Thursday, 25 September 2014

Fox Eradication Progress

Local ranger Michael Nothling holding a Broad-shelled River Turtle Chelodina expansa at Bumeira (Brown Lake). This turtle is rarely seen as it mostly lives lying concealed at the bottom of the lakes. Only spotted when the females come out on land to nest over.
Foxes on North Stradbroke Island are still thriving with an estimated population of between 1 and 2000. Recent wildfires only increased the opportunities for these sly and opportunistic predators to attack and eat small native animals left vulnerable with essential vegetation cover incinerated. The eradication program should have been geared up immediately to give native animals the best chance of survival but reaching an agreement of island landholders to a start-up of an island wide action program has been slow. The Redland City Council has, as FOSI members are aware, employed a controller doing good work for some years, but only on council land. The Queensland National Parks Service and QYAC joined this program and enabled eradication work on their lands early in 2014 but only recently has major landholder Sibelco allowed extension of fox control activities on their mining leases (after decades of mining company inaction in fulfilling their legal obligations to control feral animals on their leases thus allowing fox numbers to explode).  Nevertheless progress is now being made. Michael Dickenson, the professional fox catcher, now puts the figure of eradicated foxes at 182, another 32 this year.

It is worth comparing the experiences of fox control programs on Phillip Island, Victorian home to a single remaining penguin colony, the many other colonies having been decimated by foxes. On an island one third the size of Straddie with an estimated 200 foxes, the program started in the 1980’s and geared up in 2006 when a concerted effort of hunting, baiting and trapping at a cost of $160 000 per year eventually brought numbers down to an estimated 11 foxes. But foxes could repopulate even from this low level unless control continues.

On Phillip Island foxes brought the penguin population to the brink of survival and the valuable eco-tourism trade with it. On Stradbroke foxes are threatening a wide variety of animals, many listed as vulnerable or endangered. We all know the nests of sea turtles are being raided by foxes, but the long necked turtles nesting in the banks of the island lakes are also under attack. The rare acid frogs of the island’s wetland environments are on the menu for foxes as are the nests of ground dwelling shorebirds including the rare beach stone curlew. Vulnerable baby koalas and wallabies, the rare water mouse and other small mammals are also easy targets. Stopping foxes is essential to maintaining the island’s biodiversity which in turn is an essential part of the island’s eco- tourism industry.

FOSI will continue to monitor and lobby for increased and coordinated fox control measures and the commitment of a considerable annual budget by all landholders for many years to come. The $160 000 annual expenditure on Phillip Island is a fraction of the money needed here and now on Stradbroke to deal with a ten-fold fox population on an island 3 times the area. But foxes can be stopped within the confines of an island and this should be a priority for all landholders and a big concern for all Straddie lovers.

Article by Sue Ellen Carew

Images of life on Straddie

Purple flag native iris in bloom

Native sarsaparilla (Hardenbergia violacea)

Grass trees in bloom to the delight of honey bees

Stand up for Straddie. Help make sand mining history by 2019

Fox prints

Sunrise from Straddie

Tawny Frogmouths start nesting for summer chicks from August to December – listen for their drumming from the nest site at night. Call is a soft deep pulsating ‘oo-ooom-ooom’. Tawny frogmouths need big, mature trees to build their nests in.

Wanted: Foxes don't belong on Straddie!

Foxes on the prowl, prints on the beach

Planning and Urban Development

For many years, FOSI has played an important role in monitoring residential and commercial development at Point Lookout in particular. No doubt this issue will become more prominent for us in the years to come, with plans for the island’s township expansions being announced a few years ago and next year’s Redland Council planning review raising the spectre of overdevelopment.

FOSI’s recent involvement, as reported to members, includes success in the Planning and Environment Court in preventing development of land on Samarinda Drive. The land’s status was under threat even though its non-development was part of the Samarinda development court orders in the 1990’s.

The Council was ordered to protect the Samarinda Drive land in accordance with a management plan, but the Council has ignored the court’s order to develop and implement the plan and the land remains weed infested and unsightly as a result despite the Council’s attention being drawn to the Court’s previous orders.

In 2013, despite changes to planning laws restricting public notification of and objection rights to developments, FOSI was involved in objecting to an inappropriate residential development in Bambara Street when its non-compliance with site cover and building mass rules became apparent. Unfortunately this was not until the house had been substantially built.

Nevertheless, FOSI objected in writing to the Council and made a financial contribution to obtain an expert’s report for use by the neighbours (two of whom were FOSI members) who took a leading role in detailing the extent of the breaches and in dealing with the Redland Council. The Council eventually admitted non-compliance and that it had made mistakes in assessing the proposal. By this time however, the house had been completely built.

Since then, the FOSI committee has not been alerted to any non-compliant development, residential or otherwise. If members have any planning issues which they want to draw to the committee’s attention please raise these with a committee member.

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 been scheduled to close until 2025. Its entire future operations depend upon the Enterprise mine.

In a scathing 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, as renewal of the leases was by no means certain.

The miners spent millions on the 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 issue has been referred by Trad to Queensland’s recently renamed but discredited Crime and Corruption Commission.

The Newman government’s legislative favour also occurred even though Sibelco was in the middle of a criminal 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 government has 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 a High 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 intentions to 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 a two 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.

By Richard Carew
Published by The Guardian on 10 August

The Many Lives of Moreton Bay

For those who haven’t seen this exhibition yet, you only have a few more weeks!

Few know the rich and diverse history of this natural treasure located on Brisbane’s doorstep.
The eight month long Museum of Brisbane exhibition of Moreton Bay will end on 12 October. It presents an interesting slice of the history of the Bay, with a North Stradbroke Island display, which includes a section on sand mining.

Initially the sand mining section claimed that sand mining had already been extended to 2035.After FOSI provided the correct information at a meeting with Museum’s Director, attended by FOSI’s President and Vice-President, the Museum conceded the error.

Other changes were also made, resulting in a more balanced presentation.  

If you are interested, there are two remaining curator tours of the exhibition – on Sunday 28 September at 11am and Sunday 12 October at 2pm.

The exhibition is located on level 3 of City Hall, King George Square and is open from 10am to 5pm daily. Don’t miss it !

Recent Media about Sand Mining Issue and The Sibelco Favours

If you are reading the electronic version, just click on the highlights to go the source:-

21 August          National edition of ABC’s 7.30
20 August          Independent Australia
10 August          The Guardian Australia
25 July               Brisbane Times
15 July               Independent Australia
15 July               Brisbane Times
5 July                 Independent Australia
24 June              Brisbane Times
11 June              Brisbane Times
10 June              Independent Australia

Tony Fitzgerald QC made specific mention of the impact of sand mining on North Stradbroke’s environment (25 July item above). Of more general interest to members may be his recent speech at the Griffith University.

Leopard Sharks

As ocean temperatures get warmer Leopard Sharks aggregate in the waters of southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales.

Shark. That very word strikes fear into the hearts of us. Their size, power, and great, toothy jaws fill us with fear and fascination.  Enter the leopard shark. It is far from frightening, is not aggressive towards humans, and spends most of its time slowly cruising the seabed, quietly searching for food.
As the temperatures get warmer, mature adult leopard sharks aggregate in the waters off southern QLD and northern NSW over the summer months every year.

According to Dr Christine Dudgeon from the University of Queensland, the longest and most comprehensive studies of wild leopard sharks have been conducted off Nth Stradbroke Island.  
“Currently 388 individual leopard sharks have been photographed and identified off the dive site known as Manta Bommie/The Group, at Nth Stradbroke Island.

“Each shark is identified by its unique distinctive markings and approximately 460 adult leopard sharks aggregate in this region every summer, the largest known gathering in the world,” Dr Dudgeon explained.

They are a largely mysterious species of shark, and have some interesting characteristics.  As hatchlings, leopard sharks have distinctive black and white stripes – and during this stage are often referred to as zebra sharks. These break up into spots as the shark grows and the stripes disappear by the time they are a year old. It takes two years for them to grow to 1.6 -1.8m long when they then become sexually mature. By this time they have developed unique spotting patterns which can be used as fingerprints to identify individuals. The largest sharks reach about 2.5m in total length, with almost half of that being tail.

These sharks spend a lot of time on the bottom of the ocean on the sand feeding mainly on snails, crabs and small fish.  They can pump water over their gills through their mouth which enables them to breathe while stationary, similar to stingrays and other bottom dwelling sharks.  In contrast, white sharks, blue sharks, bull sharks and manta rays have to swim to breathe.

Uniquely, the female leopard shark has the ability to clone itself. In one example, a female in isolation in an aquarium started laying eggs.  Egg laying sharks will lay unviable eggs (like chickens) if not fertilised; however several of her eggs developed embryos and of these, four survived as hatchlings and adults.  Genetic analyses showed that the babies had the exact same genetic signature as the mother indicating that they are clones of the mother.

“Using acoustic telemetry, studies show that leopard sharks visit southern Queensland primarily during summer and particularly when water temperatures rise above 22 deg Celsius.

“Current studies are examining migration of leopard sharks, and preliminary results show that sharks tend to move north in the waters of Fraser Island and the southern Great Barrier reef.  One shark was shown moving all the way to Cairns and back (approximately 2600km) in a six month period.
“There are currently 18 leopard sharks being tracked with acoustic telemetry (tagged off Nth Stradbroke Island) off the east coast of Australia at the moment,” Dr Dudgeon explained.
These exquisitely marked animals are classified as Vulnerable to Extinction on the IUCN Red List –   the same listing as polar bears and great white sharks. Leopard sharks are fished for fins, meat and skin in the shallow coastal waters of the Indo Pacific region from South Africa to Fiji.

Where can you see them?  In the summer months if you stand on the Main Beach headland you may see them passing by surfers in the Main Beach line up, or perhaps snorkelling off Deadman’s Beach or Manta Bommie.

Sincere thanks to Dr Christine Dudgeon, Post-Doctoral researcher at the School of Vet Science at the University of Queensland for her assistance and photograph , and to John Gransbury for his photographs.
Article by Angela McLeod
Photograph on next page by Christine Dudgeon

Fire Recovery

Blackbutt forest in full recovery mode post bushfire 

Media Corrections of Misreporting of Sand Mining Extensions

Members will recall that the media and others were misled by the Government into reporting that last November’s Newman government amendments to the North Stradbroke Protection and Sustainability Act 2011 extended island sand mining leases to 2035.

Some media outlets have made corrections to earlier reports after realising they had been misled by the Government. Below are links to two corrections so far, with the published editors’ notes :-

ABC Correction

Editors note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the sand mining leases on North Stradbroke Island are due to finish by 2035 after the State Government extended the leases held by sand mining company Sibelco last year. The State Government's amendments are intended to allow sand mining to be extended again to 2035, however the legislation does not permit Sibelco to make the applications to renew the relevant leases until 2019.

Guardian Correction

Editor's note: Under the 2013 amendments to the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act, a lease extension cannot be sought until a year before the current lease expires at the end of 2019. Because the Queensland Parliament could change the law again before then, a lease extension to 2035 is currently potential not certain, and this article was amended accordingly on 24 July 2014.

Independent Australia

The editor made two corrections, one involving correcting inaccurate commentary about the former’s Government’s 2011 sand mining legislation and the other involving correcting inaccurate commentary on the Newman government amendments.

Upcoming Event - Save the Date!

Glossy Black-Cockatoo Birding Day – Sunday 19 October 2014
Lisa Bailey from RCC is also coordinating this event to count these threatened island birds – for more information contact Lisa and check out the Glossy Black Conservancy web page at