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: john @sinclair.org.au
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 1 JDecember, 1998
1 step forward - 2 steps back
In the 6 months since MOONBI 93 went to press, progress at addressing Fraser Island problems has been abysmally slow. The political impasse during the state and federal elections and the deficiency of decision making at the top and the seeming inertia of the bureaucracy slowed progress. However, visitation continued to increase extending the environmental degradation which was finally acknowledged by the governments more than a year ago.
Developments: While it has now been recognized that Fraser Island's World Heritage values are being eroded, the 1998 climate change to "La Nina" is increasing the frequency of heavy downpours. Each deluge moves thousands of tonnes of sand down Fraser Island roads and tracks. Alluvial fans have extended further into the basin of some lakes and buried more vegetation at run-off points. Yidney Lake has been lost. One plume now extends metres further into Lake McKenzie.
Snails Pace Progress: Many roads and beaches required to be closed under the Management Plan are still open. The DEH has not explained why it is deliberately stalling on this issue. The DEH has prepared draft Management Plans for camping, dingoes and walking trails on Fraser Island but all are stalled for months or years while senior DEH officers dot the "I's" and cross the "T's" before their release. All are necessary. All should be given more urgency. Likewise, progress on implementing the Great Sandy Region Tourism Management Plan has been painfully slow although it has been adopted by Government and welcomed by FIDO.
Some Positives: There has been progress on the fire management. A workshop is planned tentatively for next April. More money was made available for Fraser Island during the Federal Election Campaign. FIDO sees the advent of Rod Welford as Environment and Heritage Minister as a positive. FIDO is comfortable working with the new Beattie Government. Unfortunately the additional ministerial responsibilities of a Department of Natural Resources and a busy agenda to establish an Environmental Protection Agency in Queensland limit the time and energy Rod Welford can apply to Fraser Island.
The Federal Election resulted in some extra money for Fraser Island management but little other change. We still have the same Environment Minister, Senator Robert Hill, who implemented some very positive directions towards improving management of this natural wonder of the world. Unfortunately, the recently increased Federal contribution to Fraser Island may be short lived. As we anticipate the budget shrinking FIDO's disquiet with how it is being spent and the value being gained from the dollars spent is increasing. More public participation in determining spending priorities is needed.
CAC Restructure: The sacking of the Fraser Island Community Advisory Committee drew screams of protest from former Chair, Lin Powell. Powell appointed by former National Party Ministerial colleague, Brian Littleproud, transformed the CAC into a factionalized and trivialized committee. It was no longer a forum for all stakeholders to meet to hear and appreciate the viewpoints of others and, where possible, accommodate them. Instead, it tried to assume the authority of the Management Committee. It voted frequently despite the fact that it was only a sounding board. It ignored conservation arguments. It ignored degradation occurring on Fraser Island as the number of visitors increased by 7.9% in a year. It wanted to relocate the degradation to new areas of Fraser Island. The final resolution of the Powell CAC was to direct the DEH to employ Officers to pick palm leaves out of Wanggoolba Creek. The composition of the new committee is not yet known but we expect FIDO to be again represented.
In This Issue
Lakes Silting Up 2
Fire Management Policy 3
DEH Progress Report 3
The Roads to Ruin, Road Non-Closures 4
Weeding Out a Problem 4
Up the Creek, Appropriate Accommodation 5
The Election Scene 6
Hervey Bay Whales, Dingoes still a Problem 6
News in Brief: South Qld Recreation, 7
GSR Conservation Council, Sculthorpe Symphony 7
Visitor Statistics, Sid & the Council 8
Getting back on the Rails 8
Moon Point Freehold 9
Amateur and Commercial Fishing 10
CAC Restructured, Councils Feed on Fraser, Aboriginal 13
President's Annual Report — What you can do: 12
If there is a red "X" in this Box on the envelope label you haven't renewed your membership. Annual membership is $15.00. This should be sent to the Treasurer, FIDO, PO Box 70 BALD HILLS QLD 4036. Sorry FIDO's postal address wasn't included on the Membership Renewal Notices sent out in September.
STOP PRESS:FIDO is organizing two fund raisers during the next 6 months members to help us raise urgently needed funds. The first will be a barbeque at Queensland Parliament House with John Sinclair on 25 January. You can renew old acquaintances and learn what is going on first hand. Only 80 can attend so it is important to book in advance. Phone Terry Hampson, (07) 3403 7250, to reserve your place(s). We are also hoping to organize a fund-raiser in conjunction with the concert when the symphony, "Great Sandy Island" is first performed in Queensland. Members will receive invitations in due course. Respond promptly.
Lakes Silting Up
Many of Fraser Island's lakes are progressively silting up due to run-off from roads and tracks.
FIDO has more than 25 years of consistent observations and environmental monitoring of the changes to Fraser Island. Many of the environmental changes have been subtle and slow and therefore passed unnoticed except to the critical eye, but some changes are now demonstrable.
FIDO believes that the public interest demands the protection of the outstanding natural values which have contributed to its World Heritage status. These are largely based on the many outstanding geomorphic processes, which have physically shaped the island.
Yidney Lake: The most dramatic change to any lake has been the silting up of Yidney Lake. Yidney had been a shallow lake (albeit filled with reeds and only a small area of open water) in 1971 when FIDO was formed. Now numerous Forest red-gums (Eucalyptus teriticornis) grow in it. Most are over 30 metres high. What until just two decades ago had been a lake, has slowly silted up with sand washed off two roads which pass close to it. Despite this compelling evidence the DEH has consistently refused to recognize that it has a problem, let alone begin to address it.
It is now probably too late to salvage Yidney Lake. It will probably never be a real lake again. However it is not too late to save four other lakes which are under threat. Lake McKenzie is an outstanding Fraser Island icon, yet the amount of movement of sand from disturbed road surfaces, pedestrian tracks and parking areas is nothing less than alarming. There are other lakes where the changes are less obvious but just as worrying.
Lake McKenzie: The most serious problem area arises where the road from Pile Valley to the Lake McKenzie picnic area passes very close to the lake edge before ascending a steep hill. The down-cutting of the road on that hill is producing horrendous run-off which is now silting up the lake. A very obvious and disastrous alluvial fan extends some metres into the lake. This growing plume is a mixture of grey sand and woodchips.
The DEH indicates that the Lake McKenzie picnic area draws 38,000 visitors annually on commercial tours alone. As a result of this intense visitation tour operator's picnic tables are being progressively buried in sand which runs off the road and car park. Sand is moving down the slope due to surface water run off and, to a much lesser extent, from splash impact. It is clear that a lot has to be done here.
Lake Birrabeen: Although there has long been a board walk over the Lake Birrabeen lunette, this is a long way from the track across the lunette now most heavily used which is leads to the toilets. An additional boardwalk and other protective work is needed.
FIDO also wants the current exclusive access of one commercial tour operator to the shore of Lake Birrabeen and passing beside Lake Jennings closed. This is pouring silt into both. The presence of the bus park beside a pure white beach is appalling. We have observed pools of black sump oil left on the sand when one of the buses departed.
Lake Allom is one of the most beautiful lakes on Fraser Island and the only lake accessible to the larger public which is surrounded by rainforest. Two tracks which descend the steep hill to the lake shore have rapidly eroded. One on the southern shore was a road closed for more than 10 years, but the alluvial plume from run off from it continues to grow. It will only be stopped by effective silt traps. The erosion from a former pedestrian track leading from the picnic area is more serious. It also continues to be ongoing. Although pedestrians have been rerouted, the old track continues to erode washing tonnes of sand into the lake.
Lake Boomanjin is also being seriously degraded. A large alluvial fan recently poured onto the lake shore following the creation of a new pedestrian track to the lake. The degradation of the camping ground here is appalling and FIDO wants the camping area closed. Supervision of this campground is very difficult. Much bush timber is being flagrantly and illegally burnt there in open campfires.
Solutions: FIDO has advanced a program to address this degradation and to protect this outstanding natural feature and one of Fraser Island's World Heritage values. FIDO has proposed that much of the remaining $870,000 from the 1991 Commonwealth - Queensland $38 million initiative for structural readjustment be used to remedy these problems. Money is available if there is a will on the part of governments to apply it.
Most of the problems can be alleviated by ensuring that the ground surface on slopes is not disturbed or that on-going disturbance is kept to a minimum. Elevated board walks have proven so effective protecting Eli Creek and Wanggoolba Creek at Central Station. FIDO believes that similar structures should be built in all heavily used areas to stop the degradation. The existing damage will have to be repaired and remedied by the construction of silt traps.
We cannot allow these icons of Fraser Island to be irreversibly changed in the way that Yidney Lake has been changed by lack of action. We have to address these problems urgently before it is too late.
While on the subject of the degradation of Fraser Island icons, we should also indicate that FIDO has sought funds to reroute the east-bound road from the Wanggoolba Creek ferry to Eurong away from the side-cutting above the creek. This is another long-standing area of concern. The serious impact of this road could be reduced by putting a weight limit on vehicles using this route but FIDO wants this route closed and an alternative developed.
Fire Management Policy
MOONBI 93 carried a lengthy article on the need for a clearly defined Fire Management Policy for Fraser Island.
Fire Workshop Planned: During a visit to the island for a joint inspection with the FIDO Executive, Regional Director DEH, Bill Fisher, advised that his Department would organize a Fire Management Workshop to help develop the most appropriate fire management regime for Fraser Island. Fraser Island could benefit enormously if we had a clearer vision of the natural environment and the impact of fire in that ecology. We should be able to define some objectives and, as a result, the policy. We hope that this will achieve mutually agreed outcomes for Fraser Island. We do know that this century's burning practices have dramatically altered the ecology of Fraser Island.
FIDO now has reason to believe that this Fire Management Workshop will be held on Fraser Island during April. The very constructive dialogue with the DEH on this subject is most encouraging. We hope that it continues. It has been previous fire management practices which have led to some most unfortunate actions such as the "Banksia Serial Killing". This is not yet an era entirely behind us as we recently witnessed. (see below).
Incineration of 10,000 ha: In August about 10,000 hectares of Fraser Island between the Woralie Track and Awinya Creek were reduced to mainly ash in a day by a single fire ignited by the DEH. The intensity of the fire was incredibly severe. It appears that the idea of a mosaic, pattern of low intensity fires is not as important to the current DEH practice as the practice of only undertaking burns when it is certain that there will be a complete conflagration effected with certainty.
FIDO believes that burning is appropriate on Fraser Island but that the island should be systematically burnt to achieve a mosaic pattern . No areas greater than 20-30 hectares should be burnt in any fire. We believe that many smaller fires lit late in the afternoon under suitable conditions would incompletely burn small patches and then extinguish themselves at night.
New "Serial Killings": The most deplorable aspect of the Woralie fire was that a number of Scribbly Gums, some more than 10 metres in from the track were felled by a chain saw after the fire had been through when there could have been no risk. The trees on Dune system 5 had no chance of falling even close to the road. None seemed to present any fire or public risk hazard since none were close enough to the track to fall across it. This random and senseless exercise seemed to have no other purpose than providing chain-saw practice. FIDO allowed the DEH 7 weeks to explain why this senseless action occurred before making any public statement. We have had no reply before going to press.
DEH Fraser Island Progress Report
MOONBI 93 reported on the accelerated degradation of Fraser Island mainly as a result of unsustainable tourism. This was confirmed in a report by independent environmental consultants commissioned by the DEH. The DEH had initiated a number of projects to address these devaluing of Fraser Island's World Heritage qualifications. They included a Tourism Management Plan, a Camping Management Plan and a Dingo Management Plan. In addition FIDO had been waiting for some long overdue action on closing some area in the far northern section of Fraser Island.
Little Progress: In view of the significance and far reaching implications of these initiatives to make visitation on Fraser Island more sustainable, MOONBI is obliged to report on the disappointingly slow progress. We hope for better news to report in MOONBI 95.
Implementation of the Great Sandy Region Tourism Management Plan which FIDO welcomed has proceeded at a snails pace despite Government support for the Plan.
Slow Progress: Given the urgency, we thought that there would have been a flurry of activity so that the main elements of the Plan could have be implemented within a year. After three months little has happened. The CAC meeting was told (31/10/98) that the only progress made was in reviewing the commercial tour operations "on Cooloola"!!! The work may now proceed towards Fraser Island. At the current rate of progress we won't hold our breath waiting for any more positive outcomes.
No Deadlines: The main problem with the various management plans relating to Fraser Island is that the DEH puts no deadlines on implementing the recommendations. Further, the Department sees no urgency in keeping faith with the public which provided inputs into the plans.
Camping Management Strategy
One of the other key planks in tourism management was the development of a Camping Management Plan. The first draft of this Plan was developed with commendable alacrity. A draft of the Plan was distributed to members of the CAC on 24 July. Since then the whole report has languished in the DEH while someone pondered on the wording which should be presented to the Queensland Environment Minister so that he could release the report as a Draft and invite public comment. Three months seems to be an inordinate amount of time for a report to lie around in the Department before sending it to the Minister.
Dingo Management Strategy
There seems to have been a similar story relating to the Dingo Management Plan. A Draft Report has been completed but it is awaiting approval from the Department before it goes on to the Minister for release as a "DRAFT". In the meantime the dingo attacks continue and the problem becomes worse.
Some years ago the Commonwealth Government gave the DEH funds to produce a Walking Track Management Plan for Fraser Island. All of that money has long been expended but not even the Draft Walking Track Management Plan has been concluded. Thus, for years the public has had to wait for a chance to comment on this critical management aspect. It is yet another sorry saga of DEH deadlines not being met.
The Roads To Ruin
MOONBI 93 also published a draft environmental impact assessment on Fraser Island "roads". Since then there have been some significant developments. The Fraser Island Community Advisory Committee was told on 31 October that the Draft Road Standards, a copy of which was given to FIDO in 1995, have never been implemented.
The position on Fraser Island is even more farcical than it appears from that statement. On 30 June, 1995, MOONBI 87 published the Guidelines for the road standards. At that time the DEH was following its popular practice of deferring decisions on difficult issues by referring them to a committee. In this case it was a Roads Sub-Committee of the CAC to avoid this becoming a contentious issue in the CAC. FIDO withdrew from this sub-committee as an exercise in futility. The Roads Sub-Committee never reported to the CAC.
In June 1995, MOONBI 87 recorded FIDO's reactions to the Draft Road Standards. They provided far to much road surface and too many passing bays. We had been led to believe that these standards were being applied. In various subsequent inspections with DEH Officers FIDO found numerous examples of the draft standards being disregarded. In October 1998, almost 4 years after we were given the "Draft Road Standards", we informed that there had been no attempt to implement even these draft standards
In MOONBI 84 on 15 March, 1995 FIDO reported: "The DEH agenda for managing Fraser Island is now being driven by the monster which it has created all by itself called Orchid Beach". FIDO pointed out then that the land-holders were successful then in their advocacy with many things including:
* extension of the proposed road network;
* access to Platypus Bay via the North Wathumba track
* allowing all Fraser Island beaches be opened for 4WDs, including some already officially closed;
Deliberate Stalling: The Great Sandy Region Management Plan, officially adopted in 1994, enshrined the closure of many roads and beach sections. Despite all of FIDO's repeated calls, there has still been no attempt to close a number of roads in the far northern section of Fraser Island. Following our August Inspection we again wrote to the Regional Director. We are still awaiting a reply.
The problem with the DEH is that it doesn't seem to apply any firm deadlines for the implementation of policies on Fraser Island.
Weeding Out a Problem
The integrity of the Fraser Island World Heritage area could be seriously impaired if weeds begin to over-run the natural vegetation.There are areas where lantana and groundsel are so thick that this has already happened. Fortunately, the lantana problem is slowly diminishing due to biological controls. These are progressively (if slowly) reducing the problem.
Weeds for Aborigines: The first weeds were deliberately introduced to Fraser Island in the latter part of the 19th Century. The most important of these was sisal or "flax" (Agave sisalana). This was introduced to enable Fraser Island Aborigines to be taught to weave like "civilized" indigenous cultures such as New Zealand's Maoris. It was an unwarranted and paternalistic approach destined to failure but the legacy is now that more than 100 years further on there are horrific infestations of these weeds both near the Sandy Cape Light and around the site of the old Bogimbah Creek Mission.
Other Introductions: Since then there have been a number of introductions of weeds, accidentally or quite innocently by humans, or by birds in the case of lantana and cactus, or self introduced, in the case of groundsel. However, the greatest expansion of weeds followed the opening of the vehicular ferry services from Inskip Point.
Urban Outflows: Since Fraser Island villages began to be subdivided first in 1965, there has been an inexorable increase in the number of weeds on Fraser Island. All of these infestations of new weeds seem to be rippling out from the recent settlements, particularly, Orchid Beach, Happy Valley and Eurong.
52 Species on Inventory: By June 1994 when Keith Twyford produced the first inventory of Introduced Plants of Fraser Island, there were 52 identified weeds growing on Fraser Island. While Keith Twyford was the OIC on Fraser Island there was a concerted effort to bring the weeds under control. Since his departure we have no evidence that this drive has continued and our inspections seem to indicate that weeds are now spreading with little control measures being taken to contain them.
The longer the problem is left, the more difficult it will be to bring the matter under control. There needs to be a concerted effort to eliminate weds from the public land within the major settlements on Fraser Island and an education program for private land-holders.
Working Bee Volunteers Wanted
FIDO is proposing a working bee in July to eliminate weeds from all of the public land in and around the Eurong township to augment the efforts of DEH Officers.
FIDO is sponsoring a Weeds Working Bee to be held on Saturday, 17 and Sunday, 18 July, 1999.
Accommodation can be provided for volunteers at Eurong or Dilli Village and we will organize transport from the Wanggoolba Creek ferry to Eurong from the first ferry which departs Mary River Heads at 7.30 am on Saturdays, and back to rendezvous with the 4.30 ferry on Sunday afternoon. Anyone who is available should notify Billie Watts (07) 3356 2684 or write to FIDO, PO Box 70, BALD HILLS, QLD, 4036.
Up The Creek
Wanggoolba Creek is doubtless one of the great scenic and aesthetic icons of Fraser Island. It vies with Lake McKenzie and the Ocean Beach as which results in the most published photographs. Yet despite its importance, Wanggoolba Creek remains under threat. The road above the creek between Central Station and Pile Valley is causing trees to become destabilized and the road is pouring a huge load of silt into it. In the many years since FIDO first raised this issue nothing has been done by the DEH to address the problem.
The only action which did result was after the DEH tried to deny FIDO's claims that there was only one colony of King ferns (Angiopteris evecta) they walked the length of the creek and discovered that FIDO was correct. But while they admit that a huge forest giant fell in the middle of one group of ferns, they won't admit that the road is the source of the problem.
In the meantime other things are happening to Wanggoolba Creek which are affecting the naturalness of this magical stream. Three aspects Wanggoolba Creek management which are quite unnatural have come to FIDO's attention:
Upstream: Despite John Sinclair's objections the majority of CAC members have proposed that DEH officers should pick the clutter of fallen picabeen palm leaves from the stream bed at Central Station. We thought that the idea was ludicrous and that the DEH would be better employed on addressing the growing weed problem on Fraser Island or rerouting the road. While we were surprised at the recommendation by the CAC, we were more astonished to learn that plucking palm leaves out of Wanggoolba Creek has been a regular chore for years to help pretty the place up for tourists. It seems a very unnatural act to FIDO. Maybe it would be an appropriate chore on Palm Sunday. It is indicates the priorities given to Fraser Island management and the levels to which they have degenerated.
Downstream: In the early 1980's FIDO campaigned against the dredging of the mouth of Wanggoolba Creek on the grounds of the very significant adverse environmental impact. this would have on what was then a Fisheries Habitat Reserve. Notwithstanding FIDO's objection the dredging went ahead. Subsequently predictions made at the time that the dredging of Wanggoolba Creek estuary would be a task which would have to be continued in perpetuity have proven to be correct as have our predictions that the turning area of the barge would be inadequate. On 31 October, a dredge was in the creek to continue the dredging work. In the years since the channel was first gouged out, the swing bay has become progressively wider resulting in the loss of significantly more mangroves.
Down the slope: In the meantime the siting of the road in the precarious side-cutting high above Wanggoolba Creek is continuing to cause trees to fall and sand to slide down the slope to the creek. The creek environs are changing.
If the integrity of Wanggoolba Creek is to be preserved it will require a huge effort by the DEH to recognize and address all of the unnatural elements working against it.
Right now Fraser Island is suffering while the contest continues about what is appropriate housing and accommodation on Fraser Island.
Speculators are using the Gold Coast as a model and are building some huge monuments which are large by any standard and given the cost of the additional freight and expense of building on Fraser Island very expensive. The speculators are prescribing the size and standard of housing to maximize what they anticipate will be their return on their investment. The speculators seem to be working only on the supply side.
Now as an increasing number of speculators try to take their profits, there is a new element coming into play and that is the demand side. The buyers are failing to show the anticipated interest in such over the top development which might work in the glitzy atmosphere of a Gold Coast or Palm Beach near Sydney, but don't quite fit the lifestyle of people wandering around in T-shirt, shorts and bare feet. Fraser Island presents itself as a get-away- from- it all environment, not a place where there is pressure to keep up with appearances and the Joneses. This is the type of client who has been traditionally attracted by Fraser Island. They are not attracted by the architectural edifices which seem to be totally out of character and out of place on Fraser Island. This message is finally getting through to the suppliers of the Fraser Island housing stock. There is no strong demand for the more luxurious accommodation being offereded.
Already one Maryborough family has been financially ruined by building inappropriate housing at Eurong which couldn't be sold. A similar development, albeit on a smaller scale at Happy Valley, is finding it hard to get buyers. This is the projected, $4.5 million strata titled Sailfish Resort.
We don't want to be the ones to say, "I told you so," and we don't want to analyze all property dealing on Fraser Island. We can to report that as the last of the vacant blocks on Fraser Island are being built on, many of the investors are finding the buyers for those properties don't want the product which has been created. Orchid Beach land speculators fought tooth and nail to avoid the restrictions which town planners had proposed on the building size at Orchid Beach, so far successfully. They may yet discover though that they have a pyric victory if their constructions are unsellable at the prices they want because they are inappropriate.
With plans now being considered for the re-development of Dilli Village, FIDO hopes that the mistakes made elsewhere won't be repeated there although that still looks possible.
The Election Scene
The Queensland Electionshad just been announced as MOONBI 93 was going to print on 1 June. In that election which ended in a cliff-hanger, and with the Labor Party forming a minority Government with the support of one independent, Peter Wellington.
New Queensland Environment Minister is Rod Welford who has demonstrated his interest in Fraser Island over a long period, accompanying a FIDO inspection with some of his colleagues to assess the impact of logging back in 1990 when he was a backbencher. Now as well as Environment and Heritage (and the Department has reverted to its former name of DEH) he has also inherited the Department of Natural Resources. His obligations for almost interminable public consultations as required as one of the terms under which Labor took Government, have limited the time he can give to the restructuring of his Departments and establishing a new Environment Protection Agency. He has been somewhat stymied for a while in acting over Fraser Island when the Federal Election was called which meant that he was unable to consult with the Federal Environment Minister for some time.
Action: However now things are happening. Appointments to the former Fraser Island Community Advisory Committee have been terminated and new appointments are in the process of occurring. He is favourably disposed to more fully assessing the feasibility of a light rail on Fraser Island and with urgently addressing the serious degradation of World Heritage values such as the silting of lakes.
Federal Elections: No sooner were the Queensland elections out of the way than the GST was released and the Howard Government moved into election mode. with the uncertainty over the survival of two cabinet ministers extending over another 2 weeks, it was almost the end of October before the Government began functioning normally again. Luckily Senator Hill, one of the most senior members of the Government retained the environment portfolio which means that a sense of normality was resumed much sooner than for some other portfolios.
New Money for Fraser Island??? During the lead-up to the Federal Election Senator Hill announced an extra $1 million would be available to improve Fraser Island infrastructure. It transpired that some of this, $870,000 is the remainder of a $38 million Growth and Development Package for structural readjustment put together by the Hawke and Goss Governments back in 1991 when they announced the cessation of logging on Fraser Island and the intention to proceed with World Heritage nomination. Apparently 37.13 million has been spent on various projects over which FIDO had no say including the acquisition of the former Orchid Beach resort and the wheeling and dealing associated with that.
FIDO wants a slice of the remainder to repair and prevent damage to the lakes on Fraser Island where run-off is shifting significant loads of silt with adverse consequences.
Hervey Bay Whales Scene
Another Hervey Bay whale season has come and gone. It has been a particularly busy season but new problems are arising for the multi-million dollar tourism industry based on the migrating leviathans.
Numbers Increase: The Pacific Whale Foundation reports that about 850 individual whales visited Hervey Bay in 1997. This number increases at about 4% to 6% a year.
More Boats: The number of boats involved continues to grow. At first the number of commercial tourist operators was limited. Those with permits then began to increase the size and speed of their boats. They now carry more than twice as many people as when the permit system was introduced. Currently a study is being done on the degree of compliance of tour operators with permit conditions.
Adverse Whale Reaction: As well as the commercial tour boats a number of other private boat owners are now crowding in on the whales. There were reports in August that some whales were reacting negatively to the crowding by boaties and beginning to show signs of aggression. In recent years John Sinclair has observed whales being closely chased by small private boats.
Other Ports: Other whale watch operations being established out of other ports including Moreton Bay, Mooloolaba and north Queensland pose new threats to Hervey Bay's lucrative industry.
Baby Beached: In July a baby 4.8 metre long humpback whale beached itself for 10 hours in front of the Eurong Ranger Station. It was eventually freed after being towed out to sea and was then last seen swimming north.
Dingoes Still a Problem
In August a four year old boy playing beside Eli Creek was bitten by a dingo when he turned and ran away. While dingo attacks continue, the public continues to wait for the Draft Management Plan.
No Plan Yet: Dingo expert, Dr. Laurie Corbett, visited the island in April. In June, Environment Minister Brian Littleproud said that some dingo culling could be one of the recommendations of the report which he said would be released "after the state elections". The public were told on 12 August that the "Draft Management Plan should go on public display in four weeks." There is still no Plan.
In the meantime there is no end of advice being offered to the DEH. In an article headlined "Feeding only solution for FI dingoes", Bruce Jacobs President of the National Dingo Association advocated a 40 cent levy per tourist to pay for the artificial feeding program which he wants undertaken.
News In Brief
South Queensland Recreation Study
A new study shows there is an explosion of interest in outdoor recreation activities in south-east Queensland with natural settings becoming more popular.
Minister for Environment and Heritage and Natural Resources, Rod Welford, said the study showed that 25% of people aged over 15 and living in South-East Queensland went camping an average of twice over the past 12 months. "That means the number of camper nights exceeded total attendance at the home games of the Broncos, Bullets, Brisbane Lions and Queensland Reds combined. We have to recognize that with our ideal Queensland climate, more and more people want to enjoy our natural landscapes. This means we have to sustain and manage these resources in a way guarantees enjoyment for generations to come," he said.
This trend indicates just how important Fraser Island and Cooloola are to the population of south-east Queensland, which within 40 years will have outgrown Melbourne to become the second largest population centre in Australia after Sydney. It shows the on-going need for FIDO to have an even more vigilant watchdog role. The assurances of Rod Welford to manage our natural areas sustainably is reassuring.
Great Sandy Region Conservation Council
FIDO has joined forces with the Noosa Parks Association to institute a new regional conservation body to address the environmental issues in the region which the Fitzgerald Inquiry identified as the Great Sandy Region.
Two of the most effective conservation organizations in Queensland are united with other with a prime purpose of protecting the natural resources and conservation values of the whole Great Sandy Region and surrounding areas and to promote significant extension of the World Heritage Listed area in the region.
Chair of the new organization is Michael Gloster of Noosa but FIDO is closely involved in the any campaigns, particularly getting World Heritage recognition for Cooloola. FIDO is hoping that with government recognition, the regional body will have access to financial resources which have not been available to FIDO because the bureaucracy has decreed that Fraser Island is not a region and because no other regional Conservation Council had provided any resources to pursue the many projects associated with Fraser Island. The new council should rectify that.
Probably Australia's foremost contemporary musical composer, Peter Sculthorpe has just heard his most recent composition, "Great Sandy Island" inspired by Fraser Island performed during October in Tokyo by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra at a concert to honour the memory of prominent Japanese composer, Toru Takemitsu. It was a world premiere for this composition which follows the story of Eliza Fraser.
Peter Sculthorpe said that he was first introduced to Fraser Island in the 1960 when he began writing an opera on the story of Eliza Fraser with Patrick White writing the libretto. When there was a falling out between Sculthorpe and White another librettist was coopted for the task but the opera never eventuated.
Instead the spin-offs have turned up in various ways. Patrick white went on to base the cyclone, the pivotal event in his award winning "Eye of the Storm" on a fictitious Brumby Island which he admits is Fraser Island. He later fictionalized the story of Eliza Fraser in "A Fringe of Leaves". Some of the libretto for the opera which was never produced ended up being used in a Noh drama produced at the University of Sydney by music students.
Peter Sculthorpe says that he spent time staying in a fishing hut in the northern end of Fraser Island and was enchanted by the island. He says he has used the inspiration of Fraser Island in many pieces but this was his first long piece and it loosely follows the story of Eliza Fraser and her relationship with Bracewell an escaped convict who lived for years with the Aborigines. The piece will have its Australian premiere when it is performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra on 5 May but he is hoping that it might be heard in Queensland in July.
Other Writers Relish Fraser
In September, this year writers attending the Brisbane Writers Festival followed a grueling three week Writers Safari through Queensland with a break or "retreat" on Fraser Island at Kingfisher Resort. The reports indicated that the writers from both within Australia and from overseas were inspired by the scenery and landscape on the island as well as the island's history, whales and myths.
Fraser Island Visitor Statistics
It is futile to imagine that the growth in tourist numbers can continue to grow exponentially without very significant changes in management.FIDO has just received the very latest figures from the DEH which show the ever upward trend in visitor numbers. Interestingly, the greatest growth in visitor numbers continues to be through passengers carried by Commercial Tour Operators.
The environmental degradation resulting from exceeding the carrying capacity will be significantly greater than the 7.9% increase in aggregate reported visitor numbers. It is important to remember that there continues to be no data kept on two very significant categories of visitors — those who are exempt from paying fees and those who have a twelve month permit who can visit as frequently as they like.
Incomplete Data: Those exempt from paying fees include anyone working on Fraser Island, residents and their immediate families and property owners, resort staff, builders, trades-persons, researchers and management personnel and their entourages, transport operators, etc. It should also be noted that so far all aircraft have been exempt from paying fees and as have any passengers carried to the island by them. Likewise anyone staying at Kingfisher Resort who doesn't leave the resort is not counted in the visitor statistics. All indications are that the numbers travelling on exempt permits is growing faster than other visitor numbers.
1996-97 1997-98 % Change
(1 month) permits 130,163 138,574 + 6.5%
(12 month) permits na na
Camper nights 93,615 94,310 + 6.7%
Exemption labels na na
Commercial Tours 143,459 156,579 +9.1%
Total Visitor Numbers 273,622 295,153 +7.9%
Sid & Council Settle
MOONBI 93 reported on the feud between the Hervey Bay City Council and Eurong Resort Proprietor, Sid Melksham over the payment for barge landing fees and ownership of the barge ramp at Mary River Heads. We can now report that the long-running dispute has been settled on terms "to the satisfaction of both parties". A statement from the lawyers acting for respective parties said that "matters have been amicably resolved, thereby allowing for a harmonious and professional future working relationship ..."
Permits Sales Ceased: The other vendor of Fraser Island access permits at Mary River Heads had disputed the DEH giving Sid Melksham rights to sell permits on a higher commission. This dispute has also been resolved. The DEH terminated the agreement allowing Melksham to sell barge tickets and access permit tickets at the same caravan parked near the ferry embarkation points. The DEH has not explained why this arrangement proved to be unsatisfactory. In future Fraser Island visitors will need to acquire their permits long before they get to the ferries.
Convention Centre Surprise: In the meantime Sid is getting on with the massive expansion of Eurong Resort. The recently completed Convention Centre has pleasantly surprised many with its decor and ambiance, personally designed and selected by Sid.
Getting Back on the Rails
MOONBI 93 again advocated an urgent need for a light rail people mover on Fraser Island. FIDO pointed out the adverse impacts of the current roads in an assessment which is supported by data collected for the Fraser Island Tourism Management Plan.
Wheel Impact: MOONBI 94 (p2) outlines the impact on lakes which has become even more apparent since the inspection of the FIDO Executive at Lake McKenzie and other lakes in August. Wheels in sand stir up erosion.
Advancing the light rail investigation was a top agenda item when FIDO had its first official meeting with the new Environment Minister, Rod Welford, on 29 September. He was keen to see the proposal more fully evaluated.
Federal Assessment: Environment Australia, which had been also dealing with FIDO's application for funds to undertake a more detailed feasibility study of the light rail proposal for Fraser Island rather than fund a detailed feasibility study for between $50,000 and $60,000, Federal Government commissioned a study by consultant tourism analysts into the preliminary feasibility of a light rail. This cost taxpayers more than $2,000.
Their conclusion concurred with FIDO's 1991 feasibility study undertaken by Gutteridge Haskins and Davey, (now GHD) who are specialists in management, engineering and environment. Although FIDO has grave misgivings about the adequacy of the tourism analyst's study, both studies concluded that prima facie a Fraser Island light rail was feasible and justified a more detailed study.
FIDO's 25 year Advocacy: It is now almost 25 years since FIDO first began publicly advocating for a light rail system as a people mover on Fraser Island. The light rail will not be built by governments. If it is to be built and operated it must be built by private enterprise. However, the private sector won't enter into the proposition of investing in an enterprise requiring so much capital without the encouragement of the Queensland Government.
FIDO is urging both governments to facilitate the calling for "Expressions of Interest", sooner rather than later by commissioning a detailed feasibility study into the Fraser Island light rail.
Money Available: The Commonwealth Government offered an $130,000 additional for the management of Fraser Island infrastructure during the recent Federal Election campaign. FIDO believes that the Fraser Island Ministerial Council should spend $68,900 on the detailed feasibility study proposed by GHD.
It will be outrageous if, after the billions of dollars which were put in the public kitty from the sale of one third of Telstra, not even $70,000 is available to undertake the study which is an essential prerequisite to clearing the way for a private sector taking over and proceeding to create an operational light rail system on Fraser Island.
Moon Point Freehold
FIDO regards the large freehold area near Moon Point as a potential environmental nightmare.
The area of freehold land which is in area greater than the area of the Kingfisher Resort, the Orchid Beach subdivision, and the subdivided areas of Happy Valley and Eurong combined. It is located on low lying swampy area at Moon Point near the western extremity of Fraser Island. No part of the land is more than 5 metres above sea level. On its western edge it touches on the largest area of fens on Fraser Island. It is a haven for sandflies and mosquitoes.
Land speculators have made various attempts to subdivide and sell the Moon Point land despite its inhospitality (biting insects) and lack of aesthetic attraction by exploiting Fraser Island's public appeal.
The land was originally freeholded to allow cattlemen a base on which to build infrastructure for their grazing operations on the western side of Fraser Island. They needed land to establish yards and dips and other infrastructure. The only evidence of this era now remaining is an arsenic cattle dip which has poisoned the land and water table surrounding it.
Three Titles: The land is now held on three (3) different titles and theoretically each of these three blocks could be cleared and have a residence built on it under existing law. Such development would have severe and adverse impact on the surrounding wetlands including the fens and debase the perception of Fraser Island's naturalness.
1973 Proposal: In 1973 FIDO first became aware that there were proposals to develop this land when a Texan land speculator, Bob McGee advised John Sinclair in his strong Texan drawl that he was proposing a huge subdivision for this land and he warned that FIDO had "no hope of holding back progress".
Kingfisher Focus: At the time McGee turned his attention to a smaller block, 160 acres at North White Cliffs. Here FIDO succeeded in stopping the first application for subdivision. The story of how the North White Cliffs eventually became the now intensely developed site of the Kingfisher Resort provides a salutary lesson of what could happen at Moon Point. If the Moon Point area, four times the size of the Kingfisher land, were to be transformed it would be a disaster for Fraser Island.
Speculative Sale Proposed: In 1975, at the height of the sandmining controversy FIDO saw that the land was being offered for sale in "The Australian". "313 acres suitable for making 1330 development" were offered at a cost of $500,000. We managed to dissuade that option from being pursued.
1977 Application: In 1977 an application was put to the Hervey Bay Council proposing that 126.7 hectares (the largest of the 3 lots) be developed as "residential, motel, tourist accommodation centre, marina and holiday farm." That matter was deferred presumably because the application would not stand up to environmental scrutiny.
1981 Subdivision Approval: In 1981 the proposal was again revived. Despite objections by FIDO and the ACF it was approved by the Hervey Bay Council despite the strenuous objections by Alderman Ronda Cook who was then a councillor. The then Mayor, Bill Elson-Green declared, "Getting an EIS is a waste of money." Luckily FIDO was the watchdog who appealed against the approval and rather than try to defend the indefensible in the Local Government Court the application was withdrawn.
Moon Point as shown on a 1973 FIDO Map
1978 Management Plan Advocates Acquisition: It has now been 20 years since the Queensland Government first officially recognized that the 640 acres of freehold land at Moon Point on Fraser Island should be put into public ownership. At that time this block of land was surrounded on all sides by State Forest. It is now surrounded on all sides by National Park. The 1978 Fraser Island Recreational Management Plan said that acquisition of the land could avoid significant management problems which could arise if the block were developed.
Funds for Acquisition: The Queensland Cabinet approved the Management Plan but failed to provide the resources for the Queensland Forestry Department to acquire the Moon Point and North White Cliffs lands. This is a sharp irony because when the Queensland Forestry Department was offered money from the Commonwealth Government in 1974 to acquire 160 acres of freehold at Wathumba Creek which led to the disaster at Orchid Beach, the then Conservator refused to acquire that land because he thought that the Commonwealth was being over-generous to the land owner.
Development Isn't Dead: As recently as 1995 Peter MacDougall contacted John Sinclair to advise was the owner who was keen to develop the block and to financially benefit the conservation movement.
Environmental Impacts: The Moon Point freehold land continues to be a time bomb ticking away . It could become a cancer which could have the most severe environmental impacts on Fraser Island. It is low-lying. It is difficult to see how this site would be developed without large scale disturbance of the soil which could unleash corrosive leachates from the disturbance of acid sulphate soil. This could extend well into the marine environment of Hervey Bay and Great Sandy Strait affecting the fisheries.
It could become a potential source of infestation with new weeds and other injurious agencies which are unlikely to be contained within the boundaries of this property. As well the impact of human habitation rippling out would have a very severe impact on the fragile fens which are immediately adjacent to it. Further afield it could ripple right across the island because the island is widest at Moon Point and a longer road system exacerbates the impact from the traffic generated there.
Photograph taken during the 1998 Toyota Fraser Island Fishing Expo. The DEH has yet to release to report on the environmental impacts.
The 15th Annual Fraser Island Fishing Expo was held at Orchid Beach at the end of May. By 31 October, the DEH hadn't prepared the Report which is required after each event. Although it is a permit condition that the organizers satisfactorily comply with conditions the DEH hasn't in 15 years reported before there is already a commitment to the next years' event.
Self Evident Testimony: No matter what the DEH says, the above photograph is testimony to the huge impact that this event is having on Fraser Island. All of the boats, provisions, camping equipment and people plus much more would have to be hauled along at least 50 km of beach and then across the now severely degraded track behind Middle Rock and Waddy Point to reach the site.
Over 3000 competitors with their entourage crowded around the Waddy Point, Orchid Beach area so that they could compete for $42,000 worth of cash prizes and a Rav4. 300 of the fish caught were released. The organizers who were given the rights to continue the event at Orchid Beach until 2005, branded the event a success.
Not in public interest: FIDO wants Fishing Expos to end on Fraser Island as soon as possible. Such event are contrary to the public interest and are inappropriate for such a fragile World Heritage site. A DEH less compliant with the whims of the organizers might act responsibly to limit the event. Perhaps the organizers could prove their responsibility and voluntarily withdraw support for the event or relocate it to a much less sensitive site.
Fishery Management Plan Overdue: Disputes over fishing and "traditional rights" (which seem to take only about 2 years to accrue) may be resolved sooner rather than later if the QFMA produced the long vaunted Queensland Subtropical Inshore Finfish Fishery Management Plan. It is now more than two years since the comments on the Discussion Paper were submitted to the QFMA and there is no evidence even that a Draft Management Plan has been prepared. There has been a wall of silence and until it is resolved there will continue to be on-going controversy between amateur and commercial fishers about how best the fishery should be managed. Amateurs want more curbs on the professionals and vice versa.
GSR Commercial Beach Fishers:There are currently 18 commercial fishers who held licences to operate 400 metres out to sea from Noosa North Shore to Sandy Cape traditionally targetting sea mullet, tailor, bream, whiting and dark. All of Fraser Island's water 200 metres out from the eastern beach are closed to commercial fishers between 1 September and 1 April, although 5 "traditional" fishers have been given exemptions to fish all year. The average annual commercial landings from Platypus Bay to Inskip Point from 1990 to 1996 was about 590 tonnes. Mullet accounted for about 260 tonnes of that. The number of commercial licences increased up to "about 50" in the last five years.
Hervey Bay: The average catch by about 60 licensees from Hervey Bay and Great Sandy Strait from 1990 to 1996 was 283 tonnes including about 127 tonnes of mullet.
The take may be somewhat understated because not all of the catch may be recorded and go through official markets.
Trawler Limitations: The decline of the commercial and amateur catches in recent years has prompted suggestions that the Hervey Bay commercial fishing zone be closed for commercial trawlers for a period of 11 weeks. This has aroused a furore. Some fishers fear for the loss of their jobs, boats and homes and claim that there is no scientific basis for a decision to close the fishery from 15 August. Other fishers claim that such measures are important, claiming that it is like "giving the paddock a spell". The beach fishery is already closed for longer than 11 weeks to the netters.
New Fishery for Urangan: A 22 metre long line fishing vessel has begun operating from Urangan to land yellow-fin, big-eye and broad bill tuna. The company expects to have five vessels operating from there and to join Cairns, Mooloolaba and the Gold Coast as the Queensland ports handling tuna. They expect each boat to land between 4 and 8 tonnes of tuna every fortnight.
Amateur Catch Studied: In the meantime, the QFMA is to fund a study into recreational fishing which is to be based in Hervey Bay. Lin Powell (formerly Chair of the FI CAC) and Chair of Sunfish Fraser Coast said, "The study will put to bed once and for all the constant bickering and suspicion that is evident whenever the either commercial sector or the recreational sector seek to have closures or limits imposed."
New Queensland Environment and Heritage Minister, Rod Welford wrote to all members of the Fraser Island World Heritage Community Advisory Committee terminating their appointments in November. He stirred up a political storm amongst National Party supporters who claimed "bias".
Powell Protests: Former Chair of the CAC, Lin Powell, claimed that his sacking "politicized the position". This is a little hypocritical coming from a former National Party Minister appointed by a former Ministerial colleague, Brian Littleproud, and someone who used the position to advance his own political agenda.
Harmonious Precedent: The previous Great Sandy Region CAC met 20 times over 6 years. It had amicably discussed all issues. All stakeholders advanced their various views, often conflicting with the positions of other stakeholders. However, the views were listened to and serious attempts made by all parties to accommodate them where they could. No motions were ever put and voted on.
Change: All of that changed under Lin Powell's chairmanship. He ignored operational guidelines agreed to by the Ministerial Council and put motions to the vote rather than trying to reconcile conflicting views and seek consensus or understanding. The CAC became acrimonious and divided. It began to ignore larger issues and trivialize others. Votes carried included pulling palm leaves out of Wanggoolba Creek and opening up roads which had been closed under the Management Plan.
Voting: FIDO argued that votes should not be taken because it is not practical to weight the opinions of the respective stakeholders. The views of some (even a majority) may be contrary to the best interest and objectives of a National Park and World Heritage site. Nobody knows just how representative the views of the individual CAC members are. Thus no votes should be taken. Previous experienced showed that consensus can be reached. Lin Powell corrupted that process. Rod Welford should be congratulated for acting to remedy the situation.
Untrue Allegations: FIDO's greatest concern was Powell's deliberate misrepresentation in the "Fraser Coast Chronicle", of the conservation position on Fraser Island. He said the committee "was sacked because it was trying to stop the island being locked up. ... The committee had been fighting the Department of Environment and Heritage and environmentalists calls to stop tourists visiting the island unless they were on guided tours. We did tread on some toes and it was a constant fight against people who wanted to close the island".
Imputations: Powell's inference that conservation representatives on the CAC advocated restricting island visitors only to guided tours impugned both conservation representatives, George Haddock and John Sinclair. Powell knows that neither the DEH nor the conservation movement had attempted to "lock up" or "close the island".
Not Impartial: Powell's treatment of John Sinclair while he was Queensland Education Minister and Sinclair was an Officer of the Education Department was an indication of his political manipulation and his hostility to both John Sinclair and FIDO and his lack of impartiality.
Rod Welford is expected to announce the new committee soon and FIDO expects to be represented when it convenes on 23 January.
Council Feeds off Fraser
Recently Hervey Bay Council sought $250,000 to rebuild the public toilet at Happy Valley. Admittedly the existing toilet is a disgrace and a public health hazard. That is a result of bad Council decisions. It also allowed the Happy Valley Resort to discharge into the public toilet's inadequate septic system.
The Hervey Bay Council has long had its snout in the Fraser Island trough. It retains most of the rate revenue it receives from Fraser Island. It also uses Fraser Island as a basis for claiming additional grants.
The 1996 Local Government Boundaries Review said (p16 "Hervey Bay City has a net excess revenue of $122,000" for its portion of Fraser Island. This is "after allowing a pro-rata contribution to general administration' of 10%. In addition the portion of Fraser Island under Hervey Bay "attracts Financial Assistance Grants and Road Entitlement estimated to be some $160,000 per annum."
The whole economy of Hervey Bay benefits from Fraser Island tourism. FIDO thinks that it appropriate for the council to contribute cash to assist managing the goose laying Hervey Bay's golden egg — tourism. Instead of asking other governments for money to fix its self-created problem, Hervey Bay Council should spend even more than it has pocketed from Fraser Island over the last few decades to make tourism on Fraser Island more sustainable particularly in areas which come under its direct jurisdiction such as provision of public toilets.
In the meantime Maryborough Mayor, Alan Brown, has declared: "About 300,000 people are visiting the island each year and it is not being managed well now. The place is deteriorating. They have estimated that between 800,000 and a million people might go there in Sydney Olympics year. If that happens, the place will be ruined. There will be no damned island left." He has taken the matter up with Premier Peter Beattie.
Fraser Aboriginal Interests
One of the almost forgotten Fraser Island stakeholders have been the Aborigines. With the controversy over the Wik legislation Aborigines has been regarded as a threat in any land use - land management issues and on Fraser Island there has been no exception. The Aboriginal cause has not been assisted by a long drawn out ambit claim lodged over a vast area from Noosa to the southern Great Barrier Reef including the City of Hervey Bay by John Lee Jones "on behalf of the Dungdalee Association".
However, there are three clearly identifiable Butchalla clans in Hervey Bay derived from famous antecedents. They are the Owens Clan (Frances Gala) the Blackman Clan (Marie Wilkinson and the Wundunna Clan (Shirley Foley). They have survived the incredible social dislocations and they recently held a public meeting in Hervey Bay to dispel myths and misconceptions around the hotly debated topic of Native Title claims
President's Annual Report 98
FIDO continues it's vital role as the Watchdog of Fraser Island, with a busy year behind us and some of the most difficult years ahead.
The extension of the National Park over the whole island excluding the townships and resorts, was a major success of FIDO's 27 year campaigning. All FIDO members should be proud of their contribution to the campaign to protect Fraser Island.
Unfortunately, the joy in achieving this hard won victory was diminished by our concerns about the way the Coalition Government was managing the existing National Park north of Eli Creek.
We have been concerned that the National Park was being managed to suit the tourist operators and a handful of residents at the expense of the environment and the majority of visitors.
The worst example was the revocation of part of the National Park to allow the reopening of the Orchid Beach airstrip, and to allow the construction of shops, sheds and other buildings. This contravened the Great Sandy Management Plan, and will lead to more exploitation on the northern end of the island. In turn this will result in more pressure for more tourist infrastructure in the north, and less for areas south of Indian Head, where most of the pressure of tourism is impacting.
This highlights the challenge facing FIDO and Governments: managing tourism while protecting Fraser Island's fragile environment.
By comparisons with the campaigns to end mining and logging may have been simpler. The impacts of mining and logging were easy to see and understand. The campaigns were obviously long and exhausting, but there was a simple message that could be explained to the public, who rallied to support us.
The major problem now facing Fraser Island is managing tourism, allowing people to visit but in a sustainable way to ensure its long term protection. This will be a more complex and on-going campaign for all of us. One less likely to fire up the public passion, but one we must address, as the impacts of tourism can be insidious, widespread, and devastating.
We have been involved in the former Government's inquiry into tourism, and managing the impact of tourism. We are optimistic that the implementation of this report, adequately funded by State and Federal Governments, will go a long way to addressing many of our concerns.
The other bright spot for the year was the election of the Beattie Government, with Rod Welford as Environment and Heritage Minister. The policies of the ALP for Fraser Island and Cooloola were far superior to those of the former Government, and were are looking forward to meeting the new Minister later this month.
We have much to discuss with him, especially adequate funds to enable implementation of key recommendations of the tourism report and the Great Sandy Region Management Plan, support FIDO's light rail proposal, and outlining our urgent management concerns.
Amongst other activities, FIDO is joining with the Noosa Parks Association, and other groups concerned with the conservation of the entire Great Sandy Region, to establish the Great Sandy Region Conservation Council. This new organisation acknowledges that Fraser Island, Cooloola the Great Sandy Strait and Hervey Bay comprise an entire region. There are common issues which need to be handled on a regional basis. The new Conservation Council will not take over the role of groups like FIDO, but will allow better coordination of like minded groups.
FIDO will continue to be vigilant in its role as watchdog, and we appreciate the continued support of our members. I would again like to make special mention of the enormous contribution of John Sinclair (Project Officer) and Billie Watts (Secretary) who continue their tireless and voluntary work for FIDO.
What you can do to help:
1. Increase public awareness of the adverse impacts which existing roads and tracks are having on Fraser Island's lakes and creeks, particularly Lake McKenzie, Yidney Lake, Lake Boomanjin, Lake Allom, Lake Birrabeen and Wanggoolba Creek.
2. Urge immediate action to provide funds to repair the existing damage, to reroute tracks further away from such important icons and to avoid surface disturbance by installing elevated boardwalks to make the recreation at the lakes more sustainable.
3. Write to the new Environment and Heritage Minister urging faster progress for implementing Fraser Island Tourism Management Plan and also in developing and implementing Management Plans for Fraser Island dingoes, camping, walking tracks and fire.
4. Urge the Minister also to ensure that the stalemate over the road and beach closures is broken and immediate action is taken to implement the Management Plan.
5. Volunteer if you can to spend the weekend of 17-18 July eradicating weeds on public land at Eurong.
6. Urge both Federal and State Environment Ministers, Senator Hill and Rod Welford, to provide sufficient resources to arrest the degradation of Fraser Island and make visitation there more sustainable. Focus particularly on the fact that a light rail feasibility study be initiated to examine both economic and environmental feasibility.
7. Spread the word. The problems of Fraser Island need more enlightened advocates in the wider community. There are many critics of FIDO amongst Fraser Island property owners and others with vested interests who fear FIDO's advocacy will reduce their options. Discuss issues with friends neighbours and relatives.