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 June, 1998
The Big Three Issues
Slow Down-hill Slide: There is now incontrovertible evidence that in the six years since Fraser Island was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992, it has suffered escalating environmental degradation. The recent report by EDAW, independent environmental consultants, on the state of Fraser's environment confirm FIDO long-standing assertions. Commissioned by the DoE, it is summarized in the Government's new Fraser Island Tourism Strategy.
MOONBI 93 gives priority to elaborating on three issues which FIDO ranks the most serious and urgent and more intractable of Fraser Island's management problems:
(1) degradation resulting from roads,
(2) fire management regime, and
(3) problems arising from the poor administration, particularly of tourism and in the urban development centres notably Orchid Beach.
1. Degradation from roads: Every time it rains, especially if it rains heavily, thousands of tonnes of sand are move downhill along any disturbed bare areas of Fraser Island, especially along the sand tracks. This is only one of the many impacts of roads on Fraser Island's environmental integrity. Because its geomorphological values are the main attribute which qualified Fraser Island for World Heritage Listing, this is one of the most worrying impacts.
The visual and aesthetic impact of roads are also of great concern. The Central Station - Eurong road follows a side cutting beside Wanggoolba Creek. This is silting the creek and causing a slow but devastating landslip causing the collapse of more and more trees. This could be avoided by rerouting some traffic. Placing limits on some routes will not solve the continuing problems. Fraser Island attracts ever increasing volumes of traffic (see Tourism Statistics (p 8). It needs a different form of people mover to road traffic. That is why FIDO wants the Sate and Commonwealth Governments to urgently investigate the light rail option.
3. Fire: The fire regime is an increasingly urgent problem to be addressed. Long term ecological changes are occurring as a result of current practices. It becomes more critical with each passing year while the Department of Environment seems impotent and incapable of adequately addressing this problem.
Fire is an integral and critical part of the Australian environment and how it is managed affects every plant community on the island for better or worse. While the changes are not immediate nor obvious in the short term, they are very significant in the long term. Six years after the adoption of the Great Sandy Region Management Plan, there is still no Fire Management Plan for Fraser Island.
Needlessly wide clearing along roads to use them as fire breaks continues 6 years after FIDO identified this problem and Peter Stanton recommended a change in that practice. There is still no plan to even identify what sort of fire regime we should have, the frequency of fire, the means of managing fire and even the environmental objectives for a fire regime. Some parts of Fraser Island have not been burnt for more than 40 years while other areas have been regarded as sacrifice zones and savagely burnt with regularity. Some areas are tinder boxes ticking away like time bombs waiting for ill-timed ignition. While the DoE remains over-awed the problems become ever larger.
FIDO does not have a formula and we have an open mind on the matter. It is up to the DoE to urgently formulate a coherent fire management policy with proper public inputs.
3. Poor management of tourism and urban communities is one of the most worrying aspects of Fraser Island. This has been driven home to us by the absolute debacle which exists at Orchid Beach. Here the zoning by-laws of the Hervey Bay City Council are being flagrantly ignored. The place is a mess. A draft DCP (Discussion Paper) which the Council refused to accept says of Orchid Beach: "New housing tends to be of a large scale, at a higher level on the hillside at the expense of the landscape and visually more intrusive than the development in the other villages on Fraser Island." Yet the influential property owners continue to exert pressure which has enabled them to stall moves towards a Development Control Plan which attempts to bring some order to the chaos there.
In This Issue
The Environmental Impacts of Roads 2
Light rail Option 4
Fire — A Burning Issue 5
Management Issues: Visitor Management Strategy 6
Visitor Statistics 7
Promises! New Management Initiatives 8
Feds Funds for Fraser, Urban Issues, DCP evolves 9
Tapping Island Water, Kingfisher Revisited 10
Orchid Beach airstrip reopens, Not for Emergencies 11
Melksham Vs Hervey Bay, Toyota Fishing Expo 12
The Dingo Problem 13
News In Brief 14
What you can do, Notice of AGM 16
What you can do:There is a whole column on the last page which what you can do to help make Fraser Island a better place and continue to be worthy of its World Heritage status.
STOP PRESS:As this MOONBI was in final stages of going to press the a Queensland State Election was called. For reasons elaborated throughout this and recent MOONBIs FIDO would be more comfortable with a new State Government. A Federal Election is also likely before MOONBI 94 appears. Your Vote may help. (See p16)
Fraser Island Roads
Environmental Impacts Summary
Fraser Island "roads" are becoming well-worn in a way which suggests that some urgent action is needed to stop the on-going degradation. In MOONBI 82, published in November, 1992, FIDO listed our concerns with 4WDs, focussing on topics which included bird kills by vehicles, disturbance of bird breeding, social impacts (including shrinking of wilderness, noise and safety to humans), damage to the foredunes, increased erosion on tracks and roads and the spread of pathogens & injurious agencies. More than 5 years later we would like to focus exclusively of the environmental impacts of Fraser Island's sandy tracks.
Shrinking of wilderness:The impact of vehicles on the wilderness values is a more difficult concept for many utilitarians to accept. Those people who only see value in something which is being physically used or which has investment /speculative potential (such as a rare painting) cannot accept the concept of wilderness. The concept is that people can get value from wilderness without actually physically visiting it and exploring it is an incomprehensible anathema. Utilitarians can only see value in natural areas as long as it is generating perceived economic activity. Such soul-less people don't appear to understand that religion has no perceived economic value, that many of the memorabilia which people most enthusiastically cherish and which mean so much to them have no perceived economic value.
Wilderness nourishes the soul and inspires people as much as or more than parochialism, patriotism, religion or the arts. We don't have to go to wilderness to be inspired by it. Wilderness has a significant value to many people who will never actually visit it. Most Australians will not visit Antarctica yet 93% Australians want that remote wild continent free from mining and commercial exploitation. Since wilderness is a function of being remote from roads, roads erode wilderness.
Noise: The aesthetic impact of noise is well known and understood. While we are not talking of the volume of noise to cause pain or nervous disorders, we are talking about the intrusiveness of noise in a natural area. For example anyone walking along Wanggoolba Creek would have found the sound of vehicles roaring and clanking out of sight along the road above them will understand the intrusiveness of noise.
The physical impacts of sediment movement along road surfaces is of most concern. This movement of sediment is done mainly by water run-off but the amount of sediment movement is significantly influenced by the degree of disturbance to the road surface. The major causes of disturbance to the road surface are wheel slip, the volume of traffic, road widening and consequent desiccation and, (ironically) road maintenance.
Sedimentation Transportation: During the past 30 years we have seen Yidney Lake converted from a shallow but water filled lagoon to now a dry surface with hundreds of tall blackbutts growing in it. It is easy to see where this sand has come from when one can observe that in places above the lake the road has down-cut more than two metres, exposing the B horizon. There is prima facie evidence that this has come from a large amount of down cutting of the road filling the lake with sediment to well above the water table. Alluvial plumes are spreading into several lakes as a result of nearby roads. These include Lake McKenzie where the sediment contains tonnes of woodchips washed off a nearby road, and Lake Allom. Although much of the silt from the alluvial fans washed off the Central Station Eurong Road into Wanggoolba Creek is carried downstream by the fast-flowing creek, many formerly waterlogged areas are now filled with silt and not shallow water.
However, the down-cutting and sheet erosion from roads is not impacting only on lakes and creeks. In February tonnes of sand were burying small palms and other rainforest vegetation near the road junction to Pile Valley. More than 30 centimetres of sand lay across the Central Station- Eurong road following just one downpour. The impact at the bottom of every road slope is ongoing and cumulative. Members of the CAC meeting that weekend observed this.
CSIRO Studies in Cooloola noted the impact of vehicle disturbance on the water absorption and water repellence qualities of sand. This helps explain why there is so much run-off and down-cutting along the roads.
Desiccation results from the opening up of the canopy. The drying out of road surfaces increases destabilization of road surfaces. affects the traction along the roads. Thus if a road desiccates faster it will have more sedimentation flow. Thus desiccation causes roads to have a major physical impact on the landforms.
Desiccation results in a considerable change in the micro-flora along the roads. During the past two decades there has been a loss of epiphytic orchids and ferns along Fraser Island's roads. This can be quantified by comparing the numbers of epiphytes in an undisturbed control area away from roads with an area beside a road in a similar ecotype.
Fraser Island roads continue to be widened and graded in ways which exacerbates desiccation and sediment transportation along road surfaces.
Wheel slip is influenced by the moisture on the road surface, driver competence and the power:weight:tyre surface ratio of the vehicle (including trailers). Desiccation intensifies the propensity to wheel slip. Tyre pressure also significantly influences the impact of vehicles.
Since vehicles towing trailers can be demonstrated to have much more wheel slip than vehicles without trailers, there should be a restriction on trailers there travelling on many Fraser Island tracks, particularly inland tracks.
The competency of drivers is yet another variable which continues to be overlooked. The same vehicle driven by a more competent driver may have a significantly lower environmental impact because of better adjustment of load, tyre pressure and better control of power. Currently many drivers who visit Fraser Island have had no previous experience with four wheel driving let alone driving off road and in sand. These are mainly overseas backpackers who constitute over 40% of the island traffic.
Size of Vehicles: At present most Fraser Island roads remaining open are being widened to carry the widest vehicles using the island. This reverses the Lowest Common Denominator principle.
40-50 seat buses have more impact than smaller vehicles. Scaling down the size of buses and encouraging commercial tour operators to move to much smaller vehicles would reduce the impact of vehicles on the roads. This is an important principle. At present the environment is being sacrificed for the profits of a tour operator. Smaller tour vehicles need not mean reductions in the aggregate numbers of passengers carried. Rather current numbers could be carried in more environmentally friendly sized vehicles.
Instead of making the roads to fit the vehicles of tour operators, tour operators should be required to get vehicles to fit a better road standard. There is a strong public demand for a better standard of tour operation on Fraser Island and this would be aided if people were to travel in smaller groups in smaller vehicles rather than being herded into huge buses, reminiscent of crates taking cattle to the market.
Weight of Vehicle: Not all vehicles have the same impact on roads. It is recognized that vehicle weight makes a very significant difference in the impact on mainland roads. It has been well established that axle loading impacts heavily on conventional main roads. Despite this common knowledge, the impact of axle loading has either been disregarded or not regarded as significant on Fraser Island. The axle loading on a fully loaded tourist bus is much greater than that of a Suzuki or a normally loaded land cruiser.
FIDO believes that axle loading is much more critical on Fraser Island than it is on conventional roads where road authorities actively enforce limits. Yet this factor has been wholly ignored on Fraser Island. FIDO is concerned that the shock waves transmitted through the sand by the heavier vehicles are reaching well away from the actual road surface and destabilizing some adjacent slopes as a result. Wanggoolba Creek already shows evidence of a slow but on-going landslip which is exacerbated by heavy vehicles using the side cutting parallel to it.
Road maintenance: Although there are no records there now seems to be increasing evidence that grading the road surfaces is exacerbating the amount of sediment run-off. A more comfortable ride is being achieved at an enormous environmental cost to a World Heritage site.
Road Standards: In June 1995, MOONBI 87 commented on the draft road standards which were given to a roads sub-committee. Still these have never been discussed or debated. Despite FIDO's published objections, and the fact that they have never been presented to the Community Advisory Committee, nor submitted to a proper process of public consultation, these have been official policy ever since. Worse, the maximum clearing standards are often exceeded by over-zealous plant operators.
For major access routes (sand surface) the roads are expected to maintain "an average speed of 20 kph over any 1 km section of road. Pavement width maximum of 4m, minimum of 3.5m and up to 8m at passing bays on two way roads. Passing bays minimum 100 m up to 200m on two way roads depending on alignment and terrain." and "at a frequency of no more than every 500 metres and no less than 1 km apart" elsewhere.
On major scenic/tourist routes the "tracks" as this category are defined to be "Pavement width maximum 4m, minimum 3m, and up to 6 m at passing bays. ...Passing bays minimum 100m up to 200m on two way roads depending on alignment and terrain. On one way roads, passing bays may be constructed at a frequency of no more than every 500 metres and preferably no less than 1 km apart. 5m maximum to be brushed or cleared from overhanging trees or branches to a height of 4.5 m.."
Although the DoE notes that "on all sand roads it is preferable that the pavement and clearing be kept to a minimum, particularly in rainforest and tall forest areas", the reality is that the roads on Fraser Island are becoming progressively wider and wider resulting in more desiccation and more down-cutting.
Bull-bar mentality is responsible to the destruction of much roadside vegetation as drivers push off the tracks literally into the bush rather than pulling off into a more convenient passing bay. Once such a passing point has been established it becomes more formalized and continues to be used and further expanded with subsequent use. These passing bays have been incorporated into road standard guidelines.
All attempts by FIDO's Community Advisory Committee representative to have that committee even discuss the roads and road standards as a priority issue have been stonewalled and relegated to a sub-committee which then was convened only once. There has not been any discussion even by the committee as a whole on the need for a one way road network at Central Station and Lake McKenzie or elsewhere.
If the impact of roads is one of the most critical issues for the management of Fraser Island it needs more urgent discussion both by the Community Advisory Committee and the Scientific Advisory Committee and the DoE should be listening instead of proceeding on their own agenda regardless.
Impacts on Vegetation: There is already a great deal of visual evidence of changes to the flora as a result of roads. Roads become wind tunnels especially the cross island roads which mainly follow the ridges which were shaped by prevailing winds. This wind tunnel exacerbates desiccation. Whether this is the whole cause or not, it is apparent that the number of epiphytes such as orchids which once grew in the trees beside major island roads is diminishing. It appears that other small epiphytes are also becoming less due to desiccation. We suspect that other very significant but subtle changes occurring in the forest are a response to desiccation.
In some cases the impact is a result of changes to the substrate. Surface and even subsurface roots are exposed. We have seen places where run-off from the roads has buried even relatively large plants. At the mouth of Bogimbah Creek substrate rapid accretions changes resulting from road sediments caused mangroves to die. The changes in the nutrient status of soils as a result of movement of road sediment is unknown but it must be of long term concern.
There is little doubt that there are significant secondary impacts from motor vehicles on Fraser Island. These include removing fuel woods from the forests, the increase in litter, the cause of removal of protected plants. In 1991, when FIDO reported a four wheel drive vehicle being used to illegally remove ferns from Fraser Island to which three members of the Queensland Parliament were witness, again no action was taken.
Impacts on Fauna: There is an established impact on some of the very specialized fauna of the Great Sandy Region. For example the impact of roads on the distribution of ants has been identified in the CSIRO studies in Cooloola. Some ant species will not exist within a certain distance of roads or other significant disturbance. Others are opportunistic. Thus roads will change very markedly the species composition. Other researchers have identified the impact of roads on acid frogs. The more disturbance there is the more likely it is that non-acid frogs will invade the territory of acid frogs.
Roads as Vectors for Injurious Agencies: There needs to be a more descriptive analysis of the off-road vehicles as a potential vector for spreading injurious agencies around Fraser island. Fraser Island is remarkably free of feral animals most notably Rattus rattus and brown mice. These, weeds, soil pathogens, weed seeds, and a whole range of injurious agencies could be spread through the four wheel drive vehicles. Vehicles (and therefore roads) also allow access which can be used to spread fire and litter. The impact of these should not be understated.
Light Rail Precedent
Given the impact of roads and incontrovertible evidence that where people are carried above the surface on boardwalks or rails the environmental impact is negligible, then it is not hard to see why FIDO is becoming more anxious about action to get a light rail system installed on Fraser Island.
Self-Interest and Prejudice: The National Party has been hostile to FIDO and any of our proposals since it came to power just over two years ago. This hostility and bias dating back to 1971 is unlikely to change if it is re-elected. Many appointees to the CAC are property owners and tour operators whose interests may be affected by an alternate people mover on Fraser Island. The CAC blocked a recommendation to even have the feasibility of light rail versus other forms of people movers on Fraser Island even funded by the Australian Heritage Fund.
Need Feds Action: The Commonwealth Government have not decided to act independently to examine the option of evaluating the light rail option. The Australian Government can't afford to allow Fraser Island to continue deteriorating due to unsustainable tourism and had an obligation to investigate new and better ways for managing tourism on Fraser Island including a light rail system.
Grand Canyon Precedent: Last December John Sinclair discovered that the United States Parks Service has developed a Management Plan which aims to install a new light rail in the Grand Canyon National Park. A 10% increase in tourism to the Grand Canyon in the last five years lifts annual visitation to more than 5 million visitors annually and the National Park Service has had to take hard decisions to "convert from an automobile based system to one featuring efficient mass transit".
The Service plans to have a light rail system to carry day-use visitors from the main gateway community just south of the park to a new transit and orientation centre by 2001. This light rail system sets a precedent for Fraser Island.
Although the terrain of the Grand Canyon was much harder than the fragile unconsolidated sand of Fraser Island, a light rail is needed there to avoid further eroding the values of the National Park to create more parking lots and wider roads, while the air quality deteriorates.
Fuller Report: John Sinclair can provide full copies of his study of his "Observations for Nature Conservation" based on his tour of the southern United States and Costa Rica last December and January. It can also be obtained free from his internet home page at: www.sinclair.org.au.
Loving to Death
Fraser Island is not the only World Heritage site which is being loved to death by the demand of visitors exceeding the capacity of the sites to accommodate them without significant environmental deterioration. Eminent Egyptian archeologist, Zahi A. Hawass, who is working on the Pyramids has warned, "Many of the world's monuments will be gone in 200 years if we cannot make everyone aware of the threat. The No. 1 challenge is Tourism. There is no talk between the tourism board authorities and archaeologists at many sites in the world."
Other governments are doing more to try to come to terms with improving the carrying capacity of World Heritage sites and reducing tourist impacts. 24 years after FIDO first proposed a light rail for Fraser Island and 8 years after FIDO's light rail feasibility study apathetic governments in Australia are still ignoring this option.
A Burning Issue
Aboriginal Practice:Prior to Europeans reaching Australia, Aborigines had a burning regime. While we don't now know how their burning regime was used on Fraser Island, we do know the practice still applies in northern parts of Australia where the traditional burning regimes are still practiced. From all of the earliest photographs and the anecdotal reports of Fraser Island, there is strong ecological evidence that it was practiced similarly on Fraser Island to the way it is currently practiced in Kakadu.
The evidence is that Fraser Island had a "park-like appearance" with little under-storey. This offered more grazing opportunity for macropods. Aboriginal hunting and pedestrian access was thus assisted.
Early Recollections: Since the turn of the century there has been a slow but inexorable change in the environment particularly in the taller forests. Many areas now have a dense almost impenetrable under-storey. Former District Forester, Andy Anderson, recalled how even in the 1930s he "could crown every stump without getting out of the saddle" of his horse. This was reinforced by many other Pioneer Rollo Petrie and other writers have confirmed his clear impression. Early graziers who mustered cattle on Fraser Island such as Jack O'Rourke and Bart Cavanagh agreed. Bart's Aboriginal mate, Ike Owens and the whole contingent on FIDO's 1976 Veterans Tour which included many former foresters attest to the "park like forest". It is now unimaginable that one could even ride a horse through areas of the tall forest, let alone get to every stump.
The Logging Era: During the logging regime on Fraser Island foresters adopted a policy of deliberate burning of the "non-commercial" forest areas. These became sacrifice areas while the commercial forests were sacrosanct. Over the last few decades the demarcation between the regularly burnt areas and the areas totally insulated against fires became increasingly more blatant.
Non commercial areas were ritually burnt, seemingly as frequently as they could carry a fire. There seems to have been no consideration of the environmental impacts. Crown fires scarred or killed a huge number of trees. These are evident to anyone driving near Woralie. Sacrifice areas were regarded as vast fire-breaks to stop fires starting at the coast burning into the commercial forest. The impact of these fires has not been documented. The regular, indiscriminate scorching of non-commercial areas was euphemistically termed "controlled burning". However the fires have been frequently quite uncontrolled. Many of the fires were environmentally irresponsible and biologically indefensible.
Non burn areas were (and remain) like untouched islands amidst a vaster area of fire devastated landscape. There impact there has been a slow change in forest structure.
Two issues: Part of Fraser Island has been burnt with too much intensity while taller forests have not been burnt for decades. The tall forests just time bombs which could be devastated if a wild fire reached them now.
It is FIDO's view that the taller forests should be subjected to some burning to clear some of the understorey which has grown up as a result of its artificial insulation from fire. It is also FIDO's view that this burning program should begin as soon as possible since every year delayed makes the implementation of this policy more difficult and more hazardous.
The Kakadu Model: FIDO believes that a model close to the Kakadu burning regime should be practiced on Fraser Island. FIDO disagrees with the practice of not commencing burning until July. We think it should begin in April or as soon as the conditions are dry enough but not so dry as to allow fires of such intensity as to inflict adverse impacts. We think that less intense but more frequent burns are more desirable than less frequent and hotter fires which are easier to light.
The environment may take a few years to respond to a new fire regime. It will not settle down in the short term. It could take a decade or more before a pattern starts to evolve.
FIDO continues to be concerned that most fires on Fraser Island and Cooloola are now ignited too late in the season (July-August-September) when wildflowers are near the peak of flowering and many birds are nesting. We are told that this time is chosen because it is when it is easiest to light fires. We also know that fires lit at this time are hotter than fires lit in April or May. It is less likely that early season fires will rage out of control.
FIDO believes that deliberate fires in National Parks should be based on ecological criteria and not convenience for managers.
A fire while there is A fire with low soil
moist soil & humidity moisture & humidity
Action Needed: Our problem is that the Department of Environment has not proceeded to conclude the Fire Management Plan called for in the Great Sandy Region Management Plan and commenced by Keith Twyford and Peter Stanton four years ago. During this interim the problem has continued to grow and it will get worse the longer any action is delayed.
A new Fraser Island Fire Management Plan must be ready to implement by the end of the next summer. It should be sensitive to all potential environmental impacts and involve a full process of proper public consultation before any final Fire Plan is put in place.
Minister Reads MOONBI
MOONBI 92 carried an article under the heading "Feds help while the QG fiddles". This has prompted Queensland Environment Minister, Brian Littleproud, to respond .
Reply to MOONBI Criticism: The article, presumably written by John Sinclair, It is of concern, particularly because it shows the capacity of Mr Sinclair to provide his own interpretation on matters regardless of facts provided, and his evident disregard of the confidentiality of information provided to members of the Fraser Island World Heritage Community Advisory Committee. (See Reply 1.)
In the article, the figures quoted were given from memory and all members agreed that they were not to be made public. .... (See Reply 2.)
He derides the State Coalition Government's increase of $750,000 per year for at least the next three years, making a total of $4.7 million, even more than the $4,58 million in my statement last year. The funding comprises: user pays receipts (Fraser only) $2.3 million, State base funding (not included in management and corporate support costs) $534,000; new initiative $443,000; capital works, growth and development $392,000; Commonwealth $700,000; carry-over grant funds $297,000. (See Reply 3)
An additional $2.5 million has already been allocated to Fraser Island over three years but before a further increase of funding of that already allocated, a proper management structure (non-existent under Labor) has had to be put in place. .... FIDO is part of that new structure, though given the MOONBI article I doubt its sincerity. (See Reply 4)
1 Confidentiality is not in the ambit of the Community Advisory Committee. The terms of reference provided by the Ministerial Council to all appointees to the Committee in October last year included the "to consider and advise on the views of the local communities in relation to the management of the World Heritage area". We cannot see that the budget and the financial input of resources allocated to Fraser Island is not one of the most environmental aspects of its management. How can the community have a view if the financial management is not fully transparent? Therefore as far as we are concerned, what we have done is justifiable under the terms of reference. If the terms of reference are changed we may have to reconsider whether role of the CAC is being reduced to mere farce.
If FIDO can't communicate with members about the proceedings and outcomes of the deliberations and the information which we need then the whole process is a farce.
2 The figures were not sought by John Sinclair but Angela Burger and they were volunteered to the Community Advisory Committee by the Manager, Great Sandy. There was no request that they be treated confidentially and there was certainly no agreement that this would be so. Had John Sinclair agreed to a matter being treated confidentially he would have honoured that. In view of the fact that a request for confidentiality on such a central matter would have been contrary to the terms of reference he would have recalled it. The other conservation representative at the meeting can't recall any request being made for these matters to be treated confidentially.
3 We are only critical of the amount which the State Government is digging into its own pocket to fund the management of one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. We don't regard the use of Visitor fees or the contributions of the Commonwealth Government (which funded other projects above the $700,000 in the Minister's reply) or even money set aside for growth and development projects by the Goss Government as digging into its own pocket. We just want a clear understanding of how much money the current government is contributing.
4 As evidence of FIDO's sincerity, we have devoted much more space to the Environment Minister's reply than we could fairly be expected to. We think though, that before the Minister makes future imputations about this organization and its officers he should be aware of the facts. The facts are that John Sinclair and FIDO are trying to achieve better management for Fraser Island and he was not present when his Departmental officer volunteered the figures. His attack is based on our analysis of the figures and his perception that we have breached some confidentiality which is quite untrue.
Visitor Management Strategy
On 20 May the Environment Minister announced a strategy to improve Fraser Island visitor management following a review of tourism activities in the area. He was releasing the final report following a progress report last November.
The report suggests actions to improve the management of visitors and commercial operators with the aim of reducing visitor impacts and, therefore, enhancing the experience of visitors. It includes a proposal to end a moratorium currently in place on new permits and to call for applications to access the limited number of sites on Fraser Island which have capacity not yet fully utilized.
The review was undertaken by senior officer, Ralph Henderson, had been seconded from Tourism to the DoE as project director who is now working on the Camping Management Plan which arose which will address potential new sites, beach camping, environmental impacts, booking plan options and more.
While we had not had time to fully evaluate the final report as MOONBI 93 was going to press, it was well generally well received by FIDO.
Other aspects of the Visitor Management Strategy include:
* categorizing roads according to intended level of use, vehicle size limits, and maintenance;
* a new permit system for hire vehicles and vessels, that is, backpacker hostel arranged tours with 4WD hire vehicles;
* a master plan for visitor access and facilities for Fraser Island southern lakes area;
* development of criteria and procedures for commercial activities.
* licencing criteria for all commercial activities, permits for more categories of commercial operators, and authorizing commercial guides.
* aligning Cooloola permits with Fraser Island permits;
* improving visitor information and enforcement;
* seeking increased funding by increased liaison with Commonwealth agencies; and
* on-going consultation with commercial operators and the tourism industry.
Promises! Promises! Promises!
With the Queensland election date now set for 13 June, we need to examine the credibility of the promises made by political parties for improving the management of Fraser Island. During the 1995 Election Campaign Opposition Leader Borbidge pledged $10.5 million to improve Fraser Island management. This included $500,000 to upgrade the Mary River Heads boat ramp and $10,000,000 to be spent on upgrading camping grounds and picnic areas, road and track maintenance, new national park walking tracks, tree planting and restoration, and resources surveys.
When he unexpectedly assumed Government in 1996, it then revealed that he had also pledged to revoke part of the National Park to re-open the Orchid Beach airstrip. As Premier, Borbidge made a top priority to re-open the airstrip (a previously hidden promise). He coughed up $500,000 to redevelop the Mary River Head but he has steadfastly renegged on the $10,000,000 to upgrade Fraser Island infrastructure. In fact he did worse. For almost a year no consolidated revenue at all was spent on Fraser Island. It had to survive on visitor access fees, funds allocated by the Goss Government as well as Federal Government projects.
On 21 April Brian Littleproud announced to Parliament an increase to Fraser Island funding of $750,000 from revenue. This is guaranteed for the next 3 years. This still leaves us $10,000,000 short of Rob Borbidge's 1995 promise.
National Park Grows
On 10 April, Environment Minister Littleproud announced that half the money to acquire part of the "Yalanga" property at Kin Kin Creek for $316,000 was to come from the "State/ Commonwealth Government Sugar Coast Rescue program and the other half from the Noosa Shire Council". He said that the land would be added to the Great Sandy National Park.
While FIDO welcomes the addition to the Great Sandy National Park we began to wonder the state contribution had been taken away from the remnant of the $38 million Goss Government Fraser Island Rescue Package announced in 1991 to provide tourist infrastructure within the Hervey Bay controlled part of Fraser Island. Further research now indicated that the State/ Commonwealth Government Sugar Coast Rescue program seems to be some sort of slush fund used by the DoE which is separate from Fraser Island.
When FIDO focussed on this anomaly the Minister became defensive and attacked FIDO. Our aim is to establish how public money is or isn't being spent on Fraser Island which nobody in the DoE is comfortable about explaining.
Long Wait for the Loos
John Sinclair had been concerned for some time at rumours that Brian Littleproud had directed that the money needed to complete the urgently needed new toilet block at Middle Rocks and a walking path was to be used for another purpose. When FIDO saw the Middle Rocks toilet Project the weekend before Easter it looked very incomplete. However, the Environment Minister assures us that it was operating over Easter!
New Management Initiatives
There have been a number of new initiatives approved by the Fraser Island World Heritage Ministerial Council which met on 16 April.
New Procedures:The Ministerial Council approved operational guidelines for meetings of the Advisory Committees. This means that in future issues will not be resolved by voting and the use of numbers as Community Advisory Committee chair, Lin Powell, was wont to do from the earlier CAC meetings. It will now be a forum for all stakeholders. No group of stakeholders will be able to out-vote other groups as happened over re-opening some roads. More significantly, Ministerial Council recognized the under-representation of conservation interests. They agreed to appoint another conservationist, representing the Hervey Bay Wildlife Preservation Society s, to the CAC. This adds to the voices of FIDO and the NPAQ.
Management Principles and Guidelines: The Ministerial Council also received a report on development of "Management Principles and Guidelines for the Fraser Island World Heritage Area". The guidelines, which are to be finalized by the end of the year, will be consistent with the Great Sandy Region Management Plan.
FIDO takes this to mean that the roads and beaches closed to vehicular traffic under the Great Sandy Region Management Plan will remain closed despite the strong advocacy of some Fraser Island property owners and tourist interests. This should minimize the area impacted. by tourism on Fraser Island. We hope that this will now proceed at a faster pace than was previously occurring. For this we thank Senator Hill and his colleagues on the Minister Council.
Other issues being addressed in management of the island include wader bird populations, backpackers, weeds, rehabilitation and revegetation, fire management, and road and track management.
A Camping Management Planis expected to be completed by August this year to enable the Department of Environment to take a more strategic approach to camping management with the aim both of reducing the environmental impacts and improving the experience for campers. The plan is being worked on by Ralph Henderson who did a very good job in developing the Great Sandy Region Tourism Plan.
Preparation of the plan, which is being developed by departmental staff in conjunction with consultants, will take into account factors which include:
* Assessment of the environmental impact of current camping activities;
* Options for redevelopment, relocation and rehabilitation of existing camping areas;
* Identification and assessment of potential new camping areas;
* Assessment of future demand and associated infrastructure and resource requirements.
Feds Funds for Fraser
(but plan to drop Fraser Island in 3 years)
Fraser Island received an extra $250,000 in the Federal Budget (up from $700,000 to $950,000). Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill announced the allocation on Budget eve. We thought we were making progress. However, the priorities for dispersing the Federal largesse may be short-lived. The budget show that the already fund starved natural environment is scheduled to suffer huge budget cuts in the coming years.
The World Heritage Budget is already down from $23,200,000 last year to $15,500,000 this year. It will drop to $5,000,000 in 2001. Other programs such as the Wilderness and Wild Rivers funding are to be completely abandoned in a slashing of National Heritage allocations.
Misplaced priorities: The allocations had little to do with community priorities and mainly addressed some DoE Officers "wish lists". Deserving projects long advocated by FIDO including $60,000 to undertake the study to evaluate any justification for a light rail system as opposed to the present road network and upgrading of access and facilities at Wabby Lakes, have been overlooked.
$300,00 has been given for the dubious priorities of management of vehicle use and upgrading walking tracks, $140,000 for presentation of World Heritage (interpretation and public contact) but the biggest surprises are $160,000 for Lake Garawongera redevelopment of visitor facilities, $244,000 for Indian Head Visitor access facilities and $111,000 for Wanggoolba Creek toilet facilities on Sid Melksham's lease.
Road Money: We are worried about the money for roads and tracks because the DoE has failed to even complete a draft Walking Track Management Plan and the Community Advisory Committee has never discussed the Fraser Island Road Standards being applied on Fraser Island. (See p3).
We have made our views on this known but opportunities to apply funds in more relevant ways have been lost. They may have been lost altogether because projected budget cuts.
The Orchid Beach problem:There is an urgent need to get on top of the many urban problems arising from the ill-considered subdivision at Orchid Beach subdivision development. This was facilitated by "Dr. Deals" (now standing for the ALP for the Federal seat of Rankin). The longer the matter is delayed the more intractable the problems become. The DoE has been pussy-footing around the Orchid Beach issues for too long. As a result the adverse impacts have rippled out much further than is in the public interest.
DoE deference: The DoE has been far too deferential to property owners in its dealing with Orchid Beach matters. As a result an important part of the National Park has been sacrificed for urban community facilities which should have been sited in existing freehold land in the middle of the subdivision but which none of the affluent property owners wanted too close to their "luxury" houses. They have been resistant to removing the last of Fraser Island brumbies because of local pressure although there was no pressure from other island villages. They have been slow to close the roads and take other action which is allowing the ripples of Orchid Beach to be felt as far away as the beaches of Platypus Bay which are supposed to be vehicle free.
Selfish: The classic example of the selfishness of the Orchid Beach community is that after the proposal to allow the traffic to remain on the 3 kilometres of beach between Waddy Point and Middle Rocks was rejected by the Community Advisory Committee on the grounds that this is the only section of vehicle free beach which would be allowed on the whole of Fraser Island's eastern coastline, the spokesperson for the residents, George Done has resubmitted the demand to the CAC within 4 months of its rejection. Such a demand would not be made if the Orchid Beach property owners were made to understand the impact that this large community which we are told now may expand to a population of 3,000 at peak periods is having on the rest of Fraser Island.
DCP Slowly Evolves
The Hervey Bay City Council refused to accept a draft DCP prepared for the Department of Environment by consultants after improperly leaking this to property owners last year. The draft said that "It is intended that the future development character is to be more in line with smaller beach cottages originally developed on Fraser Island which are small in scale and blend in with the landscape at the lower dune level. ... This is to be in the form of single dwellings catering for one household on larger allotments in a natural setting. A maximum floor area for new dwellings is to be 200 square metres. Building heights are to be a maximum of 2 storeys." (Compare this with the understated criticism of the overdeveloped and out-of-character mansions being currently built which are visual monstrosities).
Property Owners: a minority: Property owners represent a very small proportion of Fraser Island users. This is indicated by the Visitor Statistics (p.8) in this issue of MOONBI. Yet they are having an impact which greatly exceeds their proportion of island users. They have managed to persuade the Hervey Bay Conservation Council not to accept the draft DCP on the grounds that the DCP would fetter their rights to exploit their properties.
The Hervey Bay Council also seems paying undue attention to the whims of these selfish property owners who are anxious to maximize on their real estate investments on Fraser Island and not enough to the users of Fraser Island who greatly outnumber the property owners and who contribute infinitely more to the Hervey Bay economy.
FIDO wants at a minimum what the Hervey Bay City Council regards only as a "Discussion Paper" to become a Draft DCP for the northern end of Fraser Island. Like virtually every observer of the Orchid Beach mess we want controls "on new building development at Orchid Beach to ensure that the community does not grow beyond a low key, low impact Island village" and that "the village does not adversely impact on the environmental qualities and other values of the northern part of Fraser Island".
Tapping Island Water
On another level the urban expansion of Hervey Bay City itself threatens Fraser Island's environmental integrity because the DCP deliberately leaves the door open for the Council to take water from Bogimbah Creek. The DCP Discussion Paper allows that option of taking water from Fraser Island "when all mainland options have been exhausted or are inappropriate." This means that mainland urban expansion can be unconstrained in anticipation of being able to tap into Fraser Island's water without even being evaluated before this is incorporated in the Plan.
The minimum FIDO will accept is a statement that Fraser Island water will only be taken when and if comprehensive environmental impact studies have established that the taking of water from Fraser Island will not adversely impact on its World Heritage values or Great Sandy Strait.
Luckily a report to the Hervey Bay City Council has poured cold water on the increasingly popular option (amongst mainland residents) of taking water from the island. In April it was reported, "It would cost more than $40,000,000 to build a pipeline and pumping station and take year to complete the scientific studies before the council could even hope to get permission to build a pipeline."
Although the report says that the Department of Environment would want scientific studies which would take time we have seen the same Department go to water under political pressure before and so FIDO also wants the Hervey Bay council to acknowledge its environmental obligations as well in the DCP.
New Rescue Helicopter Services
MOONBI 92 reported briefly about the running duel in the regional media about the siting of a new Rescue Helicopter Service. In the end there were two bids to gain the subsidy from the Queensland Government which makes them viable. One was from the same group as the Sunshine Coast Rescue Helicopter which continues to cater for all emergency work on Fraser Island south of Happy Valley which proposed to base a second helicopter in Bundaberg (sponsored by Energex) to extend the range. The rival bid was from a Hervey Bay based group which claimed to be more central for the whole island.
Emergency Services Minister, Mick Vievers, elected to support the Bundaberg based option as this was closer to Orchid Beach and could reach many parts on the northern end of Fraser Island faster than a helicopter based at Hervey Bay. This decision raised a lot of ire amongst parochial residents of Maryborough and Hervey Bay and a lot of angst from the proponents of the Hervey Bay based operation but Fraser Island now has a remarkably more comprehensive rescue system than ever. Such a network is rapidly reducing remoteness and the need to develop self-reliance. The challenge of wilderness is now much less than it was.
Personnel Changes:In January John Sinclair had an opportunity to visit Kingfisher Resort and find out how it was addressing the environmental issues of which FIDO has been most critical since the big personnel shake up in 1996. In that shake up the former Managing Director, Michael Hackett, resigned and no longer has any further involvement in the resort, confining his interest in a business at Airlie Beach. Coincidentally Tony Charters, the environmental apologist for the issues FIDO criticized, made his phased out exit into his new $110,000 per annum job with the Queensland Tourism and Travel Corporation.
Occupancy: The new Managing Director, Garry Smith, advised that the resort is now viable. It carries 35,000 people annually on its tours. It has recently increased its tour capacity by acquiring some more tour licences which formerly operated in the Lake McKenzie area. It had over 60,000 guests in the first 8 months last year. The resort is operating at 65% occupancy overall. There are now 132 hotel rooms and the 19 new villas brings the total villas to 119. The newest addition is the 8 multi-share accommodation units which have a capacity of 100 beds. These cater for the budget/group-tours/backpacker market.
With now a $20,000,000 turnover, the infrastructure is now being overhauled to make it more efficient. A new sewage system formerly used at the Gold Coast's Forest Lakes has significantly upgraded the capacity from the inefficient Enviro-flow system which had previously failed to meet the standards prescribed. The resort is now operating on mains power following the laying of its own submarine cable from Mary River Heads. This is not expected to reticulate to any other parts of Fraser Island but it will save the resort $500,000 per annum on operating its own power plant which has to remain for standby.
The resort has a basic staff of 120 persons which expands to up to 250 people at peak periods. For example, the resort reported that there were 10,198 guest nights from 24 December to 5 January. 60% had come from south east Queensland with 15% being overseas visitors. At Christmas it was reported that the resort had served 1,000 people in its three restaurants on Christmas day with hundreds dining on New year's Eve.
The many criticisms by FIDO have proven to be valid. The mangroves were removed from in front of the resort to create a "bathing beach". These are unlikely to grow back while ever the resort continues. The erosion of the North White Cliffs continues at a rate which has alarmed some people and this seems to have been escalated by the resort.
Green Corps workers spent a few days in April at Kingfisher Resort removing Gahnia grass, a weed which had escaped and was rapidly over-running the resorts lakes. One of the grounds on which FIDO had objected to Kingfisher Resort is that it would be a major centre for new weeds to invade Fraser Island. The Green Corps is a Howard Government funded project.
However, the greatest impact is on the roads and the extra pressure it has put on Lake McKenzie and Central Station. The ripple effect of Kingfisher Resort extends a long way. The road which it uses to cross the island, Cornwall's Break, has been identified as one of the roads which is being used over 50% above its carrying capacity.
The attempts to improve the sewage need to be applauded. We will monitor the effects of this change and hope that other adverse impacts will be also seriously addressed in a less defensive manner than they were in the past.
Orchid Beach Airstrip Reopened
Parliamentary Revocation: The Queensland Parliament passed a motion in November to remove 8.59 hectares from the Great Sandy National Park.
The motion was passed to allow 7.821 hectares to be managed as an airstrip leased from the Natural Resources Department "to obtain an indemnity in favour of the State against the risks associated".
0.28 ha is to be used as a workshop, food shop generator shed and fuel storage area. 0.18 ha is to be used for a concrete batching plant. 0.22 is for the huge "chook-shed" used for servicing the airstrip and other community facilities and 0.1 ha is for a new future grocery shop.
In passing the motion Environment Minister questioned the $6 million in compensation paid by the former Labor Government for the former Orchid Beach Resort when it had been initially valued at $3 million.
It seemed to matter little that what had once been set away supposedly in perpetuity was undone despite objections by the whole conservation movement. Despite such contempt for our opinions the Borbidge Government was dismayed that we were less than laudatory in praising them for putting most of the parts of Fraser Island which were already not National Park into the National Park.
If a government can be so indifferent about revoking National Park status, they don't deserve praise for creating more National Parks. The full protection of Fraser Island from the demands of vested interests was a test of the environmental bona fides of the Borbidge Government. It is a test which they failed miserably by being so hell bent in appeasing Orchid Beach landed interests.
On 14 January a five year lease over the 8 hectare area was granted to the Orchid Beach Aeroplane Landing Area (ALA) Association.
The Deed Done: On 15 January, after opening the Port Hinchinbrook development for environment destroyer, Keith Williams, Premier Borbidge flew in to Fraser Island to open the new Orchid Beach airstrip before a crowd of 100 people and a mere 10 aircraft. The small crowd applauded his thinly veiled attack on FIDO, he proclaimed that the re-opening demonstrated the power of the people and a victory for the island community who would not let the matter rest. He acknowledged that there "was still very strong opposition to re-opening the airstrip".
Belated Confessions: In a remarkable admission pilot Harry Geltch said that although the Goss Government had closed the strip in 1992 he was still doing charter flights in 1994 to the strip. When FIDO reported this the DoE Officers said that they had no evidence to support our assertions.
Not for Emergencies
On 20 January, a 44 year old Orchid Beach resident was evacuated to Maryborough by the Bundaberg based Energex Community Rescue helicopter after suffering chest pains. This was the second time that a helicopter has been used for a medical evacuation rather than a fixed wing aircraft since the Orchid Beach airstrip was reopened by Premier Borbidge amidst great fanfare and "hoo-haa". This will certainly not be the last time that a helicopter will be used rather than a fixed wing aircraft. This only supports the statements published in MOONBI 91:
In December, 1995, jut a few months before Premier Goss resigned his commission, he was being advised by the Department of Environment:
The Orchid Beach area and Fraser Island as a whole were well served in cases of medical emergency.... a better response than would be available for most residents of suburbia ( is available for serious medical emergencies). The helicopter rescue service can land a medical evacuation team at Orchid Beach within an hour.
The Orchid Beach airstrip was only ever suitable for light aircraft and could not be used by an air ambulance or an aircraft fitted out for medical evacuations. The response time for a local light aircraft would also be about one hour and the doctor would not have the capacity to bring any life support system with them.
The time helicopters save in collecting medical staff from hospitals and delivering patients directly to hospitals make them far more effective than fixed wing aircraft and so the airstrip at Orchid Beach has been proved that there is no improvement in the health and safety of Orchid Beach residents by the reopening of the airstrip. Let's face it. It was always a hoax to try to justify the huge expenditure of public moneys on an airstrip when it is really just an amenity for some very rich people who either have their own aircraft or who can afford the cost of charters to Orchid Beach. The rescue by the Hervey Bay Volunteer marine Rescue of a mechanically disabled 9 metre aluminium boat off Rooney's Point (not so far from Orchid Beach) on 21/1/98 demonstrates that there are other well established emergency services available.
Melksham Vs Hervey Bay
Several issues surround millionaire, Sid Melksham, the largest tour operator on Fraser Island, and his use of Mary River Heads as his principal mainland entry point to Fraser Island.Mary River Heads has just been redeveloped at a cost of over $250,000 at public expense to seal it, provide better parking and other facilities. over 90% of the use of this area which was once littoral rainforest is to accommodate vehicular and tourist traffic to Fraser Island.
Permit Fees: One issue surrounds his being given the right to sell Fraser Island permits to all visitors to the island. The DoE has struck a deal where in return for ensuring that every vehicle travelling to Fraser Island on his barges have a permit sticker or else rangers on Fraser Island are notified of the offending vehicle. For this service he receives 15% commission while other private vendors of Fraser Island permits get only 10%. The fact that it is more convenient to obtain permits at the point of departure has meant that other vendors have seen a huge slice of their business cut away. This led to a token demonstration blockade by River Heads people of access to his barge.
At one point when there was outrage one observer noted that they would not have been so unhappy about the DoE arrangement to sell the permits on the barge if it had been made with anyone other than Mr Melksham.
Hawkers Licence: As a consequence of the new arrangement Melksham set up a van at the barge landing where permits and barge tickets are sold and information is handed out. This has further incensed the locals who say that he doesn't have a Hawkers Licence to operate this way. The Council is also of that opinion
Barge Ramp: There was a long dispute over the Mary River Heads barge ramp between Melksham and the Hervey Bay City Council over who owned the barge ramp at River Heads. It was originally constructed by D-M Minerals. Melksham claimed that they had given it to him on the cessation of sandmining. In January the Council produced documentation to show that it owned the ramp. In January, 1975, D-M Minerals had asked the Council for control over the ramp for 6 months after which it would be handed over to the Council for its use.
Barge Landing Fees: There is also a matter of fees dating back to August 1995 for using the barge ramp. In 1993 the Council increased these fees from $2.00 per day to $10.00. Melksham continued to pay only $2. He had a victory in August 1995, when the Council agreed to waive the outstanding balance of $5592 provided that he then paid the correct amount subsequently. However, Melksham continued to pay only $2.00 per day. The Council has since decided to press for all arrears. There has been a battle involving a media campaign by Melksham, lawyers and mediation. In March 1998, the Council sued. The matter went to court when an "agreement" was reached between the Council and Melksham which the Mayor described as "a win" for the Council. This so incensed Melksham that he threatened to sue the Mayor for defamation unless he apologized for claiming a victory when he believes that it was only a compromise. In the meantime councillors are considering increasing charges for the use of the barge landing to incorporate a vehicle fee.
Benefits: Melksham claims to be spreading economic benefit around Hervey Bay. He said that in three months he had paid $97,000 in commissions to booking agents and spent over $2,000,000 in Hervey Bay on goods and services.
Toyota Fishing Expo
FIDO has long been concerned about the environmental impact of the Fraser Island Fishing Expo particularly at Orchid Beach.Organizers and sponsors of the event, Toyota Australia, have thumbed their noses at FIDO. They claimed, "The return to Orchid Beach for the 1997 Expo occurred only with the permission of the Queensland Government."
They also claim, "Toyota in no way "pressured" the Queensland State Government to approve the move of the Fishing Expo to Orchid Beach." This doesn't accord to FIDO's information from many sources. On 24 April, 1997 Premier Borbidge told Parliament that if he hadn't allowed the event to move back to Orchid Beach "the event ... would have been lost to the State".
After getting nowhere with Toyota Australia we wrote to Toyota in Japan. They took out 24 pages of advertising in a single issue of TIME Magazine (internationally) to profess their environmental credentials. While Toyota Australia continues to run its "Boy's Own" Fishing Expo on Fraser Island regardless of the environmental consequences this was hypocrisy. Toyota Australia finally responded.
They claim that the Queensland Government had not found any environmental objections to the event. So FIDO invited them to commission an independent environmental assessment of the impacts. FIDO offered to accept the findings. Our invitation was ignored. Instead, we were invited to address Fishing Expo contestants.
FIDO is determined to make Toyota accountable. FIDO is now seeking sponsorship for an environmental impact assessment of the 1999 Fishing Expo. This will be passed on to rival motor vehicle manufacturers. Toyota can't be allowed to get away with the double standards.
Toyota Australia's intransigence on the Fraser Island Fishing Expo and its environmental irresponsibility by persisting with the Fraser Island Fishing Expo at Orchid Beach is undermining the commendable environmental initiatives by Toyota International.
Warning! Aircraft Below! On January 10 n a curious fate Fraser Island Air light seaplane hit a submerged object in Great Sandy Strait while taking off from Kingfisher Resort. It sank in 20 minutes. All attempts to locate and salvage the submerged aircraft now being swept around by the currents failed.
Spend money on Rail: Len Ardill in criticizing the Borbidge Government for its cavalier disregard of the sacrosanctity of National Parks in Parliament during the debate revoke land for the Orchid Beach airstrip said: "an aerodrome is not need on Fraser Island is a railway. If the funds that are being provided by the Premier to build this airstrip were applied to a railway there would be some use".
Curiously the Borbidge Government, pushed by the ALP Brisbane City Council has agreed to install a light rail people mover in Brisbane as the cost of mega millions of dollars. The only reason they won't entertain even a modest evaluation of light rail on Fraser Island where it is even more urgently needed on environmental that they don't want to loose face and accept an idea from FIDO.
The Dingo Problem
The ever increasing number of Fraser Island dingo attacks on humans has created a major problem. Fraser Island dingos have lost all fear of humans and are increasingly emboldened.
The Attacks:In the most celebrated attack at Waddy Point on 4 April when a dingo grabbed a 13 month old baby and started to drag it away from the campsite. On the same day in a less publicized event, another baby was attacked by a dingo at Lake McKenzie more than 70 kilometres away. This raised the temperature in a fiery public debate. It had already almost reached boiling point a few weeks earlier when two 23 year old English women were attacked by dingos at Indian Head and severely mauled. In January alone there were more than 20 dingo attacks on humans at Lake McKenzie. During the last two years dingos have become more aggressive towards humans on Fraser Island.
The two attacks on the babies coincided with meetings of the Fraser Island Community Advisory Committee and Management Committee at Dilli Village. At Dilli Village there was more evidence that dingos had lost all fear of humans and were becoming extremely bold and cheeky. Two dingoes waited about 2 metres from the front step. They could not be chased away. They only moved to follow anyone who emerged with food in their hand.
Dingos Shot: DoE rangers have shot several Fraser Island dingos identified as culprits or exhibiting extremely aggressive behaviour and threatening public safety. This is an extreme measure. Such drastic action should be avoided in the future. There are only estimated to be about 200 dingos on Fraser Island. They are believed to be one of the purest remaining strains of dingo. To cull the population would be to reduce it to a dangerously low level when the gene pool should be retained. The numbers have remained constant or may have even decreased a little during the last 70 years if old anecdotal reports are taken into account.
Some solutions suggested: Fraser Island Association (property owners) Secretary Norma Hannant called for many more dingoes to be culled. Others suggested everything from total extermination to people suggesting a dingo fence to keep them to the interior of the island only to setting up feeding stations for dingos away from settlements so that hungry dingos wouldn't be hanging around close to tourists. The RSPCA went to see if there was any animal cruelty involved because the animals may be hungry.
Always hungry: Dingos are natural hunters. They will always set a population level at the very upper limits of the carrying capacity. Most will be lean (and look as if in need of a good feed) but only the weakest will starve. Dingos are naturally almost always hungry and all look lean. That is the natural law for all hunters. Lions in the wild are thin too. People though familiar with well fed domestic dogs have false expectations of dingos. They need to understand the laws which limit wild predator populations.
The problems: Dingos have become boldest at the most popular tourist spots. Although visitors have been urged not to feed or get too close, this advice hasn't worked. Dingos have lost all fear of humans. The major problem is how to let the dingos survive as a natural animal in the wild and revert to its former wary behaviour when it kept a good distance away from humans.
Seasonal: In the recent years dingo attacks on humans almost always begin soon after the largest influx of summer holiday makers leave. Rarely have they continued past February. This year they have been continuous with the most savage attacks in April.
Fraser Island dingos are extremely intelligent. They know which vehicles are carrying food. They can differentiate between ice boxes and other containers. They are capable of opening almost any ice box in a matter of seconds and riffling the contents. Food left inside tents is no longer secure as dingoes now will tear open tents to get to food.
Expert Appointed: On 20 April Brian Littleproud announced that Dr. Laurie Corbett , a world authority on dingoes with over 30 years experience has been assigned to review the situation on Fraser Island following a recent spate of attacks on tourists. His task was to assess dingo numbers and general feeding ecology and to advise on dingo behaviour as part of the development and monitoring of a dingo management study.
Dr. Corbett is recognized as the world authority on dingoes and was author and co-author of some 100 publications, including "The Dingo in Australia and Asia" which was first published in 1995.
He visited the island in the week prior to Anzac Day and his recommendations include giving them electric shocks and baiting them to keep them away from camping and cooking areas. His suggestion of giving them bad (but not lethal ) experiences by letting them get "laced" food, or giving them electric shocks or sound devices which hurt their ears might keep them away. He was against any continuing feeding program and said they were not starving. He said that the dingo attacks probably occurred because they were protecting their territories or pups or practicing hunting techniques.
His most controversial proposal was to improve the purity of the strain by culling hybrids (which he suggested could be done by DNA sampling of hairs from specific animals)
FIDO agrees with the general thrust of Dr. Corbett's plan which is to make the dingo become a more wary dog and keep a safe distance away from humans. However, there are some impracticalities. Given their intelligence we think that the dingos may soon differentiate between people who could deliver electric shocks and those who can't. Thus we believe that a strategy which makes them keep their distance from everyone is essential.
FIDO suggests a solution in which dingos won't know if they can approach any human with impunity. Since we don't want people carting alien stones to Fraser Island, we suggest that people carry small pellets of wood in their pockets. If those who did pelted any dingo which approaches within throwing distance, dingos might stay their distance from everyone. FIDO also is aware of a non-lethal electronic dog deterrent which can be carried in a pocket which has been most effective in stopping attacks by domestic dogs on service providers.
News in Brief
MOONBI Priorities:Because of finances, FIDO has been reduced to producing only 2 MOONBIs per annum. As a result it is difficult to keep our members informed on the full plethora of issues which directly affect the integrity of Fraser Island. There are some issues which get reported in the media but they not the issues that impact on Fraser Island's longer term environmental protection. That is why in this issue we have identified and elaborated on two extremely high priority issues — roads and fire management — which almost never get any media airing.
However, it is important to maintain a perspective on what other people are discussing in relation to Fraser Island and the Great Sandy Region. Since MOONBI 92, last December, there has been an intensification of issues relevant to Fraser Island which have caught the media eye. In this section we try to précis some of the issues which impact on Fraser Island but we can't cover everything.
Our heap of clippings on dingos is now 50 mm thick, the clippings on the Hervey Bay war between commercial and amateur fishers is only slightly slimmer.
Fishing Issue: MOONBI 94 will devote a significant section to a feature on the issues surrounding fishing which is one of the longer term issues which needs to be confronted. Its immediate impact on the environmental integrity of Fraser Island is less than other issues such as camping and tourism, but it is linked with them.
Then and Now gets another $1000: The Queensland Department of Environment has given FIDO $1000 to enable it to further its work on the "Then and Now" project. The Queensland Government has acknowledged the value of this project which will help build up a photographic record of many earlier eras of Fraser Island
It still needs to be noted that the only money which FIDO has received from the Queensland Government has been tied to this project. No money has given to FIDO which would help with its continuing administrative costs or which would help us pursue our advocacy for a better more sustainable use of Fraser Island.
A Hot and Dry Report: 1997 was a very dry year for Fraser Island. However, January February and March of 1998 were the warmest three month period recorded for the world. The global average temperature was 0.6 degrees Celsius higher than normal. The figures will fuel the belief that global warming, blamed on industrial exhaust gases is inexorably changing the world's climate. Hotter than normal ocean temperatures have resulted in severe bleaching (and ultimate death) of many corals. It could well be also affecting other marine life. In Maryborough average maximum temperature for March was 31.4 Celsius. This was only exceeded in 1942.
While we don't have Fraser Island rainfall registrations for 1997, based on adjacent mainland figures, it was the second driest year for a decade. Hervey Bay received only 75% of its annual average (754 mm compared with the average of 1039.5 mm). Maryborough received 684.9 and Double Island Point 700 mm. The first part of 1998 was very dry but there are signs that the El Nino effect is weakening during the autumn months. 1998 has not begun much better. In the driest March since 1980 Maryborough received only 20 mm of rain and Hervey Bay had 9.2 mm.
Dugongs of Hervey Bay are to be given more protection but net fishing in the bay and Great Sandy Strait will be allowed to continue with only minor changes. Other threats come from shark-netting, indigenous take, speed boats and illegal hunting as well as loss and damage of sea-grass beds.
Mary River Heads has now been fogged to control mosquitoes in February following a controversial agreement between the Hervey Bay City Council and the Department of Environment. The area is one of the last three remaining habitats of the endangered Illidges ant blue butterfly. The threat to the butterfly continues as the environmental impacts ripple out from the River Heads residential areas.
Game fishing boats of up to 20 metres from around the nation converged on Hervey Bay in February "to do battle with an array of fish species... black, blue and striped marlin, broad barred swordfish and sail fish ... wahoo, dolphin fish, Spanish mackerel, tuna, mako and tiger sharks and white pointers". Fishing areas included Platypus Bay and north of Fraser Island.
Whale watching tourist numbers dropped by 10% in Hervey Bay during 1997 according to local boat operators. Brian Littleproud claims that the numbers only dropped by 3% to 79,156. They want a cessation of the Moreton Bay whale watching tour licences which they say are threatening their industry. Moreton Bay numbers jumped to 8985 from 4513. An ALP Government is pledged to cancel the Moreton Bay licences. (Maybe they might review the pricing policy for whale watching tours as the fall off in patronage seems to coincide with a continuing creeping inflation of whale watching prices!)
Orchid Beach Prison Site: As the Maryborough and Hervey Bay communities debated about bidding to have a prison sited in their district and the economic benefits which could flow therefrom, a local resident with tongue in the cheek suggested siting the prison at Orchid Beach. Advantages cited were security being enhanced by isolation, shark infested waters, deadly spiders, savage ants, rogue dingos (which should be trained to be more savage guard dogs) snakes etc. Unlimited water is available and sewage effluent could be used to grow vegetables which could supply island resorts. The cheap labour available could also be used for doing the resorts' laundry as well as track maintenance. Mosquitoes, midges and march flies would ensure that prison life was not so comfortable. With such a list of discomforts one wonders why people would want to spend so much money speculating on increasing property values.
What Value National Parks?
On 24 March, Premier Borbidge announced that his government was doubling the size of the Great Sandy National Park on Fraser Island which means that now, 99 per cent of Fraser Island will be soon be national parkland. The total area of the Great Sandy National Park is now more than 200,000 hectares which includes mainland section of 56,291 ha between Noosa and Rainbow Beach.
The gazettal covered almost 80,000 hectares of former state forest on the southern half of Fraser Island. The only parts of the island now outside of the national park are the leasehold townships of Happy Valley, Eurong, Orchid Beach and airstrip, the lighthouse reserve on the northern end, a couple of freehold blocks on Moon Point and the Kingfisher tourist resort.
Premier Borbidge expected accolades from the conservation movement but was widely criticized mainly because he was so contemptuous of the National Park status which had been given to Orchid Beach that he pushed to have the part of it revoked virtually from the day he assumed government. If National Park status can be treated so indifferently by a government they should not expect Brownie points for finally making a long overdue declaration.
Williams Retreat, an ill fated and ill advised development at Eurong, has been in the hands of receivers. The original 29 lot group title plan which began 6 years ago had villas built on 11 lots. Only 7 of these had sold. The four remaining villas and 18 undeveloped lots were sold by tender to Australian Pacific Holdings (APH) in April. New villas there are expected to sell for $400,000 each.
Building Approval: The Hervey Bay Council deferred consent to construct a house at Orchid Beach in May. The proposed building would exceed 7 metres in height. Although the DoE didn't object to the application council deferred until they had clarification. This change of heart is encouraging because the Council had previously refused to adopt the Draft DCP prepared for the DoE because it would have limited floor area of new houses to 200 square metres. The move to limit the scale of the mansions is long overdue. FIDO objected to the Maryborough Council to the redevelopment of a resort at Yidney Rocks which doesn't conform with the long overdue DCP.
Whale Strandings: At the height of the summer holiday season between 90 and 100 melon headed whales were stranded on the Fraser Island beach near Happy Valley. All but two were successfully returned to the sea by rangers and holiday makers.
Beach landings by aircraftare coming under closer scrutiny Last October Yidney Rocks resident, Jack Hedges stated, "Aircraft do land and take off outside the designated areas ... (and) taxi between the landing areas and parking area mostly unsupervised. It is not safe to allow children unattended in these areas." In April he was served with a court order to stop him interfering with landings and take-offs of Air Fraser Island planes at Orchid Beach. The injunction stops him interfering with airplane activities in Air Fraser Island's designated landing areas.
Value of Parks: Over 700 vehicles had been booked on barges to Fraser Island for the Easter weekend. One of the main beneficiaries was the DoE which collected $30 for each vehicle. Translated this meant $21,000 for the Easter Weekend alone. A new study commissioned by the DoE shows that Queensland National Parks generated more $1.2 billion for the economy. This was for an outlay of a mere $33 million budget. Unfortunately the Golden Egg is becoming tarnished as National Parks degrade due to insufficient funding and poor management. Fraser Island needs a minimum of $3.5 million annually from government sources in addition to the revenue collected through visitor fees.
New Sea Grass In Hervey Bay: Whereas scientists studying here had previously only found 6 out of the 14 species of sea grasses which occur in Queensland, a recent study has found evidence that there may be yet another species occuring there. Little known is known of the Bay's marine environment.
New Coal Port Threat: A new threat to Fraser Island and the potential World Heritage nomination of Hervey Bay is being posed by a proposed near coal port at Coonarr Beach on the mainland between Bargara and Woodgate. It is proposed to build a 5 km pier supplemented by a 7 km dredged channel to enable one bulk coal ship per day to load coal to be brought here from the Surat Basin-Dawson Valley coalfields. There has still not been an environmental impact study to assess the effects on the turtle rookery at nearby Mon Repos Beach, or the whales, sea-grasses or dugong of Hervey Bay plus other marine life.
Garry's Anchorage, a favourite Fraser Island haven on the Great Sandy Strait side for yachts is degraded. Hervey Bay Sailing club officials claim that a high embankment leading up from the beach to the main public area is seriously eroded and has no footholds to allow access from the beach. They said "We pay a fee to use that area." The DoE says the area may have to be closed to the public.
The Urangan Boat Harbour on the other side of the water to Fraser Island also poses two new threats. The boat harbour now accommodates many millions of dollars of yachts and the whale watching fleet. It is continually silting up and needs almost constant dredging. A problem exists of how to dispose of the spoil. An environmental impact study is to be done to work out if it can be dumped in Great Sandy Strait as there is a problem with disposing of it on land. Another problem is that the private enterprise firm which built boat harbour and created create a landfill into the Strait with spoils from earlier dredging. The buildings already here can be seen from many kilometres away. They now want to erect 6 story buildings on the site which would be visually intrusive on all of Great Sandy Strait. The matter is now being fiercely debated in Hervey Bay but the buildings would affect the visual amenity from the western side of Fraser Island.
Thanksto the many supporters who took pen (or word processor ) to paper and wrote to follow up suggestions in the last MOONBI. Many gave us useful feedback — copies of replies received such as the statement by Senator Robert Hill that he would "not support the re-opening of any road roads before the Management Principles and Guidelines are complete" He was good to his word and the Ministerial Council met in Brisbane which resolved that Guidelines would be consistent with the Management Plan.
FIDO's greatest strength is in its network.It is not only the number of members we have (although that helps enormously to physically sustain us) but it is the spread of word from those members and supporters to the wider community which is our greatest asset.
MOONBI 93 has raised several important issues:
Roads:It is clear that the environmental impact of roads is much greater than most casual users of Fraser Island have appreciated. The impact can only be reduced by reducing the volume of traffic, reducing the maximum size of vehicles and/or constructing a light rail to carry much of the tourist traffic / freight currently carried by vehicles across the island. Please seek support to break the political impasse on evaluating the light rail as a feasible alternative.
Fire management:Make such that you also raise the urgency of the need for a Fire Management Plan for Fraser Island. This has remained too long in the "too hard" basket.
Funding:Fraser Island has been starved for funds. Three years ago Rob Borbidge promised $10 million to be put into improving tourist infrastructure on Fraser Island. This has not happened. The Commonwealth Government will cut out all funding within 3 years. Fraser Island needs an injection of at least 3.5 million per annum from consolidated revenue to even have a hope of stopping the degradation now occurring.
What you can do
Communicate:Get these messages out. Discuss these issues with your friends, neighbours, relatives and work colleagues. If you get an opportunity, talk to the media. Use talk-back radio to enlarge our audience. It is only by passing on more informed opinion that the wider public to better appreciate our position.
Vote:There will be both Queensland and Federal Elections before MOONBI 94. FIDO would be more comfortable with a change of Government at both state and national level. A change in Queensland seems more imperative for the future of Fraser Island, particularly if the Federal Government proceeds to abdicate its environmental responsibilities to the states. While we appreciated the increased financial support Fraser Island has received from the Feds in the last few years, the 98 Budget indicates that this will be very short-lived.
At the State level the hostility to the environment in general and to FIDO in particular which developed during the Joh Regime from 1971 to 1991 has not changed. Cronyism is rife with an old crony, Lin Powell, now trying to act as El Supremo on the future of Fraser Island. The current government is one which seeks to exploit the environment rather than protect it.
Write:Not only to the Federal and State Environment Ministers but also to their political opponents. We want a commitment from whoever forms the new governments that Fraser Island will have a better deal.
Fraser Island Defenders Organization Limited
Notice of Meeting
Noticeis hereby given that the Twenty Second Annual General Meeting of the Fraser Island Defenders Organization Limited will be held at the Australian Services Union Building, 32 Peel Street, South Brisbane, 6.30 pm, Wednesday, 5 August, 1998.
1. To receive the Profit and Loss Statement, Balance Sheets and Reports of the Directors and Auditors
2. To elect Directors for the ensuing term in accordance with the Articles of Association.
3. General Business.
BY THE ORDER OF THE BOARD
DATED this 1st Day of June, 1998
Twenty First Annual General Meeting
(please print in BLOCK letters)
being a financial member of the Fraser Island DefendersOrganization Limited do hereby appoint
......................................................... or failing him/her
............................................................... as my proxy, to vote on my behalf at the Twenty-second Annual General Meeting, to be held at the Australian Services Union Building, 32 Peel Street, South Brisbane, 6.30 pm, Wednesday, 5 August, 1998, at 6.30 pm. and at any adjournment thereof.
Signed this ........................... day of ....................., 1998
NOTE: In the eventof members desiring to vote for or against any resolution they should instruct their Proxy accordingly because unless otherwise instructed the proxy may vote as they think fit.
This formor a copy of it should be completed and posted to reach Secretary, FIDO, PO Box 70, BALD HILLS QLD 4036, on or before 5 August, 1998 to be valid under Article 31 of the constitution. Please photocopy this form and return it promptly.
Section 248 of the Companies (Queensland) Code provides that all members be given 21 days notice of any meeting (including A.G.M.s) at which they are entitled to vote. It is important that as many proxies as possible are received. The Proxy Form is also taken as your apology for non attendance.