FIDO Fraser Island Defenders Organization
FIDO, “The Watchdog of Fraser Island”, aims to ensure the wisest use of Fraser Island's natural resources.

MOONBI 103

MOONBI is the name given by the Butchalla Aborigines to the central part of their homeland, Fraser Island or "Kgari".
MOONBI is the newsletter of Fraser Island Defenders Organization Limited.
FIDO's Home Page: www.fido.org.au      E-Mail: 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 (ABN 59 009 969 135)
FIDO's Postal Address: PO Box 70, BALD HILLS QLD 4036      John Sinclair, PO Box 71, GLADESVILLE, NSW, 1675
ISSN 0311 - 032X      Registered by Australia Post - Publication QBH2293      15 November, 2002

In This Issue

Weed-busters in Action on Fraser Island

Future Fishing on Fraser, Aquaculture, Turtles

Public Calls for Action on 4WDs

Court Arbitrates Battle of the Barges

Horse Riding Safaris, Dingoesí DNA, Councilsí Rubbish, Protecting Fraser Shipwreck Site

Air Brooms, Dilli Village, Fire management

Trail Bikes, Ex Minister laments, Fishers "Feed Crackers to birds", Police Station Nears Completion

Siltation of Lakes, What comes naturally

Dingo management, Ground Parrot surveys

Great Walk Announced, Walking Track Opposed,

Island Legend Leaves, Mobile phones

Presidentís Annual Report

What needs to be done: What you can do

The Issues of Fraser Island

Management of Fraser Island embraces many dimensions. These range from transport and access to planning; from monitoring of the natural resources and then dealing with problems as diverse as dingo and human behaviour; from intuitive patterns of recreation to commercial self interest. There is also fire ecology, control of erosion and weeds human and property safety, camp ground management, "duty of care" and so much more. This doesnít include the many over-riding considerations such as politics and budget. MOONBI gives insights into some of these.

Weeds: Weeds can transform the island. FIDO has been actively addressing this with weed working bees. Details of the outcome and plans for future weed attacks.

Keeping Fraser Island Natural: Several problems were uncovered during the Weed Working Bees including transforming of Fraser Island into something very unnatural by the introduction of exotic plants.

Fire: Apart from the story on our observations of recent burns on Fraser Island this MOONBI also carries a Backgrounder on Fire Ecology on Fraser Island so that the public can better appreciate that not all of the impacts of fire are adverse. Fire can have a very beneficial role in the ecology which is why FIDO supports trying to replicate traditional Aboriginal burning practices.

Sedimentation of the lakes: If sediment continues to flow into Lake Allom at the current rate it will be filled only with sand within 100 years. This alarming prospect is worrying FIDO but seeing no action by the QPWS who are building a platform beside the alluvial plume.

Air Brooms: There are many issues destroying the serenity of Fraser Island from the increasing volume of joy flights and the fact that motor vehicles and pedestrians are have uncontrolled use of the aircraft landing strips but trail bikes and air brooms are going over the top.

Trail Bikes: For too long as the right of trail bikers to access Fraser Island has gone unchallenged, many riders have abused the environment on the island including entering what should be vehicle free areas and posed a threat to public safety. FIDO wants them off.

Camping Management Plan: With the imminent and much delayed adoption of this plan we hope that there will be action to implement it.

Walking Tracks: A start is about to be made on the long vaunted and much needed Fraser Island Great Walk but some Fraser Island residents are opposed to this project but they want more mobile phone coverage.

Marine Issues: Fish populations around Australia are plummeting. This is leading belatedly to stronger action by the Queensland Government. This is likely to have significant implications on the recreation patterns on Fraser Island. There are other marine issues,

4WD issues: Since MOONBI 102 there has been a huge and growing public debate on 4WDs. This has potential implications for Fraser Island management and we need to follow this issue closely.

Commercial Tour Operations: Linking of the Kingfisher and Eurong Resorts under the one management has huge implications for Fraser Island. FIDO believes that one of the inevitabilities of this multi-million dollar deal will be the construction of a light rail linking the two resorts. Former Eurong Resort owners are being prosecuted by the ACCC for breaching the Trade Practices Act in the operation of their barges at Inskip Point.

Dingoes: Discussion of dingo management will not die while the dingoes keep being killed at the current rate. Not all of the dingoes killed are reported but this MOONBI has three separate reports on dingoes.

FIDO is dealing with all of the above issues and more. It is small wonder then that FIDO is stretched and requires more resources to cover the full range of issues adequately. Still, we have been doing it for more than 31 years and plan to be around for many years yet.

Weed-busters in October Fraser Island Action

Despite the heat, scratches, sore muscles and blisters the Weed working bees at both venues a very happy event. Within a couple of days of the assault on the weekend of 18th-20th October, the E-mails were alive with reflections.

At Eurong

FIDO President, Ian Matthews noted after the "It was a successful time at Eurong, and the (Maryborough) Council staff seemed amazed at our effectiveness. They clearly have little effect, as even lantana that have been poisoned and burned was reshooting, and it appears that the laborious task of uprooting the trees is all that really works. Maryborough Council would really like a Greening Australia group in Maryborough.

"EPA staff were around both days assisting with slashing and poisoning.

"Pat Caldecott was a great help running the kitchen during the day.

"Ratepayers really need better education about inappropriate plants with their rates notices.

"The old dump at Eurong is still a problem. It is still used as a green dump to some degree, and there are all sorts of exotics as well as weeds spreading from it. We removed much of it but it needs to be closed. It also appears that it is used as a holding station for the bins on the beach, which are stored then and then transferred to the big bin to be taken off the island. It appears the bins are washed out at the dump, as there is a water pipe going to the dump from a spear to the east, and this was replaced after a recent fire. As a result rubbish is washed onto the sand, which attracts dingoes (there were scats everywhere) and the place stinks. It also spreads weeds. This practice needs to be reviewed."

At Happy Valley

The mountains of weeds extracted from Happy Valley defied imagination. The heaps just kept growing as up-rooted Easter Cassia, (the worst of the weeds) and umpteen invasive Umbrella Trees were added to the huge piles around the edge of the vacant core of Crown Land between the two valleys. There were lots of other weeds including asparagus ferns, Mother-in-Laws-Tongues and some huge pepperina trees. Some spraying had previously occurred but it has failed. Uprooting is the only effective solution. The team had ambitions to extend to other areas but they will have to wait for future working bees as we are determined to thoroughly clean out the core area first and then extend our operations. The Hervey Bay Council sent an officer and some volunteers.

Greening Australia Team Leader, Donna Bowe said by E-mail, "I reckon you guys and us guys make a pretty fine team. I canít thank you and FIDO enough for a fantastic weekend (I personally think it was a highlight of my year and feedback from everyone else suggests the same). Your support to get there and extremely generous hospitality is much appreciated by all of us. We felt like we were treated like kings and queens. I always feel great pride with the GA Volunteers - we do attract outstanding people and I always really enjoy working with them.

"I see the links and partnerships we make as being an essential element of the Program's work. FIDO's work on Fraser has and still is highly essential for the future of the Island - and it was an honour to help out here. Greatly looking forward to linking up in the future."

Wildlife Observations: Hervey Bay volunteer, Sue Dollery, was working at Happy Valley: "Fraser Island looked as beautiful as ever. There was treasure in the trash in the form of a wallaby that came bounding over the hill as I was collecting beer bottles at the beach end of the road into Happy Valley. It jumped through the bush, over the road and disappeared into the yard of the "Sails" complex. There were dolphins off shore from Yidney Rocks early on Saturday morning, a brown dove to the left of the amenities block in Happy Valley and a small pinkish brown reptile, which we thought was a snake, outside the backdoor of the cottage at Yidney. Su got close enough to see legs. Su and I could hear the dingoes howling as we prepared morning tea on Saturday. I have never heard them howl like that before. Just as well we had the gas lighter gun with us for protection!"

On some observations of the wildlife, FIDO Vice President, Judy Tambling working at Eurong said that they encountered a real brown snake and observed a very tame dingo on the verandah of one Eurong residence where it was clearly not being discouraged.

Future Weed Working Bees

Most of the volunteers are happy to come again and bring others. FIDO is already planning the next weeds working Bee on the weekend of 4th-5th and 6th July. October was very hot and milder weather is preferable.

NHT Rejection: FIDO needs more resources to be able to effectively manage the pool of willing volunteers. However but it seems that we have been black-balled by the Wide Bay Natural Heritage Trust Assessment Committee who didnít even acknowledge the importance of protecting Fraser Islandís World Heritage status when declining to recommend FIDOís application for funds to clean up the weeds in the Fraser Island townships.

The Methodology

One of the problems encountered at both Eurong and Happy Valley is that both Councils have attempted to control weeds by spraying. While this has knocked back the plants, it has not knocked them out and new shoots have subsequently emerged from the old stumps which have been forever getting bigger. The technique adopted by FIDO and Greening Australia in Weedbusters Week was to physically uproot and remove every plant. Where FIDO previously used this technique at Eurong in 1999 there has been virtually no regeneration except from seed left in the ground. Council officers were most impressed.

Future Fishing on Fraser

The Fraser Island World Heritage Area is not confined to Fraser Island itself. It extends 500 metres from the shore in all directions. FIDO's interest is not just confined to Fraser Island but to all of the Great Sandy Region. Thus what is happening in the marine environment and other parts of the Great Sandy Region is of great concern to FIDO.

Coincidental with this, there is increasing concern (indeed alarm) within the Queensland Government at the fact that the current level of fishing in Queensland is unsustainable. FIDO has been questioning the sustainability of fishing in the Great Sandy Region for several years and this is one of the bases for our opposition to the continuation of the Fraser Island Fishing Expo.

MOONBI 103 provides a few reports to shed some light on a problem which is much larger than the Queensland Government had previously assumed.

Fight Over Hervey Bay Fishing

The push is on to see who has the most public support, the commercial seafood industry or the recreational fishing lobby group Sunfish.

Sunfish is campaigning to have Hervey Bay declared a recreational fishing only area (emphasizing the value of) the tourist pull of fishing by how many tourists were lured there for recreational fishing and how much money they spent.

The seafood industry has countered with a petition to show support for keeping the existing commercial fishing industries. In one day 500 people signed a petition which calls for the government to ensure that those parts of Hervey Bay and the Great Sandy Strait remain open to commercial fishing.

From the "Fraser Coast Chronicle" 6/8/02

Note: The petition signatures were obtained beside a billboard headed, "Save our Seafood: Your access to local Hervey Bay seafood is in danger of being taken away! Ensure your right to local seafood here".

Another Fishing Fight

Recreational fishers love to hook a good fighting fish. Now they have other fights on their hands.

On 1 September, the Queensland Government released proposed new restrictions which included tough bag and size limits planned for recreational and commercial fishing. It placed bag limits on five popular table species, including flathead, spotted mackerel, snapper and jew fish, as well as size limits and changes in rules about nets used by commercial fishermen. Premier Beattie said the new limits were designed to protect dwindling fish populations and he would not accept major changes. He said, "Unless we have very strict limits in relation to certain fish (species) then they will not exist any more".

Sunfish hopes to modify the plan so that anglers can keep just one flathead longer than 60 cm with any others caught, subject to the limit.

The Bureau of Rural Sciences has recently released a report showing that Australia now has 11 over-fished species compared with seven species a year earlier ó an increase of 60%. More worrying is that the future of another 35 species is uncertain. The Bureau has also indicated that it will take time for many of the species to recover. For example, there has been little recovery of gemfish despite protective measures since 1988.

How the Worm Turns

A fisherman recently used a multi pronged hoe to dig up an area around the Urangan Boat Harbour which was in the middle of a seagrass monitoring program, even digging up survey pegs on the site, while looking for worms. Despite being advised that it is illegal to disturb marine vegetation and that he could attract a fine of up to $75,000, the man continued his destructive activities, having ruined more than 12 months of a monitoring program. FIDO hopes that the extension of the Marine Park will be more effective in stopping such destructive (even if once traditional) practices of amateur anglers.

Blind Spot on Hervey Bay Aquaculture

One of the difficulties FIDO is experiencing is our lack of knowledge of the proposal to establish an aquaculture industry in Hervey Bay. While we have some data on proposed fish farms such as are proposed for Moreton Bay, we understand that the Hervey Bay farms are to grow scallops and are much further offshore. The impacts of this type of operation are unknown in a proposed Marine Park need to be assessed so the public is in a better position to assess whether the positive benefits outweigh the negative. The issue has been brought into sharper focus with other applications to establish cultured pearl farms in the area between Little Woody Island and Fraser Island. This is a Ramsar site and the only way we are learning of these proposals is through notifications which are required under the Commonwealth Governmentís EPBC Act. If anyone can assist outline for us the summary of the impacts of either type of aquaculture we will be in a better position to respond.

Turtles

There is an increasing recognition of the importance of Fraser Island as a habitat for turtles. This may because more turtles are now observed nesting there, particularly in the Sandy Cape are. Previously it had been assumed that the finer sand of Fraser Island was not as attractive to turtles as the coarser sand of better known beaches and the coral cays of the Great Barrier Reef. It was known that almost all the courtship and mating of loggerhead turtles from the south-west Pacific occurs off Rooneys Point. However now it is being very significant for other species such as Green Turtles. QPWS turtle researchers recently tagged a turtle in Moreton Bay which (using political correctness) they labelled "Dean the Green" after their Minister, Dean Wells with a radio satellite transmitter to establish a better understanding of the movements of this endangered species. After being tracked for two months the signal stopped off Waddy Point. Dean was one of four turtles tagged and after transmission ceased a $500 reward was offered for any information on his whereabouts.

However there is little doubt about the six dead turtles washed up near the Great Sandy Strait over recent months. There is strong suspicion that they were caught in set nets and were innocent parts of the by-catch.

Public Calls for Action on 4WDs

Since August there have been increasing calls from the Australian public for curbs on the use of 4WDs. Numbers of 4WDs in Australia are growing at the rate of 100,000 per year.

Five-year-old Bethany Holder was run over by a 4WD on a Collaroy street in Sydney and was killed by the bullbar as the vehicle travelled forward into the school driveway. The vehicle WASNíT REVERSING. The driver said that she hadnít been able to see the child over the top of the bonnet. Bethany was killed because of the height, weight and large tyre size of the vehicle.

The incident has provoked a huge public debate on the need for 4WDs in the urban situation. It has also called into question some of the many enormous government concessions which have facilitated the current boom in 4WDs which are probably more heavily impacting on Fraser Island than any other natural site in Australia. However, the furore over the use of these vehicles has not overcome the political reluctance to address the seriousness of the 4WD problem. It seems that politicians are not keen to tackle the incredibly powerful 4WD lobby.

FIDO should not be concerned about the use of 4WDs in the urban situation except that one consequence of the proliferation of urban 4WDs is a huge degree of environmental degradation on Fraser Island. FIDO has called for special 4WD licences because of the danger which 4WDs pose in any situation. As one journalist comments, "Every driver makes mistakes but, in a 4WD, the consequences of that mistake are likely to be much more fatal for someone else."

Urban 4WD owners are claiming that they are acquiring these vehicles designed for off-road work as a "lifestyle choice", but their choice is affecting the lifestyle and the budget of others. There are now nearly 100,000 4WDs sold annually in Australia and they continue to increase their market share due mainly to overgenerous tax concessions made to them. They are heavier and use more fuel (up to three times the amount used by a small hatchback). They attract only a 5% tariff compared with a 15% tariff for other vehicles. In fact, the concession is so attractive that Subaru modified the design of their Forester model 4WD by raising its centre of gravity (making it less stable) to qualify for this extraordinary concession.

FIDO is not opposed to 4WDs per se. FIDO wants 4WDs to be used only where they are really needed and not just as a "lifestyle choice". The other matter of major concern is that it is an increasing proportion of very belligerent people who are opting for this "lifestyle choice". The same ilk of people who in the United States would be attracted to becoming vociferous supporters of the American Riflemanís Association are opting to be the main advocates for 4WDs. Take for example the letters written to newspapers in response to the spate of letters urging politicians to take action to curb the plague of 4WDs invading the cities. One advocate concluded his cynical reply with "Get a four-wheel drive guys; see what you have been missing. Get a life!" It seems that there is a high proportion of "GGs" (Grasping gimmes) amongst the 4WDers.

The answers which saner voices are advocating are:

  1. Restore the tax level for all 4WDs purchased by someone without a genuine rural income;
  2. Prevent car dealerships adding mandatory extras such as bullbars purely to improve their commission;
  3. Establish a new class of licence for all 4WDers (for both ordinary road and off-road use) mandatory;
  4. Restrict the areas of public land 4WDs can operate on unless there is a legitimate need to use them there.
  5. Pay higher insurance premiums to reflect the damage which the bulkier 4WDs wreak in accidents. (In collisions with smaller vehicles they are 20 times more likely to kill the driver of the small car than in a collision between two small cars.

FIDO is not opposed to the use of 4WDs because indeed FIDO uses them. However, for the most part, the 4WDs FIDO uses are hire vehicles and are not used for most days of the year as Brisbane Bulldozers where they pose a danger to other road users. 4WDs obstruct visibility for drivers of conventional cars in parking lots and at intersections as well as doing increasing damage to other vehicles and humans when involved in any incidents.

The real problem is that politicians fear that some of the more belligerent 4WDers will react worse than wounded bulls if they pursue these recommendations.

Bullbars are Dangerous: Design changes to bullbars have been proposed to make them less dangerous to pedestrians. The new standard recommends bullbars follow the contours of vehicle rather than just jutting out and that projections such as rod-holders not are located where they may come into contact with pedestrians. It is expected that the new standards will become compulsory within three years. The Pedestrian Council estimated that bullbars were responsible for up to 20 percent of pedestrian accidents to make them.

Court Arbitrates Battle of the Barges

MOONBI 101 reported on the difficulty the new vehicular ferry, "Manta Ray" had in getting established on the busy Inskip Point-Hook Point route due to the predatory pricing practised by the competition which had previously enjoyed a monopoly of this lucrative route.

As MOONBI previously reported, the price war began when the "Manta Ray" came into service on the Inskip Point to Hook Point run in December 2000, charging $55.00 per return trip without charging for any passengers. Immediately, the prices of the Melksham-Burger barges were dropped to $35.00 per vehicle and progressively to $10.00 per vehicle. (This is much less than the estimated cost of operation.) The "Manta Ray" was forced to lower prices to $40.00.

Manta Rayís owner, Ray Mark, appealed to the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC) which seemed to be slow to act to restrain such aggressive and consistent predatory pricing policy on this route. A 25-year history shows that the route can support two rival ferry services, provided that no predatory pricing is permitted.

The ACCC has now entered the fray. In September the ACCC initiated action seeking an injunction to make a minimum charge of $34.00 per vehicle crossing or supplying free services. That matter was resolved on 4 October with Sidney Melksham and Angela Burger, owners of the offending barges, now accepting that injunction.

Melksham and Burger are yet to face the charges brought by the ACCC of "predatory pricing and other conduct in contravention of the Trade Practices Act, 1974." The ACCC alleges that Burger and Melksham dropped prices to "damage or eliminate their competitor, Manta Ray." This charge is still to be heard. If these charges are upheld it could cost Ms Burger and Mr Melksham dearly. Stay tuned for further developments.

Horse Riding Safaris

The QPWS this year assessed the performance of Clip Clop tours which occasionally operates horse-riding safaris to Fraser Island. This permit was issued originally while the Great Sandy Region Management Plan was being drawn up. The Management Plan decided that horse-riding activities, which arenít allowed in other Queensland National Parks, should not be allowed on Fraser Island. However, a concession was made to allow Clip Clop to continue to operate but only under the tenure of the owner, Ms Lyn Tainsh. FIDO has long been concerned at continual political representations made to allow this permit to be sold thus allowing horses, major vectors for introducing weeds, to continue on Fraser Island indefinitely.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has reviewed the current conditions of permit and Clip Clopís compliance with them. Where conditions of permit had not been explicit enough to restrict activities, they have been tightened up.

Dingoesí DNA

New DNA research confirms dingoes arrived in Australia about 5,000 years ago with seafarers from Asia. It suggests that all dingoes came from one small group.

"They are so closely related that they probably had the same maternal ancestor", says Alan Wilton, a geneticist at the University of NSW.

DNA finger printing shows 20 markers which differentiate dingoes and domestic dogs. They had previously been distinguished by differences in skull shape. The DNA testing of 2,000 samples across Australia by Dr Wilton suggests that there may no longer be such a thing as a pure dingo. The dingo gene pool is diminishing through interbreeding with domestic and feral dogs. However, some populations, such as in the Mt Kosciusko region of the NSW-Victorian border and Fraser Island in Queensland, have remained relatively intact ó between 70 and 80 percent of genetic material from these animals is of the "pure" strain.

Unfortunately, there are two reported views on the dingoes included in the same story. One view supported by most biologists, ecologists and conservationists claims: "The dingo has been here so long he deserves to be regarded as part of the evolutionary process".

However, a minority of scientists led by Queensland Museumís Mammals Curator, Dr Steve van Dyke, wants the dingoes removed from Australia. "If they want to preserve the dingoes, they should send them back to Thailand where they came from. Many people donít realize that Australiaís so called native dog isnít a native at all."

From "Sydney Morning Herald" 31/8/02

The latter view, of course, denies that ecology is not constant and that there are many changes continually occurring. The introduction of the dingo was the largest ecological change to occur in Australia since the arrival of the Aborigines about 50,000 years earlier and the arrival of European settlers about 4,800 years later.

In a note to FIDO Dr Wilton, whose data has not yet been published, said, "In general Fraser Island data looks pretty good but there are one or two samples that donít pass the muster. I do not know whether there are some controls that have been added to test out the system".

Councils Rubbish QPWS Bill

In July, the Maryborough and Hervey Bay City Councils were hit with unexpected bills from the EPA totalling about $700,000 for the QPWS collection of garbage from the municipalities on Fraser Island.

The Fraser Coast Chronicle reported on 18/7/02:

"The bill is for services provided by the QPWS since 1997 but the timing of the account has caused major shock waves through both councils. Both knew that the department was planning to levy charges against them for rubbish removal but the matter has been dragging since 1996.

The department in 1997 initiated a report on rubbish removal from the island and the two councilsí proportion of the charges. At that stage the QPWS told the Hervey Bay City Council that its annual bill would be about $64,000.

After five years of demands from both councils, the report was finally delivered (in July) with a bill of $330,451 for the Hervey Bay City Council and about $370,000 for Maryborough.

Hervey Bay Mayor Ted Sorrensen said, "We have only 158 rubbish services to be collected on the island and on the departmentís figures that equates to be about $670 per household each year. We receive about $17,000 each year from island residents as their part of the services levy. We have never seen (this report) and have never been consulted about any of the figures included and now we are supposed to pay over an amount of ratepayers funds that canít be justified."

The Hervey Bay CEO said, "The annual figure the department is now asking for is $105,931, a 65% jump since 1997."

Minister protects Fraser Shipwreck Site

The discovery of a wreck in the intertidal zone near Orchid Beach on Fraser Island on 5 October sparked all sorts of speculation. It was for a time thought to be some canon from a 25th Century Portuguese man of war.

Environment Minister Dean Wells has since announced, "It is now believed that wreckage found at the site is the "Marloo", which ran aground in 1914. If it is the "Marloo" then we are thankful that its exact location has been determined and believe that it has significant historical values worth preserving for future generations."

The site has now been declared an area of archaeological interest under the Queensland Heritage Act, which does not prevent visitors to Fraser Island traversing the area. However, invoking the provisions of the Act prevents future excavations within 400 metres of the site and ensures that the conservation values of the Fraser Island World Heritage Area are protected. An expert team of maritime archaeologists will evaluate the findings and safeguard any artefacts. The Maritime Archaeological Section of the Queensland Museum will need to authenticate the find and identify or recommend appropriate actions arising from this discovery.

Super Dingoes

MOONBI 102 reported on a "Super-Dingo" which is alleged to have dragged an 80 kg man in his sleeping bag two metres out of his tent through the nine inch slit it made in the side of the tent. It was not enough that the "Fraser Coast Chronicle" ran this April Fools Day article on its front page. Over two weeks later the "Courier Mail" picked up this story which was then far from news and ran a plagiarized version of the earlier "Chronicle" story. It is small wonder that the credibility of the media suffers, especially when the media story is compared with the reality of the actual event.

Air Brooms

Anyone camping at Central Station will hear the ferocious roar of a high revving small engine which sounds akin to a helicopter coming in for a landing. However, it isnít confined to just Central Station or even Fraser Island. These infernal machines, euphemistically known as "air brooms", have been enthusiastically adopted by the QPWS in most of Queenslandís National Parks. It is little use protesting about the environmental impacts or the aesthetic impact because most rangers love them with a passion much greater than their passion for chain saws. They move leaves and other detritus from the paths to some other part of the park. Nothing is picked up by them. There appears to be no valid justification for using an air broom and FIDO would like to see the practice of using these infernal machines openly reviewed.

Air Brooms

John Sinclair

Some brooms are made of straw or hair

But now thereís a new type causing some despair;

Itís a noisy contrivance which forces out air.

Other sweeping devices have long been on show,

Including vacuums which suck rather than blow.

Though these generally require the use of oneís elbow.

If paths must be cleaned why not use a simple rake,

Why use a machine with all the noise they make?

Why not use muscles instead for goodness sake?

Witches in fables rode through the air on a broom,

Now mortals carry new sweeping gadgets that boom

Just another invention adding to environmental doom.

But modern technology loves inventing mechanical toys ó

The kinkier they are, the more they seduce the big boys,

Resulting in National Parks being filled with unnatural NOISE.

Dilli Village

The future of Dilli Village has been thrown into further confusion because, yet again, the bureaucracy has prevaricated so long over accepting any single tender that in the meantime two tenderers, either of which would have been very acceptable, got cold feet and pulled out. In the words of the assessors, both were acceptable tenders and both had very good features but, rather than accept either of the tenders, a decision was made to ask the two separate organizations to consider combining their tenders and operate Dilli Village as a joint enterprise. This seemed a remarkable position and not surprisingly both refused. So then it was offered to each of them separately. However, during this protracted process both had got cold feet and withdrawn. Neither seem likely to submit a tender again. It is a case of history repeating itself. FIDO is aware of previous tenderers for Dilli Village back in the 1980s who, having been dismissed, were unwilling to go through the process again. It seems that the government needs to review how it assesses tenders and consider the reactions of the people before trying to force solutions which are impractical.

Dilli Village has much potential but it is being significantly underutilized. It deserves to be handled much better than it has in recent times.

Fire Management

There were a number of ecological management burns on Fraser Island during the dry winter months. Luckily there was good rain, estimated to be around 150 mm (6+ inches), in the latter half of August which made for a good recovery of burnt areas. When John Sinclair inspected, he was very favourably impressed by most of the areas he saw which had been burnt. Admittedly, it was unfortunate that all of the walking trails leading to Wabby Lakes had been scorched just as the ground orchids should have been flowering. However, many of the better signs of good burning we were looking for were there:

There were some causes for concern though. FIDO believes that the size of the areas burnt should be reduced. Because of the conditions and vegetation are likely to vary more the greater the size of the block being burnt, then the impact of the fire is likely to vary accordingly. Thus the likelihood of more adverse impacts is likely to increase along with the size of the block and in proportion to the beneficial impacts.

FIDO believes that the optimum fires for Fraser Island should be relatively cool burns which will be limited to only a few hectares each and will extinguish themselves as the dew falls in the evening and be out by midnight. This requires fires to be lit in the late afternoon when there is very little breeze. This does not yet seem to be the practice of the QPWS in Fraser Island but it is something we should aim for. Then the mosaics will consist of more but much smaller patches. That is the most desirable outcome. The traditional Aboriginal burning regime which it is the aim to replicate, would not have burnt coupes the size being attempted by the QPWS.

Trail Bikes

FIDO has been increasingly concerned about the use of trail bikes on Fraser Island. In January, a FIDO inspection witnessed the visit of a Hervey Bay trail bike club which had an enormous impact on the roads and the serenity of the island as two dozen bikies tried to outdo each other on their screaming bikes. In March, John Sinclair reported that trail bikes were using the walking trails to access Lake Coomboo and Hidden Lake. In April, it was noted that there had been no environmental impact assessment of trail bikes on the island when trying to work out which 4WD had the least impact.

Four months later still nothing had changed. On 29 August, John Sinclair noted that trail bikes had used walking trails to access Hammerstone sandblow adjacent to Wabby Lakes to roar around the sand dunes and had left a scar on the landscape there. We have watched as increasingly belligerent trail bikers see how much sand they can churn up and how much attention they can attract with their noise.

Watching trail bikers hooning around roaring up and down the beach on the weekend of the Weeds Working Bee provided more convincing evidence that apart from their environmental impacts the trail bikes were are likely to cause death and or severe personal injury. It is not in the public interest that such a situation should be allowed to continue.

Trail bikes, it seems, have been overlooked in the enforcement of management aimed at making visitation sustainable. It should be noted that the Great Sandy Region Management Plan says that only 4WDs should be permitted on Fraser Island. That bans 2WDs and it should just as clearly ban the one wheel drives. Unfortunately, a blind eye seems to have been turned to this problem for too long.

Beach Thickknee (Stone Curlew)

Fishers "Feed Crackers to birds"

A Fraser Island professional fisher was fined $300 on 8 October for possessing fireworks. However, he has accused fellow fishers of "feeding crackers to birds". He said not only were fireworks given to the birds but they were also thrown at him. The fisherman, Jon Hamilton Shedden, is on an invalid pension being paid for a back disability who gave his address as Fishermans Reserve, Sandy Cape. The fireworks were discovered by CIB detectives who had gone there on another matter.

This matter raises several issues which has long concerned FIDO.

1. There is NO "Fishermanís Reserve" at Sandy Cape. The area in question has been a National Park since 1971 before any fishers took up residency and began squatting in the National Park.

2. The QPWS has been soft in allowing this illegal squatting to continue. The site is an extremely important habitat for some endangered small mammals.

3. The concessions given to allow professional fishers to operate in the Sandy Cape area including access to normally vehicle free beaches is unjustified.

4. FIDO has long been concerned at the death of wildlife which we have observed in the including dozens of dead melomys rats dumped on the beach at the Cape.

Ex Minister Laments for Lost Era

Retired Hervey Bay school teacher and ex Bjelke-Petersen Cabinet Minister, Lin PowellA r has been elected as President of the Friends of Fraser Island at their first Annual Meeting. (FFI is strongly opposed to many of FIDOís policies to protect Fraser Islandís World Heritage values). 150 people attended the organizationís first birthday party at Orchid Beach. Powell said that his plans included forming branches of FFI in other parts of the country. Hervey Bay, Sunshine Coast, Sydney and Canberra were suggested as possibilities. A major issue on the groupís agenda is opposition to closing roads on the island.

In lamenting about the measures to protect Fraser Island and their impact on personal freedoms back in July Powell said, "The local people who have used Fraser Island for generations ó and my family up to my great grandfather who was the first ranger are ignore by people who donít know what they are talking about." He said that neither he nor his grandchildren enjoy their visits to the island as much as they once did "because of the controls and the regimentation that takes place and the threats if you donít comply." He cited the fact that he was chided by a ranger who accused him of feeding seagulls when cleaning fish on the beach.

On buses: However his strongest comments were reserved for the hated buses: "The encouragement of those enormous buses pounding along the tracks is enough for most people not to want to return after just one visit." This is not likely to please one of the FFIís main patrons, Angela Burger of Eurong Resort.

Camping Management Plan Imminent

For far too long the proposed camping Management Plan has languished with the Queensland bureaucracy. We understand that its release is imminent as MOONBI 103 goes to press. The urgency of the plan is indicated by comparing the number of camper nights (350,000) with the number of accommodated nights (250,000) spent on Fraser Island.

More than 90,000 people camp on Fraser Island each year. . The average length of stay is 4.9 nights. This results in around 350,000 camper nights. This means that on average there are nearly 1,000 people camping on Fraser Island every night of the year. By comparison there are approximately 400 units/flats/hotel rooms of commercial accommodation available on the Island which provide accommodation for an estimated 250,000 visitor nights per year.

The annual pattern of camper nights by Australians is highly variable across the year with peaks in August/September, December/January and March or April depending on the timing of Easter. Camper nights vary between 40,000 per month at peak times to less than 10,000 per month. MOONBI 104 plans to have more on the Plan.

Police Station Nears Completion

The construction of the new police station at Eurong is now nearing completion. The $1.3 million station will have two residences and the station will be joined to the Eurong Ranger Station by a common deck. The complex includes a three-bedroom house for the senior sergeant and a two-bedroom duplex for the senior constable.

Siltation of Lakes

In April FIDO drew the attention of the Fraser Island Joint Management Meeting, to the rapid silting of Lake Allom. Run-off from the adjacent roads, camping ground and car parking area are causing two major alluvial plumes, which at the current rate of silting, threaten to fill Lake Allom within 100 years

On 24th August, John Sinclair noted that, four months later, not only had absolutely nothing been done to address this urgent issue, which is destroying one of the World Heritage values of Fraser Island, but also the alluvial plume seems to have grown since he first reported this. As luck would have it, it was raining on 24th August. It was not excessively heavy rain but, in the 45 minutes that it took Sinclair to walk around the lake, the roads that were almost dry before he started the walk were pouring water, sand and detritus down the tracks and towards Lake Allom. At that stage there would have been less than 6 mm of rain, but already the flow had almost reached the above-mentioned alluvial plume.

When he returned in October Sinclair noted that still nothing had been done not even the most rudimentary silt trap but work had begun on the construction of a viewing platform for Lake Allom. While FIDO welcomes the work on the viewing platform we question the priorities, which allowed work on the platform to take precedence over the destruction of a very important World Heritage icon.

FIDO does not think that it is good enough for the QPWS to turn a blind eye to this desecration of a Fraser Island icon and do nothing until and IF the Commonwealth Government provide some money to address the problem. Even some very rudimentary and inexpensive work would stop this flow but the QPWS has just sat on its hands and done nothing for more than four months while Lake Allom (and other lakes with similar problems) suffer.

The QPWS has priorities for recreation management which outweigh any obligations it should have to the protection of World Heritage values. This is evidenced by the amount of roadwork carried out during the same four months that it neglected doing any work to protect the lakes.

This Ö

leads to this Ö

At the current rate that silt is washing from the road into the lake, Lake Allom will be filled in within 100 years.

What Comes Naturally

One of the reasons for the weed problems in the urban settlements on Fraser Island is the strong desire of may to transform their properties into facsimiles of somewhere other than on Fraser Island. At least one resort is cluttered up with coconut palms and trying to be a carbon copy of resorts from the Carribean or Miami to Hawaii or Phuket. What is worse when these dreaded coconut palms drop their nuts or fronds at least one Ecotourism accredited resort is demonstrably dumping this litter on adjoining public land.

Fraser Island is a World Heritage listed site with its one distinctive and unique vegetation. Landholders should be proud of its unique character and make every attempt to preserve it. FIDO is appalled with the number of plant introductions which apart from increasing the threat of weeds also risks allowing harmful pathogens and alien earthworms to enter the island with the soil. This could create an ecological disaster.

OKEECHOBEE, Florida, October 23, 2002: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has closed about 7,000 acres of Florida's Ocala National Forest to off road vehicles. Beginning November 4, 2002, motorized vehicles will be restricted to designated roads in about 7,000 acres. This partial closure will remain in place until a decision can be reached on the ongoing Access Designation Process, dealing with motorized vehicle access in the national forests. FIDO: This sort of news may soon be heard relating to more Queensland natural areas.

Dingo management

There appears now to be an average of one dingo per month which is being destroyed in accord with the Premierís edict that all dingoes exhibiting threatening behaviour will be shot.

FIDO applauds the study being undertaken through the University of Queensland (Gatton). However, we think that the dingo population may have been even further reduced to an unacceptably low level before the numbers are even known.

Rats:Concurrent with the dingo study being undertaken by the University of Queensland, there is now a further study into the population of Fraser Island bandicoots and native rats. This study is associated with the long-term study of the islandís fire ecology. The last study was completed more than 20 years ago by Dr. Paul Campbell and it is FIDOís observation that there has been serious ecological change on the island since then, which we believe has reduced the number of small mammals considerably. This has also in turn reduced the overall population of their principal predators, the dingoes and raptors.

Another observation we can report which seems to support the idea of the impact of fire on the island ecology is that we cannot recall seeing a wedge-tailed eagle over the island for many years, when they were once not uncommon. We attribute this to the fact that the density of the understorey now would make it very difficult for raptors such as the wedge-tailed eagle to access any ground dwelling prey. However, the lack of any evidence of swamp wallaby tracks in the sandblows also indicates that there has been a reduction in the number of at least one species of ground dwelling animal on the island.

Hopefully, the rat study will be able to draw on the data gathered in the late 1970s by Paul Campbell to determine just what changes there have been to the rat populations and also relate these to the impact of fire.

From QPWS October Monthly Report

* A long-time resident of Eurong Second Valley was bitten by death adder, treated by QAS and medivaced to Hervey Bay Hospital. She recovered.

* Wild horse warning signs installed in the Waddy Point sub-district. An Orchid Beach resident complained about damage to his vehicle from wild horses. Horse mortally injured, by dingo attack in Orchid Beach Township, humanely destroyed. (The QPWS has since advised that all remaining horses are likely to be removed soon by a voluntary group.)

* Native Plants: Callistemon pachyphyllus (unusual) is flowering at Moon point and Stachhousia spathulata (unusual) is flowering at Coongul Ck. Two new sites with Boronia rivularis (R&T) on Cornwellís Break road were found.

* An outbreak of caterpillars on Coast She-oaks (Casuarina equisetifolia incana) at Brownís Rocks. They are probably Maroga melanostigma, a native moth. Many of the She-oaks seem to have been ring-barked and killed. Spread of the outbreak is being monitored.

* Thorny Oyster (Spondylus c.f. tenellus), Edible Oyster (Saccostrea glomerata) and a moth (Rhodogastria crokeri) Ė no common name at Ungowa were collected.

* Swamp Dock (Rumex brownii), a new weed for Fraser Island, was found at Dilli Village. Feral ferns were removed from Eurong Base. Leuceana, Mother of Millions and Foxtail Asparagus were killed at Dilli Village. Continuing spray and hand removal of weeds at Sandy Cape. Weed removal occurred around Lake McKenzie mainly on Monkey Vine.

* Monitoring continues to obtain numbers of pelicans and sea gulls present in the Waddy Point area. The maximum of 87 seagulls and 41 pelicans has been observed.

Fraser Island Ground Parrot Surveys

The following is the summary of a report to the QPWS on a field trip to Fraser Island during April, 2002 to establish the impact of recent wildfires on Fraser Island on the Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus wallicus. The wildfires affected much of its critical habitat. It provides some reassurance that fire has not destroyed these birds. It also is providing more information on the need for some fire in their habitat to assist ground parrot viability.

Fraser Island contains important habitat for the ground parrot in Queensland (McFarland 1991). Extensive undisturbed habitat and the absence of a key predator, the fox, has given Fraser Island great importance compared to mainland areas.

Fire management has the potential to have the greatest influence on Fraser Island ground parrot populations.

The Fraser Island Draft Fire Management Strategy (FIFMS) recommends a burning regime that achieves spatial and temporal mosaics of successional minimum fire free periods of six to eight years. It recommends that the burning of adjoining blocks containing habitat in any one year be avoided. It recommends spot burning as opposed to ring or edge burns. It also recommends avoiding burning during the breeding season and pre-fledgling period. This equates to a window of opportunity for prescribed burning between late summer and early winter. Wathumba swamp was burnt in a prescribed burn in May/June 2000. Wildfires occurred on the island during late 2000 and 2001. Towoi swamp burnt in a wildfire in December 2000. Coongul and Moon Point swamps burnt in a wildfire in late 2001. Jabiru swamp and swamps around Garryís Anchorage including Fig Tree swamp, burnt between December 2001 and January 2002 and the Dilli swamp in August 2001.

An assessment of these wildfires according to recommendations from the FIFMS (draft) would conclude that the timing and extent of some of these fires through ground parrot habitat was generally outside the recommendations. Future measures should be taken to ensure that these recommendations have a high priority especially with regard to spatial and temporal diversity of habitat. There is a risk that this occurrence may repeat itself in the future, given that the recent wildfires have produced an extended landscape of similar fuel loads since fire.

It was interesting to record ground parrots in the Garryís Anchorage sites (12&13), which were burnt only four months before by a hot summer wildfire. McFarland (1991) has recorded ground parrots moving back into areas one month after fire but usually it is > 9 months. Did they ever leave?

The best time to listen for ground parrot calls is dusk rather than dawn as background noise at dawn from other birdcalls has the potential to drown out the sometimes-subtle calls from the ground parrot.

It is recommended that these 19 sites be surveyed again in 12 months as part of an ongoing monitoring program for our R&T fauna.

It is also recommended that other known and potential ground parrot sites on Fraser Island be investigated.

Mobile Link for Fraser Island

The idea of Fraser Island once being a wilderness and a challenge for people to practice self-reliance is being dealt another blow with the installation of new Telstra mobile telephone coverage. The Fraser Island Association have persuaded the Federal Government to give them $582,765 (more than $500,000 more than the Commonwealth Government are prepared to offer to protect the Fraser Island environment this year) to help establish mobile receivers at Eurong, Happy Valley and Orchid Beach. Fraser Island residents want a wider coverage for mobile phones on the island so people can be reached any time anywhere. While having misgivings about the further erosion of the need for self-reliance, FIDO is concerned at the visual impact at Eurong where because the towers must have access to 240-volt power, a new unsightly tower must be erected.

Great Walk Announced

Over $1 million will be spent on the first stage of the Fraser Island Great Walk which will run from Dilli Village to Lake Garawongera with feeder routes extending to Happy Valley, Kingfisher and other major entry points. The formed and "benched" track will be 1.2 metres wide.

Queensland Environment Minister Dean Wells said the Great Walks project for Fraser Island aims to feature some of the lesser-known attractions to give visitors a better insight into this unique world heritage area. The new walking track is part of the Government's $10 million Great Walks of Queensland initiative.

Mr. Wells said, "Icon attractions such as Central Station and Lake Mackenzie were a popular option for midway destinations. Walkers seeking peace and tranquility up close with nature will be delighted with this magical island walk. People will be able to escape the daily grind to experience nature in its most pristine state."

"An upgrade of existing tracks that may form part of the Great Walk has started and routes for new sections are completed. A concept paper with details of walking routes, facilities and what people can expect to see on the walk will be released later this year.", he concluded.

Curiously the track doesnít extend beyond Lake Garawongera. In 2001 the Hervey Bay City Council and FIDO applied to the Queensland Government for $60,000 to survey and establish what we argued should be Stage One of the long distance Kgari Trail from Hook Point to Sandy Cape. This would have covered a 70-kilometre section from Lake Garawongera in the Centre of the Island to Wathumba Creek in the North

Walking Track Opposed

While the Fraser Island Association is keen to have their way with the mobile phones they are opposing a walking track plan as dangerous and foolhardy saying, "A lack of water, heat and poor communication along the proposed route were a recipe for trouble." It seems there the only safe place for overweight Australians (and there is an abundance of them) to get their exercise safely is in air-conditioned gymnasiums under close supervision (as long as they donít exert themselves too much).

FIA President, Eric Parups said it was foolhardy to spend a million dollars on the Great Walk track while ignoring all the other "Dramas" that are not being provided for on the island. He said that provision of toilets at Hook Point (ferry terminal) and Indian Head where more than 150 backpackers camped each night without any facilities were of a much higher priority than the walking tracks.

Island Legend Leaves at Last

Legendary tourist entrepreneur, Sid Melksham has acquired a 35 metre (105 ft) luxury super-yacht which formerly was owned by disgraced entrepreneur, Alan Bond and will spend the next few years sailing around the world instead of managing his Eurong Resort. He and his partner, Angela Burger, have sold the resort and all parts of his operations except one whale watching boat and permit to Kingfisher for "between $1 and $100 million". Melksham said when announcing the sale on 17 October, "It looks like I might be retiring and itís about bloody time." He has been involved in Fraser Island tourism since the late 1950s.

The Sale: The sale covered the 152 room Eurong Resort and its associated day tour operation and fleet of 25 four wheel drive buses, five vehicle ferries as well as Fraser Islandís only sealed airstrip.

Outcome: The joint operations will now be one of Australiaís largest island resort operations the two operations with accommodation for 1500 guests. Between them last year carried more than 125,000 people on four wheel drive coach tours of Fraser Island and 15,000 people on whale watching cruises. The two resorts between them Kingfisher Managing Director, Garry Smith said both companies would continue to operate out of Great Sandy Strait marina. The company will not be broken up and there will be no major staff changes. Between them they employ over 500 staff. Kingfisher has an extensive international marketing program under way and will be making a bigger push into the Noosa Day Tours market.

FIDOís Vision: FIDO sees the bringing of the two resorts together under the one ownership as adding a new imperative in establishing the long (since 1974) mooted light rail to link the two resorts. Two short spur lines from the former tracks which covered most of the route could easily incorporate Lake McKenzie and Central Station and make the handling of an increased volume of tourism much more sustainable, more comfortable and more efficient.

FI is in the Top 10 Australian "Must Sees"

A recent survey of international backpackers has shown that Fraser Island is in seventh on the list of popular backpacker destinations along with the Whitsundays, Uluru and the Tropical North as well as the major Australian capital cities. Figures showed that the backpacker market had grown 14% in 2000 attracting about 200,000 backpackers (most of whom were lured by Fraser Island). The average stay was four nights and they spent an average of $60 per night.

Beach Protection Authority to Fade Away

Despite the concerns by some local government representatives the Queensland Government seems set to disband the 33-year old Beach Protection Authority. They consider that it will result in a spate of litigation. A spokesperson for the Environmental Defenders Office the move will make it easier to "get a really coherent system for coastal protection. The EDO believes that the courts were better set up to hear appeals against departmental decisions than the BPA.

2002 FIDO PRESIDENT’S REPORT

On behalf of the FIDO Executive, I would like to thank all our members for their ongoing support. As a voluntary organisation, for over 30 years we have depended upon the support from our membership for our financial resources, support in many difficult (and largely successful) battles, a steady input of fresh ideas, and people to serve on the Executive. While the issues we face have changed over the last three decades, one thing has remained constant: the need for a strong Watchdog for Fraser Island.

Whilst we have succeeded in seeing the end to mining and logging, the ongoing exploitation of Fraser Island continues. Tourism and fishing (commercial and recreational) continue at an unsustainable rate. There is endless pressure on Governments from the people who benefit financially from using the island, including an increasing number of people providing accommodation outside the resorts.

Unfortunately, the impacts from tourism, in particular, are potentially far greater than those from past exploitation. The impacts are insidious and widespread. Sandmining threatened the eastern coastal strip in the south of the island. Logging threatened the grand forests. Tourism impacts on the entire island, from coast to coast, from forests to heathlands, lakes and creeks. Fraser Island urgently needs better ways of handling the people who want to appreciate its values, without destroying those values in the process.

FIDO continues to work to ensure that such utilisation of Fraser Island is at least sustainable, with minimal, and hopefully reversible, impact on the island’s environment.

There is vigorous opposition to the smallest changes in management to protect the environment, and no progression at all on several issues, such as removal of brumbies and permanent fishing camps, despite repeated calls from all groups for a number of years. We continue to face strong opposition to the protection of Fraser Island, despite its World Heritage Listing and National Park status, from strong, and wealthy, lobbies, and the dead hand of bureaucracy.

We have much work still to do. Fraser Island still needs a strong and energetic group to safeguard it, and we appreciate your support in our endeavours. We always appreciate new supporters, who share FIDO’s aims and philosophies, to reinvigorate the organisation. If you have family or friends who share your love of Fraser Island, pass on Moonbi to them, encourage them to visit our website www.fido.org.au, join FIDO, and/or contact us at PO Box 70, Bald Hills 4036.

Executive:Once again, my thanks go to the tireless work of our Honorary Project Officer, John Sinclair, and the FIDO executive.

John continues to spend a vast amount of time, energy and personal resources on the protection of Fraser Island. We are dependent upon his great knowledge and enthusiasm. FIDO has always benefited from John’s superhuman commitment to Fraser Island, which hopefully will continue for many years. Whilst we suspect that John is immortal, the Executive is on the watch for several people to fill at least part of his shoes, should he feel the need to have others help him charge future battles. Volunteers welcome.

Billie Watts deserves special thanks from FIDO. We manage to create a vast sea of correspondence and minutes. Billie has brought to FIDO her great organizational skills, patience, tenacity, strategic planning, clear thinking, network of contacts, a living history of Fraser Island and a commitment to Fraser Island capable of matching John Sinclair. Most of the Executive are in paid employment, and depend on Billie to deal with the work until it suits us to handle it. The executive sometimes requires tracking down in various parts of Australia from time to time, and Billie manages this without concern. To show some small recognition of our indebtedness to her, we will tonight award her with FIDO’s First Honorary Life Membership.

Our Executive remains committed to FIDO’s vision to protect Fraser Island and ensure the wisest use of its resources. Thanks again to Judy Tambling, Terry Hampson, John Davey, John Sinclair Jnr, and Ronda Cook, for their ongoing commitment to Fraser Island.

FIDO’s Role: Over the years, the focus of our activity has shifted from direct action and safaris, to preparation of Government submissions and meetings. This reflects the changing nature of Government.

In the 1970s and 80s, there were few processes in place for any environmental point of view to be presented. FIDO had to campaign on the Island, in the Media, and in the Courts to get a change in Government direction. Nowadays, Governments have complex processes, including discussion papers, calls for submissions, comments on draft documents, further submissions, meetings, Advisory Committees, Scientific Committees and working parties. There are letters and submissions to be written, calls to be made, e-mails to send, meetings to attend, and more meetings.

There are now avenues to get our message across, but the processes are time consuming. Some of the plans for Fraser Island started this process over six years ago and still nothing has appeared in the public domain, or led to protection on the ground. It requires patience and tenacity to be a lobby group these days. It also requires vigilance. We are lucky to have a collective history of what data has already been accumulated, and where we are with more than a dozen draft plans and discussion papers, to ensure Governments and the bureaucrats are kept honest. FIDO is lucky to have John Sinclair and the Executive to continue this work. They have all adapted well to the changing role that FIDO has to play. However, I suspect the direct action was at times more enjoyable, and possibly quicker at achieving outcomes. With this in mind FIDO continues its more active work with weeding activities (see below).

Assistance: FIDO has finally received some financial assistance from Governments to help us with work that has been done by volunteers such as John Sinclair, Ronda Cook, Billie Watts and Terry Hampson for over 30 years. We have received a small grant, and used part of it to employ Saren Starbridge on a contract basis to assist us with projects, including organization of the October Weed Working Bee on Fraser Island, and conceptual planning for the 2004 Conference (see below). Saren brings a breath of fresh air into FIDO, and highlights the benefit that new people bring to the organization. Whilst FIDO has a great track record of success, we can always gain from the experience and ideas of others.

This financial assistance we have received this year is much appreciated. But it is small and we cannot depend on it. We still rely on the financial support that we get from our members through memberships and donations. Even more, we need our members to show that we have strong community support for our campaigns to protect Fraser Island.

Weeds:FIDO has a history of stepping in and acting when others fail. Twenty years ago FIDO was unable to sit back and let Eli Creek be degraded. People were driving up the creek and camping on the banks. FIDO acted by building a boardwalk with voluntary labour. This action shamed the Queensland Government into taking action and protecting Eli Creek, and subsequently other creeks and lakes.

FIDO has also found the proliferation of weeds a major concern on the Island, especially out of the townships into the National Park. Because of the inefficient structure of island management, the National Parks staff cannot act to control weeds outside the National Park (even though they seed and spread into the National Park). The two Councils have avoided their responsibilities, despite reaping great economic benefits from the World Heritage Listing of Fraser Island, as well as Rates revenue from the island. Consequently, last year, a group of 13 volunteers spent a weekend removing weeds from outside Eurong township. In just two days we removed 13 garbage trucks full of weeds. We are planning a similar, larger expedition in October 2002, at both Happy Valley and Eurong.

Cooloola:We end the year hopeful that Cooloola will shortly join Fraser Island on the World Heritage List. Finally there is support from the Federal Government for the Queensland Government’s desire to add Cooloola to Fraser Island to become the Great Sandy Region World Heritage Area. Cooloola will at last have its outstanding natural and cultural heritage values acknowledged.

The addition of Cooloola to Fraser Island’s listing will see some changes to the region. It will probably increase the pressure on Cooloola, as many visitors to Fraser Island pass through Cooloola to get to the World Heritage Listed Fraser Island, and may be diverted to enjoy the pleasures Cooloola holds. South-east Queensland is one of the fastest growing areas in Australia, so a World Heritage Area in close proximity to this urban population will need adequate resources, and support from Governments to take the tough decisions to manage the region sustainably. We will be supporting Noosa Parks Association and the Great Sandy Region Conservation Council to ensure that the Great Sandy Region Management Plan is enforced, and that adequate resources are provided from State and Federal Governments to protect the natural environment.

Conference:FIDO is currently supporting planning for a major Environment Conference in 2004 in the Great Sandy Region. This was John Sinclair’s concept, and has gained support from FIDO and the Great Sandy Region Conservation Council, of which FIDO is a founding member. I foreshadow it because it reflects the proactive role FIDO has maintained for over 30 years. Assuming that feasibility studies confirm its viability, and funding is forthcoming, the Conference will highlight the genuine concerns that many people have for the environment. It will provide a forum for a wide range of speakers (many known for reasons other than their conservation concerns) to talk about the environment. The Conference will also highlight the positive effects that environmental protection has for the economic, physical and psychological welfare of our society. The Conference promises to be a fascinating experience, and will stimulate wide debate in 2004. FIDO will keep you informed of events closer to the date.

Thanks again to everyone for your commitment to Fraser Island.

Dr. Ian Matthews

What Needs to be Done for Fraser

There have been many encouraging developments in the management of Fraser Island during 2002. Some overdue action is to address problems is occurring. These include:

* Long lost reports such as the Camping Management Plan, and the Walking Tracks Strategy are beginning to see the light of day. (Soon the long entrenched commercial fishers at Waddy Point may finally be moved).

* There is progress on the Transport and Access Study although this may now take longer than initially estimated to conclude.

* Work on many projects which the Commonwealth Government funded years ago are finally being completed.

* The Fire Management Plan is being acted on.

* The review of the Management Plan foreshadowed by the Minister over a year ago is about due to opened up for public consultations.

* There is now an attempt to address the serious weed infestations around the human settlements.

* The few remaining horses are due for imminent removal.

* Hopefully some other long stalled action plans such as outlined in the 1998 Report, "Managing visitors and commercial operators for ecological sustainability" may be soon dusted off and acted upon.

* There is now recognition of the enormous value that Fraser Island is worth to the Queensland economy ($277 million per year – and growing).

* The main opponent to the light rail system has sold out and is leaving the island.

* There is more consciousness of the need to protect and the natural resource of the marine areas surrounding Fraser Island.

Not all is so good. On the less bright side there are still more worries

* The degradation of the lakes continues.

* The fire techniques need more refinement.

* The dingoes continue to be a World Heritage value under some threat.

Unfortunately the greatest limiting factor to all of Fraser Island’s management problems is the lack of resources made available by both the Queensland and the Commonwealth Governments. Both do not recognize the valuable financial contribution which Fraser Island makes to the economy by providing sufficient finances to maintain this precious asset.

This position is now substantially worsened with the Commonwealth Government virtually abdicating any responsibility for guaranteeing a continuing fair financial contribution to the operation of Fraser Island. They have achieved this by a sleight of hand in passing the allocation of NHT funds to regional committees mainly composed of government allies who then make recommendations in which World Heritage criteria are virtually ignored. Further they have dramatically reduced the size of the aggregate size of the pool which regional committees can allocate.

What You Can Do

1. Write to the Prime Minister, John Howard, Parliament House Canberra pointing out that management of Fraser Island was under-resourced and the position has become worse through the parsimonious approach of his government for the environment generally and to state nominated World Heritage areas in particular.

2. Write to Premier Peter Beattie advising him of the concerns for Fraser Island as a result of it receiving less than $6 million (less than half the funds needed to properly manage it and pointing out what it is worth to the Queensland economy urge him to increase funding in the next state budget.