In this edition:
- A New Era for Stradbroke
- Whale Shark Spotted Off Straddie
- Draft Planning Scheme Update
- Dunwich High Tide Roost Getting Good Use
- Island Fox Control Continues
- Coastal Raptor Nests Project
- Quandamooka Festival 2016
A New Era for Stradbroke
After a drawn out process of consultation and speculation, the Government’s Bill to repeal the 2013 Newman Government amendments to the North Stradbroke Island Act was passed by the Queensland Parliament on 25 May.
The repeal of the Newman Government’s amendments and the restoration of the 2019 end date for mining is good news. This will save over 700 hectares of mostly undisturbed, high dune habitat from destruction and limit the impacts of mining on wetlands and the underlying aquifer. It is of course distressing that there will be three and a half more years of environmental harm, but a non-mining future for Straddie is now within sight.
The passage of the Bill through Parliament was enlivened by the Billy Gordon and Rob Pyne episodes and the (red herring?) Katter Party Bill specifying a 2024 end date, as well as the song and dance and job number exaggerations made by Sibelco supporters.
Queensland MP Mark Robinson (LNP) and Redlands Mayor Karen Williams took their cues from Sibelco’s exaggerated job figures, with Williams saying on ABC radio in March that “650 people in those mines will have to find other ways of feeding their family and continuing their lifestyle on the island”. This jobs claim is at least 13 times the true figure.
Even the local Straddie Island News (SIN) came under the influence of Sibelco’s local PR man, reporting his claim that “mining on North Stradbroke Island provides jobs for over 600 persons”. SIN did not report the departmental advice given to the Newman Government in 2013 that ending mining in 2019 would result in a loss of 107 direct and indirect jobs from sand mining, with only 86 of those jobs based on the Island.
In an April, 2016 letter providing its economic report to the Palaszczuk Government, Deloitte confirmed that its reference to over 100 island miners, was taken from the 2011 Census data. It acknowledged that two of the three sand mines had since closed.
A well informed long term local resident, in his submission to the recent parliamentary committee inquiry, estimated that the local resident mine employees now numbered about 40, with the balance travelling to the Island each day.
Why would the Queensland Government not respond in the public interest to correct the exaggerated jobs claims? Perhaps the answer lies in the Government’s support for the Toondah Harbour proposal, which includes the use of public land including Ramsar wetlands and the construction of multi-storey buildings containing about 3600 apartments, considered by many as an over-development. The Government claims it is needed to solve the supposed employment crisis on Stradbroke at the end of 2019. But the Government’s transition strategy for the Island is to create over 150 jobs, and about 50 people will be employed in rehabilitating mine sites. There is no need for an over-developed Toondah Harbour.
The Newman Government’s actions were a sorry chapter in Queensland’s history. But let’s not forget that over 350 hectares of Straddie’s landscape and aboriginal cultural heritage is scheduled to be destroyed because the Palaszcsuk Labor Government endorsed the Bligh Government’s extension of the Enterprise mine’s main lease from 2007 for a further 13 years. Objectors including FOSI wanted to take any extension to court, but the Bligh government prevented this by using special legislation to override objection rights. This has been acknowledged by senior lawyers, including Stephen Keim SC. For further information and a quote from Mr Keim, see the first page of FOSI’s first submission to the parliamentary committee which examined the Bill.
FOSI’s role in keeping the Government to its election promises has been acknowledged by many. The Government’s post-election consultation with FOSI is referred to in the Explanatory Notes to the Bill. The Quandamooka people also fought hard for the repeal and the restoration of their rights and interests under the native title court orders. The Save Straddie Facebook group, run by FOSI members and supporters, also played a particularly important role, with the group’s supporters numbering over 8,800 and its posts regularly achieving hundreds of likes and shares.
FOSI’s opposition to the environmental destruction caused by sand mining and the long campaign for the repeal of the Newman amendments were not easy tasks. Pro-mining forces within the Labor Party, especially the AWU, fought to keep mining going while members of the local pro-mining branch of the ALP were among those who promoted the undermining of community efforts to oppose mining and support the repeal of the Newman amendments.
Sibelco itself used its financial power to attempt to purchase a social licence on the island, donating money to local organisations and employing community members in various roles. Their public relations campaign did not rely on media advertising, as it did leading up to the election of the Newman government, but was covert and toxic, reliant on building political relationships and local networks, myth-making, gossip and peer group pressure. It did not work.
In the end, with the passing of the Bill, the interests of the people of Queensland including the Quandamooka people won out over the interests of Belgian miner Sibelco. Clearly the need to end mining for the good of the Island is something Stradbroke Island people and Queenslanders recognise.
Protecting our environment does not come naturally to politicians. It happens because ordinary people demand it. Now the challenges will include making sure the Queensland Environment Department enforces Sibelco’s legal obligations to extensively rehabilitate mined land and eliminate foxes and other pests and weeds from its still substantial mining lease areas.
FOSI will also lobby the government to prevent clearing for real estate development on Straddie and to introduce new laws to prevent Sibelco polluting our air and putting our health at risk. The promised 80% National Park will also be pursued. The lack of EPBC Act approval for the Enterprise mine is another issue.
The FOSI Committee wishes to thank members for their efforts and support. North Stradbroke Island is entering a new era and FOSI’s role of keeping the environment of the Island front and centre will continue.
Sue Ellen Carew, President, Friends of Stradbroke Island
Whale Shark Spotted Off Straddie
A spectacular, juvenile whale shark was spotted by divers at Flat Rock off Point Lookout on 22 May 2016. At only five-metres long, the young fish has a long way still to grow to get to 20 metres and weigh 20 tonnes, which is what the largest whale sharks reach!
Dr Kathy Townsend from University of Queensland’s Moreton Bay Marine Research Station at Dunwich was reported by the ABC as saying it was only the second confirmed sighting of a whale shark off Straddie in about 10 years. On the east coast, whale sharks – the world’s largest living shark – usually feed further off shore in the Coral Sea.
Despite their huge size, whale sharks are docile, filter feeders that cruise the world’s oceans looking for plankton. One of only three filter-feeding sharks, whale sharks feed on minute organisms including krill, crab larvae and jellyfish. Although they have approximately 3,000 tiny teeth (each less than 6 millimetres in length), these teeth are not used while feeding. Instead, the whale shark can sieve prey items as small as 1 millimetre through the fine mesh of its gill-rakers. They are able to open their mouth to a great width (greater than 1 metre) to optimise feeding.
These gentle giants are famous for their annual gathering at Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef, but outside these waters very little is known about this threatened species, which is considered to be globally vulnerable.
More information about these amazing creatures can be found at: http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/recreational_fishing/fact_sheets/fact_sheet_whale_shark.pdf
Draft Planning Scheme Update
As members will be aware, a new planning scheme for Redland City is currently being considered by Council. Council is in the process of reviewing the 6,000 plus submissions that were received in relation to the draft scheme.
As members are aware, FOSI lodged a detailed submission in relation to the draft scheme and in particular the provisions in relation to Point Lookout. The FOSI submission urged the Council to include the same special building and landscape codes for Point Lookout as are embedded in the current scheme, in order to preserve the special character of the township.
Council has indicated that its review of the submissions should be completed by the end of the year. At that time, Council’s report on the submissions should be made publicly available.
FOSI is continuing the dialogue with Council about the relevant provisions of the draft scheme and we will keep members updated on developments. FOSI thanks Stephen Smith, Blacksmith Planning & Design for his continued assistance.
Dunwich High Tide Roost Getting Good Use
Large numbers of Australian Pied Oystercatchers have been spotted congregating on Bradburys Beach, Dunwich. This location has been identified as an internationally significant roosting site for this beautiful species.
Over 65 birds were photographed resting on the shore during one high tide in mid-May. The birds and their roost can be easily seen from the One Mile Ferry terminal.
FOSI has worked to heighten awareness among land managers of the importance of this small roost which is very vulnerable to disturbance due to its location on the edge of the village. With the support of Birds Australia’s Wader Study Group and SEQ Catchments, a sign was erected last year explaining the significance of the site and the need to take care not to disturb the shorebirds.
Awareness of the need to protect this special place seems to be growing with walkers now seen to be exercising their dogs on leashes and keeping their distance from the birds.
Photograph by Mary Barram
Island Fox Control Continues
Fox control work seems to be heading in the right direction on NSI with a wider, controlled baiting program rolling out this winter. Areas north of Karboora (Blue Lake) will be targeted this time, as well as areas in the southern part of the island under mining leases. Notices will be posted on all access tracks where the fluoroacetate (1080) baits are to be laid.
The 1080 bait is a highly toxic and effective pesticide used to control vertebrate pest animals. While the commercial product is synthetically manufactured, the compound occurs naturally in a variety of plants in Australia (Acacia georginae, and Gastrolobium spp). Many birds, rodents, ruminants and native animals such as reptiles and amphibians are more tolerant of 1080 than most introduced pest species.
This allows baiting programs to be targeted at pest species with reduced risks to native species. The program is also conducted over winter when many reptiles, including goannas, are less active or hibernating.
All residents within 2kms of a baiting station will be informed before baiting begins. The baits will be buried but dogs will be able to dig them up. To prevent consumption, dogs should be kept on a lead at all times when walking in the bush. Prevention is best – but if you suspect your dog has taken a bait immediately seek veterinary advice and care. Although 1080 has no specific antidote there are veterinary treatments that can assist a dog’s survival. The sooner action is taken following poisoning or suspected poisoning, the better the prognosis for the dog.
Michael Dickinson from Australian Wildlife and Feral Management, who is heavily involved in NSI’s feral animal control program, has passed on the good news that he is seeing far less noticeable fox activity. The foxes are not gone, but definitely numbers are lower. Michael has also noticed that foxes are now a lot more shy towards spotlighting when he is patrolling the ocean beaches at night.
Michael’s observations – along with the successful sea turtle nesting season which saw no nests predated over summer – are evidence that investing in fox control in the island is worthwhile and effective. Feral cat control is planned to step in behind fox control. The long term – and achievable – goal is total eradication of foxes and feral cats from the island.
Kangaroos standing up for Straddie, Pt Lookout, Feb 2016. Photo: C. O’Neill
Coastal Raptor Nests Project
Redland City Council in conjunction with Birdlife Australia has started a citizen science project with respect to raptor nests. In May, FOSI representatives attended a workshop to launch the venture which aims to identify and map coastal raptor nests within the Redlands mainland and islands.
At this stage only the nests of three of the region’s most common birds of prey are being targeted: Eastern Osprey, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Brahminy Kite. The information gathered will assist in land management of the sites including the management of habitat trees containing the nests.
Already FOSI members have contributed sightings of two active Eastern Osprey nests on the island (the exact locations posted on the website are only accessible to the staff supervising the project).
The Coastal Raptor Citizen Science Factsheet (included in this newsletter) explains how you can contribute to the project. Suspected locations of nests can also be reported to the organisers, as a student naturalist is checking all potential sites. Please email any tip-offs to Dale Watson, Natural Environment Officer, RCC at Dale.Watson@redland.qld.gov.au or FOSI’s Treasurer Mary Barram at Mbarram@bigpond.com, who will pass on the information.
Spectacular (and very prominent!) Eastern Osprey nest at Amity Point. Photographed Easter 2016 by Mary Barram
Quandamooka Festival 2016
The FOSI Committee is pleased to again support the Quandamooka Festival with sponsorship. The inaugural festival run by the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation last year had some wonderful island cultural events enjoyed by members.
A list of events for the 2016 festival is available at: http://quandamookafestival.com.au