co. are proud to make this significant long term commitment to the Abingdon Downs North Nature Refuge," he said.

"The conservation agreement through the Private Protected Area Program demonstrates an industry leading collaboration of stakeholders that include Cunningham Cattle Co. as land manager, traditional owners, the local community and the Queensland Government.

"It provides an enormous opportunity to combine the skills and learnings of all the stakeholders to provide positive environmental, ecological, economic, social, and cultural outcomes. There is so much to learn about our environment from the traditional owners of this land and this project will provide a unique insight for Cunningham Cattle Co. and future land managers."

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