The State Government will today transfer the largest and most iconic national park in the Cape York Peninsula Region to its Traditional Owners in an historic event.

Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Curtis Pitt said Lakefield National Park, in southern Cape York Peninsula, is the third national park in Cape York to be handed back to its Traditional Owners, bringing the total number of jointly managed parks in the region to six.

“Lakefield National Park spans 544,000 hectares and protects lagoons, billabongs, swamps, floodplains and lakes created by vast river systems including the Bizant, Normanby and Morehead rivers,” Mr Pittsaid.

“It’s also home to a number of threatened species including the Golden Shouldered Parrot, Lakeland Downs mouse and Spectacled Hare-wallaby as well as the critically endangered speartooth shark.

“Today’s handover will go a long way towards helping the traditional owners, represented by at least 75 key families and nine traditional language groups, keep their culture and traditions alive for future generations.”

Mr Pitt said negotiations for handover started in April 2009 and included an Indigenous Management Agreement outlining the responsibilities of the Rinyirru Land Trust and the Government for the ongoing management of the park.

“These negotiations have had to resolve some highly complex natural and cultural resource management issues,” Mr Pitt said.

“I would like to thank the Lakefield traditional owner clan and family groups as well as their representatives, Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation and the Cape York Land Council, for their collaboration and commitment in arriving at today’s historic outcome.”

Mr Pitt said under the new joint management partnership the State Government will provide the Land Trust with $190,000 for park works and services contracts as well as $10,000 per annum for educational support programs.

“This funding, combined with other in-kind support, will underpin the employment and training of local Indigenous rangers, allowing them to gain new skills while drawing upon their existing traditional knowledge,” Mr Pitt said.

“In addition to implementing the seasonal fire management program, one of the first joint management projects to be undertaken will be a general muster to remove feral cattle from the park.

“National parks are an essential component of protecting our wildlife and natural and cultural landscapes for future generations.

“The Queensland Government is committed to continuing its work with Traditional Owners on future tenure arrangements in the Cape York Peninsula, including negotiating the granting of title and the joint management of all 30 existing national parks.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates this commitment.”

The transfer of Lakefield National Park brings the total area of land transferred to Aboriginal ownership in Cape York to 1,443,961 hectares of which 818,636 hectares are jointly managed with traditional owners.

The park will be renamed the Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land). in recognition of an important traditional story place at Jeanette Hill, and an historical link with Lakefield Station and the early cattle industry.