MOONBIis the name given by the Butchalla Aborigines to the central part of their homeland, Fraser Island or "Kgari"
MOONBI is the newsletter of Fraser Island Defenders Organization Limited, PO Box 70, BALD HILLS, QLD, 4036
FIDO's Home Page: www.fido.org.au E-Mail: john @sinclair.org.au
FIDO, "The Watchdog of Fraser Island", aims to ensure the wisest use of Fraser Islands natural resources.
FIDO's Registered Office: c/- Stephen Comino and Cominos, Equity House, Lang Parade, Milton, 4065 (ACN 0099-69-135)
ISSN 0311 - 032X Registered by Australia Post - Publication QBH2293 2 April, 2000Since MOONBI 96
Frustration Peaks: FIDO's frustration about the lack of progress reached a climax in November with the failure to implement the Great Sandy Region Management Plan in several vital respects. The stalling on fire management resulted in the increasingly adverse floristic changes to the island. Downcutting on the roads was resulting in degradation to the lakes. The lack of priority for natural resource management has seen a general deterioration of World Heritage values. The obsession with recreation management has distorted the perspective of Fraser Island's managers, the QPWS.
We had meetings with the Environment Minister, Rod Welford, and the Executive Director of the QPWS, Dr. Ian McPhaill, and we have prepared several published articles. However about the same time eminent scientists were also examining Fraser Island and Cooloola's World Heritage values and the threats to those values and the implications for management. The result has been an endorsement for many of the same policies which FIDO has been advocating for years. (See p 8)
Positive Progress: MOONBI 97 reports on some but not all of the positive outcomes which we hope will result in a much better future for Fraser Island under a regime of more responsible management. (See Positive Progress Fire management, Walking Tracks p11)
Progress on Photos: Amongst the progress, FIDO's "Then and Now" project of preserving an historical record of the island has reached a great new milestone with the presentation of over 1000 black and white photographs to each of the Queensland State Library, the QPWS and FIDO's own archives. We are now finalizing captions for each to finish stage 1 of the project. We still hope to encourage others to add their old island photographs to the official archives to ensure they are not lost. (See p 9)
Light Rail Report Released: The outcome of FIDO's most expensive project since the building of the Eli Creek boardwalk back in 1980 has been the publishing of the Pre-Feasibility Study of the Fraser Island Light Rail proposal on FIDO's behalf by consulting engineers, Gutteridge Haskins and Davey. A short summary appears in p. 2 together with the responses and the reactions. The full text can be seen on FIDO's web site at "www.fido.org.au". This initiative has flushed out some strong opposition from vested interests which is not surprising. However, it has also brought forward at last alternative proposals such as a bitumen road to be built from Wanggoolba Creek to Eurong Resort. The most surprising feature though has been an incredibly strong public reaction to the fact that 4WDs are ruling the island with such strong support from the QPWS and a phone in poll on the Sunshine Coast where 47% of the respondents wanted 4WDs banned from Fraser Island altogether. Other reactions are on p4.
Reports appearing: FIDO's frustration at not receiving any written reports about progress on the island is starting to be addressed. For the first time ever since the appointment of the current Manager, Great Sandy we have received a quarterly report and though we are very unhappy about some of the contents, such as no State funding being available to assist the management of Fraser Island during the 1999-2000 year, at least we have a report of the current state management on the island. (See report extracts p. 5)
Fishing Expo: In the new era of more open disclosure of information by the QPWS, we have also finally received our first copies ever of the QPWS Reports on the Toyota Fraser Island Fishing Expo. The voluminous reports are a damning indictment of the irresponsibility in allowing this event to continue. We have tried to summarize the event and quote from the 1999 report (which took an amazingly long 7 months to complete) on pp 6-7.
In This Issue
Light Rail Study Released What GH&D Said 2
Light Rail Reactions, FIDO's Response, Reality 4
Debate on 4WDs, Alternative vehicular access sought 5
Verbatim From the Manager's Report 5
Oh What! No Feelings Toyota! 6
From QPWS Monitoring Report Toyota Fishing Expo 7
World Heritage Values Reviewed 8
Experts agree with FIDO on threats 8
Queensland Government Gives $0, Use Lake Water 9
1998-99 Corrected $$$, Then & Now Photographic Record 8
FIDO seeks $NHT to help manage 10
Cop-out on road and beach closures 10
Positive Progress Fire management, Walking Tracks 11
Other FIDO Campaign Spin-offs 11
What You can Do, Axle Loading Study, FIDO AGM 12
Light Rail Study Released
FIDO has just completed its most expensive project since it first built the first Eli Creek boardwalk in 1981-82 with the presentation to both the State and Commonwealth Governments of the Pre-Feasibility Study of our light rail proposal on Fraser Island by one of Australia's leading firms of engineering consultants, Gutteridge Haskins and Davey of Brisbane.
Full Report: The study which is published in full on FIDO's web page, www.fido.org.au . It focussed on an examination of the options for building the light rail following the route of the first ever light rail (and FIDO's preferred route) which runs from the mouth of Urang Creek through the Bogimbah Scrub to Poyungan Valley on the eastern side of Fraser Island. It builds on two earlier independent consultant's studies including one done in 1991 for FIDO by GH&D which showed that prima facie a light rail would be feasible following the former rail line from the mouth of Wanggoolba Creek, through Central Station to Eurong.
Changes: Since then there have been many changes which now make the option of building the light rail more attractive. The initial study was based on a much higher interest rate than now generally prevails which makes it more attractive. The volume of potential use has also grown substantially. There have also been studies done supporting FIDO's contentions that the current use of many of the major tourist routes on Fraser Island by 4WDs is unsustainable and that they are being used far beyond their capacity. Existing road use is seriously impacting on Fraser Island's lakes, which are some of its most important and significant World Heritage icons.
Bogimbah Route: The examination of the Bogimbah route was commissioned because:
* This is the cross island route which would least disrupt the existing road use and therefore would attract minimum opposition from existing road users;
* It is historically more significant because it follows the route of the first rail line built on Fraser Island in 1905, with its western terminal close to the old Bogimbah Mission, the old telegraph line terminal and the first Forestry station on the island;
* It has potentially better grades and would have less environmental impact than any alternative route. The line could be laid on the existing road for most of the way with virtually no earthworks or clearing;
* Its western terminal is much closer to the Hervey Bay boat harbour Thus reducing travelling time across the water) and its eastern terminal would be more central (midway between Eurong and Happy Valley) to extend services up and down the island;
History: Because of the potential to reduce the environmental impacts of 4WDs, FIDO began advocating for a light rail back in 1974 as an alternative people mover. In the last 26 years we have consistently sought light rail as an alternative form of recreation and access and urged the Government to invite expressions of interest from the private sector to construct and operate a light rail on Fraser Island.
Feasible: The GH&D study indicates the practicality and feasibility of FIDO's proposal. The project is likely to be less than $15 million including a wharf at the western terminus. Discussions with the current operator of the Sydney light rail suggest that the capital required would not deter potential operators but they believe that the project will be best done with a Queensland based management. While more analysis is needed the indications are that this would allow a comfortable margin of profit while offering comfortable, attractive, affordable and environmentally sustainable access to Fraser Island.
More Study: What is now needed is further analysis and surveys to narrow down the options and clarify issues so the expressions of interest can be more focussed on a proposal which has a greater probability of being accepted. The Queensland and Commonwealth Government should now cooperate to fund a more detailed feasibility study to define the route, clarify any environmental impacts, identify all relevant issues, consider the operator's tenure and rights, and set some terms and conditions as a basis for inviting expressions of interest from the private sector. This more detailed feasibility study will cost about $60,000 but could be completed in a year which should mean that within 2 years expressions of interest could be invited.
What GH&D Said
The following are some extracts from the GH&D Study:
Patronage and Pricing:
Capital Costs: This study has not undertaken a detailed economic assessment of the proposal, however the BTA report (1998) did make some preliminary cost estimates based on original costings by GHD (1991) and the routes reviewed by BTA (Kingfisher to Eurong with a single train and the same route with two trains and an additional station at Central Station). They estimated the current capital costs at between $7.9 million and $10.2 million for the above options respectively.
A new landing facility at Urang Creek would also be required in addition to the light rail network. Costs for construction of a jetty similar to that currently operating at Kingfisher Resort were estimated at:
$1,800 - $2,000/m2 for construction of the jetty;
$1,200/m3 for construction of the concrete barge landing platform; and
$50/m3 for rock footings.
Based on these estimated figures, a 350m long, 3m wide jetty with a 0.25m x 10m x 30m concrete barge platform would cost in the order of $2.0 - $2.2 million plus rock footings. Should an office, shop or other facilities be required, these would be at an additional cost.
Given the above, capital costs to construct the light rail network and jetty would be in the order of $9.9 - $12.4 million. The exact costs will vary with the number and types of facilities proposed, the availability of second hand rails and the types of engineering structures required.
Operating Costs: Based on estimates by BTA (1997) and GHD (1991), assuming 10 staff required for 365 day operation of the facility and regular maintenance, annual operation costs for the proposal would be in the order of $600,000 to $920,000 depending on the number of trains operating.
Recreational impacts on Fraser Island from camping, fishing, and vehicle movement have been identified by several sources as causing significant degradation. Vehicle impacts, particularly from heavy vehicles, is causing degradation of key visitor routes which in term is impacting on the natural environment through sedimentation of lakes and streams. Whilst the economic and engineering costs have been identified by QPWS, little has been done to quantify or address the associated environmental impacts.
Further transportation studies are evidently being considered by QPWS which may address issues such as vehicle size, road closures, traffic management for both tour operators and 4WD drivers. Given the significance of the Island to the local tourism economy, it is unlikely that serious constraints will be placed on tour operators using heavy vehicles on the island, in particular at the key recreational site. As such, an alternative transportation option is required that achieve the objective of distributing passengers without impacting on the environmental values and management economics of the Island. One alternative to achieve this is to control the impacts from cross island traffic and focus use on beach transport which is more sustainable.
The light rail option has been shown to be commercially viable if a significant proportion of island visitors use the service. This can only be guaranteed if some types of visitors are compelled to use the service. As day visitors are the greatest proportion of passengers using heavy vehicles, it make sense to try and compel these passengers to use light rail for at least some part of their journey. The proposed Bogimbah Road option would take tour bus traffic off Moon Point and Wanggoolba Roads and concentrate passengers on a sustainable cross island service. Vehicles travelling along the eastern beaches cause minimal degradation and allow passengers to visit sites to the north and south. Central Station and Lake McKenzie can be accessed via a one-way road network from Eurong Beach.
A preferred route has been identified which does not impact on existing vehicle movement so does not inconvenience any road users, particularly along key routes. Constructing the light rail over an existing road will greatly minimise environmental impacts as minimal vegetation clearing will need to be undertaken. The route will provide a novel and historic tourism opportunity and will provide the passengers with a varied environmental introduction into the Island, where issues such as conservation, sandmining and logging can be easily discussed in a comfortable and stable environment.
Given the apparent benefits and commercial prospects of such a scheme, further consideration of the light rail proposal is warranted. Assessment of the potential environmental impacts, economic feasibility and transport integration aspects is required before such a proposal could proceed to the detailed planning phase. As such, this report recommends a more detailed feasibility study should include:
A needs analysis which identifies projected passenger demand and includes:
projected visitation rates for current conditions.
disaggregation of levels current usage of different forms of transport to the Island and on the Island (including passenger ferries, vehicular ferries, private boats, private vehicles, tourist vehicles, taxis and buses).
analysis of existing tourist facilities and services.
overview of environmental impacts of current and future transport activities on the island.
identification of opportunities to develop complementary and synergistic public transport and visitor facilities and to reduce pressures on environmentally sensitive features (such as linkages with existing and future island transport services and ecotourism opportunities).
projected visitation rates if a light rail facility were available.
Identify route and network options.
Identify complementary infrastructure and opportunities.
Analysis of factors necessary for the Queensland Government to address prior to inviting expressions of interest.
Conduct a preliminary review of potential environmental impacts, with particular reference to cultural heritage, flora and fauna, water quality (fresh and marine), hydrology and noise.
Undertake a cost benefit analysis to assist in determining whether the proposal offers a net community benefit and whether it is commercially feasible.
Undertake consultation with all key stakeholders.
Increased road patronage on Fraser Island, in particular heavy vehicles, has lead to degraded roads and environmental impacts on the Island's waterways. This report has assessed the option of a light rail system on Fraser Island to replace some cross island heavy vehicle passenger and freight services. The report has examined a number of options (both rail and traffic management) and concludes that a light rail system located on the existing Bogimbah Road could provide significant environmental and tourism benefits by replacing existing heavy bus services on some roads and by providing a new tourism opportunity.
This report recommends that given the potential benefits from such a proposal, further studies should be undertaken to assess the overall feasibility of the project and how it would be incorporated into the existing transportation and tourism networks. A feasibility study, as detailed in Section 7, should be undertaken prior to any detailed planning phase.
Light Rail Reactions
There have been some interesting responses to FIDO's release of the light rail project. The most strident opposition comes from Eurong Resort and tour operators to Fraser Island, Sid Melksham and Angela Burger.
In a 7 page attack on the proposal they said: "The prefeasibility study is so flawed in so many aspects, that we do not believe that any more funding should be made available for any further study. ...This prefeasibility study is incorrect historically, frequently self-contradictory in its findings, simplistic, incorrect in its assumptions and so obviously done to fulfill a brief to come up with positives that it ignores the overwhelming negatives."
Bitumen Road Alternative: They proposed, "One much less expensive but equally effective alternative with the same outcome, is to have the road, from Wanggoolba Creek to Eurong, carrying all the major transport vehicles further developed as a service and emergency road. This has vessel infrastructure in place and would not adversely affect any stakeholders."
Payback: They concluded: "We believe the effort being put into this whole light rail scenario, as different from other more viable, cheaper and more attractive options such as a bitumen road, is to shut down our whole tour and transport operation, as a payback for our successful legal action against FIDO project officer, John Sinclair for what the judge described as "the worst case of defamation" he had encountered, and Mr. Sinclair's subsequent bankruptcy."
Knocker: Another knocker of the light rail proposal is a former FIDO campaigner, now a Fraser Island commercial tour operator, Mike West. He said (in part) "The GHD study fails from its introduction. ... There was a real failure to liaise with all major resorts and bus operators, who were affected by this proposal. FIDO's reluctance to negotiate with the two major resorts(Kingfisher and Eurong) has tainted this study. ... While Bogimbah is undoubtedly an attractive route, it can only be introduced once other viable railways have been established. The only viable one would be Wanggoolba Creek Central Eurong to be followed by a link to Kingfisher Resort.
Consultants' Free Hand:Critics seem to assume that FIDO prepared or edited the report. FIDO didn't instruct the consultants on who to liaise with except to advise that Kingfisher was anxious to talk to them.
Impossible Grade: Linking Kingfisher Resort by any conventional rail system is an engineering impossibility. The aim of the rail is to change existing recreation patterns on Fraser Island. None of these should be so inflexible that it is impossible to protect Fraser Island's World Heritage values. Alternative recreation patterns need to be evolved.
Road Option: There has so far been no indication as to who will pay for the construction of the bitumen road between Eurong's resort and barge. It appears that this cost would be entirely met by the public purse. A bitumen road could forever remain an impost on the taxpayers and the Fraser Island management.
FIDO is asking governments only to fund the feasibility study for the light rail to enable Expressions of Interest to be called from the private sector. FIDO believes that the cost of the outlay will be more than recouped in royalties when the light rail is built as the operator provides the Queensland Government with a share of the operating profit.
Impact on Tour Operators
It is not FIDO's intention to compel all day trippers to travel on the light rail. However, we believe that once the light rail is operational all tour operators will begin to restructure their tours. Tour operators focussing on clients from Hervey Bay are most likely to collect their clients at the eastern terminal on Fraser Island rather than in the City of Hervey Bay. The light rail, apart from reducing the environmental impact of the heavy vehicles on Fraser Island's roads, will also offer a much smoother ride across the island and potentially much better interpretation. Thus the light rail in itself will be an attraction and existing tour operators can compete to take those rail passengers to other parts of Fraser Island within the Management Plan.
Unless the light rail is feasible it will not be built.However, no matter how feasible it may be, no potential investor is going to waste time, energy and capital in exploring options for building and operating a $15 million scheme without the nod of government approval to begin investigations with some prospects of being able to proceed with an acceptable offer.
Questions: The Catch 22 then is to get the governments to clarify their position on the following questions:
1. Will a light rail help solve the pressing management problems on Fraser Island?
2. Is a light rail economically feasible, environmentally sound and should it be built?
3. What is the best route on which a light rail should operate?
4. Who should operate any light rail and what is in it for the Queensland Government?
Feasibility Study Needed for Bitumen Road: A pre-feasibility study is also now needed for Eurong Resort's bitumen road proposal. It also needs an environmental impact study. FIDO is happy for the light rail feasibility study to be expanded to determine the feasibility of the alternative option which has now been placed so definitely on the drawing board. FIDO believes that the same four vital questions which need to be answered on the light rail also need to be answered in relation to the road proposal.
No Federal Funds (So Far): FIDO had sought Federal support for the project and was encouraged when the list of projects submitted for Fraser Island placed the proposed light rail study on a very high priority. Unfortunately Senator Hill did not approve this project although many projects of a much lower priority have been given funding. At the time of MOONBI going to press we don't have a list of the projects approved for Federal funding in the 1999-2000 year.
The Debate on 4WDs Begins
Following the extensive media coverage of the light rail study release, one newspaper, the "Sunshine Coast Daily" initiated a very unreliable phone in poll on a question which FIDO has never pursued, "Should four wheel drives be banned from Fraser Island?" The number of respondents is unknown but the results published in the paper on 25 February were that a surprising 47% wanted 4WDs banned from the island. Some responses were: individual four wheel drives should be banned but not the commercial vehicles. "They're responsible while the individual drivers can be downright dangerous". Another said that restrictions should apply rather than a total ban . "Perhaps they could be allowed up there once a year." Another supported a total ban for safety reasons. "I think so because of the way they speed along the sand and the accidents that can occur from them tipping over".
FIDO's position has never been for a total ban on 4WDs on the island. We do want greater restrictions on four wheel drives especially in wilderness areas and on the beaches. We also want a restriction on the axle loading of vehicle using the interior track network of the island. We see the combination of light rail in conjunction with the introduction of axle loading limits as being the first step towards stopping the decline of the island.
Alternative vehicular access sought
Just before Christmas, the Mayors of Maryborough and Hervey Bay in a joint media statement said that their Councils wanted to see the upgrading of some roads on Fraser Island to cater for conventional motor vehicles. This is because they want to make the cost of access to Fraser Island cheaper for the general public.
Cheaper Access: Admittedly the cost of owning or hiring 4WDs is expensive but the cost of ferry fares, now averaging more than $60 per return trip per vehicle and passengers (which must be paid with cash only) is still likely to be prohibitive for those who can't afford 4WDs.
The Route: The Mayors want to upgrade the two old sandmining roads from Hook Point to Dilli Village and the old DM haul road from Dilli Village to Buff Creek with a bridge over Govi Creek near Dilli Village. They claim that this could be done at modest cost and make access to Fraser Island more affordable and provide a circuit route. However, if the mainland part of the drive between Hervey Bay or Maryborough and the two ferries is taken into account it would traverse over 250 kilometres. They would not encounter any accommodation centre which they could drive to and no shops on Fraser Island.
FIDO thinks the proposal is ill-advised. Apart from the cost of the road works and the potential environmental impacts, it would not expose any travellers on that route to the wonderful attractions which have made Fraser Island famous and visitors would gain little appreciation for World Heritage values which have made Fraser Island famous. It would only allow drivers to make an expensive day trip without seeing much of Fraser Island and because they would have no guides with them wouldn't permit them the opportunity to learn much about the island. They would be $60 better off taking a drive to the nearest mainland National Park such as Mt Bauple or Mt Walsh.
FIDO believes that the light rail will make the Fraser Island experience both more affordable and expose the visitors to a much richer experience.
From the Manager Great Sandy's Report
The following extracts are from a report in February, 2000.
Staffing: Fraser Island currently has 34 Permanent Staff. These are located at Sandy Cape (1), Waddy Point (5), Dundubarra (4), Eurong (6), Central Station (5), Ungowa (road gang) (6), Dilli Village (1), Resource Ranger (1 + 1 WHA appointment pending), Administration (1), Technical (PO2) (1), Senior Ranger (1). No casuals are currently being utilized and only one temporary appointment is pending.
All offices staffed for a minimum of 2 hours daily. Eurong Office hours have been reduced at weekends (from previously 8 hr/day) due to insufficient funds to employ casuals and was closed over Christmas /New Year.
Visitor Information etc. Boxing Day beach blockade again undertaken adjacent to the Eurong Office. In excess of $6000 taken in permit fees over a four hour period. 361 camps were subsequently inspected in the Dundubarra area with a 97% permit compliance.
(On New Years Day Angela Burger Proprietor of Eurong Beach was quoted in the local newspaper complaining that "the main Ranger Station at Eurong was closed as was the Happy Valley camping area." She said, "I have been inundated with people wanting help because they can't find a ranger.")
Recreation Infrastructure New Works: Lake Garawongerra WHA project is on schedule. ... New access road almost completed, New toilet contract awarded. Construction has commenced and Construction should be completed by early March. Contract awarded for the construction of picnic tables, BBQs and shelter sheds.
Preliminary planning has commenced for the redevelopment of Lake Boomanjin campground and day use area. 4 fire rings have been installed in Boomanjin campground resulting in marked reduction in site degradation.
Concept plan prepared for upgrading of Waddy Point picnic area. 25 new fire rings installed in Dundubarra campground.
Weeds: Progress on 'town weeds' with local councils ...
Bitou bush control is continuing. Aerial assessment is planned for 4 April, 2000 in conjunction with DNR. QPWS has agreed to contribute $640 toward the cost of helicopter hire. Weed infestations will be mapped via differential GPS. Follow-up ground control is planned for May 2000.
Sisal hemp control at Bogimbah is continuing via help from the armed forces during training exercises on the island.
Energy: An audit of the energy requirements of Fraser Island bases complete with costings for part conversion to renewable energy has been completed. A funding application has been completed for conversion of Sandy Cape base as a priority. QPWS would still be required to fund 60% of the cost.
World Heritage Values Reviewed
Values Workshop:In April 1998, at the first joint meeting of the Fraser Island World Heritage Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) at Dilli Village, the SAC proposed a review of the World Heritage values for Fraser Island to assist in establishing better criteria for the management of the island. This was agreed to and funding was provided by the State and Commonwealth Governments to organize a workshop of scientific experts.
Delayed deliberations: There were a number of obstacles and delays due to factors outside the control of either committee which delayed the workshop for just over a year. During that time the Queensland Government decided also to ask the SAC to add to its task a review of the World Heritage values of Cooloola with a view to resubmitting Cooloola for World Heritage nomination.
1992 Listing: When the World Heritage Committee adjudicated on Fraser Island in 1992 as a result of reports by two anonymous Australian reviewers, and despite the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Conservation, Management and Use of Fraser Island and the Great Sandy Region and all of the other people contacted by the IUCN, they did two amazing things. Firstly they omitted Cooloola and all of the marine areas from the area listed. Secondly, although there was an Australian consensus that Fraser Island met all four natural criteria for listing, they only recognized it as meeting two criteria "
i. be outstanding examples representing the major stages of the earth's evolutionary history; and
iii. contain unique , rare or superlative phenomena, formations or features of exceptional natural beauty.
New Criteria: In 1992 the criteria for inscription were changed. Many other factors which had been identified as objections to listing Cooloola (such as land use in the Noosa North Shore area) have been overcome. Thus the time is right to resubmit the nomination of both sites with the view to having all of the World Heritage values recognized.
i. be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.
ii. be outstanding examples representing on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh-water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
iii. contain superlative natural phenomena, for areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
iv. contain the most important and significant habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Review details: In November, 1999, following the compilation of comprehensive written submissions from all participants a most impressive array of scientists and experts assembled in Brisbane for two days of a workshop to evaluate the values which each had identified. More than just evaluating the values, they also identified the threats to those values.
The workshops produced a most comprehensive report for both Fraser Island and a separate one for Cooloola. The unanimous view is that both areas meet all four natural criteria (as they currently exist) and that they may even qualify for inscription as a World Heritage cultural site, although the evidence for this at this stage is not quite as compelling.
Cultural Listing? The assessment which is to involve traditionally affiliated people presenting their cultural values of Fraser Island is considering the eligibility to meet two criteria for inscription as a cultural site. These are:
iii bear unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared; and
v. be an outstanding example of traditional human settlement or land-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.
New imperatives: While the SAC has been reviewing the values identified by the workshop and compiling the most comprehensive report, there have been other developments adding further to the urgency of this review. For the first time since 1982 (when it met in Sydney), the World Heritage Committee which annually convenes in various cities around the world is to meet in Cairns (Queensland) in late November or early December. The Queensland Government is anxious that the Cooloola nomination combined with the revised nomination for Fraser Island be ready for submission at that meeting.
Experts agree with FIDO on threats
As indicated above in reassessing Fraser Island's World Heritage values the panel of experts identified a number threats to the identified values. What is so remarkable is that the catalogue of threats they have reported on are almost identical to FIDO's assessments. The experts placed fire management as an extremely high priority while it has been relegated to virtually nil priority by the QPWS.
The following is an extract from Chapter 9 Management Implications:
In terms of specific management implications there were certain key issues identified by most if not all the working groups as threats to Fraser Island's values and attributes
Of these fire management was universally identified as a threat. The range of attributes which were subject to this threat was considerable ... ranging from the cultural landscape to the biodiversity. Delegates identified the need to conduct a fire management workshop to develop an approved fire plan for Fraser Island. There was some concern that this workshop and planning process could take some time ....
Visitor use is currently high with significant localized impacts at certain key sites as evidenced by the independent studies done .... the conference cited Lake McKenzie as an example of a heavily impacted site. ... There was recognition that considerable work had gone into the tourism review and camping management plan and that these projects need to be resourced ....
Weed infestations were identified as a problem. ....
There is much more but the thrust of the workshop recommendations on management closely coincide with FIDO's long expressed views. The Proceedings of the Scientific Values Workshop have been published. FIDO now looks forward to these items of management which we have constantly harped on being elevated much higher up the QPWS agenda.
Queensland Government Gives $0
In the financial year 1999-2000 the Queensland Government will contribute nothing to the management of Fraser Island from consolidated revenue.The only expenditure on Fraser Island from the Queensland Government will be from the receipts of the access and camping fees collected under the Recreation Areas Management Act. This is a deplorable state of affairs.
MOONBI 96's revelations about the financial pie and how little was contributed to the management of Fraser Island by the Queensland Government from its own resources were wrong. This is largely a result of the very limited information which was supplied to us. We were forced to make many deductions which were not correct.
In the interests of accuracy and to maintain MOONBIs credibility the correct figures based on non confidential information provided to the Community Advisory Committee on 18 February are published below. However, all of that is purely irrelevant because there has now been a very open acknowledgment that for 1999-2000 not one red cent will be contributed by the Queensland Government to the management of Fraser Island over and above what is contributed by the Recreation Areas Management Board and even this seems to be about $700,000 short of the revenue collected in visitor fees up to the present.
Everyone concerned about this deplorable state of affairs should write to Queensland Premier, Hon Peter Beattie and the Queensland Treasurer, Hon David Hamill and Environment Minister, Rod Welford asking that adequate funds be made available to implement the Great Sandy Region Management Plan which is what determines the management regime on Fraser Island. While writing to Premier Beattie and Environment Minister Welford you should also ask that the Management Plan be enshrined in specific legislation to ensure that in future it can't be left without funds and also to give effect to the requirements of the Commonwealth's devolution of responsibility to the states under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Use Lake Water?
Member for Hervey Bay in the Queensland Parliament, David Dalgliesh, who was elected on a One Nation platform has urged the Queensland Government to delist Fraser Island from World Heritage, resume logging and use of the Fraser Island lakes to boost the water supply for Hervey Bay.
He said that Fraser Island should be removed from the World Heritage List so that Hervey Bay can access its water. He said that the city's economy could benefit and its water shortage problems solved if it tapped the millions of litres that daily flow into Great Sandy Strait.
The Maryborough and Hervey Bay region have had a long history of petty politicians supporting hair-brained schemes to exploit the resources of Fraser Island from its minerals to its timber to the cargo We don't know whether to attribute such insane and selfish thinking to political ideology or political madness.
1998-99 Corrected $$$
MOONBI 96 assumed that because the RAM board had collected $3,162,609.79 in 1998-99 and because under the legislation all of this is required to be spent on Fraser Island and allowing for the Commonwealth contribution, that Queensland consolidated revenue contributed only $341,000 or 8.3% of Fraser Island expenditure for the year, 1998-99. The Premiers Department has since corrected that. It advised that the Queensland Government contribution was $1,912,633 comprising $683,105 salaries and wages, $945,354 capital works and $284,174 other operational expenditure.
The Manager's Report though is more confusing because it says that expenditure quoted in MOONBI 96 "were for direct allocations and expenditure on Fraser Island i.e. the budget and expenditure under the direct control of the Senior Ranger, Fraser Island" It goes on to say that about half of the State Revenue Funding to the Great Sandy Budget for "Management Support and Corporate Regional Development "of $438,006 were for Fraser Island and an additional 80% of the $796,355 provided by the RAM board was for the same.
It also appears therefore that about $.9 million of RAM funds collected during 1998-99 were not then spent on Fraser Island in the year collected and held in reserve. This nest egg now is trying to fill the complete deficit of any Queensland Government financial inputs for 1999-2000 for the management of Fraser Island. The whole operational expense will be met from both the Visitor and camping fees collected during the years and the RAM carry-over nest egg from the previous year.
Orchid Beach Airstrip: Another correction is in the Manager, Great Sandy's first written report presented to the Community Advisory Committee in the last four years: "The natural Disaster funding was provided to repair/restore roads damaged during the heavy rains of February, 1999. This does not include a requirement to spend 25% of the cost of repair/restoration out of the general funding allocation. It does not include cost of maintaining the Orchid Beach Airstrip. This cost does not appear in the Great Sandy Budget, it is a direct allocation from the Premier's Department ....."
Then & Now Photographic Record
It is now four year since FIDO's 26th birthday when we conceived the plan to capture the photographic images of Fraser Island bearing in mind that FIDO itself had many photo records of sandmining and logging which cover activities of an era which we hope will never occur again. Despite some bureaucratic obstacles, we launched our "Then and Now" project which produced a volume of old prints and negatives.
The next obstacle was to sort out these records into a coherent order. We sought the assistance of long time friend a Gold Coast retiree and amateur based photographer, Harry Gentle. For several months Harry sifted through the piles of prints and negatives matching them, selecting them on the merit of historical interest and finally copying them. It was a time consuming labour of love but he has now completed the task.
One set of photographs will go to the John Oxley Memorial Library in Brisbane and be available in the public domain. Another set is to be housed in the QPWS Maryborough office where it can be available for the local Ranger staff to assist them with management especially including environmental monitoring. It will also be available in the public domain for reproduction in the Fraser Coast Region if required. FIDO will retain the third set.
Gentle, Harry: FIDO is indebted to Harry Gentle for his part in such a daunting task . He has helped overcome what for a while seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. Thanks to his great assistance, we have a comprehensive file of wonderful old photographs which should help preserve for posterity some images of a quite dramatic era which needs to be remembered.
Although one set of images has gone to the John Oxley Library the "Then and Now" project is not quite finished and will continue. FIDO is still anxious to receive any old photographic images of Fraser Island which can add to or enhance the collection which is now available to the public. We are also engaged in the task of cataloguing and captioning all the photographs. Another as yet incomplete stage of the project is to place all of the images on a CD ROM so that they have added protection and may be more easily accessed.
The Then and Now Project has been a long time in evolving but thanks to Harry Gentle, we now have the most comprehensive record of visual image of Fraser Island in the past available to us.
FIDO seeks $NHT to help manage
FIDO has just submitted an application for a National Heritage Fund Grant from the Commonwealth Government for $181,000 with the support of the QPWS.
Protecting Fraser Island natural resources has beenFIDO's stated aim since it was founded in January, 1971. It has been the basis of its campaigns against sandmining and logging and the basis of its campaign for World Heritage Listing of the island. It is now the name of its project which if we are successful will allow us to assist the QPWS in implementing three urgent and essential aspects of the Management Plan.
The project addresses three serious threats to the World Heritage values of Fraser Island fire management, invasion of alien weeds and the sedimentation of the lakes. Over 20 working bees using volunteers who will each contribute 40 hours to the project are planned over two years. Volunteers will be providing data, monitoring the effectiveness of aerial ignition and clearing fire control lines and protecting identified cultural sites to facilitate the implementation of a Fire Management Plan. Volunteers will also build silt traps and diversions to stop sediments running from roads into the lakes and with assistance from professional consultants complete planning to relocate roads and campgrounds away from sensitive lakes and streams. Working bees aim to eliminate weeds from the townships which are the main sources of weed infestation. Through education programs avoid future introductions of any alien species and increase awareness on Fraser Island's World Heritage values.
MOONBI 98 will report on the outcome of this ambitious project, the most ambitious yet undertaken by FIDO.
Cop-out on road & beach closures
The report of the Manager, Great Sandy to the recent Community Advisory Committee and other committees states: "The section between Woralie Track and Awinya Creek was re-opened by Ministerial direction to ensure an alternative safe access to the popular Awinya Creek was available when western beach conditions were unsuitable."
FIDO: The road was due to be closed under the Management Plan. It was closed under the Management Plan. It was reopened in contravention of the Management Plan at ministerial directive and unless there is a new Ministerial directive, it will remain open indefinitely in contravention of the Management Plan. If the Management Plan was enshrined in legislation such direct contraventions could not occur without reference to Parliament.
The Manager's report also states on another route: "Closure of Platypus Bay Road and the beach from Rooneys Point to the Sandy Cape Lighthouse entrance was deferred pending the outcome of the Fish Management Plan."
FIDO: This is a newly invented pre-condition to the closure of a beach and this road as a result of the intensive lobbying by Orchid Beach interests following the adoption of the Management Plan in 1994. This is an excuse for stalling on the implementation of the Great Sandy Region Management Plan. A Fisheries Management Plan has been years in the pipeline and may never be completed.
South Waddy Beach Closure??
Yet again the Manager, Great Sandy's report presents an oft repeated but invalid excuse for not wanting to close the only 2 kilometres of surfing beach on Fraser Island which the Management Plan said should be closed without any pre-conditions. He advises, "Closure of the South Waddy Beach section has been deferred until an alternative walking track access can be constructed behind the base of Waddy Point. Local staff are working on plans and construction will be subject to the allocation of funds through QPWS Capital Works program or WHA funding."
This situation has now reached a high farce because Orchid Beach property owners and others have successfully stalled implementation of the Management Plan on this very sensitive point and they are now presenting petitions to over-rule the Management Plan to preserve their right to abuse the only beach on the surfing beach on the island which is not used by through traffic.
This example perhaps more than any other indicates both the power of the vested interests and the urgency to enshrine the Management Plan in legislation.
Petition Opposing Beach Closure
In September, a petition with "about 2500" signatures, including most residents of the island, opposing the closure of the 1.5 km South Waddy Peach was presented to Environment Minister, Rod Welford. Petition Organizer, John Mitchell, (who claims to be a regular visitor to the island) said residents and visitors had not been consulted about the suggested closure and the minister would "be turning a blind eye" if request was ignored.
He said that the GSR CAC had resolved to close the South Waddy Beach in 1993. He omitted to say though that the whole process had been part of the development of a Management Plan and that this was a very open process with many public meetings and opportunities to the development of the plan. The CAC just happened to be one part of that consultation process.
Positive Management Progress
Although the stalling continues on closing the beaches and roads which should have been closed over five years ago under the Great Sandy Region Management Plan continues, there has been some really positive outcomes on other fronts.
August Fire Management Workshop
MOONBI 96 and many previous issues have drawn attention to the urgency of addressing fire management on Fraser Island. The QPWS had planned to hold a workshop over a year ago but then said that there was no money. Fire Management has been identified as one of the most important issues affecting the World Heritage values of the island and at long last it looks as if progress is being made.
It now seems likely that a fire management workshop dealing with what has now been identified as the greatest threat to many of Fraser Island's World Heritage values will be held by the QPWS in August 2000 or thereabouts.
The workshop is intended to help draft a Fire Management Plan. It aims to bring together those who are concerned with the impact of the Fire Management Plan on the World Heritage values as well as other stakeholders and those responsible for implementing the plan. It will probably not complete the plan for some time as there is a dearth of data yet available on which to base the final plan. However, FIDO has a project which may contribute some useful and vital data to the plan and assist the QPWS which is responsible for refining and implementing it. FIDO's project will require an NHT grant of $181,000 but it should go a long way towards getting a more appropriate fire regime Fraser Island.
Walking Policy Resumes Track
The inexplicably long stalled Walking Track Management Plan for Fraser Island is getting back on track again. The last CAC meeting advised that the Draft Strategy should be sent to the Environment Minister in late May or early June preparatory to its release for public discussion. It is amazing that this process has taken almost 6 years yet decisions to spend millions of dollars on catering for four wheel drives on Fraser Island take mere days. It is indicative of the preoccupation and priority given to 4WDs by QPWS managers and how this has distorted the values of everything else.
A walking track policy could very positively change the recreation patterns on Fraser Island. FIDO keeps pointing out the Overland walking track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St.Clair in Tasmania is just one famous walking trail which is worth literally millions to the regional economy. Fraser Island has the potential to deliver infinitely more.
More QPWS Officers should go interstate to listen to the feedback relating to Fraser Island being "over-run" with 4WDs and start to take notice of polls such as in the Sunshine Coast Daily newspaper on 25 February when 47% of respondents voted for a ban on 4WDs on Fraser Island. At least the Walking Track Plan is a start towards catering for alternative patterns of recreation.
Other FIDO Campaign Spin-offs
St. Lucia in South Africa now World Heritage:When the World Heritage Committee announced in December, 1999 that it had inscribed the sand dunes of St. Lucia in South Africa on the World Heritage List it was partially due to the efforts of FIDO.
In 1993, in response to an invitation by the Campaign for St. Lucia, John Sinclair spent 3 weeks in South Africa assessing the impact of the proposed sandmining operations there and advising the NGO on a strategy to stop it. He also identified the World Heritage values of the area and suggested that it be nominated for World Heritage when South Africa was readmitted to UNESCO and was qualified to do so. With the election of the Mandela led government in 1995 the move to save St. Lucia got government backing which resulted in the inscription last year.
The WH Committee Citation reads:
Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park (N ii, iii, iv). The ongoing fluvial, marine and aeolian processes in the site have produced a variety of landforms including coral reefs, long sandy beaches, coastal dunes, lake systems, swamps, and extensive reed and papyrus wetlands. The interplay of the park's environmental heterogeneity with major floods and coastal storms and a transitional geographic location between sub-tropical and tropical Africa has resulted in exceptional species diversity and on-going speciation. The mosaic of landforms and habitat types creates superlative scenic vistas. The site contains critical habitat for a range of species from Africa's marine, wetland and savannah environments.
It is interesting that St. Lucia was seen as meeting three World Heritage natural criteria whereas at present Fraser Island meets only two (although as will be seen elsewhere in this MOONBI, there are plans to revise the Fraser Island and Cooloola World Heritage nomination.
Ecotourism for Thailand's Hill Tribes
When FIDO began to organize 3 day safaris back in 1971 to take people to explore and appreciate what we were trying to save on Fraser Island, we didn't realize that we were pioneering ecotourism. FIDO has organized hundreds of safaris since and the expertise we developed has now been sought by others. In January, John Sinclair was invited to Thailand to help the hill tribe people of Northern Thailand (near the Golden Triangle) develop an ecotourism strategy. His report can be found at his web site: www.sinclair.org.au. This is yet another spin-off from the FIDO initiatives.
The unique and diverse culture of the various northern Thai hill tribes offers ecotourists one of the richest experiences of traditional cultures in the world while combining it with a wonderful cuisine and some majestic scenery. John Sinclair plans to follow up on his experiences by leading a safari to Thailand next January. Anyone interested should contact him at PO Box 71, GLADESVILLE, NSW, 1675 Phone (02) 9817 4660 Fax: (02) 9816 1642.
What you can do:
Keep up the pressure to implement the Management Plan.
(1) Write again to Queensland Environment Minister, Rod Welford:
Thank him for responding to the need to develop a Fire Management Plan.
Request that he find the funds to fund Feasibility Studies (including environmental impact studies) of the alternative light rail and bitumen road proposals and that he also initiate an immediate study of the impact of axle loading on Fraser Island sand tracks.
Urge him to ensure that stalling on closing the beaches and roads due to be closed under the Management Plan immediately cease. (Unless there is a counter to the 2,500 signature petition, no beach on the eastern side of Fraser Island will ever become vehicle free.)
Seek assurances that the Fraser Island Management Plan will be enshrined in legislation to comply with the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act. This delegates more power ultimately to the State Government to implement the plan.
(2) Write to the Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, and the Queensland Treasurer, David Hammill:
Urge them to both ensure that the Queensland Government contributes more adequate financial resources to manage Fraser Island and that the debacle of not contributing any state funding to Fraser Island as is currently happening is never allowed to recur.
Urge the Premier again to support legislation to implement the Great Sandy Region or even just the Fraser Island Management Plan.
(3) Write to Federal Environment Minister, Robert Hill:
Urge him to support the nomination of Cooloola for the World Heritage List when the Queensland Government recommends it and to ensure that protection of the World Heritage values of both Fraser Island and Cooloola take priority over the recreation management which has previously been far too prevalent in Government thinking.
Encourage him to seriously consider FIDO's application for a $181,000 NHT grant which would be also focussed most heavily on protecting Fraser Island's World Heritage values.
Axle Loading Study Vital
It is unfortunate that there are no funds to carry out a study because without at least some basic data on the impact of axle loading on sand tracks on Fraser Island there is no sound basis for decision making.
FIDO's observations that heavy vehicles, particularly buses and trucks are the main destroyers of Fraser Island roads and creating the most havoc is widely supported. However, there is no hard data for imposing any rules or restrictions on axle loading on Fraser Island until such a study is completed.
In the meantime the two governments are passing the buck from one to the other and refusing to initiate such a pre-requisite study a mere $10,000. However, political decisions can be made to spend $500,000 on the Middle Rocks bypass road and boardwalk overnight or to spend $90,000 upgrading the road from the Kingfisher Resort. Yet a decision like spending $10,000 as a basis for making decisions which may well save more than both of those outlays continues to remain as far off as ever.
Fraser Island Defenders Organization Limited
Notice of Meeting
Noticeis hereby given that the Twenty Third Annual General Meeting of the Fraser Island Defenders Organization Limited will be held at the Cr. Terry Hampson's Office, North Regional Business Centre, 960 Gympie Road, CHERMSIDE, 6.30 pm, Wednesday, 2 August, 2000.
1. To receive the Profit and Loss Statement, Balance Sheets and Reports of the Directors and Auditors
2. To elect Directors for the ensuing term in accordance with the Articles of Association.
3. General Business.
BY THE ORDER OF THE BOARD
DATED this 2nd Day of April, 2000
Twenty Third Annual General Meeting
(please print in BLOCK letters)
being a financial member of the Fraser Island DefendersOrganization Limited do hereby appoint
......................................................... or failing him/her
............................................................... as my proxy, to vote on my behalf at the Twenty-third Annual General Meeting, to be held at theCr. Terry Hampson's Office, North Regional Business Centre, 960 Gympie Road, CHERMSIDE, 6.30 pm, Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, at 6.30 pm. and at any adjournment thereof.
Signed this ........................... day of ....................., 2000
NOTE: In the eventof members desiring to vote for or against any resolution they should instruct their Proxy accordingly because unless otherwise instructed the proxy may vote as they think fit.
This formor a copy of it should be completed and posted to reach Secretary, FIDO, PO Box 70, BALD HILLS QLD 4036, on or before 2 August, 2000 to be valid under Article 31 of the constitution. Please photocopy this form and return it promptly.
Section 248 of the Companies (Queensland) Code provides that all members be given 21 days notice of any meeting (including A.G.M.s) at which they are entitled to vote. It is important that as many proxies as possible are received. The Proxy Form is also taken as your apology for non attendance.