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New push to stop mining on Stradbroke Island

New push to stop mining on Stradbroke Island
Stradbroke Island Koala
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North Stradbroke Island is a well known and popular holiday destination, it lies just an hour from Brisbane, off the south-east coast of Queensland, but currently only 2 per cent of the island is national park.

The Stradbroke Island Management Organisation (SIMO) has estimated that mining leases cover 75 per cent of the island, and while the mining company Unimin puts the figure closer to 70 per cent, the State Government's official figure is 52 per cent.

Conservationists are now stepping up their campaign to stop mining on Stradbroke and are appealing to the Queensland Government to convert the land to national park.
Their latest weapon in these efforts is the local koala population of the island, which conservationists hope to help them reclaim some of North Stradbroke Island as National Park.

It is estimated, in a recent koala census, that between 300 and 1,000 koalas live on the island.

The koala colony on North Stradbroke Island is the only naturally occurring island colony anywhere in Australia and researchers have found that these koalas are genetically unique and healthier, being largely free of the chlamydia that afflicts mainland koalas.

Even though mining company Unimin has a koala protection program in place, including extensive rehabilitation of the land it mines, SIMO believes it has a strong case to halt the mining using the habitat destruction argument.

Unimin, In its koala fact sheet, freely admits "the extraction of mineral sands undertaken by Unimin has the potential to disturb the koala population on North Stradbroke Island".

But it says "rehabilitation procedures designed to return the landscape to a state similar to that pre-mining are already in place. These procedures need to ensure that koalas and other fauna disturbed by mining will have the opportunity to regain their previous range post-mining."

Conservationists say these measures are not enough and Jan Aldenhoven, a leader in the charge against mining on the island, says the destruction of old-growth forests has the potential to devastate Stradbroke's koala colony.

"We've reached a point where there are not many tracts of old-growth forests left," she said, "and science tells us that to maintain the ecosystem health of a region you need those big tracts of original vegetation to bolster and buffer the rest of the island."

Jackie Cooper, president of SIMO, agrees.

"Sand mining has wrought enormous damage and devastation and should be stopped as quickly as possible," she said. "Stradbroke's ecological value, its environment, its animals and plants, many of which are endangered, need to be protected at the highest level. The island should be national park as Moreton Island is, as Fraser Island is.”

It appears that the Queensland Government is listening and has a new national park target for Stradbroke of 7.5 per cent by 2020.

The Department of Environment and Resource Management says 18 mining leases are currently up for renewal, half of which are for rehabilitation purposes only. The department will scrutinise the leases to ensure the rehabilitation of these areas meets an acceptable standard before the leases can be surrendered, and says these sites may be considered for conversion to national parks.

Michael Palmer

Date: 27/02/2010


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