MOONBI is the name given by the Butchalla Aborigines to the central part of their homeland, Fraser Island or "Kgari"
MOONBI is the newsletter of Fraser Island Defenders Organization Limited, PO Box 70, BALD HILLS, QLD, 4036
FIDO's Home Page: www.fido.org.au E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
FIDO, “The Watchdog of Fraser Island”, aims to ensure the wisest use of Fraser Islandís natural resources.
FIDO's Registered Office: c/- Stephen Comino and Cominos, Equity House, Lang Parade, Milton, 4065 (ABN 59 009 969 135)
FIDO's Postal Address: PO Box 70, BALD HILLS QLD 4036 John Sinclair, PO Box 71, GLADESVILLE, NSW, 1675
ISSN 0311 - 032X Registered by Australia Post - Publication QBH2293 26 October, 2001
In This Issue
MOONBI 100 is a special issue in many ways. It and celebrates the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of sandmining on the 31 December, 1976. It also records the last 30 years of FIDO's history. More importantly it looks towards a model for the future management structure of Fraser Island.
Since MOONBI 99
Some big issues since MOONBI 99 include:
- The massacre of 32 dingoes and the disturbing revelations that the QPWS will even shoot kookaburras on Fraser Island if they threaten human safety ó Snakes, rats, goannas and other wildlife had better just watch out.
- The Queensland Government announced overdue initiatives to address the more intractable management issues on Fraser Island.
- A furore over road and beach closures was whipped up by an ill-informed 4WD lobby with a conveniently short memory.
While these have been the most prominent issues, many other things have been going on of great significance for the future management Fraser Island. These are discussed in some detail in this issue.
As MOONBI 99 was with the printers, the death of a boy at Waddy Point, Fraser Island, after being mauled by two dingoes on 30 April created mass hysteria. This has had many tragic consequences including the deaths of 32 dingoes in a shooting spree, massacre or slaughter, but masquerading under the euphemism of "culling". This tragic incident had some positive benefits by:
(a) propelling Fraser Island back into the headlines in a way politicians could not ignore, and
(b) ensuring that the Queensland Government allocates much more resources to the management of Fraser Island as FIDO has been urging for years.
Dingo Hysteria: Many of the outcries and reactions following that fatal incident were irrational. Had the boy died from the bite of the most venomous known spider in the world, which by coincidence is quite common near the area where the boy was killed, there would not have been such an outrageous reaction. Had a snake bitten the boy it could have been a slower more painful death but certainly would not have met with the same reaction. It is only because the death was the result of an attack by a large predator, that the media and the politicians have been in a frenzied mission of seeking vengeance. This is the main story in this issue.
Educational Supplement: MOONBIís century is celebrated with a special 4 page Education Supplement feature, detailing FIDOís 30 year history of dealing with Fraser Island land use conflicts. A whole generation has been born since FIDOís higher profile days of the 1970s.
The Value of Fraser Island: While Fraser Island slipped from massive media attention in recent years until the April 30th Dingo tragedy, it rates as one of the most sought after destinations for both Australians and overseas tourists. An Australian Heritage Commission survey voted it Australia's favourite "Place in the Heart". It rates third behind the Hawaiian hideaways of Maui and Kauai in a list of the world's best tropical islands. It is now such an Australian icon that it cannot continue to be neglected in the Queensland Governmentís strategic planning. Soon a new independent study by Cairns based corporate consultants, Kleinhardt FGI Pty Ltd, should give us a precise figure of what Fraser Island is worth to the regional, state and national economies.
This $27,500 study is due to finish early in 2002. MOONBI 101 will summarize the findings. It may be an incentive for governments to provide more resources to prevent this goose that lays golden eggs being loved to death.
MOONBI 100 marks a great landmark in FIDO's 31st year history - 100 issues of one of the most widely read conservation journals in Australia. Its audience extends so much further than the membership of FIDO. It is read with close scrutiny by most of our most aggressive opponents. It has been quoted frequently by politicians and in Parliament. It has been photocopied and distributed widely in the various bureaucracies who have a responsibility for Fraser Island management.
Since FIDO commenced in January 1971 MOONBI has been our flagship. It has documented the events and issues relating to the future of Fraser Island more comprehensively than any other vehicle.
Sandmining: MOONBI 1 appeared in early 1971, FIDOís first year. 5 issues appeared in 1971. These roneoed foolscap MOONBIs focussed on the issues related to sandmining. MOONBIs documented the issues surrounding sandmining and the many battles in the Maryborough Mining Warden's Court and eventually the decision of the full High Court of Australia vindicating FIDO's stance on the definition of the public interest.
It documented the labyrinthine issues placed before the Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry in 1975. It reported the highlights of FIDOís evidence and submissions as well as the CommissionĎs final findings. Because MOONBI quoted some of the inquiry evidence about political donations by the Dillingham Murphyores consortium the Editor and publisher were sued for defamation in an action that took several years to resolve.
MOONBI reported the issues of the United States Government taking the Australian Government to the International Court of Justice in the Hague over the cessation of sandmining on Fraser Island and the subsequent rearguard action by the consortium to gain more compensation.
Focus on management: During the 1980s the issues related to improving the islandís management in the face of contrived neglect by the Bjelke-Petersen Government which was peeved because it had supported sandmining on the island. MOONBI supported FIDO's initiative to unilaterally build the Eli Creek boardwalk. This subsequently shamed the Queensland Government into addressing the islandís management more directly. The 1985 Fraser Island Recreation Act had many consequences most of which were reported in MOONBI. FIDO also fought actions in the Local Government and Queensland Supreme Court to block land subdivisions at Orchid Beach, Moon Point and at North White Cliffs. However MOONBI was constantly addressing the most pernicious form of degradation of Fraser Island, the ongoing logging of its magnificent forests.
Logging Issue Comes to Head: The overdue change of government in Queensland in 1989 resulted in the ultimately successful campaign to end logging on the island. In 1991 the Fitzgerald Commission of Inquiry into the Conservation, Management and Use of Fraser Island and the Great Sandy Region recommended that logging be phased out and that the whole of the Great Sandy Region be nominated for World Heritage Listing. This led then to the development of a new Management Plan to protect the World Heritage values. MOONBI carried that story also and particularly since 1994 the difficulty we have had in getting the QPWS to implement the plan.
The 1990s then mainly dealt with how to protect the unique World Heritage values of Fraser Island.
Political Criticism: Another great issue has been describing the relative neglect of this unique island by both State and Federal Governments. MOONBI has not been backward in criticizing governments of all political persuasions if they have neglected the public interest with respect to Fraser Island. Fraser Island has been the Cinderella of Queensland's National Parks having received no consolidated revenue spent on it for far too long. The Federal Government has also had a long history of short-changing Fraser Island when compared with the funding it provides for other Australian World Heritage sites. All of the issues MOONBI has covered involve policy and so MOONBI has necessarily had to report extensively on the political scene. These have resulted in some controversy and have landed some writs but MOONBI and FIDO have survived them all.
Educational Supplements: MOONBI has also included many educational supplements starting with the Full decision of the High Court of Australia in FIDO's successful appeal in the case, "Sinclair vs the Mining Warden at Maryborough". The supplements with aerial photos of the ever-expanding scars from sandmining as well as the aesthetic values of Fraser Island were very telling in convincing politicians that they could not ignore the issue. We have published FIDO's various Management Strategies devised since 1978 so that our position has been clearly placed on the public record. We have chronicled the history of land use and published supplements defining the compatible and incompatible land uses. We published our environmental assessment of logging and the World Heritage values of Fraser Island.
In more recent times FIDO has again resumed to providing such supplements so that there can be a better public appreciation of FIDO's comprehensive positions on a variety of issues from four wheel drives to fire.
Editor: MOONBI has had only one editor for its 30 year history- John Sinclair (Snr) but many people have contributed directly and indirectly. Part of Sinclair's philosophy on the environment is that we have to retain our sanity by looking on the lighter side. Thus MOONBI has carried a few satirical items and many cartoons as well as some very serious articles.
MOONBI has also been written with an eye to referring back to the history of a long and fascinating campaign to protect Fraser Island and its special values.
MOONBI is photocopied many times and widely distributed around various government offices and quoted in Parliament and frequently by Parliamentarians.
MOONBI has been the conscience of Fraser Island for 30 years and FIDO has been immensely proud to publish it.
On 30 April 2001 a dingo on Fraser Island killed a nine-year-old boy, Clinton Gage. The reaction of the Queensland Government was little different to the reaction of the early European settlers to perceived threats from Aborigines more than 100 years. About 30% of Fraser Island's total dingo population was massacred in the same way that countless innocent Aborigines lost their lives in Queensland's pioneering days because they were perceived to represent an uncontrollable threat to the safety and property of the European displacers.
This account tries to put the massacre and its impact (both on the dingoes and the Fraser Island management) into a perspective in an attempt to ensure that this event will not be seen as being entirely negative.
What happened: Clinton and a seven year old friend left their families' campsite at Waddy Point to explore the nearby sand dunes. They were only 150m from the campsite when they noticed that two dingoes were circling them. Scared by the dingoes, they started to run for their campsite, Clinton fell and was attacked by the dingoes. His little mate raced back to camp and raised the alarm. Clinton's father and seven-year-old brother found Clinton with a punctured artery that caused him to bleed to death. Realizing that the dingoes still represented a danger, the father sent the young brother back to camp. The dingoes then attacked him but the father managed to fight them off. Officers of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ("QPWS") shot the two dingoes later that day. What followed was a media and public outcry over the attack and management of dingoes generally on Fraser Island.
Global Reaction: The incident was reported worldwide. On 2 May Britain's "The Times" published a well-reasoned plea for rationality saying: "... For the family it is a pain. But pain will not be salved by a culling of the animals. Nor will the best interests of Fraser Island's tourist industry be served. ... Visitors to wilderness experience that dingoes helped to create. The wild dogs should be conserved and not culled. ... True creatures of the wilderness are to be respected not trusted. Nature kills for food. But if man now kills the dingoes, he will kill the thing he loves."
Queensland Government Response: In response to the media and public frenzy that followed the attack, the Beattie Government ordered an immediate cull of 30 Fraser Island dingoes. Initial information was scant. The Government refused to hold off on the immediate cull so that a considered management decision could be made. It wouldnít define any limit to the cull. Conservationists and Aboriginal interests became increasingly concerned as media reports of the culling continued and the public statements from the Queensland Government indicated the cull might extend to a large number of dingoes and continue over an extended period.
Conservation Intervention: The concern over the culling of dingoes within the Fraser Island World Heritage Area was not simply an esoteric love of dogs or wilderness values. It is believed that there were only about 100 dingoes on Fraser Island at the time of the massacre and that the ruthless killing of such a large number threatened the sustainability of this unique and pure gene.
Dingoesí significance and role: Dingoes play an important ecological role within the Australian environment as a high order predator contributing to ecological and evolutionary processes. The unique and high biodiversity of Fraser Island, including the genetic purity of the resident dingo population was one basis of the nomination and listing of Fraser Island on the World Heritage List under the World Heritage Convention. In discussing the island's unique biodiversity, the nomination of Fraser Island by the Government of Australia noted the significance of the resident dingo population as follows:
"Fraser Island supports a population of several hundred dingoes (Canis familiaris), regarded as the purest strain of dingo remaining in eastern Australia. The dingo belongs to an equatorial group of primitive dogs. It arrived in Australia relatively recently and may have been introduced by Aborigines. ..."
Court Proceedings: Given the Fraser Island dingoes small numbers, their ecological importance and status as part of the World Heritage and the treat to their survival, two people urgently sought interim injunctions in the Federal Court to restrain the cull on the afternoon of Friday 4 May 2001 under the EPBC Act.
Injunctions sought: In bringing the applications urgently, the applicants were hampered by the difficulty of obtaining a dingo expert familiar with Fraser Island and its dingoes. The Queensland Government had retained most of those experts during the preceding week to advise it on the best approach to managing the dingoes. Unable to obtain a specialist in this field, the applicants obtained the services of an ecologist to provide evidence of the impacts that the culling would have and, due to the time constraints involved, decided to proceed without having seen the expert's report. Having little over 2 hours to prepare a report and lacking full information on either the culling or Fraser Island dingo population, the evidence of this expert probably understated the true impacts of the cull on the Fraser Island dingoes or the Fraser Island ecosystem.
This was the critical point upon which the applications floundered at the time.
While the court refused to provide an injunction, the case remains open. It can be resumed at some future time in the Federal Court if rangers are intent on killing every dingo which represents a perceived threat. The case of the spectacled flying foxes,(Booth vs Bosworth) provides a new perspective on World Heritage management. The Commonwealthís EPBC Act has more teeth to protect the World Heritage values of Fraser Island.
Government Sought Expert Advice
In response to a tidal wave of public criticism over the arbitrary massacre of 30 animals, the Queensland Premier and his Cabinet Minister have made lengthy (but unconvincing) efforts to deny what was a "knee-jerk" reaction. In an effort to placate the criticism the Queensland Government sought expert input into the risk assessment study of dingoes on Fraser Island. It was reported that 279 dingo incidents involving humans occurred on the island since 1996. 38 of these caused serious injury.
The Government belatedly acknowledged the significance of the dingoes, which they were busy killing off. "The Fraser Island dingo population is a unique community and is specifically identified in relation to the island's World Heritage status" Environment Minister Dean Wells said.
The first meeting was held on 11th May and the Report was completed in early June. Dean Wells tabled in state parliament on 21 June the report to avoid attacks by dingoes on the island.
- Fines and penalties for the feeding of dingoes should be significantly increased. It is recommended to increase on-the-spot fines for feeding dingoes from either $50 or $75 (depending on the legislation) to $225. Maximum penalties for feeding offences by way of complaint and summons through court action will be doubled from $1500 to $3000. In addition to the increase in prescribed penalties it is recommended that commercial operators caught directly feeding dingoes will have their commercial tour operators permit cancelled. It is also recommended that individuals caught deliberately feeding dingoes will be directed to immediately leave the recreational area. Legislative changes to clarify the definitions of 'feeding' are needed.
- The draft Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy needs to be adjusted to reflect the now-confirmed risk posed to humans by dingoes. The strategy should incorporate new management options identified in this Risk Assessment as appropriate for ongoing management. The strategy should then proceed to approval and full implementation.
- Limits on the number of visitors to Fraser Island should be considered prior to 31 December 2001. Any such limits, and mechanisms to achieve these, should be considered in consultation with island residents, tour operators, the Fraser Island Community Advisory Committee, native title claimants and the island's World Heritage Area Management Committee. Possible strategies to achieve such reductions could include:
- Establishing a system of daily limits on the number of visitors on the island;
- Setting limits on visitor numbers at specific locations;
- Limiting camping to constructed camping areas;
- Reviewing the planning controls applying to the freehold/ township areas to manage to potential for higher density development, and;
- Limiting vehicle access permits.
- Implement dingo management measures identified in this Report. This requires the appointment of a Senior Conservation Officer at Maryborough and the appointment of 4 rangers (004-005) on Fraser Island, principally focused on dingo management (1 based at each of the 4 QPWS bases on the Island, Waddy Point, Dundubara, Eurong and Central Station). Rangers should report to the Ranger-in-Charge at each base and have dingo management activities coordinated by a Senior Conservation Officer at Maryborough.
- The current public education and awareness programs should be maintained and enhanced with the comprehensive approach including:
- continuing to send pre-visit information to each party obtaining a vehicle service permit and/or camping permit. This information provides warnings about the threats posed by dingoes and recommendations for appropriate behaviour around dingoes;
- reviewing and where appropriate upgrading signs on the Island giving warnings and advice including staying close to children and not feeding wildlife;
- providing detailed training and information for staff of backpacker hostels, 4WD hire companies and the Island's accommodation businesses regarding pre-visit briefings and provision of dingo related advice;
- continue to conduct 'Dingo-Smart' activities such as camping competitions on the Island during holiday periods;
- continue to provide the leaflet "Dingoes have become Threatening" which specifically targets commercial operator clients; and
- continue to provide displays in all backpacker hostels in Hervey Bay, Maryborough, Rainbow Beach about Fraser Island including displays about dingoes.
- Research on the population dynamics of the dingoes, including their natural food sources, on Fraser Island is important to the long-term success of dingo conservation on the Island. Short term and long-term research programs as highlighted in this assessment should commence as soon as possible. Immediate programs to standardize and record all adverse dingo/human interactions on the Island should be implemented.
- Limited time and jurisdictional constraints have negated the ability to conduct comprehensive risk assessments within townships and other private landholdings on Fraser Island. Given the ready supply of food and numbers of people exposed there is a real risk from dingoes at these sites. Incident data confirms this threat. It is suggested that additional risk assessments be conducted for these areas to enable dingo management measures to encompass the full range of land tenures on Fraser Island.
- For the effective enforcement of dingo management measures across all areas of Fraser Island, including the townships and freehold lands, appropriate powers need to be established. An important first step therefore is to initiate discussions with the relevant local governments to establish a cooperative arrangement.
- A monitoring and review schedule is required to achieve the following:
- reporting on implementation of management strategies quarterly for the first year and 6 monthly thereafter; and
- quarterly re-assessment of sites classified as extreme, high and moderate risk and consequent adjustment to risk management measures on a site by site basis.
The response to the Dingo Risk Assessment was quite diverse but with some was very predictable stances:
The "Chronicle" said "Funding (for the implementation of the dingo risk minimization strategy) ... should not fall on the ratepayers of Maryborough and Hervey Bay" while ignoring that both councils have been milking Fraser Island ratepayers to the tune of hundreds of thousands annually for years.
Fraser Island Residents Association President Eric Parups said that fencing campsites would do little to protect tourists yet that is what the Government proposes doing. He may well have been correct since the media indicated clearly that the main offenders in changing the wild nature of the dingoes were many of the islandís residents. Some had them under their houses.
Kingfisher Resort resented and disputed the Risk Assessment Report which nominated it as being a high-risk area. General Manager Garry Smith said, "There has never been a serious incident due to our good risk management and visitor education program." This seems to ignore the fact that in September last year Kingfisher Resort sought QPWS assistance to have one troublesome dingo destroyed due to its aggression to tourists.
It also seems to ignore the resort's own promotion. Photos appeared in the "Courier Mail" showing a dingo languishing in shallow water of the resortís crowded swimming pool. 11 days after the fatal incident dingoes were observed fearlessly roaming around Kingfisher Resort. They had to be chased away from the Bistro area by Former Environment Minister, Rod Welford. The staff did nothing to dissuade dingoes from roaming around the resort as if they owned it.
Aboriginal interests were ignored in the Report, which plans to construct a major fenced camping ground at Indian Head. For years Butchallas have made it clearly known that they are opposed to any development near Indian Head because it was the site of a major massacre by a police led Maryborough hunting party over the Christmas / New Year break in 1851. Building a camping ground there seems like creating a resort on the site of the Auschwitz death chamber. FIDO supports the Aboriginal objections and hopefully the proposed developments at Indian Head will be reconsidered.
Dingo role in Fraser Island ecology
The dingo is the main predator on Fraser Island. Dingoes are at the top of the food chain on Fraser Island. They normally eat fish, bandicoots, snakes and small rodents. They have been on the Island for perhaps three thousand years, and are considered 'indigenous' to the Island. They are known and loved by the traditional owners of the Island.
The historic contribution to the decline of some fauna species of Fraser Island may be attributed to dingoes. Scrub turkeys and emus are most conspicuously absent from Fraser Island but quite numerous in Cooloola where dingoes are less numerous,
Dingoes don't belong to Fraser Island? Steve Van Dykes of the Queensland Museum argues that the dingo is a feral species and not a native because it has been here only 4000 years. He says the predation by dingoes on small mammals may have led to the extinction or at least decimation of Fraser Island's small mammal population since they arrived there in the last 4000 years. There is some evidence to support this. The only records of some mammals on Fraser Island are from dingo scats, but the fact that they were in recently collected dingo scats when they had never been previously recorded, suggests that they are very elusive and in low numbers and presumably still surviving in small numbers on the island. Van Dyke argues that if dingoes were removed the small mammal population which dingoes have so heavily predated would explode as they have on other Australian islands where predators have been removed.
There is no going back: FIDOís view is that the ecology has probably already irreversibly changed just as it was changed with the advent of humans 50,000 years ago and their introduction of their hunting and fire regime practices. Any damage that the dingoes could inflict on the ecology has most probably already been done. The only legacy is the purest strain of dingoes in Eastern Australia if not the whole of Australia. The dingo has worked irreversible ecological changes. Therefore to argue that small mammals would return is like saying that species made extinct by the foxes will return if the foxes are eradicated.
FIDO's Four Point Dingo Plan
- Do not expect to see WILD dingoes, except at a distance. If a dingo comes close to humans, it is no longer wild and no longer a part of the natural ecosystem.
- Dingoes must be encouraged to keep their distance and always remain wary of humans. Don't entice or encourage dingoes to come close for any reason. In doing so you will be placing other humans in danger.
- Don't tolerate dingoes near you or near your camp. If a dingo approaches shoo them away as forcefully as possible. Dingoes must learn always to be wary of people.
- Wild dingoes will always look lean and hungry. Feeding dingoes will not make them fatter. It will only result in more lean and hungry dingoes as their population expands to coincide with the food supply.
The "Fraser Island Update" dated 9 August conveyed the following news on Dingoes to CAC members:
- Hazing techniques for dingo aversion have been trialled with the preferred method being shooting with .22 calibre ratshot. This practice has been endorsed by the RSPCA. Further trials are occurring with the use of slingshots and clay balls. This method would improve opportunities for hazing as a wider range of staff could be involved as no formal certification is required for firearms.
- Intensive education and enforcement programs continue.
- A draft research project proposal has been considered by members of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC)"
Another Dingo Dead!
An unelaborated point also said, "A dingo exhibiting aggressive behaviour was culled in the Dilli Village area." There was no elaboration on when the last dingo was shot nor what was its form of "aggression". Likewise there has not yet been any report provided on the DNA testing which was supposed to have been carried out on the 31 dingoes shot in May. At this rate the number of dingoes on Fraser Island may well fall below a genetically sustainable population before we even know anything about the genetic quality of the dingoes which were once there.
Journalists who have obtained documents under Freedom of Information have published reports in the "Courier Mail" in the days as MOONBI was being concluded revealing:
- A senior Rangerís admission that the QPWS could have done more with limited resources by redirecting funds to focus more on dingo management.
- Waddy Point dingoes harassed humans at least 6 times in the first four months of 2001.
- Rangers feared for the safety of their own children.
- A Ranger prosecuted for feeding dingoes on Fraser Island still works there.
NPA to Run Double Island Point
FIDOís sister organization, the 1550 member Noosa Parks Association, has won the rights to manage the Double Island Point Light station property next to Great Sandy National Park. It will open an education facility there.
The 4 hectare property, which includes the heritage-listed lighthouse dating from 1884, was declared a conservation park after the Australian Maritime Safety Authority transferred the property to the Queensland Government in 1997. The NPA plans to operate a free education display on the site, using the existing lighthouse and cottages.
In announcing the award Dean Wells said, "This organisation is the state's oldest local conservation group and has worked hard since its inception in 1962 to have Cooloola section of Great Sandy National Park set aside and extended, and to have its natural values protected."
NPA president Dr Michael Gloster said that the NPA would repair and maintain the existing infrastructure and buildings, and operate the site as a centre for information, interpretation, learning, training and research and as a museum.
FIDOís Cyber Campaign Grows
It has been interesting to observe the growth in visitation to FIDOís web site at www.fido.org.au. Normally about 350 from students and others seek information from our site each week. In the week following the dingo attack there were 1300 "hits" at our site. Most came through searches that specified "dingo" and "cull". They found FIDOís submission to the Draft Dingo Management Strategy. Media particularly sought it out while John Sinclair was out of telephone contact on Lord Howe Island
E-mail: The FIDO page generated an incredible amount of E-mail supporting FIDOís stand to stop the massacre.
# "I am very opposed to Fraser Island being another unique 'natural' place being taken over by humans and it's environment changed to suit same. Call me crazy, but I cannot understand why humans believe they have an inalienable right to all land and systems to the exclusion of any other species. I have witnessed so many Eco systems destroyed by the economic greediness of humans, and although I understand the pressure on all of us tosustain our life styles, I do not understand how anyone can condone the destruction of an eco system such as Fraser when it is not essential for human survival."
# "Humans can never seem to get enough of this earth until one day there will be nothing beautiful left that is wild and natural. I am not a "greeny", nor have I ever been one to write a letter expressing my concerns, as letters and protesting seems to get you nowhere, however I am an animal lover and I appreciate that this dingo incident is very sad for the parents and family - but it is man's interference and disruption to the wild that has caused this tragedy."
# "It is not an issue of public safety as people have a choice whether or not to visit the island, which is in fact a National Park. It also seems unfair that Mr. Beattie, Premier of Queensland, can name this a public safety issue without having to prove it to anybody. The stubbornness and ignorance of this man is unbelievable and the power, which is available to such a person, is frightening. Without any argument or reason to prove his case he is allowed to continue.
I want you to know you are not alone. I am not a political activist, or a Greenie ó just a guy who does not want our environment stuffed up."
Hate Mail: Ben Caffery wrote exactly as follows: I am writting this email to you today on the news of the death of a little innocent boy on Fraser this week. I have been fishing on fraser since i was 6 yrs old, and know down right how gutless dingo's can get in packs. Its time to let the authorities now. This being to kill every mangey fuken dingo on fraser. They are out of proportion and obviously there is not enough food for their 'mundane' existence without fuken eating a human. I will be on fraser this June. I am warning the fraser defender group, that if i see one mangey mongrel dingo on the beach in my travells. I will have no hesitations on changing my course to run them over. If there is no full culling proram inforced by then.I will cull em myself on the front of my 4x4 bullbar.
That reminds us of graffiti in Tasmania under the bridge over the Franklin River where someone had scrawled, "Dam the Barstad" . The erudite response written underneath was, "Would you entrust such decisions to an illiterate like this?"
Another Fraser Massacre of Innocents: The dingo massacre on Fraser Island had a very unpleasant sequel. The deliberate shooting of three kookaburras at Central Station in the heart of the Great Sandy National Park has caused FIDO question the values of the QPWS. This supposedly "wildlife" service seems to place much higher values on the recreation and convenience of human visitors to the National Parks than it does in protecting wildlife in its National Parks.
Information Withheld: When the CAC met in Hervey Bay on Friday, 27 July it did not know and was not told that on 24 July, three kookaburras had been deliberately killed by Fraser Island National Park Officers. On 29 July the Minister was unaware of the killings which made headlines on the TV news that night overshadowing his important announcements.
In the week which followed the QPWS Great Sandy Manager tried to justify this outrageous action by asserting in the local media: "It is a standard part of operating procedure, like the dingoes, that if there is a pest or animal there that creates a danger or a nuisance, we will take it out."
Policy without Reference: It now seems that the policy has been contrived to kill kookaburras or any other native animals in Queensland National Parks. This procedure wasnít discussed with any Fraser Island stakeholders. As far as FIDO is aware it has been instituted without any public consultation anywhere else. This was certainly not mentioned when the Great Sandy Region Management Plan was being developed. According to this rationale if a kookaburra is seen as a threat, then crocodiles and snakes have no security in Queensland National Parks.
Deferred Reporting: A Management Report 2 weeks after the meeting merely said: "Three Kookaburras were destroyed at Central Station following a risk assessment of dangerous behaviour and the infliction of injuries on visitors."
The CAC was told in the October Report: "QPWS policy on public safety is not specific to any particular animal or situation. It requires staff to identify risk situations and to investigate and implement actions to minimize or eliminate the risk. Ö Staff from Central Station undertook the Risk Assessment in accordance with standard procedures." (There has been no sighting of any documentation of this Risk Assessment and how it was carried out.)
In many National Parks a variety of opportunistic animals pose threats at least equal to if not greater than the alleged "habituated" kookaburras at Central Station. Black Kites in Kakadu often scratch people as they virtually take food from their hand or mouth. Goannas, Apostle birds, possums, crows etc can all pose risks but FIDO is not aware that any other Parks Service destroying offending animals. Even in Queensland where nesting magpies often dive-bomb harass or injure people, the offending birds are protected.
FIDO's anger hasn't abated. When the survival of native animals in a National Park becomes subservient to the recreational amenity of humans it is time to question the whole philosophy of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. What future is there for crocodiles or snakes or sharks in Parks if Kookaburras are killed because they are seen to pose some risk to humans?
FIDO has long been extremely concerned about the environmental impact of the Toyota annual Fishing Expo on Fraser Island. These have been discussed at length in MOONBI. We became very concerned before 1990 and continued to seek to have it stopped at Orchid Beach.
Siting: The worst environmental impact occurs at Orchid Beach due to the extended lines of infrastructure and its particular impact on what was identified as the most remote part of Fraser Island. Fitzgerald said they should as far as possible remain primitive. The Fishing Expo concentrates 3000 people for a week in this extremely sensitive location.
In 1995 the Goss Government decreed that the event could only proceed if it was held at Eurong. As a result of intense lobbying by Toyota and its Executives the Borbidge Government following just one year at its old venue in 1997 the event was relocated to Orchid Beach until 2003.
Delayed Reporting: One of FIDO's great frustrations with the Fishing Expo is that the QPWS seems to take an inordinate time to produce its reports which are supposed to be a prerequisite for any decision to allow the next event to proceed. Invariably the next event is being advertised before the Reports are even completed and released. Then there has been a longstanding difficulty in obtaining the reports after they are completed, as the QPWS seems reluctant to allow anyone to scrutinize them. In October we were advised: "The monitoring report Ö has been completed and is being forwarded to Toyota and the Expo organizer. A meeting will be arranged ... to discuss the report and its findings. A copy of the report will then be made available ... following this process."
The deplorable tradition of stalling the release of these reports to the public until the next event is already launched continues.
Bias: It is FIDO's view that many of the reports are biased towards trying to legitimize Toyota's conduct of event. The reports have failed to address the impact on the marine environment and have failed to adequately address the impact of the infrastructure. Instead they have taken a very narrow approach to assess how well the actual campsites are managed rather than the impact of having so any campsites occupied simultaneously in this remoter part of the island has on the overall island infrastructure.
If not contained in the final report on the Expo itself we have some clues on the longer term impact when in the August Update on Fraser Island management under "Natural Resource Management ó Birds" the following two points were noted:
- Beach counts of shorebirds were done from Eurong to Hook Point, and Eurong to South Ngkala Rocks. There were more White bellied Sea-eagles (9) and Torresian Crows (42) than usual.
- Forty Silver Gulls, attracted to the area during the Toyota Fish Expo, were still present at Waddy Point.
In urging campers and fishers to look after the island's environment and use common sense during the 2001 event form May 26 to June 2, Dean Wells found it necessary warn that strong action would be taken against anyone who feeds a dingo or encourages the dogs to approach people - even if that is just by being careless with their food supplies, rubbish, bait or fish scraps.
At last ó11 km North Wathumba Road and 17 kms Beach Closed)
Fraser Island and its visitors are now better protected following the closure of another road and some beaches on the island to vehicles from September 3. This helps conserve the island's World Heritage-listed natural attractions as well as improving visitor safety and enjoyment. These belated closures fulfil some of actions contained in the 1994 Great Sandy Region Management Plan, which was adopted after an environmental inquiry and extensive public consultation.
North of Wathumba: The western beach closure between North Wathumba Road to Rooney Point has been extended 10 km to Sandy Cape Lighthouse and 4 km south of the North Wathumba - Platypus Bay Road southward to Wathumba Spit. Vehicle access to Platypus Bay and Moon Point continues to be available via the South Wathumba Road.
South of Waddy Point: On the eastern side of the island south of Waddy Point, vehicle access and parking is available at the northern end of South Waddy Beach to give people the opportunity to fish near the headland and to access the beach for worms. No vehicles are now permitted on about one kilometre of beach extending south of the access point.
Foreshadowed: The beach from Dilli Village to Hook Point will be closed next year once the old mining road is upgraded.
Environment Minister Dean Wells said, "The management plan has been progressively implemented and the time has come for these actions to be completed. The closures are consistent with zoning requirements of the management plan to maintain the values of the remote northern part of Fraser Island. The management plan was adopted after extensive public consultation and the road closures represent the best balance between conservation of the environment and public access. The closures mean the northern beaches will be relatively free of vehicles, and visitors will again be able to enjoy these beaches for what they are - remote, wild places. Emergency services and other authorized vehicles will still be allowed access to these areas. Closed roads and tracks will be maintained for this emergency access and as firebreaks. Despite this small closure, there is still more than 100 kilometres of eastern beach available to vehicles."
The History of the Closure: The Fitzgerald Report of 1991 recommended that all beaches north of Ngkala Rocks should be vehicle free. Although FIDO had supported this Jan Scudamore from the Association of 4WD Clubs and others on the CAC opposed it in framing the 1994 Management Plan. That Management Plan for was 3 years in development and exposed to extensive public consultation. A compromise was struck and it was accepted that the beach from Ngkala to the Lighthouse would remain open to vehicles but everything else north of Ngkala and Wathumba Creek would be closed.
Rearguard Unravelling: In 1996 the QPWS served notice that it proposed to close the North Wathumba Road and the whole beach from Wathumba Creek to the Sandy Cape Lighthouse. It was then that a number of people with vested interests in Orchid Beach opposed the closures just as they opposed the closing of the Orchid Beach airstrip. For the last 5 years they have fought a successful rearguard action which found a sympathetic ear with some QPWS officers. Every request by FIDO to for the QPWS to implement the Management Plan with respect to road and beach closures was stalled and ignored for the next five years.
Umpire's Decision: About 200 protesters attended a public meeting at Orchid Beach on Sunday 19 August
Short memories: The 4WD-ers claimed that there had been a lack of public consultation about the closures. That is plain wrong. A spokesperson for the Fraser Island Community Association, Don McKay, who is very late on the scene, erroneously claimed that residents had not been consulted about the planned closures. Protesters overlooked the fact that the Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs had won many concessions in arriving at which sections of roads and beaches to close in the Management Plan. During the development of the Great Sandy Region Management Plan Mrs Noelene Walk was representative of the island residents and Angela Burger, also an island resident, represented Commercial Tour Operators. The draft plan was also put out for public comment and consultation. FIDO lost out on closing the beach north of Ngkala Rocks as Fitzgerald recommended. It is ludicrous to claim that there was no consultation.
Some 4WD-ers though were still not satisfied and are coming up with pretences for keeping all beaches and roads open for all vehicles for all time. Luckily the Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie has strongly backed Dean Wells and said that consultation doesn't mean that everyone gets their own way and that there had been ample consultation over Fraser Island.
Many rumours and much misinformation have been spread around relating to these long overdue closures. Most of these speculate about exemptions that allow some people to use the closed beaches and road. Some commercial fishers are able to use the closed beaches and road on a case by case application. Some disabled people can apply to be driven to Platypus Bay via the North Wathumba Road rather than the South Wathumba Road pending the outcome of the current Transport and Access Study recommendations.
Tour Operator Rumour: Rumours were widely circulated that "authorized vehicles" would include "a major tour operator". Subsequently it has been revealed that the "major tour operator" alluded to was John Sinclair.
For the Record
1 John Sinclair is not a "major tour operator". He conducts one safari which spends 8 days only Fraser Island each year (almost all in the area south of Orchid Beach) and carries a maximum of 20 safarists on each of these annual trips. His Fraser Island safari is only one of just 10 safaris he conducts to various Australian World Heritage sites each year. He caters for only 200 clients annually which makes him a very small tour operator.
2 John Sinclair has never driven on any Fraser Island roads or beaches closed to the public and has never sought to do so. His only foray into areas of Fraser Island's now closed (only to motorized traffic) was in 1999 when he walked the full length of the island with his four sons for his 60th birthday.
3 John Sinclair has been a major advocate for the extension of vehicle free areas in the northern part of Fraser Island.
Platypus Bay Access: One furphy which is freely doing the rounds in the 4WD gossip mill is that there is now no access to Platypus Bay which is a "safe area for families to swim fish and picnic." This ignores the fact that it is still possible to drive the Wathumba South Road to Platypus Bay although this access is restricted to times of low tide. The Wathumba Creek estuary is also suitable for recreation at high tide as many yatchies who anchor there can attest.
Access Fees: Surprisingly in all of the kerfuffle Orchid Beach businessman, Bill Bennett, said that he did not believe all of the permit money collected by the State Government was going back to Fraser Island. This displays some of the abysmal ignorance of the RAM Act. All access fees are spent o Fraser Island and this has been the only source of funds for island operations during the last few years.
The Price of Protest: The 4WDrivers were outraged that they had to pay to acquire permit fees to visit Fraser Island to protest on 20 August. They overlooked the impact that their very visit was placing on the island and that they were recreating during the weekend. FIDO members have to pay normal access fees when visiting Fraser Island for our inspections.
Support for vehicle-free areas: Unfortunately the protesters seem to have overlooked many of the impacts of their vehicles on dune systems. A series of letters to the "Courier Mail" on 20 and 21 August made valid points such as, "...the movement of a 4WD vehicle through sand-based bushland can easily produce results similar to a farm plough."
Brisbane Meeting offered: Dean Wells had offered to meet with the four-wheel-drive association in Brisbane to discuss the closures and saved themselves a lot of time and effort but they decided instead to stage a demonstration on to Fraser Island.
Wilderness is a criteria: "Visitor numbers to Fraser Island are increasing every year and it is vital that we manage it properly so that future generations can enjoy the same experiences that we have access to now. Last year there were about 330,000 visitors to Fraser Island. There will be no wilderness areas left on the island if we don't keep part of the island free from four-wheel-driving. By restricting 4WD access in some areas of the island, we can cater for a diverse range of visitor tastes - from wilderness experiences in some parts to full four-wheel-drive access in other parts," Mr. Wells said.
Map showing the road & beaches closed
A number of other roads listed in the 1996 notification were closed at that time. A gate was in place ready to close the North Wathumba Road but no action was taken to lock it until Dean Wells became Environment Minister.
Yet another group has emerged to counter FIDO's advocacy for better management of Fraser Island. It was claimed in August, "A new umbrella organization , Friends of Fraser Island has been formed and already had 13,000 members with a $15,000 fighting fund to fight road closures."
So far we have had the group led by Gilbert Allison and Bill Zemek back in the 1970s who wanted sandmining on Fraser Island, the pro-logging lobbyists of the 1980s, the Fraser Island residents who want unlimited property owners rights to use and access. Now yet another group has emerged demanding unfettered four wheel drive access to as much of Fraser Island as possible.
Perhaps the first thing that some of the $15,000 should be spent on is getting their facts correct.
FIDO Credited with Undue Influence
In a circular letter freely available on Fraser Island to be sent to Dean Wells the Author claims "Ö some senior (ministerial ) adviser believe that John Sinclair and FIDO have more influence on policy than they do. FIDO has the right to express their views as long as they do not support the commercial interests of FIDO members Ö" (alluding to John Sinclair being a tour operator who allegedly benefits from keeping others out of Fraser Island). However elsewhere in this letter it is pointed out "Many of us have made substantial investments on the island," and then goes on to state an interest in preserving these investments. NOTE: John Sinclair has no property interests whatsoever on Fraser Island.
At the August meeting Independent Member for Maryborough Dr. John Kingston, MLA, said "Read FIDOís newsletter of May 2001, also available on the Internet. Whilst I do not agree with many of FIDOís statements or objectives, FIDO must be given credit for constantly calling for more information Ö" He quoted extensively from MOONBI 99.
Plan Being Reviewed
Perhaps the most significant News to be announced sonce MOONBI 99 is that the Great Sandy Region Management Plan is being reviewed. The review process will include summaries of new information and changed circumstances, the implementation and achievements to date and will involve working with key stakeholders. John Ledlin has been appointed Project Officer to coordinate and facilitate the planning process. The expected duration of this review is 18 months concluding in March 2003. It will include two rounds of public consultation and the release of a Discussion Paper for public comment as well as two rounds of 8 public meetings So far FIDOís only contact and information has come through the CAC but we look forward to being involved at all stages of the review.
Fraser Fishing Fiasco
The World Heritage Fraser Island area extends 500 metres to sea all around and yet it is this marine area which is being wholly neglected by the State and Commonwealth Governments when it ignores any moves to implement a Fishing Management Plan.
Action stalled since 1996: Back in 1996 FIDO spent a lot of time along with many others making a comprehensive response to the Queensland Fish Management Authorityís "Subtropical Inshore Finfish Fishery Management Plan" because it dealt with both recreational and commercial fishing on Fraser Island. In late 1996 over 950 public and organization submissions were made. In 1998 the Minister was advised that the Draft Management Plan would be presented to the QFMA Board in May, 1998. Since that time nothing has come of the plan and countless hours seem to have been wasted on making futile submissions.
A Ruse: It now seems that the invitation for public comment was only a ruse to stall any on-going public pressure on the existing status quo. It was a ruse to enable professional fishers to continue carrying on without any change. Without a formal Management Plan they continue to flaunt the rules on camping within the Fraser Island Recreation Area and are exempted from the Great Sandy Region Management Plan with respect to using beaches closed to everyone else. They are even allowed to drive up and down the beach in their trucks to hunt for schools of mullet which other fishers hunt from boats,
The average annual haul by commercial fishers from Fraser Island but excluding Great Sandy Strait is about 590 tonnes including about 260 tonnes of mullet.
Fisheries Management Needed: A Management Plan would bring more sanity to some of the recreational anglers with bag limits, size limits seasonal closures and fish sanctuaries. A fisheries management plan is desperately needed because the World Heritage area includes the marine area 500 metres to sea surrounding the island and that is not covered by the existing Great Sandy Region Management Plan. Also commercial fishers have been flouting the law as far as their camps have been concerned and now they are in an unhealthy position of having motorized vehicle access to a road and beach closed to everyone else.
Now, with the Department Primary Industries and the QFMA having stalled on delivering any verdict on the future fishing policy on Fraser Island, it is time for the public to demand action from the Beattie Government.
People wanting a more sustainable, better managed fishery on Fraser Island urge the Beattie Government to show the same vision with the fisheries management as they showed in resolving Queenslandís Regional Forest Agreement.
In 1986-87 the biggest issue for FIDO was the proposed creation of Kingfisher Resort. The resort has been built and virtually every consequence foreshadowed by FIDO then has been realized despite promises sworn on the Bible under oath by the resort's proponents in the Local Government Court back in 1987.
FIDO's main concern then was not the impact on the site itself but the ripple out effect from this epicentre. That ripple effect is most evident on the road running from the resort which despite sworn undertakings by the Resort to privately build and maintain it has cost the QPWS a huge slab of its budget in the last few years. The resort now has 12 buses which daily take tours around the island. All but 3 of them have 40 capacity. This means the resort is capable of moving up to 500 people a day in periods of peak demand. The pressure added by Kingfisher to Lake McKenzie and Central Station is exactly as predicted by FIDO despite expert evidence by some eco-pornographers that this wouldn't happen.
Kingfisher discharges its sewage into Great Sandy Strait. Oddly enough it is the Queensland's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and not the QPWS has a responsibility for protecting the environment of the Fisheries Habitat Reserve and the Ramsar site adjacent to the Resort. Thus the information on standards imposed on this resort are not readily available to the Management Committees (rather than the QPWS). National Park Rangers have no jurisdiction inside the Kingfisher boundaries which is a major concern with respect to dingo management because it is outside the National Park.
As a sidelight to his reaction to the Dingo risk assessment at Kingfisher in June, Managing Director Garry Smith said that the resort had had almost one million visitors since opening in 1992
Fraser Visitor Statistics
Over 9 Years
|Year||Commercial Tours||Total Visitors|
Although the 2000-01 figures are not confirmed the above table shows a steady and consistent upwards trend - 38% in 9 years with the growth in commercial tours outstripping the number of Free and Independent Travellers (FITs). The figures not shown here show a plateauing in the number of camper nights but increasingly international backpackers are replacing the traditional Australian campers. The growth in the accommodation seems to have led to a decline in the demand from the traditional Fraser Island campers.
It is also worth noting that many of Kingfisher's visitors are not included in the aggregate Fraser Island visitor statistics because only when visitors leave the resort are they counted in the QPWS figures.
Government Initiatives Announced
On 29 July, Environment Minister Dean Wells announced some of the most positive news we have heard on Fraser Island for years. It is refreshing to see some positive progress at last although remediation of the degradation still occurring may be impossible.
1. Fraser Island Transport Options
The State Government is considering transport arrangements on World Heritage-listed Fraser Island.
Finally a long awaited transport and access study, has begun to consider future management of the road network and transport systems on Fraser Island. Environmental and engineering consultants, Gutteridge Haskins & Davey are undertaking the study, which has begun.
In announcing the study on 29 July Dean Wells said, "The study will identify the requirements of a sustainable transport system for Fraser Island that protects its World Heritage values while providing for appropriate recreation and tourism opportunities. The study will look at maintenance and resource needs, current vehicle use and will identify possible alternatives such as light rail. Once the study is completed, the Government will consider the recommendations and determine whether any suggested alternatives are feasible."
2. Capital Works:
He also announced that as part of the capital works program for national parks some would go to Great Sandy Region:
$107,000 to build toilets at Freshwater campground in the Cooloola section; and
$50,000 to design a new boardwalk at the internationally significant Wanggoolba Creek at Central Station on Fraser Island.
Fraser Island has also been specifically identified in the five-year, $10 million Great Walks of Queensland program.
3. More Funds for Fraser Management
The State Government has allocated an extra $1.75 million toward the management of Fraser Island.
$750,000 would be spent employing eight permanent rangers. 4 of these will be specifically for dingo management.
Additional funding of $1 million has been provided for implementation of actions in the Dingo Risk Assessment and the Dingo Management Strategy.
A further $80,000 has been allocated this year under the Great Walks of Queensland program to finalize planning of walking tracks on Fraser Island and to prepare a walking track upgrade and development program in accordance with the Great Walks program.
4. Hydrogen Power
Another initiative has been the installation of hydrogen power generation at Central Station and wind generators at Sandy Cape to power the light station residences used by the QPWS there. (See note on windmill tilting) FIDO is now assessing the potential environmental impacts resulting from the use of hydrogen as a fuel. The compressed hydrogen actually has to be carried on to the island. Central Station was chosen for the experiment because it is deep in tall forests where neither solar nor wind power are practical energy sources.
As MOONBI celebrates its centenary and FIDO is approaching its 31st birthday, it is worth revisiting the issue which first gave birth to FIDO ó sandmining. 31 December will mark the 25th anniversary of the end of sandmining on Fraser Island in a monumental decision by the Fraser Government acting on the recommendation of the Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry. As part of the Queensland Environmental Law Association Conference at Kingfisher Resort on Fraser Island on 12 May, John Sinclair revisited the site that he has documented being transformed from virgin bush to a sandpit in 1975-76. It is illuminating to revisit this transformed site today.
The Dillingham Murphyores Site: The topography has been irreversibly altered and dramatically subdued however the area seems to be stable. Unfortunately the vegetation cover on the mined land is a very simplified plant community with mostly wattles and very little ground cover. While wattles are not long lived there is evidence that the wattles are self-regenerating and continuing to fill the dominant role they first assumed. While almost all of the species from the original plant community that were hand planted in a major effort after the mining have failed there has been a surprise volunteering of some species.
For example, while Ironbarks (Eucalyptus crebra) are uncommon on Fraser Island, some existed on a site upwind of the mined area inspected. As a result this area is now peppered with Ironbarks although the once dominant scribbly gums are conspicuously missing. Morton Bay Ash (E. tesselaris) has not done as well as the ironbarks. The only shrubby plants to do reasonably well under the canopy have been phebaliums (Phebalium woombye). While very occasional plants of geebungs (Persoonia virgata) banksias (mainly Banksia serrata) and Casuarinas can be seen there are very few other species of any sort to be noted. Grasses are negligible. Some feral weeds such as Lantana though have flourished in the areas adjacent to the old roads.
One other surprise has been the success of the Blackbutt plantation (E. pilularis). These trees are out of their normal habitat and were not expected to do well. Instead they have thrived and seem to be showing more vigourous growth here than anywhere else on Fraser Island.
While this inspection was brief of the Old Dillingham site is reassuring in that the area has been stabilized, after 25 years it remains a most unattractive, modified area with an artificial and very simplified ecosystem. It will take hundreds of years before anything approaching the former ecosystem is every re-established on the 200 ha site.
The QTM Site: The disaster of the QTM site is that as a result of moving the buffering vegetation on the foredunes, its impact spread over almost another 200 ha which was about equivalent to the area mined. In this formerly protected area the once conspicuous Cypress pines have succumbed to salt spray. The mined area though seems to have actually regained more of its species than the Dillingham site. It was never such a botanically complex area but more of the former species have come back here. The other great tragedy of this linear disturbance that spread along almost 20 kilometres of foredune has been the loss of the very rugged and convoluted topography that characterized the area prior to mining.
Fire: The fact that the revegetation of the old mining sites has held up as well as it has so far is largely due to the fact that fire has been excluded from most of the sites for almost three decades. However a fire did burn out some of the former QTM site and the consequences have been serious. Our observations suggest that the impact of fire on the disturbed area was much greater than on areas unaffected by mining. It seems that it may take a couple of centuries, hopefully with few fires before the mined areas are as resilient as the undisturbed areas.
Weeds: The results of weeds introduced as a consequence of mining are still being felt. Bitou bush escaped on Fraser Island near the old QTM site and it now requires vigilant annual treatment to ensure that the annual crop of seedlings (and the seed remains viable for 25 years) are prevented from seeding again. The mined areas have more than their share of lantana
Conclusion on Mining: A critical examination of the impacts of sandmining in 2001 has convinced FIDO that our indefatigable efforts during our first 6 years to stop the creeping cancer eating away at the unique ecosystems on Fraser Island were entirely justified. If this legacy had been imprinted over as much of Fraser Island as was projected back in 1971, then this World Heritage island would have much less attraction than it now has. We were lucky it had only attacked 400 ha (1000 acres). If it hadn't ceased on 31 December, 1976 it would now have continued to chew up about another 300 ha annually making up to 7,500 ha destroyed and almost as much again devastated by mining infrastructure and by the loss of buffering vegetation. By now most of the 200 workforce would be out of work as the operations ran out of resources.
At the time MOONBI was being finalized yet another Federal Election Campaign was in progress for an election to be held on 10 November.
FIDO has lost count of the number of Federal Elections since we began over 30 years ago. More difficult to recall has been the even greater number of Environment Ministers in that time. We can recall some such as Moss Cass, Kevin Newman and Robert Hill. Most have had short tenures but Robert Hill has held the portfolio longer than any predecessor since the McMahon Government in 1972 created it after Australia became a signatory to the World Heritage Convention.
While the Federal Government has a clear role in the management of World Heritage sites, Fraser Island has never received its fair share of funding and last year had its allocation reduced from $662,000 to about $415,000.
Did the Earth Move?
An earthquake of 3.7 in magnitude hit Fraser Island and Hervey Bay at 10.00 am on 14 October. The epicentre was just 22 km north of Sandy Cape. An Orchid Beach couple drinking morning tea reported wall hangings shaking and internal doors swinging back and forth. MOONBIís Editor who was on the island at the time was oblivious of the shaking earth.
On 18 September an earthquake registering 3.9 occurred with an epicentre 73 km east of Fraser Island. The Wide Bay Burnett Region is the earthquake hot spot in Queensland with magnitude 4 tremors recorded on average every 3 years and magnitude 1 tremors every 3 days.
This information adds to the already high risk of ultra high tides during cyclonic storm surges (especially on the Hervey Bay side) adds to the potential of a tsunami resulting from a serious earthquake at sea. Coastal management in the Wide bay-Burnett region needs a lot better planning for disasters.
Tourist Lost (maybe forever)
On 5-7 May the SES launched a major but unsuccessful exercise to try exercise on Fraser Island on intensive search for the missing British tourist Mr. David Eason who "went missing" near lake Wabby in early April. Described in the media as a "training exercise", it involved 120 SES personnel. The logistics of this rescue were considerable and had a significant environmental cost. A previous limited search by Police and SES was unsuccessful but following a possible sighting of Mr. Eason on Thursday or Friday (19 or 20 April) the Police decided to use SES from around the Region to conduct a more intensive search. No trace of David Eason has been found despite this and several other searches.
Bus Recovered at a Cost
FIDO was advised that Top Tours would pay the QPWS for its work in helping to recover its bus from the roadside near Yidney Lake. The site was significantly damaged. Many large trees had to be felled and the road widened.
Tow truck operators on Fraser Island and the Rainbow Beach 4x4 Recovery Service undertook the major part of the recovery. Maryborough Crane Services and two QPWS road crew were also involved in the recovery using our Komatsu loader were also involved in the recovery. These were used undertake roadworks for the recovery and to tow out the bus until the tow trucks could safely do the job. FIDO was assured that the QPWS would recover actual costs plus overheads from Top Tours.
FIDO is concerned about the environmental impacts of these rescues, especially after seeing the Yidney Lake site and the strains that rescues may place on the meagre budget to administer Fraser Island.
A highly publicized wind generator tower at Fraser Islandís Sandy Cape collapsed in a wind gust recently. A recorded gust of 64 knots knocked over the tower, which has since been re-erected. The tower was reportedly not well installed in the first place and now should be able to withstand cyclonic winds.
Parsimonious politicians have not shared the publicís overwhelming affection for Fraser Island. State politicians refused to allocate Fraser Island of any consolidated revenue for two years in a row. Federal politicians had no difficulty in finding an additional $150 million for our sporting elite but can't provide an adequate budget for Fraser Island which could have helped avert the dingo tragedy. However the incredible support in the media for saving the dingoes and to demand much better management on Fraser Island may now be starting to be better appreciated by the politicians and the bureaucrats alike.
Fraser Aboriginal Interests Neglected
So far the least progress made in the implementation of the Great Sandy Region Management Plant has involved of natural and cultural resources management. While FIDO has quite specifically focussed on the natural resources we are mindful that an even greater area of neglect has been the dealing with cultural (particularly Aboriginal) issues.
This is certainly true of with respect to the implementation of the much-touted Dingo Risk Assessment. Aboriginal interests were ignored especially when is came to deciding to create a camp ground at Indian Head which was the scene of a huge massacre when some Maryborough based special constables went on a Christmas New Year holiday shooting spree. FIDO has long questioned the wisdom of creating a camping ground there following our observations after the cyclone on 31 December 1962. Then a storm surge ran right around the headland turning what is now a campground into a jelly. However, the Butchallas have stronger and more emotional reasons for opposing any development in the vicinity of Indian Head. Notwithstanding this opposition work is still proceeding to establish a campground there.
Another area of neglect is demonstrated at Bogimbah where two Aboriginal cemeteries containing almost 100 people who died during the 8 years of the disastrous Mission there are now over-run by the sisal weeds which were introduced by the Missionaries.
In October John Sinclair inspected many aspects of Fraser Island while leading an 8-day safari there which ranged from Sandy Cape to Hook Point and which crossed the island from coast to coast in five different places. This is a summary of the points he noted which are relevant to preserving the natural integrity of Fraser Island:
1. Walking tracks: Although the Draft Walking Track management Plan has yet to be released for public comment, a lot of positive progress has already been made towards implementing some recommendations. For example the formerly overgrown "Bowarrady Track " from Arch Cliffs to Lake Bowarrady has been cleared and slashed so that it is now a very pleasant walk. In other places the walking tracks can be used for other management purposes such as natural resource monitoring and firebreaks. Thus management is already appreciating the potential. It is also good to see the increasing use being made of these trails. FIDO is looking forward to the release of the Walking Track Plan in an effort to advance our long advocated Kgari Trail.
2. Banksia Serial Killing Resumed: On the other side of the ledger we were dismayed to discover that the "Banksia Serial Killing" which had ceased after the Stanton adjudication in 1993 has resumed with a vengeance as the Forestry obsession with removing any banksias near roadways is vigourously pursued. A camperís fire escaped from near Coongul Greek and burnt out over 10,000 ha. It was successfully contained by back-burning around three roads on a 30 km front along the Woralie Track and the Bullocky and Moon Point Roads. However AFTER the fire had been successfully contained, a tractor then proceeded to push over most of the banksias near the roads back into the burnt out area. In one place the banksias were bulldozed over 20 metres in and in another a banksia 14 metres from the road was pushed down.
We also discovered that similar banksia serial killing had been freshly carried out on the Bogimbah Track where there have been no fires. Worse though is the fact that the serial killing was occurring in many places on both sides of the roads. In some sections of the Woralie Track all tall vegetation had been removed for hundreds of metres on the unburnt side the road. In another place a Scribbly Gum 14 metres from road had been felled by a chain saw towards the road (but falling many metres short of it) long after the fire had passed by. At the current rate of serial killing it will not take too long before all significant banksias and scribbly gums close to major roads on Fraser Island are removed unless the relevant QPWS officers overcome their irrational obsession.
3. Noise: The levels of unnatural noise on Fraser Island continue to increase and continue to become increasingly intrusive. It has long been our observation that aircraft noise needs to be addressed and this can only be done by stopping joy flights off the beach. However the impact of 18 trail-bikers from Hervey Bay City out for a day trip and a joy ride on Saturday, 13 October gave no joy to the 23 safarists who encountered them at Happy Valley and Lake Garrawongera. They could be heard many minutes before their arrival and long after their departure. However, that noise was pale compared with the noise at Lake Birrabeen when two huge buses lumbering through the dry sand made a sound to rival that of an approaching Panzer Division. There has been too much insensitivity by relevant authorities to the intrusive impacts of noise on Fraser Island.
While no doubt it thrills the bikers and the bus drivers, it diminishes the aesthetic experience of other island users. There is also no good reason why the bus drivers parked on Lake Birrabeen beach just 15 metres from the waterís edge should start their engines and run them continuously for five minutes before they depart. While this may help entice their passengers to board it is unnecessary and ignores that there are other people using of the lake.
4. Degradation of Lakes: While the Transport and Access Study may eventually lead to traffic being rerouted away from Wanggoolba Creek and the lakes, in the interim these icons continue to become increasingly degraded. It is now very noticeable that so much sand has washed off the road and the Lake McKenzie picnic area that it has almost filled the once deep hollow behind the lunette. This means that in just 30 years over 2 metres of sand has been deposited there at the deepest spot and that at current rates of accelerated erosion within another decade or so it will be lapping the top of the lunette.
In another part sand and woodchips continue to stream off a steep road section into Lake McKenzie and a notice now advises people not to enter the area so that they would see at first hand the damage. Similar signs at Lake Boomanjin also stop people seeing a similar flow of sand into the lake.
However the worst problem by far is the degradation of Lakes Birrabeen and Jennings where only one Commercial Tour Operatorís buses drive along about a kilometre of lakeshore and then park there because the QPWS doesnít have the intestinal fortitude to say "NO". The shores off the lakes stirred up by the buses are looking increasingly like dirty ploughed up fields.
5. Wanggoolba Creek: The continuing tree fall at Wanggoolba Creek is reaching alarming proportions again because the QPWS has failed to redirect traffic away from the creek. There is now one section of about 50 metres where every tall tree except for a few palms has collapsed into the creek as a result of the traffic movement immediately above. The lean on many of the remaining trees is increasingly ominous and this wonderful icon of Fraser Island will take a hundred years or more to recover from the time the road is closed which looks like being years away yet.
6. Weeds: A trip up Telecom Hill near the mouth of Bogimbah Creek revealed the presence of well established Leucaena plants growing in a load of gravel which was introduced by Telstra. Elsewhere another new weed was an avocado growing close to the shores of Lake Boomanjin. The good news is that the lantana on Fraser Island is now retreating at a very significant rate thanks to biological controls. The same canít be said of Groundsel which is infesting many places on the western side of the island and is making its way up the east side as well. However the recent introductions may not be as intractable at the flax/ sisal which is now regenerating even more vigourously at Bogimbah Creek where the Army claimed to be close to eliminating it. There also continues to be weed problems in the townships which have to be rooted out.
The Transport and Access Study now being undertaken by engineering and environmental consultants Guteridge Haskin and Davey should be the first positive move in addressing the rapidly deteriorating situation with movement around Fraser Island. They have been called on not only to look at how to minimize the impacts of transport but to look at alternative forms of access. Previously GH&D had made preliminary studies of the feasibility of light rail on Fraser Island. However as well as exploring that option in greater detail they are also considering the options for cable ways on the island. This is a form of transport not previously considered by FIDO but it offers a form of transport without disturbance of the sand which may be a plus. During the next 2 years GH&D intend to engage in a very open and transparent process and place their progress on the internet and in four newsletters.
Fraser Islandís Carrying Capacity
Another study is already under way which is expected to be concluded by the end of January which will be examining the Site capacity of 44 sites Fraser Island. The work is being carried out by EDAW (Aust) Pty Ltd, Landscape architects and environmental planners.
EDAW previously undertook two similar studies on Fraser Island. One was for the review of tourism activities in the Great Sandy Region. Then EDAW concluded: "Of 26 routes assessed ... 11 are being used above capacity. Use of four of these including three of the most important scenic routes, Freshwater (Cooloola used by day trippers from Noosa to Fraser Island) Red Scenic Route (Lake Boomanjin etc.) and Cornwalls Road (Kingfisher Resort to Ocean Beach) is more than 50% over capacity. ... of the 13 lake sites assessed ... seven are being used over capacity and another three including Lake McKenzie are being used more than 50% over capacity. Of 16 formal and informal camping areas assessed, three are being overused and another five are being used more than 50% over capacity. All eight of the over-used camping areas are beach camping areas which do not have facilities.
Now EDAW is assessing the site capacity of 44 sites on Fraser Island to determine what should be their carrying capacity. It is hoped that when this study is completed some steps will be taken to either:
- limit visitor numbers to the carrying capacity of the sites; or
- change the management to enable it to give Fraser Island a greater carrying capacity.
So far the Beattie Government and its predecessors have avoided addressing the most difficult management issue on Fraser Island that of imposing a limit on visitor numbers. There has been a theoretical ceiling on the number of visitors which can be carried by Commercial Tour Operators although current numbers and changes in the application mean that most tour operators have considerable excess capacity.
The Dingo Risk Assessment skirted around the issue by recommending: "Limits on the number of visitors to Fraser Island should be considered prior to 31 December 2001. Any such limits, and mechanisms to achieve these, should be considered in consultation with island residents, tour operators, the Fraser Island Community Advisory Committee, native title claimants and the island's World Heritage Area Management Committee." (see p 4 MONBI 100). So far there has been no consideration by any of these bodies but that is due to happen early in 2002.
FIDO though is most concerned that the may not be the political will to address this problem. FIDO therefore urges all members and supporters to contact both state and federal politicians to ensure that both the State and Federal Governments act together to ensure that this natural wonder of the world isnít needlessly degraded .
The Beattie Government was elected in February 2001 making the following "core promises":
- Giving statutory recognition to Queensland's responsibility to fulfil our obligations under the World Heritage Convention to formulate and implement WHA Management Plans that give priority to the protection and conservation of World Heritage values while presenting those values to the best advantage;
- Giving legislative effect to World Heritage area Management Plans to ensure their planning policy and principles are reflected in local planning schemes and considered in the assessment of development applications, and
- Giving priority to implementing the Great Sandy Region Management Plan (including bringing Fraser Island under the planning control of a single government agency) and finalize submissions necessary to expand the Fraser Island World Heritage area to incorporate the entire Great Sandy Region including Cooloola National Park.
FIDO believes that it is urgent to create a single authority to provide coordinated leadership and management for the island. What FIDO is advocating is the creation of an autonomous Fraser Island Authority (FIA).
Unsatisfactory Arrangements: At present there are too many authorities and clearly these do not all share the same priority for managing the island and its World Heritage values.
- The QPWS manages the Great Sandy National Park but does not manage anything outside it. It can't control weeds in the townships nor make the residents there control their weeds. There is even a problem with dealing with dingos in the townships.
- The EPA (the other part of the same Department) manages the Great Sandy Strait Ramsar Wetland of International Significance and regulates environmental controls on Kingfisher Resort and local government areas.
- Local Government: The Department has a role in monitoring activities of two local authorities (twice as many as before former Minister Russ Hinze intervened in 1974). It is also responsible for the Integrated Resort Act which enabled Kingfisher Resort to short circuit regular planning processes. In the 1996 review of local government boundaries the Office of Local Government Commissioner said that the Maryborough City Council had "an estimated net excess revenue of $78,000 for its portion of Fraser Island" (after allowing 10% contribution to general administration). The Hervey Bay City Council had a net excess revenue from Fraser Island of $122,000. They do not make protecting the World Heritage values of Fraser Island such as natural resource management any priority. Thus management of weeds and dingoes in the townships is a major problem.
- The Hervey Bay City Council controls all local authority functions north of Yidney Rocks including Happy Valley, Orchid Beach and a large near Moon Point. This council has failed to monitor the implementation of zoning laws on Fraser Island and refused to accept the Development Control Plan prepared to give effect to the Great Sandy Region Management Plan. As a consequence Orchid Beach has become a planning shambles with a blind eye being deliberately turned to the non-conforming uses in practice there. (These are mainly houses in Residential A area being openly used as multiple dwellings).
- The Maryborough City Council controls the lower half of the island including the Eurong township and Kingfisher Resort.
- Other State Government Departments. Fisheries come under the jurisdiction of Primary Industries. Natural Resources has control of a number of leases on the island from airstrips to Cathedral Beach. There is a problem of land below the low water mark which seems to be a no persons land.
Currently the Beattie Government is working on development of legislation to meet that electoral commitment. However the foreshadowed model they are working on will holds out little hope of actually improving the quality of management for Fraser Island and Cooloola. It will still leave the administration of the urban parts of the Great Sandy Region in the hands of the same local authorities which have neglected the region for decades. They failed to spend most of the revenue they collected from Fraser Island on the island. Hervey Bay refused to accept the Development Control Plans prepared by the Department of Environment and Heritage to give effect to the Great Sandy Region Management Plan and controlled the outrageous over-development of Orchid Beach.
Without a single authority to manage the island the existing authorities can continue to pursue their own policies by just failing to act just as the Hervey Bay Council currently fails to act to ensure that all buildings at Orchid Beach conform even with its own lax Residential A zoning.
FIDO has long advocated the Lord Howe Island (LHI) Board as a model for the optimum model to administer Fraser Island. While we don't want an exact copy, we believe that a separate statutory authority to manage the whole island with the QPWS having specific contractual responsibilities to such a board for to manage the Great Sandy National Park is the best outcome. Coincidentally we have now discovered others who have quite independently pondered on the best option for managing Fraser Island and they have come up with a remarkably similar model.
To understand why this model is a good basis it is necessary to examine the functioning of the LHI Board.
The LHI Board Model: The Lord Howe Island Board is charged with the overall management of this World Heritage island. It is a statutory board with wide ranging powers to administer to the needs of a resident population of about 360 and about 13,000 visitors annually. Its 2001-02 budget includes $6.5 million expenditure.
As well as managing the Lord Howe Island Permanent Park Preserve which is the equivalent of National Park status and the Lord Howe Island Marine Park and several other land titles including recreation reserves etc, the Board is responsible for all of the normal functions of local government and more.
The Board is responsible for the operation of the island hospital. As well it operates a nursery enterprise with a turnover of about $1 million and which is the island's second largest industry after tourism. Another enterprise is operate a liquor store which turns in a profit of over $250,000. A further enterprise involves generation and distribution of all of the island's electricity. It manages the island's airstrip and undertakes all of the stevedoring for freight arriving on the island all on a profitable basis. It also is responsible for regulating the tourist traffic which it attempts by enforcing a ceiling on the number of "tourist beds".
The Lord Howe Island Board is the only planning authority on the island and oversees all subdivisions, rezonings, building approvals and even approvals to import motor vehicles on to the island. It is responsible for all waste management and has developed a world class waste management system. It works in close collaboration with various other NSW State Government agencies which have a special role on the island including the Police Service the SES and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Officers from the latter are seconded to work for the Board and over the past 13 years the State Government nominees to the Board have been drawn from the National Parks and Wildlife Service's senior Officers
The board is composed of 5 members three of whom are elected by the island residents for a three-year term and two of whom are appointed by the New South Wales Government including the Chair. It meets quarterly in the island and has the capacity for meeting by telephone conference.
The board is the largest employer on the island. Its large bureaucracy is headed by a CEO known as Administrator who is responsible to the Board. Recent Directors have all had backgrounds with the National Parks and Wildlife Services.
| ||Lord Howe Island||Fraser Island|
|Area||1,455 ha||168,000 ha|
|Number of residents||353||>200|
|Budget||$6.5 million||$4.5 million|
While FIDO doesnít see all the functions of the Lord Howe Island Board being all replicated on Fraser Island, we can recognize some other functions which would be undertaken by the FIA which could dramatically improve the management of the island. For example, it is possible that such a body may elect to operate the ferry service to the island to facilitate briefing people on their entry to the island, to collect ALL access fees, to check on quarantine and on any products leaving the island. This would reduce the cost of fee collections and enforcement.
Local Government: If established the FIA could collect property rates which are currently collected by the two existing local authorities. They could also gather Access Fees and hopefully be able to set access fees and other forms of revenue as well as apply for various other Government grants. This could provide a viable revenue base for a small, but efficient local authority provided that it isn't intent on building its own bureaucracy. It isnít necessary that the FIA would need to own large plant and equipment. Much work could be contracted out. Local authorities on the mainland could contract to undertake some work. Consultants and contractors could also minimize the bureaucracy.
Local government is responsible for health, waste management, town planning, building standards, provision of facilities such as toilets and weed control on public land within the township reserves as well as all freehold and leasehold land on Fraser Island. These responsibilities are currently being neglected. Fraser Island is a valuable asset contributing significantly to the tourist economy Maryborough Hervey Bay. Both councils need to contribute more to island management instead of only milking it to subsidize their mainland constituencies. Without the full revenue input adjacent mainland economies will lose in the longer term while Fraser Island continues to be neglected.
Some compelling reasons to establish a separate Fraser Island Authority:
- Fraser Island does not fit into the model of a traditional Queensland local authority.
- An overwhelming number of users and beneficiaries of Fraser Island do not reside there.
- While the number of permanent residents on Fraser Island are still fewer than 200 almost all the 180,000 people who came on commercial tour operations last year were from outside the region.
- About 40,000 of the free and independent travellers are international backpackers.
- A majority of the remaining 95,000 visitors on self-drive visits were from southern Queensland (outside the region) or interstate.
- Fewer than 10% of all island visitors come from Hervey Bay or Maryborough.
- About 90% of the rate notices for properties on Fraser Island are sent to mainland addresses outside the Maryborough and Hervey Bay local authority areas.
This justifies an authority not elected exclusively by the handful of residents. The fairest way to cater for the bulk of Fraser Island users is to create a separate Fraser Island Authority based on the Lord Howe Island Model.
Opportunities for an autonomous Fraser Island Authority: An autonomous FIA would have the same rights as any other local authority to conduct public services or enterprises within the framework of the national Competition Policy. Some Councils such as Brisbane operate bus services. The FIA could conceivably improve management by combining access fee collection with the operation of the barges and ferries. This would be administratively more efficient, ensure compliance with access fees and provide a better briefing for visitors and interpretation of the island before they even land there.
Ferries are just one issue. The FIA could take a pro-active role in ensuring that Management Plan is reflected in the areas not included in the Great Sandy National Park.
Dr Ian Matthews
As FIDO meets for itsí 31st AGM, we should pause to reflect on the magnitude of the organizations success. John Sinclair will shortly be producing the 100th edition of MOONBI. FIDO has had great success over the last 3 decades. Against enormous power and the resistance of successive Governments, we have been instrumental in stopping sand mining, the cessation of logging, and the inclusion of Fraser Island on the World Heritage List.
Over the next 12 months or so, we hope to see the criteria for which Fraser Island is listed as a World Heritage property to be expanded, and the entire Great Sandy Region, including Cooloola, included on the World Heritage List.
These are great achievements for a voluntary organization. Much credit should go to John Sinclair for his boundless energy and devotion to conservation in general, and Fraser Island in particular. He has been fortunate to have the support of the FIDO Executive over the years, particularly the tireless support, skills and patience of Billie Watts as Secretary.
As you are aware from your interest in Fraser Island, the media and MOONBI this year, it has not been an easy year for FIDO or Fraser Island. First there was the disappearance of an English tourist. Then there was the tragic death of a young boy in April. This was followed by the massacre of about a quarter of the islandís dingo population. In July Environment Minister Dean Wells made several good announcements (including some beach and road closures that were long awaited) only to have the Kookaburra Killings undermine the Governmentís environmental credibility.
It has been another year with 2 steps forward and 4 steps back. It again highlights the need for FIDO to remain vigilant. Here are some of the issues that concerned FIDO this year.
The problems with dingo behaviour had been recognized years ago. The Queensland Government had even recognized the problem several years ago and started a process to review dingo management. Unfortunately, like everything relating to management on Fraser Island, lack of money, lack of leadership, and lack of will-power saw the Draft Dingo Management Plan take years to prepare, and then it remained as a "draft" for 2 years.
Just as the Management Plan has laid around for a decade without any legislative power, and the draft dingo management plan gathered dust, the draft walking trail plan, draft fire management plan, and the draft camping management plans have not been completed despite years elapsing. The funds allocated for their preparation disappeared, and no funds were made available for years for their completion.
FIDO has repeatedly called for a greater priority and adequate funding to be given to Fraser Island. We have consistently called for the draft plans to be completed and acted upon.
It is dreadful that it took a tragedy like this to bring the plight of Fraser Island to Governmentsí attention, and the response has been devastating. The Federal Government washed itsí hands of any responsibility, despite itsí obvious role in the management of World Heritage Areas, and the power it has under the Nature Conservation Act. The State Government slaughter of animals was an inappropriate over-reaction after years of neglect.
The State Government has finally dusted off the draft Dingo Management Plan and announced increased fines for people who feed dingoes. Short-term strategies including the fencing of some camping sites are underway. Long term strategies are yet to be developed and include a key recommendation in the State Governmentís risk analysis: to limit the number of people visiting Fraser Island. FIDO will be strongly putting the case that current tourism numbers are unsustainable, regardless of possible additional infrastructure, and that a ceiling on visitor numbers is essential to preserve the World Heritage values.
Signs and fines are unlikely to be very effective in changing human behaviour. Signage has been steadily increased over the last decade, whilst dingo and human behaviour has actually got worse. Fines will only work if Rangers are actually on the ground policing peopleís behaviour. Visitors often go to Fraser Island and never see a Ranger. Sometimes one can be seen in a vehicle or an office. Plans to increase the number of Rangers by 8 will do little unless they are diverted away from other work, and told to focus on tourist behaviour.
Fraser Island actually needs more Rangers to do Nature Conservation and fire management work. If anything, these areas will suffer in an attempt to maintain an unsustainable level of tourism.
There are clearly strong lobbies against restrictions in tourist numbers. However, the mining industry and the timber industry were also strong lobbies. FIDO was able to successfully argue that they were unsustainable and environmentally disastrous. FIDO will continue to advocate for protection of Fraser Islandís World Heritage values and "the wisest use of Fraser Islandís resources".
Other Draft Plans
After years of waiting, the July Community Advisory Committee meeting was presented with Draft Walking Track and Draft Camping Management Plans. Both have taken years to prepare. We hope their appearance reflects a greater will by the Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to implement these plans in the near future.
I was lucky to attend this meeting as an observer. I was interested to see that there was a fair amount of agreement from the wide range of committee members on the plans. At times it appeared that the Committee was united in one view and the Manager Great Sandy, Lachlan Fullerton, was "the Opposition".
I hope that the development of these plans now proceeds swiftly.
The year saw a State election, which promised a new era for Fraser Island.
The State Election saw the Beattie Labor Government overwhelmingly re-elected. Their policies for Fraser Island were encouraging. There were commitments to:
- Legislate is give power to the Great Sandy Region Management Plan,
- Bring the Great Sandy Region under a single Government Agency,
- Nominate Cooloola for World Heritage Listing, and
- Establish a major walking trail on Fraser Island.
The election saw Dean Wells replace Rod Welford as Minister for Environment & Heritage. John Sinclair, Terry Hampson and myself met with the Minister on April 4. Dean Wells had been on several FIDO safaris in the 1980s (as recounted by Judy Tambling in MOONBI 99). We were encouraged by the meeting, and received a commitment that some parts of the Management Plan that had been ignored would now be acted upon. We were also promised better lines of communication.
Unfortunately the dingo attack on April 30 dominated the Governmentís focus on Fraser Island for months, and only now is the Government starting to address the broader issues of island management.
On July 29, Dean Wells promised a "new start" for Fraser Island when he visited the island and made some long awaited announcements, including:
- Closures of some beaches and roads north of Orchid Beach. These were planned in the Management Plan and have taken 7 years to happen. FIDO has advocated these closures tirelessly and is delighted with the announcement.
- Removal of the illegal Commercial Fishers Camp at Waddy Point. Whilst everyone else is told to move on after camping for 28 days, the Commercial Fishers have been allowed to develop a permanent camp and remain on the same site for 10 years.
- Funds for a transport study, to include the feasibility of a light rail, something FIDO has advocated for many years.
- quot;Green power", including wind, solar and hydrogen, to replace diesel for most of Fraserís Ranger stations.
- Eight additional Rangers. Four of these will work exclusively on dingo and visitor management. Hopefully the other four will do nature conservation work.
However the "new start" stalled suddenly when it was announced in the media on the same day that Rangers had killed kookaburras at Central Station after a tourist had been scratched.
Subsequent investigation revealed that Rangers had killed 2 Kookaburras on July 24. There are fundamental concerns that arise from this incident:
There is a basic problem with the management on Fraser Island. The priority of management has been to satisfy the needs of tourists, residents, and resort and tour operators.
The Kookaburra Killings and Dingo Culling are not isolated events. Management sees native fauna and flora as expendable. One example is when an ancient Satinay at Lake Boomanjin was chopped down because it was felt to be unsafe next to a walking track. The concept of moving the walking track was beyond the capacity of management.
Rangers are employed to remove palm fronds from Wanggoolba Creek to improve the appearance of the creek for tourists. But there are no funds for research into endangered species, or the discovery of new species. Until someone was killed there were no funds available to complete the dingo management plan or the other management plans.
Fraser Islandís unique features are discovered by accident rather than the expertise of staff, who are too busy grading roads, picking up garbage and palm fronds, and delivering firewood to notice the wildlife. The fens were discovered by accident when some scientists flew over the island. A legless skink was discovered when someone stuck a tent peg through it when pitching camp. Who knows what other wonders lurk?
Why is management allowed to repeatedly ignore the Conservation Act and the Management Plan?
Why do staff see the murder of native animals as a logical reaction to an incident? Why is the killing of trees that may (or may not) be potential future threat to visitors a logical action?
How can incidents such as the Kookaburra Killings occur without the incident being raised at a Community Advisory Committee Meeting 3 days later?
Was the Minister told of the incident when he visited the CAC 2 days after the incident? Was he told when he visited the island 5 days after the incident? If not, why not?
How has a culture of secrecy and environmental vandalism been allowed to develop in a World Heritage Area?
I hope the next year gives us answers to these questions. And I hope it sees a serious improvement in management practices on Fraser Island.
I must acknowledge the sad passing of 2 long time friends of Fraser Island and FIDO. Bill Lambourne died in Sydney this year. His work for FIDO and with John has been an important part of the campaign to save Fraser Island. Bill Huxley was a great friend of Fraser Island, Cooloola and Moreton Island. He gave FIDO and John Sinclair much advice and support over the last 30 years. They will both be fondly remembered for their generosity of spirit and enthusiasm for conservation.
I would like to thank Billie, Judy, Terry, Brian and the Johns (Sinclair, Sinclair and Davey) once again for their continued support for Fraser Island and their work for FIDO.
I would particularly like to thank John Sinclair and Billie Watts for their efforts yet again this year. Throughout May and June, during the media frenzy over dingoes, I was out of action. Billie did an outstanding job by liaising all sorts of people and handling the media, both during and after Johnís trip to Lord Howe Island.
John has once again continued to work tirelessly for Fraser Island. FIDO would not function without his enthusiasm, knowledge and enduring commitment to Fraser Island.
FIDO appreciates the support of itsí membership, many of whom have been part of the campaign to protect Fraser Island since the 1970sí. We also welcome new members who share our commitment to protection of Fraser Island.
Thanks go to all our members. Please remember to hand you MOONBI over to friends and family when you have finished with it, and to suggest that fellow supporters contact FIDO. John Sinclair Jnr regularly updates our Website www.fido.org.au. Our postal address remains PO Box 70, Bald Hills 4036.
These simple actions indicate some action you can take to follow up the issues discussed in this issue of MOONBI:
- Write to or E-mail the Queensland Premier, Hon Peter Beattie. PO Box 185, Brisbane Albert Street QLD 4002 Email: Premiers@ministerial.qld.gov.au
- Thank him for his support in enforcing the Management Plan on road and beach closures.
- Make what comment you think judicious about the dingo massacre expressing your concern that his government is committed to maintaining a sustainable gene pool on Fraser Island. ;o>
- Urge him to adopt the Lord Howe Island Board as a model for his pre-election commitment to have a single authority for Fraser Island. Consider the arguments advanced in this MOONBI as a basis for any submissions. Without doubt the biggest issue to be resolved is the establishing of the appropriate structure to manage Fraser Island.
- Dingo response: Respond positively to any comments about Fraser Island dingoes in any conversations, which may come up by noting the priority of ensuring that there remains a viable gene pool for this pure strain of dingo included in the islandís World Heritage values.
Draw attention to FIDO's four point plan as the basis to more effectively addressing the problem:
- Do not expect to see WILD dingoes, except at a distance. If a dingo comes close to humans, it is no longer wild and no longer a part of the natural ecosystem.
- Dingoes must be encouraged to keep their distance and always remain wary of humans. Don't entice or encourage dingoes to come close for any reason. In doing so you will be placing other humans in danger.
- Don't tolerate dingoes near you or near your camp. If a dingo approaches shoo them away as forcefully as possible. Dingoes must learn always to be wary of people.
- Wild dingoes will always look lean and hungry. Feeding dingoes will not make them fatter. It will only result in more lean and hungry dingoes as their population expands to coincide with the food supply.
- Dean Wells: Write to Queensland Environment Minister, Hon Dean Wells, PO Box 155, Brisbane Albert Street QLD 4002 or Email him: email@example.com
- Thank him and the Beattie Government for standing firm on implementing the Management Plan particularly with respect to the road and beach closures.
- Urge him to revise the policies of the QPWS to ensure that native wildlife is safe in National Parks and that animals such as kookaburras and dingoes are not destroyed simply because they are perceived to be a threat to human safety.
- Urge him to review the Toyota Fishing Expo with a view to having it removed from Fraser Island as his predecessor, Mollie Robson had done back in 1995.
- Subscribe to FIDO and MOONBI: Encourage any friends who you know to join FIDO and subscribe to MOONBI. FIDO needs more members to reinforce our submissions and to give them the greater weight. With another group now challenging FIDO's arguments and the Great Sandy Region Management Plan we need even more supporters. Our opponents are well cashed up and we cannot under-rate their resourcefulness. Already they have succeeded in partially unravelling some of the Management Plan such as the closing of the Orchid Beach airstrip.
- Sustainable Fisheries:Take action to urge a resolution of the Subtropical Inshore Finfish Fisheries Management Plan. Take this up by writing contacting members of the Queensland Parliament or by writing to Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Henry Palaszczuk, GPO Box 46, Brisbane QLD 4001 or send him an E-mail: DPI@ministerial.qld.gov.au
- Sustainable Visitation: There are currently four Studies, Draft Plans, etc which all have a bearing on the outcome for managing visitation to Fraser Island sustainably. All require some response by all agencies concerned with protecting this world wonder (not only FIDO):
All of the above will require a political decision. Any decision (or lack of decision) which allows the current rate of degradation to continue is unacceptable. Express your concern to all politicians about the need for more effective management of Fraser Island.
- The Transport and Access Study by GH& D will be looking at introducing a sustainable transport system and to reduce the current environmental impacts.
- The EDAW study of the Site Capacity of 44 major destinations on Fraser Island should result in setting limits on the numbers visiting those sites
- The Camping Management Plan should set a limit on how many campers are allowed and where they can camp.
- The Review of the Great Sandy Region Management Plan should examine the sustainable visitation numbers.