Newsletter Issue 72

FOSI Newsletter, Issue #72, September 2015

In this issue
  • Premier to protect Straddie environment from sand mining
  • Minjerribah’s sandy wallabies
  • Council Orange Tape
  • The Eastern Long-Necked Turtle
  • Updates

Premier Palaszczuk to protect Straddie environment from sand mining

A 2019 end to sand mining has been confirmed by the Palaszczuk Government
In January this year the Labor party promised that, if elected, it would “immediately repeal the disgraceful North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act Amendment Act 2013“.
The promised repeal is now overdue. But for the first time, Premier Palaszczuk has personally publicly confirmed that her government will end sand mining in 2019.

Newman Government’s controversial changes

The Newman Government amendments controversially allowed for a further extension of sand mining to occur in 2019 and also removed a 2011 restricted mine path of 337 hectares, permitting land clearing and the destruction of at least an additional seven square kilometres of bushland and ancient sand dunes integral to the island’s complex hydrology and wetlands.

What Premier Palaszczuk said about sand mining

Premier Palaszczuk’s statements can be read in this extract from the mid-August edition of a Moreton Bay Islands publication, The Friendly Bay Islander. These are quotes, with bold added:
The Labor party has had a long-standing commitment to transition North Stradbroke Island away from sand mining, with an end to mining operations by 2019. We held this commitment in Government, the commitment never wavered in Opposition, and we will deliver on our commitment now that we are back in Government.
In our view, North Straddie is not just a workplace, it’s an environmental wonder. We must make the tough decisions now in order to protect the island for generations to come. We are willing to make these tough decisions because we need to confront the stark reality that the longer sand mining continues on North Straddie the more damage it will do to the environment over the long term.

Legislative changes

Of course, to enhance environmental protection, an end date well before 2019 was called for. That outcome would have occurred if the Bligh Government had declined to renew key expired mining leases. Instead, it used special legislation to renew these expired mining leases. This extinguished the appeal rights of opponents to renewal.
Normally, government renewal of expired mining leases is subject to Supreme Court review. Before the Bligh Government passed the new law in 2011 specifically to renew Stradbroke expired mining leases, Friends of Stradbroke Island (FOSI), indigenous owners and others had strong legal advice that opponents to lease renewals had good prospects of overturning renewal in the Supreme Court.
However, the repeal of the Newman amendments by the Palaszczuk Government will at least restore the July 2011 restricted mine path (NSI 2) of 337 hectares. This will save many square kilometres of ancient sand dunes, aboriginal cultural heritage and habitat of threatened animals and plants from being destroyed. That will be worth celebrating.
Because the mining company has, since the election, cleared an area for mining outside the boundaries of NSI 2, we hope the repeal occurs very soon to prevent further damage beyond the July 2011 permitted area.

Friends of Stradbroke Island (FOSI)

The April 2015 newsletter of Friends of Stradbroke Island (FOSI) includes comment on the connection between island sand mining issues and the January 31 State election result. Links to a selection of media articles and current affairs television programs about Stradbroke sand mining and related issues are listed on page 3 of the newsletter, which is also available on the FOSI website.
President of FOSI
as published, 30 August 2015 on Redlands 2030

Minjerribah’s sandy wallabies

The Agile Wallaby is a pretty and gregarious mammal that lives on North Stradbroke Island. This little wallaby is much more common in Northern Australia; the island population is part of a precious remnant of a near-extinct pre-European southern Australian distribution of the species. In South East Queensland it is now only found on Minjerribah, South Stradbroke Island, Woogoompah, Hope Island, Coomera and Jacob’s Well. Sadly while it was once relatively common on the Island, it is now a rarer sight, most likely due to predation by foxes and dog attacks and destruction of habitat for sandmining.
This little wallaby is also known as the Sandy Wallaby because of its sandy coloured head, body and tail. It has a white underbody, black edges on its ears and a dark stripe on its forehead. A distinguishing white stripe goes across each cheek and also its thighs and it has a dark tip on its tail. The male stands about 80cm tall with a tail of a similar length, and can weigh up to 17kg. The smaller female has a height of about 70cm and ranges from 9-15kg in weight. The island is also home to the more common and usually solitary Swamp Wallaby with its darker fur and distinctive black muzzle.
Agile Wallabies live in small groups in dry open forests, dunes, heath and grassland; however they are also very happy in their own company. Generally seen in groups when feeding in open areas-this is a behaviour that may help with spotting predators .The females like to gather together in small mobs of up to 10 individuals to share feeding and resting areas. Males can be seen having sparring bouts and checking out the ladies, while the mothers may be interacting with their young. The wallabies are highly vigilant and have a nervous disposition, stamping their feet when alarmed.
The wallabies have been sighted at Brown Lake and in southern parts of the Island, near fresh water and around the margins of 18 Mile Swamp. An interesting fact about wallabies (and kangaroos) is that on land they cannot move their hind legs independently of each other, however when they are swimming, they kick each leg independently. The late afternoons, dusk and early mornings are when they are most active, typically hiding in dense cover during the heat of the day but they may forage in the open during the day too. As strict herbivores, they have a digestive system like cows and use symbiotic microbes to assist digestion. Their diet consists of grasses, sedges, leaves and fruit and they will dig up grass roots with very agile paws.
Breeding occurs at any time of the year, with the female becoming receptive soon after giving birth. Male behaviour at this time includes play fighting, leaping in the air and sinuously lashing his tail and generally showing off in front of her. After mating, the gestation period is 30 days, after which the baby is born and heads straight for the mother’s pouch where it remains for 7-8 months until weaned at 12-14 months. The female can become pregnant whilst still carrying a young one in the pouch. The newly fertilised embryo ceases cell division and becomes dormant until the pouch is vacated. This ability allows the wallaby to breed rapidly. Males are reproductively mature at 12-14 months. The wallabies have a lifespan of approximately 13 years.
Watching a wallaby feeding whilst its joey fumbles around in her pouch is a special experience. When wild animals seem so placid it is tempting to get closer, touch and even feed them. With regular feeding they then tend to approach people for food. They readily accept our presence if we show no aggression towards them; if we are too close we are seen as a threat and can be hurt. It is strongly recommended that wild animals, including wallabies are not fed or approached. It is not good for them or for us.

What you can do to protect these gentle animals?

  • Keep all dogs under control. It is particularly important that beach campers in bush areas keep their dogs on leads, as required by Straddie Camping, Dogs and cats should be indoors at night.
  • Report any fox sightings to Redland City Council. Follow recommended speed limits and keep to them on the Island
  • Support the end of land clearing for sandmining and the preservation of all habitat on the island.
Photograph of the Agile Wallaby on South Stradbroke Island taken by Gary Cranitch. Thanks to the Queensland Museum, Article by Angela McLeod

Council Orange Tape

The Redland City Council has responsibility for the beautiful reserve which covers the coastal dunes and headlands of Point Lookout. A large part of this area including the Gorge was listed under the Queensland Heritage Register in 2004 due to the efforts of Friends of Stradbroke Island. The reserve now co-exists with non-exclusive aboriginal land tenure, with the RCC still responsible for its management. The proliferation of  the Council’s orange tape over this vulnerable landscape is causing community concern.
South Gorge
In January this year during a wet season event a torrent of water damaged the entry to South Gorge (aka the Bathing Gorge). The stairs were damaged, the footpath above undermined and the path between the dunes gouged out. Since then the entry to this popular beach has been orange taped by Council and has remained inaccessible for some 8 months. We can only hope news from Council that $180,000 has been allocated for repairs will result in the beach being useable this summer and that this will be a long lasting solution.

Queuing for the (3) toilets!
The toilet block with 3 toilets replaced a tired old building which at least contained 12 toilets. This doesn’t seem like planning for the future or even the present.  The structure is large enough for proper facilities. What went wrong here?
The Gorge Walk
Our “world class” walkway has not been without its critics. The verandah style slats have removed the lovely ocean vistas that were enjoyed while approaching vantage points.  Board riders comment that the natural hillsides once visible from their vantage point out on the waves are now dominated by a heavy man- made structure. The timber walkway is considered by many to be overbuilt and the structure itself is now showing signs of a lack of planning consideration for its delicate setting. The recent toppling of a she oak directly undermining supporting timbers of one viewing platform. It appears that the roots of this lovely tree bravely clinging to the rocky slope were compromised when the deck was built. This platform was closed off with the ubiquitous orange tape that seems to have bedecked Point Lookout this year.
New extensions to the walkway on the northern side in recent months saw the building of further timber structures and a section of decidedly unnatural “crazy paving”. Surprisingly vegetation was removed to create a “zipway” to move building materials downhill to the work site. The sandy hillside was not stabilized or replanted afterwards and another washout has occurred- still needing remediation
The Redland City Council has some work cut out for it to have the high use major ‘tourist attractions’ of the Island ready for the increase in population over the coming summer months.
With work on upgrading more pathways in the Point Lookout Coastal Reserve now under consideration it appears lessons need to be learnt. The series of structural and planning inadequacies associated with the management of this Heritage Listed Reserve so far doesn’t bode well.

The Eastern Long-Necked Turtle

An intriguing island inhabitant

Turtles are one of the most ancient and appealing reptiles, generally considered shy and introverted. The Eastern Long-necked Turtle is one of the two freshwater turtle species found on North Stradbroke Island. The turtle is aptly named because its long slender neck is almost as long as its body. However gentle they are to humans, this neck is its mighty weapon, with which it ambushes passing prey and strikes like a snake with its mouth open.
The Eastern Long-necked Turtle was the first to be described and collected by Sir Joseph Banks during Captain Cook’s first voyage along the East coast of Australia. Easily recognised, the body is about 25cm long and the shell is divided into two. The upper part or ‘the carapace’ is flat and smooth and coloured various shades of brown, whereas underneath is creamy yellow with black lines. Its feet are webbed for swimming and features strong claws for tearing at food. It has a third transparent eyelid, present in all freshwater turtles, which enables it to see underwater.
Most of the time it lives in the water and can stay below the surface for 2 to 3 hours, using its lungs to help control its buoyancy. However, it travels overland and climbs well, searching for new waterholes or nesting areas. It lives in freshwater lakes, ponds, lagoons and swamps – of which there are plenty on North Stradbroke Island.
This little turtle has another effective weapon to protect itself when threatened – it ejects a pungent liquid from a musk gland in its armpits and groin, which surely frightens off its predators, hence its nickname ‘Stinker’. Feeding takes place only in water and being carnivorous, its diet consists of crustaceans, tadpoles, frogs, small fish, worms and molluscs. With no teeth, its jaws are hard and horn-like, suited for biting into crustaceans and tiny bones.
It regulates its own body temperature and basks in the sun, stretching out its back legs to gain maximum contact with warm surfaces and then pops back into the water to cool down and maintain its body temp at 23 to 32 degrees Celsius. Breeding takes place in the late spring and summer. The Eastern Long-necked Turtle’s senses of vision, smell and hearing are highly developed and they communicate by a wide range of vocalisations that are too soft for humans to hear.
To attract a mate, the male displays aggressive behaviour by biting his chosen girlfriend on her limbs and the back of her neck until she
responds. No way to win a lady! He also swims backward in front of her, fanning with his forelimbs for hours around her face and neck. To make up for his bad behaviour, he mates with her vertically in water and gently caresses her shell with his front legs.
The female usually lays 1 to 3 clutches of eggs a year and chooses an overcast and rainy afternoon to lay. She makes nests on the banks of lakes, creeks or swamps, well above the water level. A clutch may consist of 6 to 30 eggs which may incubate between 46 and 123 days. As part of the natural food chain, the freshwater turtle’s eggs are preyed upon by the island’s Lace Monitors and crows while White-bellied Sea Eagles will reportedly opportunistically feed on the adult turtles themselves. The hatchlings will hatch after rain so that the soil is soft above the nesting chamber making it easier to climb out. They are very vulnerable at this stage and can be eaten by birds, goannas and Water Rats as they make their way to the water. Full maturity is reached at 10 years of age and if they are lucky, they can live for 35 years or more. Females can store sperm in their bodies over winter to take advantage of good laying conditions and to establish new locations.
Although currently considered a common species, these ancient reptiles can be impacted by careless human activity when they mistakenly consume as food rubbish such as plastic bags, cigarette butts and fishing hooks. However, the most widespread conservation concern for this turtle across Australia is nest predation by foxes. A huge 49 percent of nests are estimated to be destroyed in areas where foxes are active. Female turtles are especially at risk from fox predation when they are exposed and vulnerable, away from the protection of the lakes and swamps, when searching for nesting places. As freshwater turtles take so long to reach maturity, coordinated fox control across the whole island is a necessary way to protect these notable residents of the island’s lakes and swamps.

Photos by John Roe
Article by Angela McLeod

The Spring Wildflowers Season in Full Swing – Pink leptospermum
Pair of Immature Whistling Kites


Investigation into Enterprise mine drags on

The Federal environment department’s investigation is now three years old with no decision whether Sibelco is mining unlawfully in breach of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. This was raised by FOSI in its submission to a Senate committee inquiry into the Federal Government’s proposed restrictions on environment groups challenging decisions made by the Minister under the EPBC Act.  FOSI’s submission is number 34 –

Job losses or gains?

Sibelco and its ally Mark Robinson MP claim ending sand mining in 2019 will cause “sackings” of 600. Less than two years ago an official government economic analysis estimated that from 2015 there would be 107 full time equivalent jobs, direct and indirect, from Sibelco’s island operation. Only 86 of these would be on the island, with 21 elsewhere in SE Qld. A Newman Government controlled parliamentary committee (ie Mark Robinson’s colleagues) accepted this advice, rejecting Sibelco’s exaggerated job loss claims eg see page 7 of the committee’s report and footnote 18 on that page. Of the 86 jobs on the island, many will continue to be filled by mainland residents. The Toondah Harbour redevelopment, whether we like it or not, is likely to proceed and create hundreds of jobs from 2017.  Looks like a net job gain.

Promised repeal of Newman amendments

The Bill to repeal these amendments is expected soon. This will reinstate the 2019 end date and the restricted Enterprise mine path of 337 hectares.

Bribes and compromises?

Sibelco has been busy trying to bribe the island community with financial promises in return for support for a so-called “compromise” to end sand mining in 2027. Is Sibelco relying on short memories? In 2009 CRL advised the ASX that island mineral sand mining would end by 2027, assuming expired leases were renewed. The CRL letter revealed that this in fact was an extension of 4 years. After it bought out CRL, Sibelco also sought a 2027 end date from the Bligh government. To top it off, despite its ambit claim of 2035, its own PR company Rowland revealed  the objective of Sibelco’s $1 million + political campaign before the 2012 State election, was to:-
“Achieve public endorsement by the then Queensland Opposition Leader, Campbell Newman, for the continuation of Sibelco’s NSI operations until 2027” (page 4 of the Rowland Report tabled in parliament by Jackie Trad Nov, 2013).

Inquiry into legislative favours

Following the appointment of a new head of the Crime and Corruption Commision, the Government has confirmed its intention to hold a public inquiry. Specific mention has been made of the 2013 North Stradbroke legislative amendments favouring Sibelco, which in 2013 Jackie Trad labelled a “cash for legislation deal”.

———– How to Support FOSI’s ongoing work ————
Thank you very much to all the generous members who have made donations to Friends of Stradbroke Island in the past.
We continue to highlight the increasing environmental damage caused by land clearing, sand mining, hydrological changes, plastic and feral animals on North Stradbroke Island. Donations are integral to help fund our ongoing public information and education campaigns and to help fund relevant scientific research.
All donations to the Environment Fund are tax deductible – contact us for details.

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