MOONBIis 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, "The Watchdog of Fraser Island", aims to ensure the wisest use of Fraser Island’s natural resources.
FIDO's Registered Office: c/- Stephen Comino and Cominos, Equity House, Lang Parade, Milton, 4065 (ACN 0099-69-135)
ISSN 0311 - 032X Registered by Australia Post - Publication QBH2293 10 December, 1997
Fraser Island Is Running Down
When MOONBI 91 was published at the end of April, we had the optimism that at last things were turning around with the establishment of a new Ministerial Council and management structure for Fraser Island after so many disappointments, especially since the advent of the Borbidge Government in Queensland. Our optimism though was shattered when Environment Minister, Brian Littleproud, stalled for over 6 months in getting around to even sending out the letters of appointment to the new Fraser Island World Heritage Community Advisory Committee.
* There were no meetings of any CAC from 6 February until 4 October, 1997. During this time island management slid back even further. In that time there was no reporting by the DoE to any of the major stakeholders about any of the management decisions which were being implemented;
* More monstrously large and supposedly "single unit dwellings" raised their ugly heads in the Orchid Beach village, making a mockery of the Hervey Bay City Council's planning supervision;
* The Development Control Plan aimed at managing the impacts on private land on Fraser Island has been stalled but not before those property owners and those who have a vested interest in watering down the plan were given advance copies of the plan which were then denied to FIDO;
* The Toyota Fraser Island Fishing Expo has been returned to Orchid Beach where its adverse environmental impacts are much worse than anywhere else on the island;
* The Orchid Beach airstrip has been fertilized and manicured and although not officially able to take aircraft while still part of the Great Sandy National Park was all in readiness for any landing, any time;
* The roads on Fraser Island continue to be widened to much wider than even the road standards which FIDO has been critical of ever since they were released but nothing has been done to address the road standards nor the overzealous widening of roads by DoE employees.
* Brian Littleproud and another former Bjelke-Petersen Cabinet Minister, Lin Powell, who is supposed to represent an independent Chair of the CAC have gone public in deriding the Management Plan adopted by the Goss Government and arguing for turning the clock back and opening new parts of the island in the name of "TOURISM" and thus spreading the cancerous degradation already resulting from unsustainable tourism to new areas.
This is not a complete catalogue of the degradation of Fraser Island. However, this comes at a time when the Borbidge Government has received a damming report that the level of tourism to Fraser Island under the current management regime is unsustainable. (page 2)
Road & Beach Openings: Powell and Littleproud are supporting the move by residents and tour operators to open up new areas on Fraser Island to extend the adverse impact of tourism into new areas.
This MOONBI urgently appeals to everyone who loves Fraser Island and its wilderness values to write to Brian Littleproud and Senator Hill, Queensland and Commonwealth Environment Ministers, urging them to ensure that the full wilderness potential of Fraser Island is preserved. (See page 2)
PLEASE NOTE FIDO's NEW POSTAL ADDRESS:
PO Box 70, BALD HILLS QLD 4036
In This Issue(December 1997)
Unsustainable Tourism 2
What is to be Done 3
Native Title Fraser Island Claim 3
Borbidge & Co. Winding Back the Clock 3
The Toyota Fishing Expo 4
The Orchid Beach Airstrip, Aircraft Rules Broken 4
National Park Revocation — Local Government 5
Medivac — The New CAC 5
Feds Help While The QG Fiddles 6
Winding Back Wilderness 7
Fishing in Great Sandy National Park 8
Backpackers Unrepresented 9
Great Sandy Strait: a Ramsar Site 9
Then & Now - Dear Sid 10
"Discovering Fraser Island and Cooloola" 10
Fraser Island Pics 11
FIDO 's 1997 Annual Report - Who's Who in FIDO 12
Favourite "Place in the Heart":In a recent competition to increase public awareness and appreciation of Australia's heritage, the Australian Heritage Commission invited readers to nominate their favourite "Places in the Heart". Of over 3000 entries Fraser Island was the most mentioned place followed by the Great Barrier Reef and Port Arthur. With this in mind it is small wonder that Fraser Island is a great draw for tourists. It now attracts more than 350,000 visitors annually, exceeding the numbers drawn to Kakadu.
However, the volume of tourism has now reached the point where even the Gung-Ho pro-exploitation Borbidge Government has to acknowledge that many areas are now severely degraded from over exploitation. Unfortunately what the Borbidge Government proposes to address that unsustainable tourism is diametrically opposed to what conservationists believe is in the best interests of Fraser Island.
The Study: FIDO has long argued that the Fraser Island is being degraded through the existing management of tourism and that present levels of tourism are unsustainable. Notwithstanding this in July the DoE released a Discussion Paper "Managing Tourism in the Great Sandy Region" and called for submissions. The paper had as terms of reference to consider options for increasing tourist potential of Great Sandy Region.
The Impacts: Fortunately, EDAW was invited as consultants to examine the environmental impacts of the existing levels of tourism. These are just a few of the findings of the EDAW study conducted over a short period evaluating all the following sites according to how they were being used to their carrying capacity under the present management regime. This does not mean that the carrying capacity may not be increased with different management. FIDO proved when it first constructed the Eli Creek boardwalk that environmental impact can be reduced by constructing a boardwalk.
Report Summary: The Report is best defined by the title, "Meeting visitor expectations and managing visitor impacts". In the section on the "State of the Environment" the following puts the position clearly: Approximately half of the major sites and routes in the Region have been assessed as showing evidence of physical impacts beyond acceptable limits. At many of these sites and routes, visitor use is above a sustainable level. People who visit the Region ... have not changed significantly over many years. What has changed is the number of visitors, the intensity of that use and pressure that use exerts on the environment. These activities were acceptable at lower levels of use which gave the natural environment time to recover. Increased use has meant that sites and routes no longer have time to recover. "
Roads: 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.
Lakes: Lakes are one of the major attractions ... yet 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
Camping Areas: Camping is a major activity for visitors to the Region. 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.
The Response from the Vested Interests: At the Fraser Island World Heritage Community Advisory Committee meeting which met on Fraser Island on 15-16 November to consider the Draft Tourism Management Plan for the Great Sandy Region conservationists were ambushed.
Lin Powell as Chair insisted that the committee operate entirely on formal motions and votes. Because there are only two representatives of conservation interests, the results have been disastrous. The two residents ganged up with the chair and the tourism interests to outvote the two conservation representatives, John Sinclair of FIDO and George Haddock of the Qld National Parks Association.
Backyard Opportunism: George Done of the Fraser Island Association (FIA) and association of almost exclusively property owners, and principal spokesman seized upon the statement "The supply of areas for visitor use is expected to continue to fall short of meeting future demand," as the trigger to argue for the opening up of new (or previously closed areas for tourist access.
Rather than voting to limit the extent of the degradation the CAC dominated as it is by a coalition of tourist and resident interests has voted to extend the areas of potential degradation especially in the north of the island. In the name of tourism they want to open up almost every beach and road closed or due to close under the existing Great Sandy Region Management Plan.
Light Rail Initiative Off the Rails
In another example of how this selfish coalition isn't concerned about limiting the adverse environmental impacts of tourism the they refused to allow FIDO's proposed light rail people mover on Fraser Island to be evaluated so that governments and private and public interests would have a clearer understanding of the benefits and costs of such a project. FIDO had sought CAC endorsement for $50,000 to $60,000 from the Commonwealth Heritage Trust to enable Gutteridge Haskins and Davey (who have already carried out a preliminary feasibility study of a light rail proposal) to complete an evaluation and determine if there is any justification for governments to consider calling for Expressions of Interest and on what possible terms.
The Commercial Tour Operators opposed because they did not want to compete with light rail. The two representatives of the FIA opposed it because they said it was part of FIDO's plan to limit the use of four wheel drive on Fraser Island.
What is to be done
Every person with any strong public conscience and concern for the environment or concern for the future generations should write to:
Hon Senator Robert Hill, Environment Minister, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600 and/or
Hon Brian Littleproud, Environment Minister, Box 155, Albert Street Brisbane QLD 4002
to explain your deepest concerns that Fraser Island is proposed to be sacrificed on the commercial altar of tourism and that rather than extending the areas of degradation on Fraser Island they should ensure:
1. that the Management Plan is not deviated from and that adequate funds are provided to implement it; (Note: The 1994 Management Plan went nowhere near as far as FIDO wanted to go in protecting the wilderness values of the northern end of Fraser Island.)
2. that all roads and beaches proposed to be closed under the Management Plan remain closed or are closed soon and that the Orchid Beach airstrip be closed;
3. that if the damage to those areas already degraded as a result of tourism are not to be repaired the number of tourists allowed to visit Fraser Island be reduced to a more sustainable number; and
4. that the highest priority be given to exploring options for reducing the environmental impact of tourism such as funding a more detailed assessment of the practicality and benefits of a light rail people mover on Fraser Island.
5. Ask Senator Hill to use funds from the Telstra sale to buy back 640 acres of freehold land at Moon Point and to ensure that a full evaluation is made of the light rail proposal as a step towards reducing environmental impacts and making tourism more sustainable.
6. Remind Brian Littleproud that Mr Borbidge promised to spend $10 million to improve management on Fraser Island. Also remind him that the Government has to face the public at a General Election before July.
Writing these letters has a deadline by 30 January which is when submissions to the Draft Tourism Management Plan close.
Send copies of all correspondence to your local State or Federal Member of Parliament
Native Title Fraser Island Claim
In October the Butchulla Aboriginal group lodged a native title claim for a stretch of land incorporating Fraser Island, Maryborough, Hervey Bay, Bauple and Rainbow Beach. The claim did not include any parcels of privately held freehold land and had to be first accepted by the Native Title Tribunal. The applicants said the area covered areas of traditional importance to them such as places where relatives were born, died were buried or participated in ceremonies. They want the exclusive right to manage sites of cultural significance to them and the right to hunt, fish and collect natural resources in the area including the killing of Kangaroos, echidnas, dugong and turtles. If accepted it would allow the Butchulla to restrict economic and recreation uses in the area.
Winding Back the Clock
The Borbidge Government has only been in power in Queensland less than 2 years. In that short time it has embarked on a program to wind back the clock and undo many of the gains made in protecting Fraser Island during the reign of the Goss Government. It seems intent on exploiting Fraser Island and its economic potential as ruthlessly as its predecessors, the Bjelke-Petersen Government did more than a decade ago. That National Party Government unrelentingly supported the sandmining and logging industries and pilloried and persecuted anyone who dared to criticize it.
Since they gained the balance of power in Queensland with the aid of "independent", Liz Cunningham, Borbidge & Co. have moved swiftly and ruthlessly to undo the gains made since logging ceased and the island was World Heritage listed.
Some of the issues which have conservationists alarm bells ringing: (1) relocating the Fishing Expo back to Orchid Beach, (2) reopening the Orchid Beach Airstrip,
(3) revoking 8.6 hectares of the Great Sandy National Park, (4) selecting a new Community Advisory Committee which provides disproportionately strong representation to residents and tour operators over conservation interests which is what Fraser Island's World Heritage status is about; (5) appointing a political crony Lin Powell, to the Management Committee and to chair the CAC and (6) moving to reopen roads, beaches and lakes which had been previously closed to vehicular traffic in the name of "tourism".
These issues will be discussed in more detail elsewhere in MOONBI 92 but this brief catalogue serves to indicate why FIDO has no faith that the Borbidge Government
The Toyota Fishing Expo
When the Toyota Motor Corporation sponsored a special issue of Time Magazine in November, 1997, titled "Our Precious Planet", they were pitching to a vast international audience at a cost of millions of $US. Toyota was the only advertiser in the 88 page magazine with the theme: "Why saving the environment will be the next century's biggest challenge". Toyota took up no less than 18 pages for advertising itself and to promote greener (Toyota) cars and asserting its environmental credentials.
The gesture is very hypocritical. Despite numerous overtures to Toyota by FIDO and other conservationists since 1993 to remove it from Orchid Beach and preferably from Fraser Island because of its adverse environmental impacts Toyota has just released details of its next Fishing Expo to be held in may 1998 at Orchid Beach.
The fishing expo has attracted more than 3000 people to a remote part of this beautiful island for more than a decade. As the contest gained in popularity so did the now very clearly demonstrated adverse environmental impacts.
FIDO first approached Toyota about its involvement in the Fraser Island Fishing Expo in 1993 after identifying the increasing impact of the event on Fraser Island but every letter but one since has been ignored. However, now that Toyota has made so much of its environmental credentials, we are going to make copies of all correspondence to other motor vehicle manufacturers who have more resources than we do to expose the fraud at least with respect to Fraser Island.
Toyota Australia does not share the same commitment to protect the environment as its Japanese parent company. Many of Toyota Australia's Executives enjoy the opportunity to join "the boys" at what has been dubbed "Orgy Beach". Having fun seems to take a much higher precedence than advertising four wheel drives.
It is hypocritical for Toyota to promote "greener cars" while simultaneously creating such needless destruction on Fraser Island, one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Toyota is quite bloody-mindedly promoting a fishing contest which is shamelessly degrading a World Heritage site. The impacts is not just on the fish. The heavy concentration of campers and the impacts they and their vehicles are making the event most degrading.
If the Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan wants good global publicity for environmental responsibility they are letting the actions of Toyota Australia to bring it into global disrepute. Toyota would gain much by withdrawing the Fishing Expo from Fraser Island. If it doesn't it will be an on-going public relations disaster.
The Fish Take In the Fishing Expo:In 1992 only 11 of the 1500 entrants were surveyed. If the data from those 11 were extrapolated to every entrant, 130,000 fish would have been caught in five days. This is equivalent to about 65 tonnes. Despite this data from the QFMA people such as Lin Powell have disputed the total take from the Fraser Island Fishing Expo. We have been advised that over $70,000 worth of beer was sold during the Expo. The fishers take pride in this level of consumption which doesn't include the large volume taken to the island by contestants.
The Orchid Beach Airstrip
On Thursday, 27 November, the Queensland Government revoked 8.6 hectares of the Great Sandy National Park. Part was to allow a shop, workshop and cement batching plant to be taken out of the National Park even though the shop will be well away from the houses in the subdivision and most inappropriately sited.
The airstrip has been irrigated, fertilized, mown and manicured. It has a large electric fence around it and the Queensland Government has supplied the capital for the ALA to acquire tractors all of the irrigation equipment and fencing and the huge shed as well as cash to cover operational expenditure.
This excessive outlay ignores the fact that helicopters have proven that they can get people to hospitals faster. The locals are trying to find an excuse for this extravagant waste of public money for the benefit of a rich few who will now have the freedom to come and go at whim to have access to properties at Orchid Beach.
FIDO will continue to lobby for this airstrip to be closed in accordance with the Management Plan.
Aircraft Rules Broken
Fraser Island resident, Jack Hedges wrote to the "Chronicle" on 8 October supporting comments of unsafe landings by aircraft on Fraser Island. He said: "Aircraft land and take-off outside the designated areas, stipulated by the authorities. Aircraft do taxi between the landing areas and parking area mostly unsupervised. Children and families as well as other beach users are expected to vacate the path of the aircraft. Therefore it is not safe to allow children unattended in these areas. The rules and safety package instigated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority came into force in December, 1996."
FIDO has been alarmed at the growing volume of aircraft traffic using Fraser Island beaches at the same time that vehicular traffic is increasing. We are also very concerned about the impact of the intrusive noise of low over-flying aircraft on the peace and tranquillity of Fraser Island for other island users. All of our concerns seem to have been ignored by CASA which seems to have as its priority allowing aircraft as much scope for landing as possible.
CASA even stopped the DoE from blockading the Orchid Beach airstrip when it was officially closed because it was supposed to be available still as an emergency landing strip.
Illustration Beach thickkneee
National Park Revocation
The Queensland Government misled Parliament over its plans to revoke about 8.6 hectares of the Great Sandy National Park at Orchid Beach on Fraser Island. The Parliamentary notice of revocation stated that Lot 8 is land set aside for the construction for a building but a massive building has already had been constructed on the site. This notice was tabled on 25 August but when John Sinclair inspected the site with senior officers of the Department of Environment on 22 August a 12 x 36 metre shed, the size of a large commercial piggery shed, was almost complete on the site.
Attempting to deceive the Parliament about the matter of the revocation is certainly the most serious issue we have so far encountered in the last decade relating to Fraser Island and we have to wonder what is behind the government's actions. Fortunately Brian Littleproud was eventually forthcoming and admitted that the building did exist and that it had been constructed for the DoE. However, on the same day as he was proclaiming this, George Done was claiming that the Orchid Beach residents had built the shed. Whoever built the shed doesn't alter the fact that it is situated on a block which had previously been one of the few natural and unmodified areas within the Orchid Beach precinct.
Not one living leaf was allowed to survive on this site when Lot 8 was cleared and levelled before 19 August when notice of this revocation was tabled in Parliament although it was still part of the National Park. This unwarranted desecration occurred here because the affluent residents and landholders at Orchid Beach all want full community facilities of an urban community despite this village's remoteness but: "Not In My Backyard". As a result part of the National Park was sacrificed.
Local Government Irresponsible
FIDO has initiated legal action in the Local Government Court over the Hervey Bay City Council's retrospective building approval and rezoning for Lot 8 on 3 September after the building had already been constructed without any of the Council's preconditions being met.
We find it amazing that the Council could call for public objections while contemptuously treating the whole process as a fait accompli. FIDO and the Environmental Defenders Office are now awaiting a response from the Council which so off-handedly dismissed our objection.
Orchid Beach is now a planning disaster of massive proportions and it is becoming a greater disaster because the interests of a few property owners in a relatively small subdivision are being allowed to ride roughshod over the wider public interest. However, the responsible body for exercising control over the building approvals to ensure that each building is used only for its designated purpose as a single unit dwelling is the Hervey Bay City Council.
FIDO wants the Council to start enforcing the rules on single unit dwellings at Orchid Beach and ensure that these "houses" with as many a 10 bathrooms are not being used for purposes not covered by the zoning.
Most of the self evident problems at Orchid Beach result from economic interests of property owners taking precedence over protecting the environmental quality of a World Heritage island.
While this is going on a dispute has arisen between two rival helicopter rescue services. The Hervey Bay based Wide Bay Helicopter Rescue Service has opened up and is now vying with the Sunshine Coast Helicopter rescue Service which has operated for Fraser Island for the past 20 years for State Government accreditation and funding. It wants a minimum annual grant of $300,000. The Sunshine Coast group accept there is a need for another service but this should be based in Bundaberg to cover the community better and they were thinking of doing that with a second helicopter. The Wide Bay group also wants local authorities to contribute to the operations of its services.
Cartoon On Emergency Chopper
The New CAC
When MOONBI 91 went to press we were full of optimism that at last something positive was about to materialize in the management structure for Fraser Island. What we didn't anticipate would be the incredibly weighted composition of the Community Advisory Committee against conservation interests.
For example, there are two representatives of the Fraser Island Association which is as many as the number of conservation representatives although Fraser Island was inscribed on the World Heritage List because of its outstanding natural values and on most issues the FIA is directly opposed to FIDO. The FIA is organization of property owners on Fraser Island who regard themselves as having not only acquired a part of Fraser Island where their property is, but a proprietorial right over virtually any area on the island. They want unfettered access and even down to the right to appoint their own rangers.
There are also three commercial tour operators. They are the biggest three representing Eurong, Happy Valley and Kingfisher Resorts. Other stakeholders with an interest in tourism on Fraser Island from Noosa or those catering for the backpacker trade would be astonished to find that their interests are totally ignored on the CAC and indeed the hostility to backpackers is verging on hysteria from the tour operators represented.
Other stakeholders represent the four wheel drive clubs, Sunfish and Aboriginal interests (Olga Miller). The Chair, Lin Powell, also sits on the Management Committee with the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee, the mayors of Maryborough and Hervey Bay and two representatives each from the State and Federal Governments.
Non Neutral CAC Chair
In appointing Lin Powell, a National Party political crony and Queensland Education Minister when John Sinclair's position became untenable in the Education Department as the new CAC Chair, Brian Littleproud has selected a person with his own political agenda to push.
The CAC has already become intensely confrontational due not only to the disproportionate number of representatives with commercial interests but also because votes are being taken which can't be guaranteed to represent even the voice of some constituencies (such as the backpacker tourist interests) nor the size of the constituencies. For example why should the property-owners on Fraser Island who represent a handful of people have a vote worth as much as conservation interests which represents an infinitely larger community both within and outside Australia.
Because Lin Powell is a full time school-teacher he insists that CAC meetings only be held on weekends yet he can attend meetings of the Management Committee which always occurs during the week.
FIDO would like to see a chair who is truly independent and not an advocate as Lin Powell has already become for causes which don't represent the views of the Community Advisory Committee. He is a spokesperson for Sunfish. He is already on the public record defending issues which have never even been considered by the CAC such as the dreaded Fishing Expo. He has become a public advocate for reopening new areas in the name of tourism.
If the current procedures of a non neutral Chair and the practice of taking votes continues, FIDO will reconsider its position in relation to further participation in the process. If we are part of the process then it is an argument which will be used against us if we disagree with what comes out of the committees, whereas if we are not there, then we have a stronger right to put our views in a public forum. The Politicians who thought that CAC's would be a way of taking heat out of the issue may find the heat is much more than they bargained for if they are not prepared to give due weight to the voices of conservation interests.
Illustration of Presenting Fraser Island
Illegal Tour Operations:A Hervey Bay magistrate recently fined a local businessman who ran a backpacking hostel and had four wheel drive vehicles $2,000 for organizing illegal tour operations on Fraser Island. Another backpacker operator admitted that he had run guide assisted tours for backpackers for 16 months before being stopped by the DoE. Meanwhile another backpacker who survived a crash while on Fraser Island said that the group was given only a 10 minute briefing before leaving for Fraser Island in an unfamiliar vehicle. All the driver's possessions were impounded until he paid the $2000 excess on the written off vehicle.
Feds Help While the QG Fiddles
While the Borbidge Government has been a disaster for Fraser Island, Senator Hill and the Commonwealth Government have made some very positive contributions towards improving the management of Fraser Island with a very difficult and uncooperative state government.
Queensland maintains the right to the major part of the management of this World Heritage site because it claims to be making the biggest financial contribution. However, this has been proven to be more illusory than actual when the Manager, Great Sandy revealed the source of his budget to the Second meeting of the Fraser Island World Heritage Community Advisory Committee:
Sources of Funds for Fraser Island WHA
User pays estimated to recoup (1997/98) $2,330,000
Allocation by the Queensland Government $540,000
New Initiative money (???) $443,000
We think that this is a slush fund allocated by the Queensland Premier and most of this is being used to fund the reopening of Orchid Beach Airstrip.
Some of this may include $250,000 to replace the garbage trucks although this may be a separate allocation.
Commonwealth Government $700,000
Carry over projects ()funds previously allocated $230,000
Total estimated income for 1997-98 $4,243,000
Reducing this down to its crude terms 55% of the revenue for running Fraser Island comes from User Pays, 23% comes from the Queensland Government (but much of that is being used for projects outside the Management Plan) and 16% is provided by the Feds to go toward "high management tasks including projects which will protect the World Heritage values, continue the development of management plans, upgrade interpretation and visitor facilities, and protect critical habitat."
Under the auspices of Senator Hill, the Feds have become more generous to Fraser Island increasing its grant to $700,000 but this has not been as relatively generous as the increases to other World Heritage sites (Lord Howe Island — $360,000, Shark Bay— $490,000 and Willandra Lakes— $509,000) when considered in relation to the size, fragility and usage of the property. It is still relatively poor compared to Kakadu, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics and Uluru which are managed under separate Commonwealth Government allocations. We hope that this grant will increase and that as it does the over-riding deference to the Queensland Government on letting them get away with gross abuses of Fraser Island are reigned back.
However despite, this in a media release 14/9/97 Brian Littleproud said, "This year the State contribution for Fraser Island has increased $750,000 to $4.58 million." Somebody hasn't told the Department how much money they have.
Borbidge Giveth & Borbidge Taketh Away: FIDO is intrigued how some of the money allocated to build a boardwalk at Middle Rocks has evaporated. Apparently this money is to be used in another electorate before the next Queensland Election.
Winding Back Wilderness
The proposal to reopen many roads, beaches and lakes in the northern part of Fraser Island in the name of "Tourism" is a potential environmental disaster. However if the resident's moves succeed, the biggest impact will be on the wilderness values of the area which will be decimated.
In June, 1996 MOONBI 87 reported that roads on Fraser Island were at last being closed. Since then though only a few roads were closed. One road was reopened within a matter of weeks. A valuable four wheel drive which became stuck on the Hervey Bay side of Fraser Island between Bowarrady and Awinya Creeks. Because a vehicle recovery truck couldn't reach it before it went under a second time this has been given as justification for leaving that track open ever since.
In August, John Sinclair observed another vehicle was almost trapped because it used the reopened track to get to the western beach. It couldn't cross Bowarrady Creek but by then Awinya Creek was to deep for them to retrace their steps. This is a case of where the open road created a problem rather than solve one.
Many of the other roads which were closed were severely eroded and badly cut about. The track from Dundubarra to Lake Bowarrady was so badly cut about that a number of new parallel tracks had been established to by-pass sections which had become too deep and untrafficable. many other closed roads were similarly eroded.
FIDO invited George Done, President of the Fraser Island Association and most vocal advocate for the reopening of the roads, beaches, lakes and airstrips on Fraser Island to present his arguments in MOONBI. It appears though that having gained a majority vote in the CAC for his proposals, he has seen no need to defend his retrogressive ideas in a conservation forum. While FIDO argues that all of these initiatives are mainly to enhance the property values and amenity of the rich property owners of Orchid Beach, he asserts that it has more altruistic motives of safety although it is difficult to see how opening up more areas of Fraser Island to degradation fits in with the concept of improving public and vehicle safety.
Fraser Island's Wilderness Values
In this article John Sinclair explains why wilderness is important on Fraser Island, the threats to wilderness from increased access to new areas, and why FIDO is fighting vigourously to retain Fraser's wilderness values.
Many feel wilderness as an emotional sensation. They have a passion to feel it but lack the expression to identify their feelings. Wilderness requires both remoteness and primitiveness. It requires a sense of frontier to be sure that people are actually being forced into a self-reliance they can't easily acquire or be confronted with in modern civilization.
By allowing artifacts of modern civilization to intrude into wilderness in the form of roads, better communications, easier access to emergency services we are removing the sense of remoteness. We are eroding away the wilderness values of natural areas.
Many wilderness enthusiasts feel coy about arguing for the value of wilderness because they may not necessarily wish to physically confront the wilderness themselves. It is just that although humans have evolved with incredible sophistication, we still feel some of the needs associated with our evolutionary roots as creatures of the wild. It is not easy to articulate such intuitive feelings.
The critics of wilderness argue that it is something which has no value unless it can be explored by the majority of people and they are advocates for roads, and tracks and communications and rescue and emergency services etc. They are deprecating in their claims that only a few fit walkers want vast areas of wilderness for their own selfish use while denying it to the less fit and the indolent and the lazy who can't or won't accept the challenge of access.
However, there are some very outstanding examples of how people obtain value from wilderness without having any intention of physically confronting it.
When the Hawke Government was contemplating stopping a mineral regime in Antarctica, they were astonished to find that 93% of all Australians wanted to see Antarctica remain a pristine, remote and unexploited land no matter what potential minerals might exist there. The fact is that 93% of Australians hadn't been to Antarctica and very few had any ambition to go there. They just wanted to be reassured that some parts of the world remained untouched and isolated and provided a frontier. They want to know that there are places left where there is still a challenge to self reliance; where people can pitch themselves against the elements and nature. They derive a lot of emotional value from knowing that such places exist. It convinced the Hawke Government and eventually other signatories to the Antarctic Treaty that there should be no mining in Antarctica.
Another example of the value of wilderness is the widespread feeling of loss when we learn of more devastating clearing of forests in Amazonia. It is in another continent and it should have no direct bearing on us but we would like to think of a vast rainforest frontier intact in South America where our minds can wander and explore even if we are not going to visit there.
In South East Queensland there is only one place where we even have a remote chance of having such a frontier with the necessary elements of primitiveness, naturalness, and remoteness and that is the northern end of Fraser Island. However, the more motorized access into this area the more the sense of remoteness is swept away. That is why FIDO was unhappy about allowing the beach north of Ngkala Rocks to remain open to vehicular traffic.
Wilderness also has other biological values. For example, many animals and birds which nest on the foredune are particularly susceptible to disturbance. They will abandon their nest or chicks will be taken if they are forced away for long. It is more than coincidence that almost no Beach Thick-knees occur on any Fraser Island beaches carrying any significant volume of traffic. The number of Pied oyster catchers and Red-capped dotterels on Fraser Island is also inversely proportional to the volume of vehicular traffic.
However, wilderness has much more value than just to the intangible mental health and well being of a modern society. It has much to do with sense of challenge which still exists. In these days where parents see the national youth being lured into various forms of anti-social behaviour by "dares" and where "daring" is an introduction to drug addiction, there is increasing evidence that these challenges are being substituted for the challenges of the wild frontiers and the physical challenges of wilderness.
Preserving wilderness is certainly not the whole solution to the "War on Drugs" but the erosion of wilderness is a major contributor to an increasing social tendency to play Russian roulette with death and / or drug addiction. So while the privileged Orchid Beach crave more amenity and the loss of their social isolation and demand access to the Great Sandy National Park as though they have proprietorial rights, they are gaining their privileges at great social cost.
First Creek Illustration
The cost of visiting Fraser Island
There is now some real concern about the cost of tours to Fraser Island. Currently the cost of day trips to Fraser Island are $75.00 or more and soon foreshadowed to rise in price. Many people are concerned about the costs which keep rising. It was only a few years ago when while Gordon Elmer was operating his ferry from Inskip Point it cost only $20 to take a vehicle to Fraser Island. It now costs $50 to take a vehicle which is more than it costs to take a vehicle across Bass Strait. It is ironic that ferry prices have risen much faster than any Government fees and that the Eurong Resort demanded that they be given over a year's notice before Access Fees were increased yet they have not reciprocated by giving similar notice of their intention to increase barge fees.
Fishing Great Sandy National Park
Another unilateral move by the Borbidge Government to repeal the sunset clause in the Nature Conservation Act which would have banned all fishing in National Parks from December 1999 has allowed Brian Littleproud to extend fishing in the Great Sandy National Park.
This has serious implications in the Wathumba estuary and many other creeks on Fraser Island navigable by boat. There is even some question about whether people will be able to fish in Wabby Lakes and Eli Creek.
FIDO has made strenuous submissions that a National Park is an National Park and that fish should be treated the same as any other fauna in an National Park and be totally protected.
Beach Fishing Unaffected: The new policy will not change the rules on beach fishing on Fraser Island where the fishing occurs below the low tide mark. This does not mean that there should not be more controls.
FIDO made lengthy submissions on beach fishing in response to the Queensland Fish Management Authority (QFMA) Discussion Paper almost two years ago. Unfortunately, the QFMA is taking an interminably long time to respond to the many submissions and produce a Draft Management Plan. It appears to be in the "too hard" basket.
FIDO does believe that the current take of fish from Fraser Island is unsustainable. FIDO also wants controls placed on commercial fishers to stop them driving along what the Management Plan has set aside as vehicle free beaches.
The Beach Fishing Take: (Based on the 1995 Visitor Surveys). Of 355,850 visitors to Fraser Island only 14% go there specifically to target fish. If each one of those fishers caught 25 fish of averaging .5 kg this would amount to over 6000 tonnes in a year. If there was a bag limit on taking only "what you can eat" or 1 kg per person and only half the visitors exercised this option the amateur take would drop to 178 tonnes.
Whale Watching Industry
The Hervey Bay whale watching industry is getting closer to taking 100,000 people out to see humpback whales in the two month season between mid-August and mid October. Unfortunately this industry is in a similar position to the Commercial Tour Operator licenses on Fraser Island with permits being traded and tour operators being able to regulate the supply and demand to force up prices. One Hervey Bay resident recently priced a day excursion leaving Hervey Bay at 9.30 am and returning at 4.00 pm and was astonished it would cost $275 for the two parents and three school age children. The industry contributes a lot to the Hervey Bay economy but is in danger of pricing itself out of business.
At any time it is estimated that there are up to 700 what are loosely called "backpackers" on Fraser Island. About 500 come from Hervey Bay and 200 from Noosa. About 160 people in 20 vehicles leave Hervey Bay and 8 from Noosa daily. All spend three days each on Fraser Island.
Currently each backpacker pays about $95.00 to cover vehicle hire, ferry fares and access permits. They pay extra for food and drinks extra. Then 8 randomly selected young people crowd into troop carriers or equivalents and set off to Fraser Island for an adventure. Few have any experience with four wheel driving and they are a number of vehicle accidents. There was recently one vehicle overturned just on its way to the ferry. This is not uncommon. Another problem is they do not have much concept about where to go and what to expect on Fraser Island. They enjoy the experience but with little appreciation for the fragile environment they are visiting.
They upset the Fraser Island residents because, being from overseas, they don't know the rules and protocols and their idea of a good time means lots of wild partying, much sexual harassment of others in the group, and they camp in many sensitive areas and conduct their ablutions and toiletries in unsanitary ways. Then if they get caught in bad weather for which the camping gear provided is rarely adequate, they seek refuge and shelter in and around some of the buildings there. Add to this the many wild late night and noisy parties which distress anyone nearby and there are a lot of upset people with the behaviour and conduct of the backpackers.
The residents want the enormous economic fillip that backpackers bring to the local economy but they want these young rowdy and exuberant people to be kept as far away from them as possible. They are all for directing them into Tag-along -tours with four vehicles in convoys lead by an experienced guide. The FIA wants them to camp in designated areas far away from other campers.
The DoE finds that their driving is dangerous and they are a drain on their Medivac budget and yet they are not contributing anywhere near as much as others on organized commercial visits to Fraser Island. It is estimated that if each backpacker contributed as much as others (i.e. $5 per person per day instead of $15.00 per vehicle load for 3 days) the DoE would collect about $400,000 more in revenue.
Tourist operators catering for the backpacker market have been left entirely without any voice in the debate. So too have those campers who may find their favourite camping ground such as Dilli Village, being handed over to exclusively backpackers if the residents' group and tour operators have their way.
FIDO supports a better regulation of the backpacker tours because we do not believe that Fraser Island should be sacrificed to allow people to carry out activities where they could have the same type of experience elsewhere without adding to the degradation of Fraser Island. We also feel that anyone visiting Fraser Island should be able to get a fuller appreciation of the places they are visiting rather than regarding it just as a fun park without any special values. We also point out that many of the backpackers are now taking commercial tours and enjoying the Fraser Island experience so much better.
Tag along tours cartoon
Great Sandy Strait: A Ramsar Site
The Queensland Government has released an interesting Draft proposal for nominating Great Sandy Strait and Tin Can Bay as a Ramsar Site (Wetlands of International Significance) named after the Iranian town where the convention was drafted. If it proceeds it will join at least 49 other Ramsar sites in Australia already covering more than 5 million hectares.
FIDO applauds the long awaited move covering almost 100,000 hectares but has urged that the boundaries be extended to include the fens. The notes in the paper provide some valuable data.
"Six species of seagrass have been recorded in the Strait... most important habitat components for maintenance of the present ecological health and diversity exhibited by the region. These areas act as nursery and feeding grounds for prawns and fish and feeding grounds for dugong and turtles.
" 18 of the 24 species (of international trans-equatorial wading birds) use these wetlands which are recognized as one of the three most important roosting sites for (these birds) in Australia. ... The total wader population of Great Sandy Strait during summer 1990 was estimated at between 30,000 and 40,000. ...
"The most abundant species is the bar-tailed godwit for which it is the most important Australian east coast site. ... nearly half the bar-tailed godwits, Mongolian plovers and grey-tailed tattlers counted in eastern Australia. More than 6000 or 34 percent of the total number for Queensland (of eastern curlew) have been recorded.
Illustration of Wading Bird/s
Then & Now
FIDO has launched its new poster heralding the start of its "Then and Now" project. A copy of the poster will be with each copy of the MOONBI mailed to subscribers. FIDO is appealing to the public to contribute old and not so old photographs of Fraser Island to a new archival record which will help researchers, writers and managers of Fraser Island.
We want to establish an archive of old photographic images of Fraser Island. Photographs can preserve important records. FIDO expects the project to run as long as it has the resources to make copies and store the archival records. FIDO is using its own resources as well as a $3,000 grant from the Queensland Department of Environment to undertake this project.
The old photographs we have are the best benchmarks which can tell us of the environmental changes which have already occurred there during the past century. Many photographs while taken on social outings showed a background could help to indicate what the environment on Fraser Island was like when the photograph was taken.
We have already received old photographs of a large herd of bullocks grazing on the foredunes south of Eurong in 1918 which now has virtually no open grassy areas and which is overgrown by a thick forest of banksias.
Once established FIDO will make photographs available to researchers and managers of Fraser Island to help them understand the and to also make archival copies for libraries to ensure that valuable old images were preserved as long as possible and the risk of destruction reduced.
"Discovering Fraser Island and Cooloola"
John Sinclair has recently released his latest book, "Discovering Fraser Island and Cooloola" which was launched by DoE Regional Manager for Central Queensland and Chairman of the Fraser Island Management Committee, Bill Fisher.
This is the sixth book he has published about the Great Sandy Region and is the culmination of 26 years research into the World Heritage area which has coincided with his campaigning for its protection.
This 122 A4 format book complements Sinclair's coffee table book, "Fraser Island and Cooloola". Because it has complete lists of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, frogs and fish as well as descriptions of all major places of interest, it is bound to become the most important reference companion for people visiting this World Heritage area. It provides valuable facts and information to help people understand and appreciate the region's magnificence.
The book includes a fold out colour contour map of the whole of the Great Sandy Region from Sandy Cape to Noosa Heads together with a most comprehensive index to the map.
The book and map retails for $25.00 and should be available from most Environmental Bookshops or it can be obtained from GO BUSH Safaris , PO Box 71, GLADESVILLE, NSW, 2111 for $30.00 which includes postage.
When John Sinclair invited Sid Melksham to the launch of his new book, "Discovering Fraser Island and Cooloola", he addressed the letter Dear Sid". Sid was most impressed. He could not recall being addressed before like that by John Sinclair.
"Dear Sid" runs the Eurong Resort on Fraser Island with his partner, Angela Burger. This has a licensed hotel, and shop as well as accommodation to which is currently being added a Convention Centre. They also operate a tour business which is estimated to carry at least 60% of all the people carried on the commercial tours to Fraser Island. They also have a virtual monopoly of the vehicular ferry carriage to and from Fraser Island with exclusive use on the Inskip Point to Hook Point run, the Urangan to Moon Point run and over 80% of the Mary River heads to Wanggoolba Creek run. The only other vessel traffic between the island and the mainland is from Kingfisher Resort.
From this advantageous position they have now gained the rights to sell Fraser Island access permits for which they will receive a 15% commission compared with 10% previously paid to other vendors. The DoE justifies this by claiming that part of this contract is an undertaking to computerize visitor data and to provide more information at Fraser Island entry points and to ensure that there is 100% compliance with vehicles going on to Fraser Island having valid access permit. They estimate that the gains for compliance more than financially justify the additional commission.
Because of his virtual barge monopoly Sid Melksham finds that the DoE is his largest client. They have to pay for all Departmental vehicles (including the large garbage trucks) coming and going. It has been an interesting irony the DoE has had to pay Sid for removing the garbage generated by his resort.
There has been an on-going problem between the Hervey Bay City Council and Sid Melksham over who owns the rights to use the Mary River Heads landing and a dispute between Sid and the Council over the Council levying Sid a rental on the service is currently before the courts.
There is likely to be further disputation over fees and rights at the Mary River Heads landing which has just been upgraded and modified and extended into a vast parking lot as a result of a $500,000 Borbidge Government contribution from the Premier's re-election slush fund.
FIDO has serious concerns over safety on the vehicular ferries and has taken this matter up with the Queensland Department of Transport. The matter of greatest concern is the lack of space between vehicles. Frequently there is not enough room to even squeeze a body through nor space to open vehicle doors. The DOT has insisted that at least half a metre is to be left between each vehicle.
Carrying of fuel trucks on crowded vessel already carrying hundreds of passengers is most dangerous. When there are fuel trucks on the vehicle deck there are supposed to be no passengers there. Instead the only warning is, "No Smoking on the vehicle deck!"
These matters have been brought to the attention of the Department and the ferry operators but there is still a lot of non-compliance with apparent immunity.
Page for Andrew's photos
FIDO President's Annual Report
There is a perception that because Fraser Island was "saved" when logging stopped and it was placed on the World Heritage List.
While World Heritage Listing should have successfully ended the years of exploitation of the island through mining and logging, it is now being exploited at a greater rate by the tourist industry, and its impacts are more widespread, harder to monitor, and difficult to get through to the media who prefer simple stories and snaps of mines or devastated forests.
One positive step for 1997/97 was the announcement that a Ministerial Council would be established for Fraser Island and that John Sinclair would be on a Community Advisory Committee.
Regrettably for several years the Federal Government has sat on its hands and left the management of Fraser Island to the Queensland Government.
The Queensland Government has made several decisions which alarm FIDO, including:
* plans to degazette part of the Great Sandy National Park at Orchid Beach to allow reopening of the airstrip and construction of a 36x12 metre building;
* legislation to allow private enterprise to operate in National Parks in Queensland, to run shops, restaurants, resorts and accommodation.
The Queensland Government is currently reviewing tourism in the Great Sandy Region and calling for opportunities for increased tourism and recreational activity". We are meant to be reassured that protection of the environment is fundamental, yet the Federal Government has found Fraser Island to be the worst managed of Australia's World Heritage Areas, and has still declined to extend funds to monitor the impact of tourism for more than 12 months.
Fraser Island must be well managed and adequately funded by State and Federal Governments to maintain World Heritage Listing.
Governments often cry poor, and it falls on watchdog bodies to lobby to ensure a region gets its fair share of the revenue, and that the funds are allocated properly.
We also need to lobby Governments to make a number of hard decisions, ;like limiting visitor numbers and restricting free range camping.
The FIDO Executive and John Sinclair Sr. met recently with the Department of Environment Regional Director, Manager, Great Sandy and Acting Head Ranger. This was a useful and instructive experience. It was also bitterly disappointing. Rather than seeing us as friends striving to protect Fraser Island, new problems were raised for FIDO to face shortly:
* Logging of Satinays for woodchips and pallets for roads to cope with visitor numbers;
* Removal of vegetation to improve views for tourists;
* Fire management to stop the forests evolving.
We found it astonishing that the Manager, Great Sandy could advocate logging Satinays to improve roads for an increased number of tourists, when instead this should show that tourism at current levels is unsustainable, and pressing for limits would be a responsible way of protecting the island.
FIDO is desperately needed to counter such lunacy, and needs your support.
Please encourage friends, and family members to join FIDO and help us to continue the work of 26 years. Donations and bequests would be gratefully received, as the work done for FIDO by the Executive and John Sinclair is all voluntary and essential.
Thanks to all of the Executive, especially Billie Watts, and of course John Sinclair, who continues to vigourously champion the cause.
Dr Ian Matthews August 1997
Who's Who In FIDO
Dr. Ian Matthews is a medical practitioner from Mapleton on the Sunshine Coast who has been President since 1990. He took over from Terry Hampson, now a Councillor on the Brisbane City Council and also FIDO Treasurer. Terry now looks after the PO Box and membership fees amid a lot of civic responsibilities. Terry took the Presidency when John Sinclair Jr. who was President from 1981 until he went overseas in 1990. John Jr. is now back in Brisbane where he works as a computer programmer for IBM and serves as FIDO Vice-President. John's role includes maintaining the membership data base which his brothers took over while he was overseas for 3 years.
Another VP is Judy Tambling who has held many Executive positions over the years and another is John Davey a civil engineer in Queensland Rail who has held FIDO Executive positions since the 1970s.
Indefatigable Honorary Secretary, Billie Watts has the longest association with Fraser Island. Billie went to school on Fraser Island. Lake Allom is named after her father who was a Forestry Surveyor there in the 1920s.
Another FIDO stalwart is Ronda Cook who is FIDO's regional Liaison Officer in the Maryborough Hervey Bay area. She was a FIDO founding member, 27 years ago.
John Sinclair Snr. continues to serve as FIDO's main campaign officer. Although now based in Sydney from where he runs GO BUSH Safaris he spends more than 200 days a year leading people to all Australia's World Heritage sites. This year he made five visits to Fraser Island and FIDO remains his major conservation interest.
New participation needed:All members of the FIDO Executive have been long serving. While none of them are anticipating giving up FIDO they would like more members participating with new, fresh ideas. The success of FIDO over the years has been its originality and vigour. While some may think that FIDO is a one person band, the reality is that John Sinclair has an incredibly important group who have inspired and guided him. To maintain this we need more participation.
The FIDO Executive meets monthly in Brisbane, usually after work (5.30 to 7.00 pm) on Wednesday evenings but times may be varied to suit the convenience of those who wish to participate. Anyone interested in taking part should ring Billie Watts on (07) 3356 2684 to find out when the next meeting will be and where.
Members would have received a letter appealing for financial support since the last MOONBI to help FIDO cope with its current financial crisis. The response was instantaneous and generous. We are still not out of the crisis entirely but we are now in a less uncomfortable position and we would like to thank all contributors for their generosity.