Monday, September 28, 2009

One more ESSENTIAL habitat bites the dust

We are privileged to live in an area with many of Australia's furry wonders. One very special on is the Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo. Yes, a kangaroo that lives in trees. Many local residents of the Atherton Tablelands, where this precious species occurs, have never sighted this amazing creature, and many have never even heard of them.

Most of the Mabi Rainforest, its original habitat, has been cleared. Tragically, the remaining fragments of this forest are still under threat.

We are trying to protect one patch of extremely important remnant rainforest from a large housing development that will slowly destroy them and their habitat. This remnant and its connecting corridors and fragment forests have a high Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo population due to the diversity of fauna species it contains. If we do not act now we are going to lose this wonderful species and many others along with it.

In November 2006, rural-residential land owners bordering a rural 125 hectare (310 acre) paddock were notified of a 12 Lot potential subdivision, planned as 5 large blocks (17-35 hectares each), 3 x three hectare blocks, and 3 x one hectare blocks. The plan seemed a fairly reasonable outcome, and no neighbours objected. The majority of the rural paddock had been cleared decades ago for grazing, although patches of remnant rainforest were left, and 65 whole acres were fenced off from cattle, so remains almost untouched.

At that time, it was relatively simple to subdivide Rural land on the Atherton Tablelands. The former Eacham Shire is renowned for its large percentage of rural-residential properties, and is a major destination for lifestyle block owners.

However, without warning, suddenly, in one day, over 5 acres of remnant forest was cleared to lay a bitumen road. Truck after truck delivered rocks and soil to fill a clear running spring and its water course. Soon after, overhead power lines and street lighting were installed.
Not until then did neighbours discover that the 12 Lot plan had been amended with an application already lodged to subdivide the entire acreage into approximately 210 smaller lots!! There was, and has been, NO public consultation regarding this massive development, and neighbours were never notified of changes to the original plans.

When Land for Wildlife neighbours made inquiries, they were told by local council staff that an application had been lodged in the 1970’s for small residential lots and a golf course on that rural land parcel, so nothing could be done to prevent it. The developer funded a large portion of the council water supply upgrade, and EPA demanded that 27 hectares of previously fenced remnant forest be given as Nature Refuge. Neighbours were also told that if the council did try to prevent the development, the property owner/developer could possibly sue the council for potential losses. They did - and still do not - consider Environmental impact as a cost.

More amended applications have been lodged, with lot number increases and reduced lot sizes, including applications to subdivide the Nature Refuge forest portion – the latest being to give half to council for parklands for public walkways and access, and sell the remainder as residential land. The entire plan is also a huge contradiction to the new 2031 FNQ Regional Plan that came into force in May 2009, and which clearly states that rural land cannot be subdivided, that endemic species must be protected at all costs, and that landscape and natural water courses feeding into the Great Barrier Reef must be protected and revegetated.

The impact of this type of subdivision can easily be seen in the neighbouring patch of forest, sadly subdivided in the late 1980s, though only fully developed in the last decade. With no covenants in place, cats, dogs and vehicles have accounted for large numbers of fauna deaths in that time, which still continue, despite most current residents being aware of the area's uniqueness, and despite many being Land for Wildlife members.

Running along the North Johnstone River, this unique area contains an extremely diverse and valuable remnant rainforest reserve. It is home to the rare Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroos, Green Ringtail Possums, the threatened Spotted Quoll, Green-eyed Tree Frogs, and many other endemic flora and fauna species. It was originally cassowary habitat, but without enough corridors, they could no longer travel through the area safely. If this level of development is allowed to occur the Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo will suffer the same fate as the Southern Cassowary. The bottom line is that if this development is allowed to continue, it WILL destroy the last remaining Johnstone River remnant rainforest and its inhabitants.

The only way to prevent this from going ahead is to lobby the Tableland Regional Councillors, who get to vote on issues like this without having access to all of the facts and without fully realising the long-term impacts. Foresight is what we need here — not hindsight. Talk of Global Warming at world summits amounts to little when we continue to carry out destructive practices on the precious remnants of our forests. When are our local councils going to be held accountable for allowing unethical and irresponsible developments in fragile environments?

Too many times these “small” issues go unnoticed by the greater public to the detriment of our precious environment. Time is running out to save this essential habitat.

Please email or write to Tablelands Regional Council: PO Box 3, Malanda QLD, 4885


Edited 30/09/09


Anonymous said...

Tree Kangaroos should become a local icon for North Queensland and be protected at all costs. Most people have never seen one, and many have never even heard of them. I hope that raising their profile will stop the threats to them.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Having moved here from the Daintree and seeing the strict environmental codes placed on dwindling rainforest habits by some responsible councillors on the coast, i am disgusted to see the potential destruction of the Mabi rainforest corridor area with the construction of a 210 block suburban subdivision.

Unbelievably, the current rainforest area that is already housed has NO covenants to protect the wildlife, and introduced animals such as cats and dogs should be banned from these very sensitive areas as they account for so many wildlife deaths.

To introduce even more suburbia on this fragile area is beyond belief...imagine how many dogs and cats roaming the area once this is established.

The Tree Kangaroo has enough of a survival problem with all the current threats without this concrete jungle being placed on its doorstep.

There must be something that can be done to prevent these money making developers from exploiting these last safe habitats of our precious endangered wildlife.

Council on the Tablelands, could take an example from Mike Berwick and other councillors, on the coast, who worked on the protection of the natural environment, of a council with foresight for the future of these extremely special habitats. Despite opposition from some redneck ring-in councillors they pursued the goals anyway and won.

Surely at some stage, morals must outweigh the money..