Saturday, 11 April 2015

FOSI Newsletter, Issue #71 - April 2015

FOSI Newsletter, Issue #71 - April 2015
“The sands of North Stradbroke Island have long been a political battlefield. Once again, the treasures hidden in those sands are at the centre of Queensland politics, perhaps forming a quagmire into which political careers could vanish without a trace”.
Stephen Keim SC, Independent Australia, June 2014.
In this issue
2015 Queensland State Election
Farewell shorebirds
Glossy Black Cockatoos
Quandamooka Youth Bush Restoration - Open Day
Tony Fitzgerald principles
Tawny Frogmouths
Eighteen Mile Swamp

Loading mineral sands onto barge at Dunwich

2015 Queensland State Election

The election result will go down in history, as will the formation of Labor’s post-election cabinet which for the first time has a majority of women. But what a result for the natural environment of North Stradbroke! Of course, allowing Sibelco to continue to clear old growth forests and cause serious environmental harm for another five years is very sad and FOSI could never approve, but ending it in 2019 obviously is preferable to a further extension of mining leases.
Labor’s promised repeal of the Newman government amendments to the North Stradbroke Act should prevent at least an additional seven square kilometers of mostly original bushland and ancient dunes being bulldozed. Now that QYAC and the new State Government once again agree on the end date, presumably the Indigenous Land Use Agreement will also be amended, to make the end date and restricted mine path for Enterprise a crystal clear part of the agreement. Remember, the LNP government obtained advice from Crown Law that the ILUA was not watertight and this paved the way for the LNP’s legislation. Perhaps the ILUA has already been amended? If not, the recent Billy Gordon events hopefully will result in this occuring soon, before a potential change of government occurs.
Why did the extraordinary electoral turnaround on January 31 occur? Members may recall this extract from a statement from Tony Fitzgerald QC which partly explains it –
“Dishonest members of parliament, nepotism, preferential treatment of supporters, removal of limits on political donations, large-scale public service sackings, a major down-grade of hospital staff conditions, shutting down health and juvenile rehabilitation programs, reduced protection of the environment and support for commercial activities posing a risk of major damage to natural assets including the Great Barrier Reef and Stradbroke Island, termination of the office of Climate Change and approval of activities involving large-scale emissions, limiting union rights, ill-informed and sometimes invalid criminal laws, changes to electoral laws - an unfortunate reminder of the gerrymanders which gave the National and Liberal Parties an unfair advantage in pre-reform Queensland - and proposed public asset sales provide the background to the government's blitzkrieg on the institutions which protect citizens and inhibit government excess. In its brief period in office, the government has sacked, stacked and otherwise reduced the effectiveness of parliamentary committees, subverted and weakened the State's anti-corruption Commission and made unprecedented attacks on the judiciary and judicial independence”. Brisbane Times, July 2014.
In a recent interesting  article by Alex McKean about the role of independent and social media in the election result, the author made this valid point:-
“While it is difficult to isolate any of the factors leading to the loss by the LNP as being decisive, it can be said with some confidence, given the narrow margin of that loss, that the removal of any one of those factors may easily have seen the result go the other way”. Independent Australia, March 2015
One of two environment factors mentioned by McKean (the other being the Great Barrier Reef issue) was the Stradbroke sand mining issue.
Considerable effort went into the FOSI campaign against the Newman government amendments, commencing with the open letter published on page 2 of the Courier Mail on 20 November, 2013. Jackie Trad read it into the parliamentary record (page 4076) and tabled a copy, commenting that “This open letter says it all.”
There were numerous media references to Stradbroke sand mining related issues in the lead up to the election, most of them generated by FOSI or QYAC. A selection of articles can be found on the following page.
Towards the end of last year FOSI formed an election committee. In the last week of the election campaign the Ashgrove electorate was letter boxed with the hard hitting FOSI flyer. It was also distributed in some other electorates and on North Stradbroke and it was attached to a FOSI media release. A hyperlinked version with information sources was published on the website and referred to in the flyer. FOSI and QYAC were signatories to the Fitzgerald democratic principles published in the Courier Mail and elsewhere in the last week of the campaign. A copy is published in this newsletter.
On 28 January, the Labor party wrote to QYAC promising that “Queennsland Labor will act to immediately repeal the disgraceful North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act Amendment Act 2013.” The letter was published by QYAC and was reported by the media.
FOSI wishes to acknowledge the pre-election contributions, which helped to raise the profile of the North Stradbroke sand mining issue, from the following in particular:- Cameron Costello, Dale Ruska, Richard Carew, Tony Fitzgerald QC, Stephen Keim SC, Alex McKean, Alan Jones, the ABC, the Guardian, the Brisbane Times, Independent Australia, the Westender and Straddie Island News, and MP’s Jackie Trad and Jo Ann Miller. These MP’s asked pertinent questions of then Mines Minister Andrew Cripps and Premier Newman at parliamentary committee hearings and in parliament which became invaluable in exposing the Sibelco/LNP relationship.
In a dissenting parliamentary committee report (at p. 131) Labor’s Jackie Trad also stated in November, 2013 that the Newman legislation benefiting Sibelco… “has all the hallmarks of a morally corrupt 'cash for legislation' deal”. She later tabled the Rowland report which graphically exposed the extent of Sibelco’s expensive political campaign (eg. 108 prime time TV ads) which preceded its legislative benefit of potentially $1.5 Billion in additional revenue.
Jackie Trad last year also made the initial complaint to the Crime and Corruption Commission.
FOSI also wishes to acknowledge the post-election events, including the comments made by former ICAC Commissioner David Ipp and retired Integrity Commissioner David Solomon at the safeguarding against corruption conference held in Brisbane on February 9, as reported by the Guardian. Their comments concerned the curious decision by the Crime and Corruption Commission last year not to investigate the Stradbroke complaints and the relationship between the LNP and Sibelco.
Special thanks to the FOSI election committee. We look forward to the repeal of the Newman amendments as the first new step in protecting the natural environment of our beautiful island. Let’s hope the recent events involving the member for Cook do not prevent the immediate repeal. They do highlight however, the need for the ILUA to be amended without delay, to ensure that it is crystal clear that the 2019 end date and a restricted mine path are essential parts of the agreement between the State and QYAC, as both intended when the ILUA was signed in June 2011.
Sue Ellen Carew, President
A selection of media coverage…

Farewell shorebirds

Millions of shorebirds are now beginning their amazing migration northwards from our shores to breed in the Arctic. We wish them the best and hope for their safe passage as conditions along their pathways worsen with increased land development. For more information and a chance to track their progress go to
Numenius madagascariensis (Eastern Curlew) – Photo by Heyn de Kock
Numenius phaeopus Wimbrel – Photo by Vince Bugeja

Glossy Black Cockatoos

We all know the raucous screeching call of the white cockatoo as it soars past our house or calls from the gumtree, however there is a cockatoo which doesn’t make its presence so audibly known.
The smallest of the black cockatoos, the Glossy Black, resident on North Stradbroke Island, has muted calls which are soft and infrequent, a distant tarr-red sound.  Indeed, you might only be aware of their presence if you stand quietly under a Casuarina (She oak) tree when they are feeding, and hear the clicking noise as they crack the seeds with their broad bulbous bill which is a handy tool for the job.
Strangely, Glossy Blacks are all left handed (or footed!) and use only this foot to collect and manoeuvre food.  They are finicky eaters too, enjoying only the seeds of selected Black and Forest She oaks trees, which they check to ensure it has the highest nutrient value and regularly return to the same tree.   They spend most of the day foraging for food and travel via a watering hole on their way home to roost for the night, often covering 10km between these locations.
These cockatoos like to live in coastal woodlands, drier forest areas and timbered water courses where Casuarinas are common. Research into the birds has shown the Glossy Blacks from Southern Moreton Bay Islands prefer man made water sources, dams, ponds, bird baths and puddles. They generally gather in small groups of two or three but larger groups are found at water holes or when roosting. Residents and holiday-makers may spot them as they gather each afternoon on the road to Amity.
The Glossy Black, which averages between 45-60cm long, has striking features, with males easily identified by solid bright-red panels in their tail feathers, and females with red / orange panels with horizontal black stripes and some pretty yellow feathers on their head.  
Glossy Blacks choose a mate for life, about15 to 30 years, and lay only a single white egg every two years. At this time, the female prepares the nest in the hollow of a tree before she incubates the egg, and then only leaves the nest to feed when the baby is a week old. The male takes the responsibility of feeding the mother and the baby throughout the incubation and brooding period, and both parents feed the fledgling for four months and remain with it until the next breeding season two years later. What a great example of gender equality in the wild!  
Sadly, this slow reproductive rate leaves them vulnerable to natural disasters especially bushfire and the pressures of urbanisation and development. Hence they are listed as a vulnerable species in Queensland. The major threat to the Glossy Black Cockatoo is the loss of habitat. Sand mining on Stradbroke has led to the clearing of their food supply in woodland areas and the loss of mature eucalypts for nest hollows.  With it taking 200 years for nature to provide a hollow large enough for birds to nest in it makes us aware of how precious the old growth forests are to their survival on the Island.   
Feral cats and possums regularly raid the nests, and competition for nest hollows from Galahs, Indian Mynas and introduced honey bees cause problems for the Glossy Blacks as well. More widely, poaching and the illegal bird trade and egg collecting is another threat.  
How you can help:
  • As the bird’s nest in both living and dead trees it is important not to remove these old trees for firewood or land clearing.
  • Retain and protect existing habitat and known nesting sites
  • Plant trees to provide food and a place to nest
  • Reduce the impact of fires
  • Report poaching
  • Don’t let your pet dogs and cats wander unsupervised at any time of the day
  • Report sightings on the Glossy Black Conservancy website.

Article by Angela McLeod

Quandamooka Youth Bush Restoration - Open Day

Bush restoration group, Photo by SEQ Catchments
At Amity, where the sandy beach stretches away from the rock retaining walls, at the very end of Ballow St, is a shady woodland conservation area. Koalas commonly inhabit the tall eucalypts and island cypress but the understorey has been largely overtaken by the invasive weeds we see all too many of at Stradbroke.
For the last three months, under the auspices of the Federal Government's Green Army Scheme, a group of young Quandamooka people, mostly first year school leavers have been restoring this weed infested understorey to allow the native plants to take hold again. SEQ Catchments, Australian Conservation Volunteers and QYAC have been giving expert guidance and supervision to the group who recently held an open day on the site to explain their work to the public.
Through concentrating on the hard job of eradicating those familiar weeds- asparagus fern, umbrella trees, pepper trees, orange gloriosa lily, yellow cassia and ochna, these young people grew in many ways. They explained to us how they had learned not only the different eradication techniques needed but gained greater familiarity with the natural bushland, organisational and work skills, knowledge of safety procedures and importantly moved to a closer connection to their traditional country- all good knowledge for the environmental restoration that is needed on the island. Congratulations are due to the group.
It was gratifying to hear there are groups of young people all over Australia working on bush restoration under this scheme. If it assists them to develop knowledge and caring for nature then it must be a positive not only on a personal level but for the future of our country's environment.
It is worth taking a walk through Amity to explore the village at a slower pace as well as looking at the continuing restoration in the conservation area. As you walk down the main thoroughfare, Ballow Rd, turn left at Toompany St then turn right down a dirt track marked BEACH to find the bushland and beach access. Remember to look up for Koalas.
Sue Ellen Carew

Tony Fitzgerald principles

Advertisement published in the Courier- Mail 29 January 2015

Tawny Frogmouths

Dowse Lagoon, Sandgate – Photo by Vince Bugeja
What an intriguing bird is the Tawny Frogmouth. To hear their strange call at night - a soft, deep and continuous low ‟oom oomoom” - sounding across inner city suburbia or Stradbroke Island the two places I spend my time - always brings a sense of connection to ancient, wild Australia. While to successfully spot one in the bush, roosting stick-like in a tree, brings joy to my twitcher’s heart and a strong ‘’gotcha!” sense of birding achievement.
The Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides is the second largest of Australia’s night birds (after the Powerful Owl) and is endemic to Australia. Currently three subspecies are recognised and all occur in Queensland. Males of all sub-species are grey, while females of two of the subspecies (strigoides and brachypterus) can be grey or chestnut tinged.
Frogmouths are sexually dimorphic – the males are heavier and have slightly larger bill sizes, wing and tail length. However, in the field it’s difficult to identify the sex unless a male and female are together and even then i.d. is not certain due to their ability to change the appearance of their size depending on their posture and feather positioning.
Their remarkable cryptic plumage provides excellent camouflage for protection from their predators (Lace Monitors, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Carpet Pythons, cats, foxes etc) as well as camouflage in their role as nocturnal predators.
Tawny Frogmouths are a case study in feather types as they have evolved to sport all the different types of feathers that birds have developed: down feathers; filoplumes; bristles; semi-plumes; head plumes; flight feathers; tail feathers and contour feathers – all on one bird! Similar to owls, their wings also have a special layer of feathers close to the leading edge of the wing to absorb any noise created by air turbulence to allow for nearly silent flight. In addition, unlike most birds, Frogmouths have only vestigial preen glands – instead they have ‟powder-down” feathers which shed a waxy powder that provides exceptional waterproofing.
Their massive beak, surrounded by bristles and tufts of feathers which protect the eyes, is well designed to cope with the wide variety of hard shelled, wriggling, biting and stinging beetles, wasps, moths, spiders, centipedes, scorpions, slugs, frogs and mice that they feed on. They are perch-and-pounce hunters able to catch their food on the wing or through foraging on the ground.
Found throughout most of Australia, Tawny Frogmouths prefer open wooded habitat, particularly at the edges of forests and cleared areas. They have been able to adapt to human presence and can be found roosting and nesting in garden trees and parks. Living close to humans has its downsides which include being struck by cars as they feed on moths attracted to street lights.
My first experience with Frogmouths was in a share house with a vet where we cared for disabled birds who had survived collisions but only as one-winged amputees.Tawny Frogmouths breed in solitary pairs and tend to form partnerships for life. The couple duet and share in the building of a precarious nest of loose sticks lined with leaves and grass stems in the fork of a tree.
The male broods the clutch of 2-3 eggs during the day with the female undertaking most of the overnight incubating. The dedicated pair then share the feeding, protecting and training of the chicks- including in how to roost safely and freeze properly into the form of a broken branch (in correct alignment with the tree’s branches!), as this behaviour is apparently not fully innate.
To learn more about these charismatic birds (voted number 6 in Birdlife Australia’s Favourite Bird contest in 2013!), I commend Gisela Kaplan‟s monograph ‟Tawny Frogmouth” published by CSIRO in 2007 from which much of this information is drawn.
Written by FOSI member Mary Barram and reproduced from Birds Queensland Newsletter Vol 46, No 1 February 2015
Juveniles – Photo below by Ian Henricsen


EPBC Act and the Enterprise Mine investigation

In early March, 2015 a second report from Dr Errol Stock was provided to Federal Environment Department investigators. It concerns environmental damage in 2010, including the death of vegetation in about 95 hectares of off lease bushland to the west of the Enterprise Mine. In a very detailed analysis, Dr Stock concludes that this was caused by mismanaged mine water discharges and constitutes a “significant impact”. Around 80 hectares is within the Moreton Bay Ramsar site. The Enterprise mine commenced in 2004 without being approved by the Federal Environment Minister under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. FOSI has been seeking action from the Federal Department since 2012. The department’s investigation continues.
Federal Senate Inquiry and Report
On 15 March the Senate Committee inquiring into Queensland Government actions and practices published FOSI’s detailed submission dated 17 November, 2014 (submission no. 114 on page 6). On 25 March the committee also published FOSI’s supplementary submission. In FOSI’s initial submission at 2.01, the words “unlawful removal” previously linked to an ABC 7.30 Report which is now available here.
There were a number of other submissions which mentioned North Stradbroke issues, in particular a detailed submission from QYAC (no. 54). There was also one from SIMO (no. 78).
Late on Friday, 27 March the committee report was released. The report unfortunately contains factual errors. But nevertheless the recommendations include:-
  • The establishment of an ICAC style anti-corruption commission;
  • An investigation into Sibelco’s electoral support for the LNP and the legislative favours it received.
Point Lookout Sewerage Plant Upgrade
As members were advised by email, the Redland City Council in February referred its proposal to the Federal Government under the EPBC Act. FOSI’s submission supported the need for an upgrade but pointed to several issues, including that the proposal did not appear to comply with best practice. We also drew attention to the lack of a management plan for the Moreton Bay Ramsar site (declared in 1993) against which the proposal should be measured. A management plan for each declared site is required by both the Ramsar Treaty signed by Australia and the EPBC Act. The referral also did not contain an intelligible declaration by the Council. In an unexplained decision, the Minister’s delegate recently decided that the proposal will not be a “controlled action”. FOSI has requested a statement of reasons from the Federal Department of Environment.
Correspondence with Premier
Since the election, FOSI has sent correspondence to the Premier and other members of her cabinet concerning the implementation of Labor’s pre-election promise to repeal the Newman government’s amendments to the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act 2011. We have also sought meetings to discuss issues flowing from the repeal, such as the reinstatement of the restricted mine path.
SIMO now supports repeal of Newman government amendments
As some members, who are also SIMO members, would already be aware, in its March 2015 newsletter the SIMO management committee appeared to support Labor’s promise to repeal the Newman Government’s amendments to the North Stradbroke legislation. Articles in support of Labor’s promise to restore the 2019 end date by SIMO secretary and long term president of the local branch of the ALP, Howard Guille, were linked to the newsletter. The articles were published by the Redlands 2030 website in late February 2015, after the election result was finalised. In contrast, in October last year, prior to a general meeting of all SIMO members to discuss sand mining, members were notified by Mr Guille that the SIMO committee unanimously recommended that members vote against a member motion for the association to support the repeal of the Newman amendments. We welcome the recent move by the SIMO committee to now support the repeal of the Newman amendments.

Eighteen Mile Swamp

Report by Dr Errol Stock shows Eighteen Mile Swamp is at risk from changes in hydrology caused by sand mining.
----------- How to Support FOSI’s ongoing work ------------
Thank you very much to all the generous members who have made donations to Friends of Stradbroke Island in the past.
We continue to highlight the increasing environmental damage caused by land clearing, sand mining, hydrological changes, plastic and feral animals on North Stradbroke Island. Donations are integral to help fund our ongoing public information and education campaigns and to help fund relevant scientific research.
All donations to the Environment Fund are tax deductible and may easily and securely be made by bank transfer to our environment fund (contact us for details).

Receipts will be mailed to donors so please remember to put your name on the transaction and follow up with an email to our Membership Secretary Edith McPhee

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

December 2014 Edition

Issue 70, December 2014

In this issue

Summer Shorebirds at NSl
Moreton Bay Research Station Open Day
Goompi Trail walk
Urban Koala Survey 2014
Squirrel gliders on Straddie
Verdict on Sibelco’s criminal charges due any day
Quandamooka High Court challenge
Updates on EPBC Act investigation & Senate Inquiry into the Queensland Government
Glossy Black Cockatoo Count 2014


Summer Shorebirds at NSl

Migratory bird numbers are peaking over late December as the last of the juvenile shorebirds arrive from their breeding grounds in Siberia and Central Asia. With its combination of muddy seagrass tidal wetlands, sandy habitats and rocky shores NSl provides great feeding opportunities for a wide range of visiting shorebirds. Birds to look for include Eastern Curlew, with its giant curved beak, Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit. Good spotting locations are the tidal wetlands at Amity and Dunwich’s Bradbury Beach high tide roost. Along the rocky shores at Point Lookout look out for Ruddy Turnstones and small flocks of Wandering Tattlers (pictured above). The medium sized, grey-coloured Wandering Tattlers can sometimes be seen wandering over the rocks in North Gorge and around the headland, foraging with bobbing jerky movements for worms and crabs. Their distinctive high pitched ‘ti-ti-ti’ contact calls are often the first indication they are about.
C:\Users\Mary\Dropbox\NSI Book photos\Z NSI images - Barry Brown high res\23-4-12 053 PSvB-adj dn1up6 wandering tattlerspair.pngWandering Tattlers at the Gorge - Photo Howling Planet Photography
Protecting Straddie’s shorebirds – we can all play a part!
  • Keep all dogs and cats under control and well away from shorebirds. Every time shorebirds are forced to take flight, they burn vital energy.
  • Feral animals can kill shorebirds —report any sightings of foxes or feral cats to Michael Dickinson, the island fox control officer on M 0404 150 809
  • Avoid driving near shorebirds. To avoid crushing birds and nests only drive along the beach below the high-water mark - especially over summer, between September and March, when local island shorebirds, such as our threatened Beach Stone–curlews, breed.

Moreton Bay Research Station Open Day

FOSI held a combined event with Birds Queensland’s Wader Study Group at the Moreton Bay Research Station Open Day in November. Sheryl, Dianne and Virginia from the Wader Study Group set up spotting telescopes on the lawn across the road so visitors could take a closer look at birds on the wetland. Luckily, an impressive 40 Pied Oystercatchers were sitting up very nicely on the high tide roost at Bradburys Beach, right in front of the station! Helpful student volunteers donned the giant (and very hot) Eastern Curlew costume contributed by Joel from SEQ Catchments. In the mean time Mary and Sue Ellen from FOSI handed out dog leashes and brochures from our stall upstairs and even had a go at presenting a short kamishibai play (Japanese paper theatre), to a group of children about Tom the Red-necked Stint’s first migration from Siberia to Moreton Bay’s wetlands. There was a lot of interest in the spotting scopes and stall. The free dog leashes – to keep dogs under control on the beaches and away from birds and other wildlife - were especially popular. Our thanks to the dedicated Wader Study Group volunteers who do so much to conserve Moreton Bay’s shorebirds - we hope to undertake more joint activities in the future.

Bradburys beach high tide roost - shorebird haven

Goompi Trail walk

Another highlight of the Moreton Bay Research Station Open Day in November was the opportunity to go on the Goompi Trail walk led by local Nunuccal man Matthew Burns. During the hour long walk along the foreshore of Goompi (Dunwich) Matt explored aspects of Quandamooka culture and island history inclduing traditional hunting methods, bush tucker and medicines. A highpoint was seeing the remains of a huge midden and the ancient rock fish trap in Moreton Bay off Polka Point. This is a highly recommended experience. Contact Goompi Trails on 0400 792 243 to book a walk.
Matt Burns on the Goompi Trail discussing the properties of the Soap Tree Alphitonia excelsa - Moreton Bay Research Station Open Day November 2014
Mary Barram

Turtle nests on beaches are at risk over summer. Foxes are the main land based predator of sea turtles, raiding nests and eating the eggs. Please report all fox sightings to help give the baby turtles a better chance of survival!

Urban Koala Survey 2014

Results of this years Redland City Council’s 6th annual koala survey have been released as a graph revealing some interesting figures. Although only a snapshot of Stradbroke’s koala population since volunteers and council officers only count koalas on one day each year- this time October 11- it does suggest that numbers in urban areas have increased over the last 6 years. Last year koalas in our region were declared ‘vulnerable’ under the Federal EPBC Act and land clearing was cited as the major threat. As bushland habitat is cleared for property development, or sand mining in the case of Stradbroke, koalas are forced into urban areas where traffic and dogs kill so many each year that numbers are in rapid decline in South East Queensland.

At 54 the total count for this year on the island is 10 down on last year’s figure in contrast with the steady increase over previous years. The significant drop in numbers at Amity brings numbers in the township back to 2012 levels, so as council officers suggest this may merely represent visibility but other factors such as cars, dogs and bushfire certainly cannot be excluded. On the other hand, at Point Lookout numbers have more than doubled from 5 over the previous two years to 11 this year, an increase consistent with anecdotal reports of more koalas. Any examination of reasons for this increase has to start with land clearing and the Yarraman mine, now only a short distance from the Point, is the area where this has been happening.
January’s wildfires have presumably had an impact on the total island koala population but whether this is reflected in these figures is unclear.  Interestingly though, research does indicate that after a severe bushfire koalas return to re-sprouting eucalypts to feed on new growth, holding out hope that numbers are rebuilding on the island.  Next year’s survey results will be worth watching for and members are encouraged to join the count which occurs in October each year.

Koala Mooloomba Rd Point Lookout - Koala breeding season is in full swing over summer. This is a time of increased activity and movement on the ground between trees, as males move around establishing territories, particularly from around November to January, and extra care should be taken when driving near koala habitat during this time particularly around all the townships, Myora and along the road to Amity. The breeding season commences around July-August and can extend through until April-May.
Sue Ellen Carew

Squirrel gliders on Straddie

What a graceful, accomplished acrobat the Squirrel Glider is, effortlessly able to fly through the air for up to 50 metres, steering itself from tree to tree.
Squirrel Glider feeding in a Dunwich garden - Photos by Scott Cornish
As with many possums and gliders it features blue-grey fur, but is marked with a distinctive black stripe extending from between its big round eyes down to the middle of its back.  Its tail is thick and bushy with a black tip, unlike its relative the Sugar Glider, found on the mainland, who sports a white tipped tail.
The average squirrel glider, weighs between 200-300 grams, and up to 18cm in length, with an equally long tail. Their ability to fly is due to stretched membranes between its front and back legs, which act like wings or sails, and enables it to swiftly glide long distances as it searches for insects and fruits to feed on.  
Their habitat is primarily in old growth forests extending from North Queensland to West Victoria. As a result of habitat clearing, there has been a dramatic decline in their distribution throughout Australia; however abundant populations which need special recognition and protection have been located on the islands of North and South Stradbroke, Moreton, Fraser and Woogoompah in Moreton Bay.
A Squirrel Glider is a nocturnal gliding possum, spending most of the night in the top of tall trees and hidden inside a tree hollow during the day. For nesting, the gliders require up to 20 tree hollows of a certain size, only found in trees at least one hundred and twenty years old, preferably with a narrow opening to protect them from invaders such as goannas, quolls, pythons and owls. They then line these hollows with eucalypt leaves to make a cosy nest.
Squirrel Gliders have a lifespan of 4-6 years and live in small groups, typically of one male and two females and their young. They have one or two offspring twice during the breeding season between June and January.  Immediately when born, the baby will crawl into the pouch and anchor itself to a teat for three months. The mother will then wean it at four months and it will stay in the nest for another 12-18 months before heading off on their own.
Sarah Bell, from the University of Queensland undertook research on squirrel gliders as part of her PhD. She installed nesting boxes on North Stradbroke Island and observed the behaviour of the species. There she noticed similar patterns emerging. An adult female lived in the box with two babies, with most of the day spent sleeping and grooming. At dusk, the mother left the nest to forage for food, returning at midnight to let the babies suckle for several minutes before leaving again and returning only at dawn. A few minutes after she had left each night, a male glider would enter the box and cuddle up to the young to keep them warm. He would stay for hours, leave for a few minutes, and then return again for a couple of hours. This was repeated throughout the night before he left at dawn to find his own hollow. Interestingly, on one occasion, another dominant male entered the nest and the original male left, leaving the second male to babysit.  Two males shared babysitting all night - oh how we ladies would like it if this happened in the human race!
The major threat to these endearing mammals is loss of habitat and life due to land clearing and bush fires. Feral cats, dogs and foxes also pose a serious threat. Gliders can become trapped by barbed wire fences when their flight membrane gets snared and exotic birds such as Indian Miners and feral honey bees compete for nesting hollows.
How can we help protect these beautiful gliders?  The simplest action we can all do is ensure that all cats are kept indoors at dusk and overnight and each wears a large bell to provide Squirrel Gliders advance warning. A consistent eradication program by all island landholders to control foxes and feral cats will also help protect the gliders from these predators. On the mainland we can replace the top layer of a barbed wire fence with plain wire.
Although the Stradbroke’s old growth forest habitats are in recovery after this year’s bushfire crisis, the risk of wildfire to gliders remains so long as the mining company does not fulfil its environmental obligations to develop and implement a Fire Management Plan on the 50% of the island under mining leases.
A study has shown that gliders are doing very poorly in the island’s post-mining ‘reveg’ areas, which lack large old trees. The only reveg areas gliders can survive in – even then in reduced numbers - are in a small area where artificial nest boxes have been installed. The installation and maintenance of nest boxes of different sizes suitable for gliders and other hollow nesting island animals such as lorikeets, owls and cockatoos should occur on all the existing reveg areas.  But ultimately, the most important action is to conserve the island’s eucalypt forests and woodlands, the habitat of the Squirrel Gliders, as well as other threatened island species such as koalas and Glossy Black Cockatoos.  Clearing of forests for sand mining is the major threat to resident island gliders as the large trees they need for nesting will take over a century to regrow and develop hollows.
With sincere thanks to Dr Sarah Bell from the University of Queensland for the information from her study of Squirrel Gliders on North Stradbroke Island.
Angela McLeod

Verdict on Sibelco’s criminal charges due any day

On 22 August, 2014 the long running trial concluded. Sibelco was tried on two charges alleging it extracted non-mineral sand without permits. The Magistrate reserved his decision. The charges are related to the removal and sale of island sand to the building construction and landscape industries on the mainland.
An ABC 7.30 Report in 2010 revealed:-
“The Queensland Environment Department says 50 to 100 thousand tonnes of sand was illegally shipped off this island every year. Over 16 years, that means approximately a million tonnes has gone missing; sand that should have been used, according to critics, for rehabilitation”.
Sibelco has claimed it did not know that it needed development approval from the Redland City Council and permits under other State government legislation. But public servants gave evidence at the trial that Sibelco knew it did not have the required permits,  falsely denied selling the sand and kept doing it even after it was told to stop.
Sibelco did pay a small percentage of its illegal profits as royalties, but this arrangement entered into with a Minister for Mines has never been subjected to scrutiny, as would be likely in New South Wales with ICAC. However, in a civil case brought by Sibelco in an attempt to avoid being charged, the Queensland Court of Appeal in 2010 said (at 58) that the payment of royalties was irrelevant to the legality. To do it lawfully, Council approval was required and that meant, at that time,  public scrutiny and community objection and appeal rights – as occurred with the CRL construction sand case where objectors prevented the proposal proceeding.
Members will recall that two experienced criminal lawyers, one a former prosecutor and a QC, provided an opinion based on the evidence gathered by a very experienced independent investigator, formerly a high ranking officer with the Qld Criminal Justice Commission. The barristers advised that there was a prima facie case of stealing and fraud against Sibelco.  Additional evidence pointing to dishonesty, a main ingredient of stealing and fraud, was obtained by former EPA investigators when they executed a search warrant on Sibelco’s offices in December, 2008. They seized incriminating internal emails and other documents.
The barrister’s opinion was sent to the Attorney General, but to no avail. More recently, as revealed by ABC’s 7.30, when evidence emerged that island sand was still being sold unlawfully, despite Sibelco being on trial, further attempts were made to persuade the Attorney General to send all the evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions. But he refused.
Meanwhile, in November, 2013, in the middle of the trial,  Sibelco, which must have spent millions of dollars on a pro-LNP campaign prior to the 2012 election, was the beneficiary of amendments to the North Stradbroke legislation. The campaign included 108 prime time television ads between February and April, 2012. The amendments removed the restricted mine path at the Enterprise mine and, if not repealed, will allow Sibelco to apply, in 2019, to extend mining to 2035.
18 Mile Swamp- at risk from hydrological changes
Tiny Broad toed Feathertail Glider baby which died from injuries caused by a cat at Amity
Photo Jack Jackson

Quandamooka High Court challenge

The legal challenge is unlikely to  be heard by the High Court before June, 2015. This was announced at a directions hearing in Brisbane on 28 November, 2014.
QYAC’s legal action seeks a declaration from the Court that the Newman government amendments to the North Stradbroke legislation are invalid under the Australian Constitution because they undermine the Federal Court’s 4 July 2011 native title determination and the Indigenous Land Use Agreement with the State Government.
Native title rights are exercisable on the expiry of the mining leases. When the former government, in April 2011, extended the Enterprise mining leases to 31 December, 2019, this was supposed to be the definite end date of the mine. No more extensions were to be permitted. The Indigenous Land Use Agreement between the State Government and QYAC was signed in June, 2011.
The November 2013 Newman government amendments removed the 2011 restricted mine path and, in 2019, allow Sibelco to apply to extend mining to 2035. These amendments allow the land to be further degraded and are intended to postpone the exercise of the native title rights over this area of land.
Members will recall that FOSI published a letter of support to the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) when the legal action was commenced in June 2014.
Let’s hope that QYAC succeeds. However, in case it does not, we need to spread the word that the amendments should be repealed before 2019. Enough damage has been done to the Island.


EPBC Act investigation

The Federal Environment department’s investigation into the Enterprise mine is continuing. The mine commenced in 2004 without approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Federal Government approval is required if internationally recognised wetlands are threatened by a mine. Dr Errol Stock, a geologist and an expert in the hydrology of North Stradbroke, has informed Federal Environment Department investigators that the Enterprise mine has already caused and is likely to cause further significant impacts to internationally recognised wetlands bordering the mine – areas, which are supposed to be protected under the Ramsar treaty and the EPBC Act. About half of North Stradbroke is included in the Moreton Bay Ramsar site, declared in 1993.

Senate Inquiry into the Queensland Government

The Inquiry was set up with the support of the Federal ALP, the Greens and the Palmer United Party. FOSI lodged a detailed submission with the committee before the orignial November closing date for submissions. However the committee later extended the closing date to 27 February, 2014. As has been widely reported, the inquiry is not supported by the Federal coalition or the State based LNP, but nor is it supported by the Queensland ALP. The terms of reference permit serious issues to be raised, including about the mining industry and the practices of current and former Queensland governments, but with the emphasis on the Newman government. The inquiry is not the equivalent to an ICAC investigation in NSW, but in Queensland there is little else which may shine a light on the erosion of community objection and appeal rights and the lack of balanced decision making which reflects the importance of protection and conservation of our natural assets.

Mineral sands on Stradbroke

Glossy Black Cockatoo Count 2014

The annual south east Qld Glossy Black Cockatoo Count occurred on October 19. FOSI members successfully searched a small part of the national park near Kaboora (Blue Lake) and identified two active feeding trees - Black She-oak Allocasuarina littoralis - with recent orts (distinctive crushed casuarina seed pods) strewn under several trees.
At dusk we checked a well-known watering site near Amity and counted 20 Glossy Back Cockatoos coming into water. Glossy Black Cockatoos are one of the island’s special birds, listed as Vulnerable under the Nature Conservation Act (Qld). As they are finicky eaters AND hollow-dwellers, they face enormous challenges in order to survive.
The clearing of their habitat on the island for sand mining is the current number one threat as it removes not only their food but also old growth forest with large trees with big hollows for nesting. Number two threat is fire as she-oaks are particularly sensitive to high heat and may take years to recover, If they recover.
White-bellied Sea Eagle soaring over Main Beach
Season’s Greetings
and a
Happy New Year to all FOSI members!
Another photograph of a marvellous Glossy Black Cockatoo
------------ How to Support FOSI’s ongoing work ------------
Thank you very much to all the generous members who have made donations to Friends of Stradbroke Island in the past. We continue to highlight the increasing environmental damage caused by land clearing, sand mining, hydrological changes, plastic and feral animals on North Stradbroke Island.
Donations are integral to help fund our ongoing public information and education campaigns and to help fund relevant scientific research. All donations to the Environment Fund are tax deductible and may easily and securely be made by bank transfer to: FOSI Environment Fund (email us for the bank account details)
Receipts will be mailed to donors so please remember to put your name on the transaction and follow up with an email to our Membership Secretary Edith McPhee