Queensland’s government has been accused of pandering to mining interests with its laws to extend mining on the world’s second largest sand island.
Laws introduced in parliament on Thursday would extend mining leases on North Stradbroke Island beyond 2019 to 2035.
Mines Minister Andrew Cripps says it’s about protecting jobs and allowing a smoother transition to other economies.
But environmentalists, traditional owners and the Labor opposition say the Liberal National Party government is kowtowing to mining company Sibelco.
There are also concerns the laws breach the native title rights of the local Quandamooka people, as the areas currently under mining lease were set to revert to native title in 2020.
Opposition environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad claims Sibelco spent more than $90,000 on postage and printing to help Premier Campbell Newman get elected in his local seat.
Meanwhile the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) said it was shut out of discussions about the laws while Sibelco had “unlimited open door access” to Mr Cripps.
“Once again we’ve been pushed aside and the mining company is allowed to do whatever it wants,” QYAC chief executive Cameron Costello told AAP.
Mr Costello said the organisation would look at the laws closely to ensure they don’t breach native title rights.
Stradbroke Island resident and environmentalist Jan Aldenhoven said it was a travesty the island’s status as a natural treasure was being sacrificed.
She said mining jobs on the island were declining anyway and only a small number of jobs were involved.
“The Newman government has fallen over backwards to deliver everything the mining company wished for and more,” she said in a statement.
But Sibelco said the previous government’s plan to end mining by 2019 did not allow enough time for an alternative economy to develop.
“By continuing the life of sand mining, we are also ensuring the continuity of job security for a large number of indigenous and non-indigenous families on NSI (North Stradbroke Island),” the company said in a statement.