A Federal Court judge in Queensland has ruled that declarations to protect three river systems in Cape York were invalid, and made only to appease election promises.

The ruling came from action launched three years ago against declarations covering Stewart Basin, the Archer and Lockhart rivers.

These systems had been included in Wild Rivers legislation brought in by the Beattie Labor government in 2005. The legislation was meant to preserve rivers which were deemed to be still in pristine condition, untouched by human development.

But the Wik Indigenous people and traditional owners say the laws locked up their rivers and stemmed the flow of tourist and other business income.

Justice Andrew Greenwood has now ruled that Beattie government minister Stephen Robertson did not properly consider public submission from the traditional owners before making the Wild River declarations.

The judge described the protection as just “a function of delivering upon an election promise”.

He even said the declarations might be described as so unreasonable that they constitute an invalid use of ministerial power.

The current Queensland LNP Government has the option to appeal the decision, but instead will move to repeal.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the Government would wind-back the entire Wild Rivers scheme in August.

Labor Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said scrapping the legislation on all rivers would be met with disagreement in some centres.

Some representatives say the ruling has been a major victory for Cape York Indigenous communities, which can now seek better economic opportunities based on their natural holdings.