|Fraser Island Defenders Organization
FIDO, “The Watchdog of Fraser Island”, aims to ensure the wisest use of Fraser Island's natural resources.
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.
FIDO's Home Page: www.fido.org.au E-Mail: email@example.com
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 (ABN 59 009 969 135)
FIDO's Postal Address: PO Box 70, BALD HILLS QLD 4036 John Sinclair, PO Box 71, GLADESVILLE, NSW, 1675 ISSN 0311 - 032X Registered by Australia Post - Publication QBH2293 20 July, 2002
Commonwealth Government Role in Fraser Island
GHD Fraser Roads - Traffic Study
QUT Strategies for Fraser’s Sand Roads
A Great Sandy Marine Park is on the way
Fighting over Fishing rights (tailor)
Two Evaluations of Patterns of Recreation
From EPA Monthly Newsletters
Fire, Banksia Serial Killing, Pandanus, Population
Public Safety & Cooloola World Heritage
Good news on Waders & Opposition to 4WDs
Chronicle Overdoes Drama
Report on the reports
Eli Creek and the Precedents set
Details for Weeding Bee 18-20 October
There seems to be progress albeit still at snail’s pace in resolving the many outstanding management issues on Fraser Island (see page 14) but this is still an advance.
Impact of Federal Funding: Some recent but belated impetus was given when the Commonwealth Government insisted that all money granted under the NHT funds for Fraser Island projects (see p2) be spent by the end of September 2002 or hand the money back to the Commonwealth. There wasn’t much chance that the Fraser Island team could respond in that time but it did put a bit more urgency into their work. The ultimatum has now been extended until September, 2003 but FIDO is anxious to see the money spent because every delay in spending it is resulting in a deterioration of World Heritage values.
Interesting twosomes: There are some interesting twosomes to be noted in this issue of MOONBI. There are two studies being carried out simultaneously on the roads. Now in addition to the Dingo Management Strategy some people unhappy about this have developed an alternative Dingo Management Strategy based on fencing off some thousands of hectares of the island and putting all of the island dingoes into it and then turning it into a dingo zoo. Likewise just as we thought the Fire Management Plan was being finalized another dissident has wanted to start the process all over again.
Transport and Access Studies: There have been two studies carried out independently on Fraser Island. The GHD study of Transport and Access is reported on p3. It still has some time to run and is now looking at alternative off road vehicles and some alternative transport options. Another study reported on p 4 is being undertaken by a group from the QUT to look at how roads could be designed better.
Two contrasting Surveys: On p 7 MOONBI 102 reports on two very different surveys to establish patterns of recreation. One conducted by the Friends of Fraser Island was almost demanding answers to reinforce their selfish view that there should be more vehicle based recreation options particularly for Orchid Beach property owners. These loaded questions are like asking would you like to have $10 million. Meanwhile an overseas student, Eric Pisoneault, was trying to establish what was the reasons for visitors frequenting the most heavily used icons of Fraser Island, Central Station, Lake McKenzie and Eli Creek.
Marine Issues: While we are still waiting on the review of the Great Sandy Region Management Plan and many other subsidiary Management Plans (Fishing, Camping, Walking Tracks and Fire, two of which are alleged to be waiting on the outcome of studies which are still being finalized) a new initiative of the Beattie Government has been released - a Discussion Paper for the Great Sandy Marine Park. This brings to the fore many marine issues which have been for too long neglected. On pp 5-6 we discuss many marine issues including the aim of the new Marine Park and FIDO’s response. We also quote from a promise that the Fishing Management Plan which covers Fraser Island and which has been in the hands of Queensland Fisheries since 1996 will be concluded in 2003 if nothing else becomes more urgent.
Volunteers needed: It is now more than 20 years since FIDO’s most ambitious project using volunteers helped transform Eli Creek. This is described on page 15 and two photos, one from 1973 and one from 1981, tell more than 2000 words on the visitor impact. Now FIDO needs to call on supporters to come forward to assist another major project to control the weeds emanating from Eurong and Happy Valley which have the capacity to get out of hand. We are seeking people to express their interest by sending us in a registration form described on page 16.
Since 1996 the Commonwealth Government have contributed an unpredictable annual amount to Fraser Island management as Table 1 below shows. Moreover the amount contributed $3,533,500 over six years only amounts to the $3.5 million collected under the RAM Act which is spent on Fraser Island each year. The other disadvantage is that the amount is very project oriented. Senator Robert Hill the Environment Minister for those 6 years was intensely predisposed only to funding "bricks and mortar" with the result there has been an overwhelming bias towards toilets and other infrastructure and little for natural resource management and the protection of World Heritage values. Despite the meagre financial contribution, the Commonwealth Government's role in management of Fraser Island has increased most significantly since the implementation of the EPBC Act.
The $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust tranche from the partial sale of Telstra has now been almost concluded. Over 6 years $46.66 million was allocated for 386 World Heritage projects in the 10 state managed World Heritage areas between 1996 and 2001-02. Funding for three other World Heritage sites, the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park and Uluru–Kata Juta National Park are not included because they are wholly funded by the Commonwealth which would have contributed more in any one year to these three sites than it has done for the 10 other sites over the 6 years.
|Property||No of Projects||Total funding ($million)|
|Lord Howe Island||43||2.242|
Compare the treatment of Fraser Island to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area. Under the discretionary (white board) allocation of funds from the NHT, Tasmania has fared exceptionally well at the expense of Fraser Island. The Tasmanian Wilderness has received nearly half of all Commonwealth funding for Australia's 10 state-managed World Heritage properties - even though it comprises only 21 per cent of the total area. On 14 May Federal Environment Minister, Dr David Kemp said, "$4.3 million will be allocated from the Natural Heritage Trust to support the operational costs of managing the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area in the coming year." This is despite the end of the four year funding agreement.
Over the period 1995-96 to 2001-02 the Commonwealth provided $42.8 million to Tasmania out of a total pool of $91.5 million, more than 46 per cent of the national total. In the same period it has provided $3.533,500 for Fraser Island . This is less than 4% of the World Heritage allocations.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Commonwealth funding for Fraser Island as distinct from Tasmania is the selective way they have chosen to fund specific projects which have been more based on infrastructure (Senator Hill was particularly disposed to funding new toilets) rather than funding projects to better protect and present the World Heritage values
|Commonwealth Government Financial Contribution to Fraser Island|
|Analysis of tourism impacts||$20,000|
|Interpretation planning - Central Station||$23,000|
|Management of vehicle use (road works)||$318,721|
|Rehab of degraded areas||$69,600|
|Upgrade of walking tracks||$59,449|
|Waddy Point toilets||$71,500|
|Management of vehicle use (road works)||$171,410|
|Upgrade of walking tracks||$128,590|
|Presentation of WH values||$14,000|
|Lake Garawongera redevelopment||$160,000|
|Wangoolba Creek toilets||$111,000|
|Indian Head visitor access||$224,000|
|$1,310,000 worth of projects requested|
|$70,000 approved under NHT|
|Central Station upgrade||$300,000|
|Ungowa toilets and campground||$45,000|
|Lake Wabby toilet and track upgrade||$106,500|
|Management of vehicle use||$80,000|
|Lake Allom foreshore redevelopment||$50,000|
|Lake McKenzie redevelopment||$46,500|
|Lake Allom toilets||$55,000|
|Eli Creek Boardwalk||$200,000|
|Dundubara ablution block||$160,000|
|Baseline funding - committees||$36,000|
|Funding for committees||$40,000|
|Eli Creek Boardwalk||$250,000|
|Lake Wabby carpark||$130,000|
|Management of vehicle||$80,000|
|TOTAL since 1996||$3,533,500|
Information on the Transport and Access Study has been placed on the QEPA Web Site. MOONBI 102 provides this progress report in view of the greats significance this study has for Fraser's future management.
The Queensland Environmental Protection Agency has commissioned environmental and engineering consultants, Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey (GHD) to develop a sustainable transport management strategy for the protection of Fraser Island World Heritage Area. This is from the data on the Environmental Protection Agency web site identifying the progress made to date by GHD. Because the site includes many coloured maps which can’t be repoduced in MOONBI, FIDO recommends readers visit this web site for themselves: Transport and Access Study
Fraser Island (the Island) is one of the most popular coastal tourism destinations in Queensland. Most of the Island is protected as National Park and is classed as a World Heritage Area. During 1999/2000, over 39,000 permits were issued for recreational vehicles. Other permits were issued for commercial tour operator vehicles. Total visitation was in excess of 300,000 people in the 2000/2001 financial year.
The impact of vehicles on the Island’s natural and cultural heritage values is a concern. These include:
The Purpose of this Study is to develop an integrated transport management strategy that;
The study consists of four stages:
The Environmental Assesment stage has been completed, and the results of the technical studies are currently on public display.
Findings of Technical Studies: In December 2001 and January 2002, users of the Island were surveyed about their vehicle and travel patterns, current road conditions, road improvements and alternative forms of transport. Survey results suggested that people were divided about changes to the Island’s roads, and were generally against any forms of alternative public transport being introduced.
Surveys: An investigation of existing road conditions was also undertaken. The Island’s roads have been classed according to volumes of traffic, condition and environmental impacts such as erosion and siltation.
Existing Road Conditions: In November, road testing was undertaken to test the effects of different vehicles, and tyre pressures in an attempt to determine the environmental impacts of vehicles on roads. Preliminary findings have shown that heavier vehicles (eg. trucks, buses) and vehicles with higher tyre pressures cause more environmental impact on the road.
Road Testing: A number of other related studies are being undertaken concurrently with this project, including a Desired Site Capacities Study (recently completed by the consultants EDAW (Aust) Pty Ltd) and a review of the Great Sandy Region Management Plan by QPWS. The Desired Site Capacities Study has established desired site capacities for visitor destinations. The study has also developed a model of site usage for Fraser Island that will assist in undertaking travel patterns on the Island.
Environmental Road Rating: This has been GHD’s attempt to classify the impact of traffic on roads having assessed the whole of the road network on the island including management roads only. Their map can’t be reproduced in MOONBI but can be seen on the EPA web site. What it shows though is that more than 80% of the total road network (including management only tracks) falls into Category 2 or higher. That means that
Kevin Wake-Dyster, Ashantha Goonetilleke & Andreas Nataatmadja
School of Civil Engineering, Queensland University of Technology
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) are currently undertaking a Commonwealth Government supported collaborative research project to develop design strategies to optimize the sustainability of sand roads on Fraser Island. The project commenced in March 2000 and is due for completion in March 2003. The research project aims to develop an in-depth understanding of the processes causing the degradation of the sand road network on the Island.
The above factors work together to loosen and remove sand from the road surface as well as induce road base settlement, resulting in a lowering and down cutting action of the road surface which is not desirable in the long term.
To investigate the factors reducing serviceability, a data collection phase included;
The data collection has shown that on the major inland roads in off-peak periods 150-250 vehicles per day use the roads in a one way direction. The road usage increases to 350 vehicles per day in peak holiday periods. This is illustrated in the figures given below. Standard Road Design criteria show that the unpaved sand roads on Fraser Island are only adequate to carry up to 10 light vehicles and 5 heavy vehicles per day. Also, the road base (medium dense sand) only marginally has the ability to support the types of vehicles that currently traverse Fraser Island.
Sand profiles in the undisturbed forested areas have extremely high infiltration rates of stormwater runoff. At the commencement of the project, water repellence and the resulting surface runoff was seen as the main factor causing road degradation. However, the research undertaken to-date has shown that this is only one of the factors that contribute to this situation. The stormwater runoff also results from a combination of vehicle compaction and an accumulation of decomposed organic materials filling the pore space between sand grains, forming of an impervious layer just beneath the road surface, are the other factors. Rain falling on the road surface cannot infiltrate into the road base due to the impervious nature of the dense compacted organic rich layer just beneath the wheel ruts which results in significant stormwater runoff in the wheel ruts.
By modelling the stormwater runoff process, crossbank structures placed across the road have been designed to keep the runoff velocities below threshold values and divert the flow into forested areas. The crossbank spacing and dimensions depend on the road slope which in turn determines the distance of travel before the runoff attains a velocity sufficient to erode the sand surface.
Research into low cost methods to stabilise the sand road base is currently in progress.
FIDO’s Comments: Kevin’s presentation on the design showed the considerable attention to the environmental impacts which hadn’t been anticipated. For example although the above graph does not translate very clearly in this scale it indicates the peaks in traffic movements which reached 650 vehicles per day around Christmas 2001. This is much more traffic than is acceptable for a roads of this standard. FIDO is still to examine the final results of the invaluable data collected during this study but it seems to indicate that the volume of traffic using the roads of the interior of Fraser Island is growing at a somewhat faster rate than the number of vehicles coming on to the Island.
The study also shows that it takes relatively little traffic to cause the compaction on the roads which results in the accelerated runoff and consequent down-cutting. It also shows the hardpan’s persistence even after the traffic ceases.
For some time there has been a concern of FIDO that insufficient has been done to address the plethora of marine issues surrounding Fraser Island. This is perhaps best epitomized by the failure to consider the impact of the Toyota Fishing Expo at Orchid Beach on the marine environment although the World Heritage area extends 500 metres seaward on all sides of Fraser Island.
The Queensland Government has announced plans to declare a State marine park over waters of the Great Sandy Region.
To be introduced in two parts, the Northern Section extends north from Double Island Point, and includes Woongarra Marine Park, Hervey Bay, the Hervey Bay Marine Park, the Great Sandy Strait, Tin Can Bay and Inlet, and waters around Fraser Island. It also contains existing fish habitat reserves and wetland reserves.
The proposed Great Sandy Marine Park will eventually establish a marine protected area over tidal waters and lands from the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to the southern bank of the Noosa River in south-east Queensland.
The proposed Great Sandy Marine Park (Northern Section) would take in areas with existing management arrangements, some with international conservation status. These include Fraser Island World Heritage Area and the Great Sandy Strait Ramsar site. It also includes the Woongarra Marine Park, the Hervey Bay Marine Park, the Great Sandy National Park, the Great Sandy and Mon Repos Conservation Parks, Fraser Island and Inskip Point Recreation Areas, a dugong protection area, and numerous fish habitat areas.
The Southern Section (south of Double Island Point) will be introduced at a later date.
The park would cover tidal waters and lands from Double Island Point to the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and would extend three nautical miles eastward of the mainland and Fraser Island. The area is roughly triangular, starting at Double Island Point and following the coast of Fraser Island, with a line drawn from the northern tip of Fraser to the coastline north of Bundaberg.
The area contains:
The Environment Minister. Dean Wells, said,"Changes in the coastal zone during the past few decades make the declaration and zoning of the Great Sandy Marine Park necessary to protect the region’s marine and cultural resources. Growing economic activity such as tourism and commercial and recreational fishing has increased competition and conflicts with resource use in the area.
"And as the region’s population grows, so does the risk of habitat depletion and environmental pollution."
FIDO has made a submission on the proposal. Management issues to be considered when developing multiple-use zoning and other management strategies include:
FIDO warmly welcomes the proposed new Marine Park. We made a detailed submission to in response to the Discussion Paper. FIDO’s full submission ican now be viewed on FIDO’s Internet site, www.fido.org.au.
Some key points of the submission include the following:
There are several unresolved disputes over the rights of fishers in the Great Sandy Region. Toyota wants to continue its deplorable exploitation of this World Heritage site for its commercial purposes. The commercial fishers want unfettered access for the motor vehicles to all parts of the Fraser Island coast even beaches closed to all other Fraser Island users. Amateur anglers claim that commercial fishers are over-exploiting the resource and are walking roughshod over other Fraser Island stakeholders. Meanwhile the Queensland Government is concerned as the general overall depletion of the whole fishery in the Great Sandy Region and have belatedly started to apply some restrictions on at least the tailor fishery and taking action which impacts on Hervey Bay's water quality.
While to many fishers the words "tailor" (the fish) and Fraser Island are inseparably associated, few would know that the name for this pelagic fish was created on Fraser Island . Fraser Island Butchalla Aborigines who gave their name of this fish "dhailli" to the world. "Dhailli" has since been corrupted to "Tailor. The species is known as tailor on both sides of the Australian continent as well as in South Africa. It is a fish with a range only from about 24degrees south to 32 degrees south but that happens to coincide with major population cntres on both continents and so this species has been heavily targetted and severely over-fished.
86,000 anglers between Bunbury and Jurien Bay in the Western Australian have targetted this species each summer leading to a decline in the average size of tailor caught along the beaches. The response of the Western Australia Government was to set a daily bag limit at 8 per fisher and a minimum legal size of 25 cm. This is much more severe than is being applied on Fraser Island.
Extended Seasonal Closure: To try to protect the rapidly diminishing tailor fishery, the Queensland Government has recently extended the closed season for fishing between Indian Head and Waddy Point to now include the month of September as well as the month of August. However, it is FIDO’s view that this is too little action and too late. Further the bag limit on 20 tailor per fisher per day seems excessive considering the response of the WA Government to a similar dilemma. However that bag limit is allowed to grow to 30 per day for extended fishing parties on Fraser Island. Yet even this is being resisted.
Bag limits get a bagging: While some Orchid Beach and Indian Head property interests are screaming about the bag limit on tailor on Fraser Island. This is a clear example that for some people self- interest in property is greater than the public interest in protecting a sustainable fishery.
After ignoring for year previous requests for word on progress on what management is proposed for the Fraser Island fishery the Senior Policy Adviser of the Queensland Fisheries Service has at last promised "a management plan for the inshore finfish species which includes popular recreational and commercial species such as whiting, flathead and bream be developed in 2003." A caveat though has been added to this process which began back in 1996 and has been stalled by endless excuses since: "This is a proposed timetable and it should be noted that resources might be diverted into other areas if an emergency arises".
Factors other than direct exploitation are affecting the productivity of the fishery in the Great Sandy Region. FIDO has long drawn attention to the indirect consequences of cutting off the nutrient flow by the damming of rivers and streams feeding into the marine areas of the Great Sandy Region. This is now starting to be addressed. The Queensland Government has declared its intention to prepare a draft Water Resource Plan (WRP) for the Mary River Basin and associated catchments in south east Queensland.
A moratorium has been placed on applications to take or interfere with surface water in the Mary River Basin. The moratorium will remain in force until the Water Resource Plan is finalised. The draft WRP will involve extensive community consultation.
Natural Resources Minister, Stephen Robertson said, "About half the water used in the catchments goes to urban consumption, while the other half is used for irrigation. With competition for water between the rural and urban sectors expected to grow, and with the population in the area expected to rise 67 per cent over the next 20 years, it’s essential that we make the right decisions now to ensure sustainable outcomes for future generations.".
Recent applications have begun to establish aquaculture ventures in Hervey Bay. This may be the small edge of a wedge and FIDO is keen to know more about the proposed operation and potential environmental impacts southern Australian fisheries suffered significantly when a virus was released from fish feed for South Australian aquaculture farms which devastated the pilchard population. Other aquaculture ventures are leading to increased eutrification outside the farms through increased effluent. It is important to know what potential impacts are involved before an industry which may have unsustainable consequences becomes entrenched. Anyone with any information which can assist us to evaluate this proposal should contact FIDO.
Two quite different approaches to establishing the expectations and desires of visitors to Fraser Island. The Friends of Fraser Island have engaged in push polling to get the answers they want, while a young American undertook an independent study project to establish what was influencing their patterns of recreation.
Any FITs (Free and Independent Travellers) who visited Fraser Island in the last 6 months could hardly have escaped receiving the Great Sandy Region Management Plan Review Survey being conducted by the Friends of Fraser Island (FoFI). Actually this form extends to many more issues than just the Management Plan but takes a swipe also at the RAM Act and
Although the form carries a heading of "personal responses", it doesn’t invite any qualifications nor provide space to qualify answers to any of the 22 main questions. These can only be answered with a "Yes" or "No". (Three of the questions require sub-questions to be answered including a choice six questions dealing with campground amenities.) There are three lines for "Other comments:" at the end.
Some idea of the reactionary approach is indicated by the first two questions: "Should vehicle access on the beach be continued from Hook Point to Dilli Village?" and "Should the old mining road from Hook Point to the 11 k Turnoff be maintained for high tide and bad weather access?" Then
It goes on "Would you like to see more of the old Forestry roads now closed reopened for private vehicles?" Another question was "Should the Great Sandy Region Management Plan reclassify roads and beaches in remote areas so that more can be used by private vehicles?"
"Would you like to win the lottery?" The number of questions which are loaded to provide only the answers which reaffirm the stand of the survey’s sponsors. The loading of the questions to get the answers desired is akin to push polling. The survey seems to have the intent aim of unravelling the 1994 Management Plan which took 3 years to draft, It "Survey" asks "Would you like to circumnavigate the top end of Fraser Island by private vehicle?" The answer is obviously "Yes" but the question was not put as "Should people be allowed …?" or asked to give any reason for their answer. There is not even any indication that the beach between Rooneys Point and Wathumba Creek had been closed to beach traffic for several years before the Great Sandy Region Management Plan.
Accuracy of returns not assured: Respondents are requested to send the completed forms back to the sponsors and not to the Environmental Protection Agency which is reviewing the Management Plan. This leaves the whole survey open to the charge of selective filtering of the results. How the returns are handled could be like votes in the PNG Highlands ballot boxes.
The biggest distortion in the responses is that it is only being distributed to FITs. These now represent less than half of the total visitors to Fraser Island since more than half are carried on commercial tours. These people are denied any say in this survey of how the island should be managed.
The biased Survey concludes with a series of four questions. Q. 19 challenges the basis of the present Management Plan. "Were you consulted as part of the development of the original GSMP in 1993/94?" (This was probably before most respondents had taken an interest in Fraser Island management and before most of the present Orchid Beach property owners had acquired their interests. It ignores the fact that public notices were placed in the media and that a series of Public meetings were held.
Q. 20-22 aim at bucketting the RAM Act review currently under way. "Are you aware of the new provisions in the Recreation Areas Management Act as they affect Fraser Island?" "Have you been consulted about these new provisions?" and "If you have been consulted or not do you feel that your views would be ignored?" These overlook that the proposed review of the RAM Act has not resulted in any changes to the Act at all as yet and any changes must first be approved by Parliament.
In short the Whole Survey is based on ignorance, poor understanding and an enormous degree of self interest.
Although the respondents are asked to provide their names addresses and signatures, there is no indication of what the forms will be used for and why. Undoubtedly it will produce a result which overwhelmingly justify the position of FoFI but it will not be representative of most of the 350,000 Fraser Island users (annually) who will shun completing such a loaded questionnaire.
MOONBI 101 reported that FIDO had asked for special drivers licences for 4WDs. Although there are different drivers licences for automatic and manual transmission vehicles, the Senior Policy Advisor for the Transport Minister has advised FIDO, "Queensland Transport does not intend to introduce special licences for drivers of four wheel drive vehicles unless there is a nationally agreed position on this issue. … (Queensland legislation) has provisions to deal with illegal and dangerous driving." He said that such instances on Fraser Island should be reported to police.
21 year old American student Eric Pinsoneault undertook an independent study project in April attempting to establish the reasons for the existing patterns of recreation on Fraser Island.
The survey which involved 440 oral surveys was conducted over 19 days from 11th to 28th April (inclusive). 98 people were interviewed at Central Station, 102 at Lake McKenzie, 125 at Eli Creek, and 115 at Wabby Lakes. Dr Terry Brown, Chair of the Fraser Island Scientific Advisory Committee and Lecturer on Recreational Studies at Griffith University helped refine the 12 questions and the methodology to ensure that there was a statistically valid sample and to eliminate bias.
Origins: Unfortunately this was just after the conclusion of the Queensland School holiday period and during the New South Wales school vacation period which made this sample different to what may have been sampled at another time. This is shown up in the first analysis on Place of Origin: 27% were from the United Kingdom, 14.5% from New South Wales, 13.8% from Queensland, 5.9% United States, 5.4% from Switzerland and all other Australian states and overseas countries making up less than 5%.
Prior Visitation: The majority 79% of those visiting were there for the first time, 10% for the second time, 3.8% the third time, 2% 5-10 times, and 3.1% 11 times or more.
Duration of Stay: People staying 3 days accounted for 51.4%. 18.4% stayed 2 days, 15% were on day trips and 15.2% stayed more than 3 days.
Groups size: 20% were in groups of 2, about 34% were in the size of groups which backpacker travel in. (9.8% in groups of 11, 8.7% in groups of 10, and 7.5% in groups of 8). About 9% were in groups of 4, 8% were in groups of 3 and another 8% were in groups 5.
Mode of Travel: 41% were travelling independently, 34% were on a tour and 27.7% were self guided backpacker vehicles following an itinerary provided by the vehicle hirer.
Accommodation: 48.6% of people surveyed were camping, 36.6 % were in resort accommodation and 15% were on day trips.
Favourite Aspects: This was perhaps the most telling question but acknowledged to produce biased responses because 59% people who mentioned Eli Creek and 58% of those who nominated Wabby Lakes happened to be there at the time interviewed. However 20.2 % nominated Lake McKenzie and 10% nominated the lakes in general. Eli Creek was third favourite with 7.7% and 6.8% could not nominate a single site above another and liked the whole island; 5.5% nominated Wabby Lakes while 5.5% claimed not to have been there long enough to nominate any ssite. Interestingly only 4.4% nominated four wheel driving as their favourite aspect of Fraser Island. 3.9% nominated the natural beauty of the island and another 3.9% the contrasts and diversity.
Learning of sites: 24.3% heard about the site while on tour. 15.5% saw it on a map, 11.8 % found it on the itinerary proved by the vehicle hire company. 11.6 % had read about it, 11.4% through word of mouth, and 10.9% were told about it be friends.
Feelings on Visitor Levels: While most people did not object to the numbers present 43.9 % of people at Lake McKenzie and 32.8% of people at Eli Creek thought that there were too many people there.
FIDO welcomes the report from an overseas volunteer without an axe to grind who was determined to provide the most objective assessment for why There is much more objective data which has resulted from the diligent work of a young inquiring mind in this study.
What Eric’s project confirmed is what FIDO had long hypothesized about the patterns of recreation on Fraser Island. That is that people visiting the island for the first time are basing where they will go on other people’s previous experience and will go where others have told them to go or to places they have previously heard about. Thus once a site becomes popular it is bound to become a magnet to the uninitiated who want to see it for themselves. In the case of the backpackers who constituted a large part of Eric’s sample they were told by the vehicle hire places where to go and when. Few people discovered sites through their own initiative
Lakes McKenzie and Birrabeen have very similar attributes in geographical and aesthetic terms yet Lake Birrabeen attracts fewer than half the visitor numbers that go to Lake McKenzie. It will be interesting to follow this up with a detailed study to establish what it may take to encourage more people to visit Lake Birrabeen as an alternative. It is already clear by comparison of visitation to Eli Creek and Wabby Lakes that the further anyone has to walk from their vehicles the fewer the number of visitors who are attracted.
Biodiversity: For a few years, QPWS Natural Resources Ranger, Rod Hobson roamed around Fraser Island adding much to our knowledge of the natural resources of the island. He set trap lines and camped in remote inaccessible places to add a vast amount of new data on the island’s biodiversity. He has now been permanently transferred back to his home base in Toowoomba. FIDO thanks him for his impressive contribution to enlarging our knowledge of the island’s biodiversity in his time there and wish him well in the future. The foundations of his work are now being taken up by other natural resources rangers and we look forward to an ever expanding knowledge of the resources there.
Fees not being paid: A beach block was undertaken at Eurong beach on 29/03/02 (Good Friday) and at Hook Point on the 30/03/02 during Easter long weekend with a total of 474 vehicles stopped. An atypical level of non-compliance for vehicle permits of 10% was calculated (‘usual’ figure is ~ 5%). Although many visitors were intending to obtain permits on-Island, there is still an indication that more rigorous patrolling for permit compliance is desirable.
Another new Robert Hill toilet: Lake Wabby has been in need of toilets for many years. Now it is being belatedly addressed. A composting toilet has just been completed at the start of the south walking track from the beach. Construction of a toilet in the lookout carpark area is due to be completed (along with other NHT funded projects) by 30 September. Traffic counters have been installed on the southern, northern and western walking tracks into Lake Wabby. (FIDO: It is an interesting reflection that when FIDO constructed its toilets at Eli Creek in 1981, these were the only public toilets to be found anywhere along the foreshore outside of the townships. Now toilets are springing up almost as fast as dingoes are being killed although that would be a difficult rate to attain. (See p 15)
Reptiles: A backpacker was bitten by a Death Adder north of Eurong and medivaced to hospital; species confirmed, victim recovered. Two reports of Death Adders observed at the Eurong Ranger Base. (FIDO: This is welcome news because following the self introduction of cane toads to Fraser Island, death adder numbers were decimated).
At least 23 female Loggerhead turtles have nested in the Sandy Cape area this season significantly above average. To date this season 42 clutches of Loggerhead Turtle eggs (just under 5000 eggs) have been relocated to safe hatcheries during the Sandy Cape sea turtle project.
(FIDO: This is important because this species has been reduced in numbers much more than any other species nesting in Australia.)
Fish: The ponds at KBRV were surveyed and thousands of Mosquito fish (feral pest) were found but no native species.
Mammals: Attempts to capture feral cats at Orchid Beach over three nights unsuccessful; further attempts will be made.
Fishing Expo: The Toyota Fishing Expo was held at Waddy Point from the 18th to 24th of May. Nearly 1500 entrants participated. FIDO: The event was questionably extended to 2005 by an undated memo in the May, 1998 during very last days of the Borbidge Government. It now has only three more years to run before this event with unsustainable impacts is closed down forever.
Swooping kookaburras: Following more incidents of swooping kookaburras at Lake McKenzie inflicting facial injuries to visitors, three birds were netted and relocated to Snout Point.
Stone Curlews: Sightings of Beach Stone curlews near Woralie Creek mouth, Towoi Creek mouth and Moon Point. Four sightings of Bush Stone-curlews. (FIDO: It is because sightings of Beach Stone curlews have now become so uncommon that it is important to have a greater length of beach free of vehicles for these timid birds. The demise of the Bush stone curlew is also worrying and may be due to predation.)
New Grasses Turning Up: The exotic grasses Dactyloctenium aegyptium, Setaria cf gracilis and Chloris gayana were collected in beach campsites in the Waddy Point sub-district. The first two were not previously recorded on Fraser Island.
Clean Up Campaign: Clean up Australia Day on the Island (Sunday March 3rd) was coordinated by the CO (FI) and was attended by 22 people including Palace and Koala Backpacker Hostel staff, one local resident, members of the Sunshine Coast Bushwalkers Club, staff family and two Campground Rangers from Central Station. The cleanup was conducted at Wanggoolba Creek Barge Landing and Lake McKenzie.
Drinking Water: The EPA has determined that from samples taken from the taps at most campgrounds on Fraser Island that the without treatment most of the water did not meet Health Department standards for drinking water because it contained unacceptable levels of E. coli. As at early Juluy all water supplies except Dundubarra were being chlorinated toor signs displayed indicating that water needed boiling to make it fit for human consumption. There has been no record of giardia occuring in any water tested on Fraser Island.
On Roads: Trimming and brushcutting of vehicle access tracks at Waddy Point, Wathumba and Ocean Lake. Heavy rain during the month (May-June) required vehicle track repairs on the Eurong Road (including link road) and Lake McKenzie circuit.
Visitor Statistics: The April Report showed that for the months of November, December, and January 29,208 visited Fraser Island on service permits and 51,749 visited on commercial tours. (FIDO: Although this covered the Christmas holiday period this represents 92,000 visitors and indicated that recorded visitor numbers for the 01-02 year may well exceed 350,000. There surely must be limits to growth).
FIDO has been most impressed with the long awaited Fraser Island Fire Strategy to address what is probably the most important ecological issue on the World Heritage site. It was overdue but at last the fire issue is finally being addressed. We also wish to commend the authors for developing such a clear, concise and comprehensible strategy which laypersons can appreciate without necessarily having any technical expertise. This is an art too frequently lacking in ecological discussions.The Fire Strategy outlines some simple basic principles which will be incorporated into a Fire Management Plan.
It is FIDO’s view that if the ecology of Fraser Island continues to change as a result of an unsuitable fire regime then we will continue to see the diminution of the number of mammals and possibly other fauna. Already it is evident that the population of rats, bandicoots, and wallabies has fallen significantly in the last 50 years along with the population of dingoes. It is evident that there has been a significant change in the flora with some species being significantly disadvantaged. The problem is that the data on natural resources is still relatively scant and that so little data was collected before the natural values of Fraser Island began to be widely recognized in the 1970s.
It is therefore essential that Fraser Island has a sensible scientific approach to establishing an ecological balance which will maximize the ecological opportunity for those species most in need.
Fire is a very emotive issue and too many people are ready to condemn any fires in a National Park without considering that fire may be essential and/or beneficial to most wildlife. It is FIDO’s belief that the fire regime established by Aborigines over thousands of years while possibly resulting in some loss of species established the optimum ecological balance which we can now expect to attain. To achieve that again post contact Australians have to be prepared to try to replicate traditional Aboriginal burning practices.
While praising the Fraser Island Fire Strategy for its clarity FIDO has urged that another principle be incorporated which addresses the role of public education on the Strategy and what fire can achieve in maximizing Fraser Island’s biodiversity.
FIDO continues to be very critical of some of the on ground practices carrried out in the name of fire management,
FIDO is particularly concerned at the needless clearing roadside vegetation to excessive distances, (see MOONBI 101). We note that the draft fire strategy doesn’t endorse the practice which we label Banksia Serial Killing. Roads should not be automatically become dedicated fire lines although roads are essential for implementation of fire management. Furthermore it has been demonstrated in numerous recent fires that roads can serve fire management without having banksias up to 10 metres away from the road bulldozed into oblivion. Hopefully with the adoption of the new Fire Strategy this widespread practice on Fraser Island will cease. Roads should then be able to recover to be transects through the normal Fraser Island World Heritage vegetation patterns instead of being stripped bare of banksias because of an irrational paranoia based on an urban myth of former Forestry workers.
A leafhopper which has been responsible for the dieback and death of many pandanus in south East Queensland poses a major potential ecological threat to Fraser Island. It has had a very severe impact on the pandanus along the Cooloola foreshores but has so far not been noted on Fraser Island. An infestation has though now been reported from Agnes waters between Bundaberg and Gladstone so there is a need for great vigilance and every attempt to quarantine one of the major features of the Fraser Island foredunes. The leaf hopper can be controlled but constant monitoring of any signs of ill-health in Fraser Island pandanus needs to be reported promptly.
Fraser Island pandanus were previously decimated from at least 1916 onwards by brumbies until brumby numbers were daramtically reduced about 20 years ago. The only area of Fraser foredunes where pandanus have not made any significant comeback is in the area around Orchid Beach where a mob of about 17 brumbies remain despite the now overwhelming public support to see them removed.
The recent Australian census shows that based on the recent population growth years in South East Queensland it is expected to add another one million people over the next 20 years. This will result in a continued loss of lifestyle and biodiversity but most significantly place even greater stress on Fraser Island,
Australia's annual population growth rate is currently 1.2%, and exceeds that of Korea (1.0%), China (0.9%), the US (0.9%), Taiwan (0.8%), New Zealand (0.5%), the UK (0.3%), Germany (0.3%), and Japan (0.2%). It is however, well below that of Singapore (3.5%), Hong Kong (2.6%), India (1.7%) and Indonesia (1.7%).2
Queensland's annual population growth rate is currently above the national level at 1.7%, and is forecast to grow at around 1.3% p.a. until 2036 - nearly double the national average growth forecast of 0.7% over the same period. Queensland is expected to replace Victoria as the second most populous state behind NSW before 2036.
The boyfriend of a young English backpacker who drowned on Fraser Island was quoted (Courier Mail 20/4/02) "he did not even know what a rip was until after his girlfriend died".
This event epitomizes an increasingly common problem on Fraser Island as the report from FIDO President, Ian Matthews, notes:
About 6 years ago we were staying at Eurong when a cyclone came south drenching us. After a few days with no hope of an improvement in the weather, we ventured off to Central Station and found some backpackers bogged in the road just out of Eurong. We stopped to help them and asked why they would come to Fraser Island in a cyclone. The German woman driving said they knew a cyclone was around, but did not know what a cyclone was, so came anyway. We later found them bogged again at Central Station and helped them again.
My point is that the education of visitors to Fraser Island is hopeless, and the 4WD hire companies and Local, State and Federal Governments are potentially liable. (Apparently tourists will soon see information on water safety on flights into Australia, but this is only one aspect of my concerns regarding Fraser Island).
It would be responsible to call for an end to unsupervised free range back-packing tours to the Island, to protect the personal safety of the backpackers as well as minimising the impact of their visits.
Tag-along tours would be possible, but with a responsible guide, who can tell people not to surf in rips, or dive into Lake Wabby, or waggle their bottles at hungry dogs at 2am on the beach, or not visit the island in a cyclone, and give them advice on how to drive. This should become the minimum standard that the Governments allow, in order to be seen to acting responsibly. A guide should also enhance their experience of visiting the Island, and minimise the impact they have. A guide would be alert to dangers such as from dingoes and snakes, and should ensure that the behaviour of tourists is adequate. They should also know some first aid and be able to contact emergency services if required.
This should be a win-win-win move, especially if the 4WD hire companies and the Governments positively market it as an enhanced visitor experience, in the knowledge that it coincidentally reduces their potential liability. It would be employment generating, and the additional costs to backpackers visiting the island would be small if there were 3 vehicles with 20 backpackers. The cost would potentially be less that the increasing public liablility insurance that 4WD hire-companies will possibly face, or loss of revenue from backpackers who avoid the Island because of the series of deaths and injuries that are increasingly associated with the Island. It would simplify management on the Island as the camping sites could be planned in advance and pressured or degraded sites avoided.
On 14 May Queensland Minister for Environment announced that obstacles blocking the long overdue renomination of Cooloola for World Heritage listing had been overcome. In a Ministerial Statement to the Queensland Parliament he said:
... The case is supported by, and meticulously documented in, a recent report prepared by the Fraser Island Scientific Advisory Committee, Cooloola—assessment of potential outstanding universal value. It has been reviewed by the Fraser Island world heritage area ministerial council and approved for publication. The scientific committee report concludes - The combination of Cooloola and Fraser Island meets all four criteria for the inclusion of natural properties in the world heritage list.
The main obstacle to progressing the Cooloola nomination is a December 2000 decision of the World Heritage Committee that states that parties who already have sites inscribed on the list should limit nominations for new areas to one per year.
In the light of other nominations being progressed by the Commonwealth—for example, Purnululu, or the Bungle Bungles, Australian convict sites, the Melbourne Exhibition Building and the Sydney Opera House—the committee's decision meant that the nomination of Cooloola would have to wait for many years. However, earlier this month I met with the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, David Kemp, and we discussed the case for Cooloola. We have agreed to proceed with it as an extension to an existing world heritage area—Fraser Island—rather than as a new nomination. The fact that it was part of the original 1991 nomination supports this line of reasoning.
Dr Kemp and I both subsequently referred to this intention on the floor of the Environment Protection and Heritage Ministerial Council. This mutual intention was noted by that national body. I will, therefore, be suggesting to the Commonwealth minister that we progress our objective of listing by the establishment of a joint state-Commonwealth working group to prepare the necessary documentation. One of the functions of the working group will be to determine and guide the necessary public consultation with all interested parties.
The new $550,000 Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service's new Great Sandy Information Centre at Tewantin was officially opened on May 24).
It provides permits for Great Sandy National Park and Inskip Peninsula Recreation Area, and has detailed interpretive displays showing visitors how to minimise their impact on the fragile area.
The centre was developed in partnership with the Noosa Shire Council. Noosa Shire Council Mayor Bob Abbot said, "The Great Sandy region has a very special place in the hearts of local residents - so special that the council is finalising a joint $1.2m purchase with the Federal Government of a 400ha slice of the environmentally significant Tarangau property for conservation purposes."
MOONBI 98 (December 2000) reported on the proposed destruction of the Ramsar listed Saemangum Mud flats, tidal wetlands in Korea and its potential impact on the populations of trans-equatorial waders in Great Sandy Strait.
Readers should therefore draw considerable encouragement from the recent Commonwealth Government announcement that Australia and the Republic of Korea will work together to protect birds that migrate between their two countries
FIDO would like to thank and congratulate the Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, who met with Dr Kim Myung-ja, Minister of Environment in the Republic of Korea in Seoul in April for negotiating this important agreement.
Dr Kemp said, "Dr Kim and I agreed that Australia and Korea can take active measures to protect and conserve migratory birds, particularly migratory shorebirds, that use sites in Australia and Korea during their annual migration north and south.".
The East Asian-Australasian Flyway extends from the Arctic through Asia to Australia and New Zealand. Birds fly through this route twice a year from north to south and back, travelling up to 25,000 kilometres per year. Millions of wading birds, like the Eastern Curlew make this journey, stopping at wetlands in Korea and Australia along the way.
Officials will explore the development of an agreement for migratory birds as a priority matter, with the view to announcement of a draft agreement at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, in August.
Korea and Australia both have sites of major importance to these birds. Australia has a strong record of leadership in migratory shorebird conservation in Australia and in the entire migratory route of these birds, with bilateral conservation agreements already in place with Japan (JAMBA), and China (CAMBA),. The EPBC Act 1999 provides a protective mechanism for migratory birds.
The Eastern Curlew, the largest of the 55 shorebirds which travel along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, breeds in far eastern Russia, before beginning its migration from the Arctic through Asia to Australia and New Zealand. The birds fly this route twice a year from north to south and back, travelling up to 25,000 kilometres per year.
Federal Environment Minister Dr. David Kemp has recently announced that the ABC has just produced an interactive online documentary promotes an understanding of the remarkable life-cycle of migratory shorebirds and encourages participation in conservation activities both here in Australia, and throughout the bird's entire migration route. The program, "A Year on the Wing" will present a unique perspective on shorebird migration. Visitors to the ABC web site at www.abc.net.au/docos will be able to track the birds on their journey, contribute stories, information, observations, artwork and argument to the project, visit the wetlands throughout the Flyway, plot where they live on the Flyway.
The NSW-NPA says (and FIDO agrees):
We need the freedom of the long beaches,
the sand unmarked, smooth and clear.
Wind, waves and seabirds the only sounds.
Native creatures at home, undisturbed.
The wanderer alone with nature and thought.
The concern about 4WDs and their environmental and social impacts is not limited to FIDO. The NSW National Parks Association has begun a campaign to eliminate recreational 4WDs from the beached under a slogan "Exclusion is the only solution".
FIDO does not want to ban 4WDs from Fraser Island although this is the picture that many of our opponents are trying to portray. FIDO sees that the management of Fraser Island relies on the use of 4WDs. Indeed we ourselves use 4WDs on Fraser Island. However, we don’t think that 4WDs should rule Fraser Island. Rather they are only a means to enable people to enjoy it.
Two Butchallas (Fraser Island traditional owners) have begun work on Fraser Island. They have been employed by the Environmental Protection Agency and have commenced at Central Station, in a joint traineeship with the ‘Dhugamin’ Aboriginal Centre. They will be engaged on a 80% basis, alternating shifts between Central Station and K’gari (formerly Thoorgine).
Environment Minister Dean Wells said the rangers were appointed under the whole-of-agency Identified Indigenous Employment Program, which was aimed at employing more Indigenous people and those with Indigenous skills and knowledge. He said the arrangement was a step toward reconciliation in Queensland, as it provided job opportunities and social and economic benefits for Indigenous people.
The positions were based on consultation with traditional owners about the specific Indigenous knowledge and skills the rangers needed to manage issues that included traditional approaches.
The Commonwealth Government have become more aware of the impact of weeds on the Australian coastal areas.
In a World Environment Day Release, Federal Environment Minister, Dr David Kemp said, "Invasive weeds costs the community $3 billion annually, with 10 new weed species establishing themselves each year. Coastal weeds, such as Lantana, are one of the most serious and expensive threats to Australia's coastal biodiversity. Weeds compete aggressively with native plants for nutrients, light and moisture. As a result, noxious weeds are threatening our native animals and birds, which rely on native plants for their food and shelter. They are changing the ecological balance. Two-thirds of Australia's coastal weeds originate in home gardens and are spread by water, wind, birds or people."
Many of the weeds that affect coasts such as the Glory Lily, Bridal Creeper, Singapore Daisy, Agapanthus and Lantana are attractive and were introduced as ornamental plants for Australian gardens.
Don’t Forget FIDO’s 25th AGM
6.30 pm Thursday, 29 August, 2003
Brisbane North Regional Business Centre, 960 Gympie Road, Chermside.
Honorary Project Officer, John Sinclair is due to arrive back from a Fraser Island safari to brief the meeting on the full spectrum of management issues on the island and as reported to the Community Advisory Committee. The Executive is also proposing to confer Honorary Life Membership on FIDO’s Honorary Secretary for the past 16 years, Billie Watts.
The "Fraser Coast Chronicle" set a new standard for fictional journalism on 22nd June when it splashed across its front page a story of a German adventurer being "dragged two metres by a dingo as he slept". Of course the story used excessive journalistic licence and neither the backpacker nor his sleeping bag was even touched by ay dingo. Two days later it reported that the lone camper "lay petrified as he was dragged about a metre".
This over dramatised report was so inaccurate that it is ludicrous. The Ranger in Charge telephoned and spoke to the 21 year old, 80 kg and 1.9 m Torben Reelfs, the German backpacker said to be the victim of this horrific attack, and filed this first hand report. The said that after retiring at 7.00 pm he was woken at 8.00 pm by a dingo ripping his tent and partly entering. The dingo retreated when he yelled but returned on three occasions until he go out of the tent and chased it off with a stick although the dingo was reluctant to move away and seemed inclined to prefer to play. The only food he had in his tent was a grapefruit and an orange. The only damage to Mr Reelfs was a slight cut to his hand (from the stick) and a 20 cm tear to his tent as well cut trousers.
The misleading report excited all sorts of responses from "Chronicle readers. In one reply given a special highlight a writer attacked the Queensland Government saying, "It is up to Premier Peter Beattie to show some statesmanship and put an end to the debacle emanating from this strip of useless sand". (The emphasis is ours and points out that it ignores the fact that Fraser Island generates almost $300 Million for the national economy nationally — See Kleinhardt study MOONBI 101). It went on to say "He either rids the island of all native dogs or declares Fraser Island a dingo sanctuary."
Still another "Chronicle" correspondent's letter published a week later said, "Get rid of the dingoes before we have another terrible death and restore the island to the pleasant place it used to be."
With this style of reporting it is little wonder that the numbers of dingoes being run down by red-necked visitors to Fraser Island continues to grow. The QPWS May Monthly Report said, "A dingo was run over by a vehicle on the beach north of Happy Valley under suspicious circumstances – an investigation yielded no conclusive evidence to find the culprit."
The April Report advises of yet another dingo being shot and another was run over as follows: "Following reports of aggressive dingo behaviour, and intensive monitoring by the Dundubara dingo Ranger, a female sub-adult at Indian Head was trapped and humanely destroyed. Dingo hit by vehicle at Yidney Rocks – euthanasia required – investigation determined that the vehicle strike was accidental.
The June Report advised: An habituated dingo that frequented Eurong Second Valley, and had been extensively monitored over some weeks, was destroyed after displays of aggressive behaviour in accordance with the dingo management strategy.
Three dingoes were reported killed by a motor vehicles in three months. Until 2002 FIDO was not aware of dingoes being killed on Fraser Island by motor vehicles. The monthly destruction of "habituated" dingoes is almost as disturbing.
One of the difficulties with Fraser island management is that there have been so many reports which require other reports to be completed first as a prerequisite to any action.
So here is a report on the outstanding list of actions
Walking Track Management Strategy: FIDO first began its input into this plan back in 1996. We have background papers and responses back in 1996. In April 2000 we saw a preliminary Draft Management Strategy on which we commented. The Draft though has still see the light of day. In July a new timetable for this plan was given: Finalize Draft in July 2002; QPWS and Ministerial Approval in August 2002; Public comment from September to November 2002; Review of Draft comments December 2003 referred to Consultative Committees in January 2003 QPWS and Ministerial approval process in February 2003 and a Release as a public document in March 2003. Give the lack of progress during the last six years we are not optimistic that the timetable will be kept. On Fraser Island the QPWS has relegated walking tracks to the lowest of the low priorities. If a tour operator complains about the state of any road it is dealt with as a matter of urgency. It would be nice to think that the needs of walkers got even a fraction of the attention given to Fraser Island roads.
Review of Tourism Activities: The progress on this is almost as slow as the progress on the Walking Management Strategy. The lack of progress would seem to indicate that this report on which so much time was spent in 1996-97-98 has been virtually pigeon-holed. A Report "Managing visitors and commercial operators for ecological sustainability — Final report of the review of tourism activities in the Great Sandy Region" was completed and distributed in May, 1998. There are a lot of strong vested interests keen to stop this report ever being acted on and the lack of action indicates that the present QPWS is more than willing to comply with those wishes from this powerful lobby.
Camping Management Plan: A Draft Fraser Island Camping Management Strategy was released more than 3 years ago in early 1999. Some actions were pre-empted by the Dingo Management Strategy adopted in 2001 but much was said to be waiting on the EDAW site capacity study finalized earlier this year and reported in MOONBI 101. However there is indication of when and if the Camping Management Strategy will see the light of day. While this is stalled it conveniently allows professional fishers to maintain their permanent camps at Waddy Point in defiance of the RAM Act and the Nature Conservation Act which says that no camp can remain in the same site for more than 21 days or 28 days respectively. These camps have been in the same place for well over a decade.
Fire Management Plan: While FIDO lamented for years over the lack of progress in developing a fire Management Plan we have been impressed by the progress here. While not as fast as we would wish, we are hoping that it will be soon out. Unfortunately some people in the conservation movement have questioned aspects of the principles which has slowed down the progress more than we would have wished.
Amendment of the RAM Act: The RAM Act is due for review. It was proposed to have the Review completed to enable ammendment to the Act and regulations which are due to expire in September. 65 submissions were received by 18 April and the comments have been summarized. The September deadline for amendments will not be met and an application has been made to extend the existing regulations for another 12 months. In this case FIDO is not unhappy because we think that the RAM Act has significantly distorted the management of Fraser Island.Because RAM provides the bulk of the money spent on Fraser Island it has relegated what should be the primary purpose of a National Park-World Heritage site, natural resource management and the protection of World Heritage values, to a very low priority. Instead it promotes it places pre-eminent priority on recreation management. While RAM may have been helpful for Fraser Island back in 1985 when most of the island including all of the most popular recreation destinations were outside the National Park and located in the State Forest or in vacant Crown land with almost the whole island now falling within the Great Sandy Region Management Plan and now the inter-tidal areas and the marine areas being covered by a Marine Park
Review of the Great Sandy Region Management Plan: We has anticipated that there would have been more progress on this review which was promised by Environment Minister Dean Wells almost a year ago. We look forward to this with some anticipation in view of the promise by the Beattie Government’s promise before the last state Election to ensure that all World Heritage Management Plans would be enshrined in legislation. So far this has not happened with the result that the former Borbidge Government could and did amend the Management Plan at whim by Ministerial decree. The way in which dingoes could just be slaughtered within days on the order of the Premier also indicates that so far scant regard has been paid to the existing Management Plan. We are therefore keen to see more progress on this Management Plan so that we have a document which does have the force of law behind it.
The Dingo Management Strategy was stalled for years until tragedy struck. Then it was resolved a in a way akin to locking the stable door after the horse has bolted and now we have a very public push being made to throw out the existing Dingo Management Strategy and instead establis a large part of Fraser Island as a zoo for dingoes.
When FIDO embarked on an ambitious unauthorised project back in 1981 to build a board-walk along the banks of Eli Creek, construct toilets and to block off camping using voluntary labour few would have guessed the consequences.
FIDO spent $9,000 in materials and other associated expenses to build the board walk and to construct two toilets on the site. The work was undertaken without permission from the Forestry Department, the Hervey Bay City Council and sandmining company Murprhyores. All had some jurisdiction over the area but no one was acting to stop the conspicuous deterioration of the once beautiful site. It took 16 weekends of working bees during 1981-82 to finish the ambitious project. However the project was so successful in remediating the area that it set standards for managing Fraser Island thereafter.
The Bjelke-Petersen Government was shamed into action. It introduced the Fraser Island Recreation Act which became the forerunner of the Queensland Recreation Areas Management Act. This act first introduced user-pays fees to Queensland and to Fraser Island as a basis for financing the establishment of more and better recreation infrastructure.
The very first act of the newly established Board in 1986 was to entirely replace FIDO’s Eli Creek (still functioning perfectly well) at a cost of $345,000. The boardwalk followed FIDO's route and even used the same bridge. However the Bjelke-Petersen Government was to expunge any evidence that FIDO had ever played a part in establishing better recreational management of this area than the government had.
With the benefits of boardwalks in such fragile intensely used sites being so apparent, other boardwalks including Wanggoolba Creek were established. Now board walks are being demanded as a means of minimizing environmental impacts at many popular sites on Fraser Island and elsewhere.
By excluding brumbies from a large area to it made the impact of the brumbies more demonstrable. Public support for keeping brumbies on Fraser Island which had previously been the basis of an intensely emotional campaign rapidly diminished.
Overuse by free-range campers had by significantly degraded the site beyond recognition. By blocking off this very popular area with strategically placing bollards FIDO showed the benefits of restricting free-range camping. Lengthy sections of beach north of Eli Creek were closed (and remain closed) to free range camping as a direct sequel.
The QPWS now wants to replace just the boardwalk (not the toilets) again. Consultants have estimated that this will cost $1.6 million. The extraordinary effort by FIDO's volunteers back in 1981-82 needs to be fully appreciated and recognized. Unfortunately FIDO has not been consulted in the redevelopment of the Eli Creek precinct which is now one of the major tourist hot (many would say over-heated) spots on Fraser Island but we would still like to become involved.
Please contact Judith Tambling. Ring her (07) 3356 0632) or E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can assist but also please send in an Registration of Interest form (see below) to ensure that we have counted you in and that you will be properly and adequately catered for.
This project will address the two main centres of weed infestation on Fraser Island, the townships of Eurong and Happy Valley where we will be trying to eliminate the weeds only from the public lands there. The project would target invasive weeds (eg. asparagus fern, cassia, mother-in-laws tongue) which are spreading from disturbed areas and gardens within the townships on to the public lands (where we will be working) and then into the surrounding national park areas. The intent is to particularly focus on those weeds which can be controlled before they become more widely spread. The expansion of these weeds presents a threat to Fraser Island's world heritage values and, if they were to become established, would provide a potential reservoir for infestation to unaffected areas on the surrounding mainland, becoming a problem for the wider region. These weed infestations are also undermining weed control efforts by QPWS in the adjacent national park.
The project will help ensure the conservation and transmission to future generations of Fraser Island's unique ecosystems. It will also complement other efforts by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), which has no jurisdiction in the townships to remove weeds, and Hervey Bay and Maryborough City Councils both of which have begun to address the major problems within the townships (which are their direct jurisdictions). All three agencies have given their support to this on going project.
Readers can begin to appreciate the significance of what volunteers were able to achieve in changing the approach to Fraser Island management by earlier FIDO working bees at Eli Creek. FIDO believes that the same type of effort and initiative as FIDO showed at Eli Creek is called for now to help ensure that Fraser Island remains one of the great NATURAL wonders of the world. We need to act while weeds are still controllable and before the problem gets out of hand. The need to remove litter on Fraser Island is nowhere near as urgent as action to control weeds. Litter is unsightly but if weeds are not controlled they spread and proliferate. Apart from being unnatural and unsightly weeds alter the ecological balance by out-competing established native plant species and changing the habitat for native fauna. Unless weeds are controlled the biodiversity of Fraser Island could severely suffer.
FIDO recognises the importance of volunteer work in the environment. We are keen to support our volunteers on this important weeding bee within the limits of our resources. We are arranging to provide group accommodation (share house or camping), some catering and transport to the work site. There may be some costs involved, but we will endeavour to keep them to a minimum and let you know what they are when we send out the final Registration Forms. Alternatively, you may wish to make your own accommodation arrangements for the weekend and join us just for the training and weeding sessions.
Registration of Interest to Assist on Fraser Island Weeding Bee 18th - 20th October, 2003
We welcome people volunteering individually or in groups and we need to know a few things about you to help us begin planning the weekend. Please fill in the information below and post it to Ms Judy Tambling, 8 Laughland Street, WINDSOR QLD 4051. We will be contacting you with further information and confirmation of details before the working bee date.
The following people will be travelling together:
Name & Age (approx) (1) ......................................................... (2) ...................................................................
Street ......................................................................... ....................................................................
City /Suburb & Postcode ......................................................... ....................................................................
Phone - E-mail ................................................................. ....................................................................
I/we will have our own 4WD transportation on Fraser Island. YES [ ] - NO [ ]
I/we will have our own camping equipment. YES [ ] - NO [ ]
I/we can provide our own transport to the River Heads ferry landing. YES [ ] - NO [ ]
I/we have visited Fraser Island previously. YES [ ] - NO [ ]
I/we have previously participated in weeding/bushcare/revegetation projects. YES [ ] - NO [ ]
Note: Subsidiary questions and additional information will be supplied when FIDO knows who can supply transport and who needs a lift to get to Fraser Island and as the event gets nearer.