Friends of Stradbroke Island (FOSI) is dedicated to the protection of the delicate and unique environment of North Stradbroke Island and its surrounding waters and recognises that sand mining is the major threat to the precious ecosystems of this sand island.
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Campbell Newman is in quicksand over mining on Stradbroke
Cartoon from Koori Mail 18 June 2014
North Stradbroke, affectionately known as “Straddie” by most South-east Queenslanders, is the world’s second largest sand island. It’s a popular holiday destination on Brisbane’s doorstep, with beautiful surfing beaches and a laid-back feel.
Amendments to the 2011 North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act, passed by the Queensland parliament last November, are intended to allow, in 2019, mineral sand mining on Stradbroke, by the Belgian owned concern Sibelco, to be extended at the main Enterprise mine, to 2035 from its current limit of 2019. Sibelco stands to benefit by $1.5 billion,according to its own figures. Last year, it announced the closure of the ‘Vance’ silica sand mine on the island which had employed 13 people. It had not beenscheduled to close until 2025. Its entire future operations depend upon the Enterprise mine.
In ascathing assessment of Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s government in late July, Tony Fitzgerald QC wrote that “it has lost much of its support in little more than two years, which isn’t surprising.”
One overreach Fitzgerald mentioned was the “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”.
Fitzgerald’s comments should place a sharper focus on Campbell Newman’s relationship with Sibelco and what Queensland Labor MP Jackie Trad has called the “cash for legislation deal”.
In 2011 the former Labor government passed special legislation extending key expired mining leases at the Enterprise mine to 2019, extinguishing the legal rights of objectors under existing legislation.
But Sibelco wasn’t satisfied. It had wanted an extension to 2027. It then campaigned against Labor in the lead up to the 2012 state election. It claimed that it had a legal right to have the expired mining leases extended to 2027 – a claim which did not stand up to scrutiny, asrenewal of the leases was by no means certain.
The miners spent millions onthe campaign which included full page newspaper and 108 prime time television advertisements. It also involved a $91,840 letter drop campaign for Campbell Newman in his Ashgrove electorate. This issuehas been referred by Trad to Queensland’s recently renamed butdiscredited Crime and Corruption Commission.
The Newman government’s legislative favour also occurred even though Sibelco was in the middle of acriminal trial on charges relating to the unlawful removal and sale, over many years, of large quantities of non-mineral sand.
The prosecution, one of the longest-running in Queensland’s history, resumed on 22 August despite Sibelco’s unsuccessful applications to have the charges dismissed. Last year, it was ordered to pay$255,000 in costs for failed applications. The Magistrate has reserved his verdicts on the charges and will deliver his decision on a date to be decided.
Since last November, the Newman governmenthas misinformed the media and the public, about its amendments to the Stradbroke legislation, claiming sand mining had already been extended to 2035. The truth is that no extension of sand mining to 2035 (or 2027, the date sought by Sibelco in 2012) is scheduled to occur until 2019 – the current expiry date of the relevant mining leases.
If a future parliament repeals the Newman amendments, mining will end at the main mine in 2019. Even the Newman government may be forced to repeal its amendments. The island’s native title owners, the Quandamooka people, in June launched aHigh Court challenge against the Queensland Government. They are seeking a declaration that the Newman amendments in favour of Sibelco are invalid under the Australian constitution due to a conflict with a 2011 federal court native title determination and an associated Indigenous land use agreement with the State government.
If the Newman amendments are repealed, no compensation is payable to Sibelco because Section 6 of the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act specifically rules it out. This would not be an unreasonable result in the circumstances. When Sibelco purchased the Enterprise mine in 2009 it was aware that an application to renew the key mining lease, which expired in 2007, had not been decided. It also knew that there was significant opposition to renewal from environment groups and indigenous owners who had already made their intentionsto challenge future mining plans clear to the former mine owner.
It is well known that sand mining causes “major, permanent and irreversible environmental harm.” This was the conclusion of the the Fraser Island Inquiry in 1976. Campbell Newman’s father Kevin was the Federal Environment Minister. He accepted the findings and ended mining on Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, within weeks of receiving the Inquiry Report. The Federal government rejected the the Bjelkie-Petersen government’s request for atwo year transition.
North Stradbroke’s future depends upon its natural environment being protected as far as possible. Enough damage has been caused by sand mining. The recent Stafford by-election swing of over 18% against the Queensland Liberal National Party government sent a clear message that the public has had enough of the Newman government’s extreme decisions. His amendments should be repealed and there needs to be a truly independent public inquiry into the “cash for legislation” deal.
In this edition we have seen the difference 10 years of bush care can make and some weeds to watch out for. Below is some advice as to suitable trees, ground cover and shrubs to plant in your Stradbroke garden. Suitable native trees Lophestemon confertus (box tree) - canopy tree for big
gardens or pruningBanksia integrifolia – (coastal banksia) - attracts
birds Banksia aemula or serrata (wallum banksia) – attracts birdsElaeocarpus reticulatus (blue berry ash)Pandanus pedunculatus (pandanus/ screw palm) Cupaniopsis anacardioides (tuckeroo)
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…
Swamps fringe the Northern, Eastern and Southern shores of North Stradbroke Island. The Eighteen Mile Swamp, a great trough in the sand lying seaward of the huge dunes of the main sand mass is kept full of fresh water by seepage from the sand mass rather than surface run off. Straddie is the southernmost high dune sand mass in Australia and the second–largest sand island in the world after the World Heritage Listed Fraser Island. This swamp teems with life and interest and is so special that it is included within the Moreton Bay RAMSAR site, recognised as one of the world’s premier wetlands. It is in fact the longest wetland of its type in the world.
It is only this year that it has finally been given the highest form of regulatory protection available in Queensland by being declared National Park. The park has been named NAREE BUDJONG DJARA by indigenous people on the island who are engaged in its joint management with the state. This level of protection has been a long time coming…