Showing posts from 2013

CRL’s pre-Enterprise vegetation variety mapping

Map from the mining company's own pre- Enterprise mine environmental studies report, showing the rich variety of vegetation. The areas in green, numbered 11, represent the previously mined "revegetation" areas.

FOSI attached this map to its submission to the parliamentary committee which examined the Newman government's amendments to the North Stradbroke legislation.

Prior to our submission, both Sibelco and the Newman government were claiming that half of the Enterprise mine ore body had been mined previously.

After we lodged our submission, the government department advising the committee finally admitted, in evidence to the parliamentary committee, that Sibelco's own map showed that just over 70% of the area was "undisturbed" vegetation.

Open letter

There has been a tremendous response to FOSI's open letter to Campbell Newman published on page two of the Courier Mail 20 November 2013. 
Many other environment groups applauded it and some, including the Queensland Conservation Council published it on their websites. During the debate on the Bill, the letter was read out in Parliament by the opposition environment spokesperson, Jackie Trad, who remarked that the letter "said it all". She also tabled it for Hansard.
The open letter was also published on our blog, the original post may be accessed here.

Falling Back to Earth

Exhibition by Cai Guo-Qiang at GOMA to 11 May 2014
'It reminds me of this past week in parliament,' joked Queensland Arts Minister Ian Walker when he viewed Cai Guo-Qiang's installation titled Head On at GOMA's new exhibition, Falling Back to Earth. This mesmerising work features 99 wolves hurling themselves at a glass wall and perhaps Mr Walker saw it as a metaphor for the proclivity of politicians to make blind and foolish decisions.

Another, equally stunning installation is Heritage which was inspired by the artist's visit to Blue Lake on North Stradbroke Island in 2011. In surroundings of shadowless dreamy white, 99 wild animals from all parts of the world drink peacefully from a blue lake which is surrounded by pristine white sand. On one level the installation expresses the theme behind Cai's exhibition, which according to him is 'the return to a harmonious relationship between man and nature, re-embracing the tranquillity in the landscape.'


Exhibition: Falling Back to Earth

by Cai Guo-Qiang at GOMA Reviewed by Julie Kearney Falling Back to Earth, Exhibition at GOMA to 11 May 2014. Photo by Sue Ellen Carew.

'It reminds me of this past week in parliament,' joked Queensland Arts Minister Ian Walker when he viewed Cai Guo-Qiang's installation titled Head On at GOMA's new exhibition, Falling Back to Earth. This mesmerising work features 99 wolves hurling themselves at a glass wall and perhaps Mr Walker saw it as a metaphor for the proclivity of politicians to make blind and foolish decisions. Another, equally stunning installation is Heritage which was inspired by the artist's visit to Blue Lake on North Stradbroke Island in 2011. In surroundings of shadowless dreamy white, 99 wild animals from all parts of the world drink peacefully from a blue lake which is surrounded by pristine white sand. On one level the installation expresses the theme behind Cai's exhibition, which according to him is 'the return to a harmonious relationship…

Extension of sand mining to 2035 no certainty

The passing of the Bill by parliament did not receive much publicity probably due to the sacking of the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee occurring on the same day.

Importantly, under the amendments to the North Stradbroke Act, which became law on 27 November, no application for the extension of sand mining at Enterprise mine can be made before 2019. In other words, 2019 remains the end date for mining for another six years.

The key section relating to the timing of applications to extend the Enterprise mine leases is 11C of the amendment act

11C allows applications for renewal “within the renewal period”. Section 11C(3) defines the “renewal period” as, in effect, during the last year of the current term.

31 December, 2019 is the expiry date of the current terms of the Enterprise leases, including the main one, ML 1117- see Schedule 1 of the 2011 Act.…

Shearwater wreck

Once again we are seeing the sad sight of many dead and dying birds on Straddie beaches. They are the short tailed shearwaters also known as mutton birds.

More than 3500 birds were blown up on shore this year and started crashing on October 7, buffeted by strong easterly winds from a cold front out to sea.

The birds die from exhaustion and malnutrition because their store of energy is depleted after a long migration from Siberia.

Short tailed shearwaters are pelagic, that is, they live their life in the open ocean and are a migratory species. There are approximately 23 million in the world, breeding on the Australian islands during the warmer months, mainly in Tasmania and islands in the Bass Straight.

The shearwater is the most abundant Australian seabird. There are about 285 colonies in south-east Australia with 18 million birds arriving in Tasmania each year.

More than 200,000 shearwater chicks are harvested commercially under licence in Tasmania each year, prized for their down and …

Microplastic - a Developing Threat to Our Oceans

Scientific studies in Australian waters and in the seas around Britain have found that microplastic concentrations are increasing and showing evidence of effects on ocean ecosystems.

Australian scientists from the University of Western Australia set up ocean net stations to trap plastic fragments, siting these nets around most of the circumference of the continent and across to Fiji. Results have ascertained an average of 4256.4 pieces, at a median size of 2.8mm, per square kilometer with much higher concentrations contributing to this average coming from nets positioned around the populated areas of Sydney and Brisbane. Unfortunately these results put Stradbroke Island in a hot spot for plastic.

Studies undertaken by scientists from Plymouth and Exeter Universities, on the English south coast, involved investigating the effect of ingestion of microplastics on lugworms, an indicator species at the bottom of the food chain. An important food source for fish and seabirds, lugworms also…

Advert: Sand mining damages Stradroke


Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year to all FOSI members!

FOSI would like to wish all members a safe and enjoyable Christmas break.

Stradbroke Island is Precious - An Open Letter to Campbell Newman

Dear Mr Newman,We have some questions about your North Stradbroke Bill to extend sand mining.Your father, as Federal Environment minister, ended sand mining on Fraser Island in 1976. He accepted that sand mining causes major permanent environmental harm and damages the tourism economy.  Why won’t you?Sand mining will result in the total destruction of 14 square kilometres of forests, rich in biodiversity and scenic value, at Sibelco’s Enterprise mine.  On 30 October, your department admitted that over 70% of the mine path is “undisturbed bushland”. Did you know that this is home to many threatened species, including the island’s genetically distinct koala and the beautiful glossy black cockatoo?Scientists conclude that sand mining also destroys the complex structure of ancient sand dunes integral to the flow of water to the island’s internationally recognised wetlands and lakes. These constitute half the island. A huge fresh water aquifer also lies beneath the whole island.There is si…

Vance criminal prosecution saga continues

The long running prosecution of Sibelco for unlawful extraction continues on 24 July, this time in the Brisbane Supreme Court in George Street.
The Supreme Court already held, more than 3 years ago, that Sibelco's mining rights only allow it to take minerals and that the non-mineral sand is to be used in rehabilitation of mined land, unless it has the required permits to remove it. But Sibelco's criminal liability is yet to be decided.

On 24 July Sibelco is making yet another challenge against the prosecution, based on a technicality.

The company wants the Supreme Court to overrule the Magistrate's decision in March this year that it has a case to answer on the charge under the Environmental Protection Act, that it unlawfully extracted large quantities of non-mineral sand over several years without a permit.

Meanwhile, efforts to have the charges upgraded to stealing and fraud continue. If this occurred, the multi-million dollar profits it made could be recovered upon c…

Motorized traffic severely impacts beach birds

A recent scientific study undertaken on Fraser Island found that motorized traffic is the prime agent of disturbance to birds on ocean beaches. 
Below is the abstract from the paper ‘’Human recreation alters behaviour profiles of non-breeding birds on open-coast sandy shores’’ By Schlacher, TA; Nielsen, T; Weston, MA. Published in ESTUARINE COASTAL AND SHELF SCIENCE (Volume: 118 Pages: 31-42 FEB 10 2013.) 
Sandy beaches are primarily valued for their amenity and property values rather than for their ecological functions and properties. Some human usage of beaches potentially conflicts with the conservation and management of wildlife, such as beach-dwelling birds, on sandy shorelines. Because responses by birds to environmental change, including disturbance by humans, often involve behaviours that carry fitness costs, we quantify behaviour profiles of birds in relation to human occurrence along 200 km of sandy shoreline in Eastern Australia, including the large conservation area of Fras…

Winter seabirds arriving at Straddie

On a wet and windy Sunday in June, Colin Reid and three fellow seabird aficionados had a great bird watching session at Point Lookout. Seabirds, which breed over summer on sub-Antarctic Islands in Bass strait and off southern Australia, are starting to arrive at Straddie to forage over winter.

A great variety of birds were spotted, including:
3 Black-browed Albatross 2 Northern Giant Petrels 14 Great-winged Petrels 2 White-headed Petrels (very rare for Stradbroke) 1 Kermadec Petrel (another rarity for NSI) 2 Prion sp (most likely Fairy) 1 Brown Booby 80 Common Noddies ~100 Australian Gannets (60% juveniles) 10 Fluttering/Hutton's type Shearwaters and – in the water – 10 Humpbacks!

Letter to Editor Straddie Island News Winter 2013 issue

Friends of Stradbroke Island disagrees with Bill Giles’ assertions in his letter in Easter SIN. It is a matter of hard fact, science and just common-sense that sand mining is causing serious, permanent environmental damage to the island. Tourism is and will remain the mainstay of the Stradbroke economy.

It doesn't make any sense to continue sand mining when it is damaging future business prospects and employment. For people with talent and vision, there are many opportunities in nature-based recreation, tourism, education and health and this will create employment for other people who wish to live and work on the island.

This long term approach triumphed in the 70's and 80's when sand mining was stopped everywhere else on the populated East Coast of Australia. These communities have generally flourished. Sand mining on North Stradbroke Island is out of step and has been for decades.

Preserving the natural beauty of the island is the only sensible approach.

Obviously tour…

Fox Free Stradbroke Island?

A concerted effort to stop the ongoing spread of foxes on North Stradbroke Island must be a priority, if native species are to be protected.  One of the most loved elements of North Stradbroke Island, aside from the spectacular beaches, is the pristine environment and the native animals that inhabit it. 
Unbeknownst to many, these animals are at threat, as the number of predatory red foxes continues to grow on the Island.

Michael Dickinson, a former National Parks ranger, and now a wildlife spotter and catcher, has been undertaking fox and feral animal control for the Redland City Council on its island land for the past four years. In that time Michael has trapped 118 foxes. “It’s thought that foxes started appearing on NSI in the mid-1930s and their numbers have steadily grown. Just from my work here, I estimate there’d be over 1000 foxes now living on the Island.” said Dickinson.

Many Island residents regularly spot foxes, and they are picked up on wildlife monitoring cameras and re…

Dugongs in Moreton Bay

A shy creature, distantly related to the elephant, which communicates by chirps, whistles and barks –­ the dugong may be one of Moreton Bay’s least seen and most fascinating inhabitants. Approximately 1000 dugongs live in the warm waters of the sheltered and shallow bay. Globally, however, there are serious threats to this gentle animal’s survival. The World Conservation Union lists the dugong as vulnerable to extinction.

The name dugong derives from a Malay word meaning Lady of the Sea, yet elsewhere they are less-flatteringly referred to as Sea Cows, due to their diet of seagrass.

They are the only marine herbivorous sea mammals in the world and have been observed to suckle their young for up to five years, even though calves start eating seagrass at three months old.

Solitary animals, they travel alone or in pairs for most of their 70-year lifespan, although they have been seen in herds of 10 to 300.

Their distant relationship to the elephant goes some way to explaining the dugong…

Stradbroke Chamber Music Festival 2013, 26-28 July


Australia Day storms brings seabirds onshore

Cyclone Oswald battered North Stradbroke Island over the Australia Day weekend knocking over trees, taking out the power and disrupting the ferries. However some keen birders who specialise in seawatching and love ocean-going pelagic birds were in their element (out in the wild winds on Point Lookout!). Cyclonic winds and storms blow seabirds – which mostly live well out to sea - onshore. On Australia Day, in just seven hours from 8am-3pm Colin Reid spotted a fantastic array of seabirds including Black-winged Petrel, White-necked Petrel, Streaked Shearwater, 1000s of Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Buller's Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Short-tailed Shearwater, Fluttering Shearwater, Hutton's Shearwater, Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua and 27 Sooty Tern! Colin, who has seawatched at Straddie many times, said that it was ‘one of the best we’ve ever had off Pt Lookout’. Sadly not all the seabirds survived the high winds. The rarely sighted White-tailed Tropic Bird pictured below was found …

The 2013 Stradbroke Chamber Music Festival

Date claimer 26 to 28 July Artistic Director Rachel Smith returns from her music making in snowy climes to sunny Straddie to bring us an inspirational new program. Rarely performed chamber versions of the famous Sinfonia Concertante of Mozart in string sextet version and the septet version of Strauss’s sublime Metamorphosen.

The string players include Rachel Smith, Louise King, Sophie Rowell, Caroline Henbest and returning from the Scottish Chamber orchestra, Eric de Wit.

Another special experience to enliven the imagination will be Montmorensy (pianist and singer Paul Hankinson) performing in a Berlin- style piano cabaret at the surf lifesaving club.

Rachel and the musicians will return to Dunwich State School to energise the kids in their musical endeavours. Dunwich will also be the venue for a day of music starting with a lively animal- themed family concert on Sunday morning.

For those who have attended the festival in previous years this has become an unmissable annual event, fo…

NSI Field Guide Update

Work on FOSI’s field guide to North Stradbroke Island is progressing well with the project on track. While the production of the field guide is being mostly funded by a fantastic donation from the Jani Haenke Memorial Trust, this is a community project which relies on the generous volunteer contributions of a large number of FOSI members and other people who care about Straddie. Thank you also to the FOSI members who have donated funds to assist with the costs of producing the field guide.

Members and local bush walkers have been hard at work researching the walks and natural areas to be described in the field guide.

Lee Curtis who is helping with the writing of the book has been working on the flora reference section containing around 120 plant photos and descriptions. Lee has also written drafts of the reference sections for the mammals and marine animals which are currently in the expert checking phase. 

The bird reference section is well advanced with a good first draft completed…

‘Hollow Promises’

The following article by Sue Ellen Carew, FOSI President was published in the Stradbroke Island News - Summer 2012

Sand mining continues to destroy old growth forests and animal habitat on Stradbroke It may come as a surprise to many visitors holidaying on the island over summer to learn that North Stradbroke Island is still being mined. There are still three large active mines. The mining company, Sibelco, plans to close the Yarraman sand mine near Point Lookout in 2015. The giant Enterprise sand mine in the middle of the island – you can see it from the headland at Point Lookout – is currently allowed to keep working for another seven years until 2020, thanks to the former government’s renewal of expired mining leases. The silica mine at Vance near the Amity turnoff, in prime koala country, is currently allowed to keep working until 2025.

The giant Enterprise and Yarraman mines work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The company continues to lobby to be allowed to continue mining for …

Can Sibelco Hold Back The Gushing Waters?

Since October last year water has been gushing at an alarming rate from dunes and rushing through normally dry watercourses near the Yarraman mine. Yarraman is the nearest mine to Point Lookout and clearly visible from the headland lookouts.

New lakes have formed, where there were none, drowning areas of vegetation. The damage has occurred outside the mining lease in areas north of the well-known Keyholes. In January a number of FOSI members together with an scientific expert accompanied representatives of the traditional owners to inspect the off-lease water flows and environmental impacts.

The miner Sibelco appears to be locked in a battle to control the outflow from the island’s sensitive hydrological system and aquifer. Miners have a long record of this kind of damage to the island with drowned forest and drained lakes as their legacy.

But…. this was not meant to happen again. The “science” had advanced, more knowledge meant more predictability and greater ability to control th…

Sibelco on trial

On 1 March, 2013 a Brisbane Magistrate ordered that Stradbroke miner Sibelco Australia Limited pay the State’s Environment Department an unprecedented $254,687.00 in legal costs. What’s it all about?

Sibelco is being prosecuted for two criminal offences for unlawfully removing Stradbroke island sand from the island and selling it for landscaping and other purposes without Redland Council approval.

The legal costs were incurred by the government department in successfully opposing several failed attempts by Unimin/Sibelco to stop the trial. Sibelco claimed that the criminal charges were an ‘abuse of process’. The Magistrate rejected the claim.

On 1 March, the magistrate also dismissed the company’s application that it had no case to answer on the two criminal charges being heard by the court. The trial is to continue later this year.

What has become a legal saga commenced on 16 December, 2008, when investigators from the former Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) executed a search…

Dead seabirds needed for plastic pollution study