Early this morning, the Queensland Parliament passed legislation to phase out sand mining on Minjerribah / North Stradbroke Island by 2019. This decision is the best outcome for the Quandamooka people, the environment and the future sustainability of the island.
Mined since 1949, it is now time to say enough is enough. The remaining wonderful natural heritage of the second largest sand island in the world can be protected and a sustainable future developed.
From 2019, the island’s natural beauty, unique hydrology and dunal systems, rich biodiversity, rare and threatened species, and threatened ecosystems will finally be protected from the irreparable effects of sandmining.
Ongoing repetition of re-negotiations of ‘dates of compromise’ has continued to erode the natural environment, and indigenous culture and heritage on which its sustainable long term future can be based.
The passing of the bill reverses the 2013 decision by the Newman government to extend mining until 2035, which in turn had reversed the decision by the Bligh government to phase out mining by 2019.
The 2013 Newman government amendments resulted in a High Court challenge by the Traditional Owners, the Quandamooka people (People of the Bay). The legal challenge was an effort to re-gain their diminished rights as the Native Title Holders over many parts of the island.
The new amendments respect these native title rights and represent 18 months of co-operation between the government and the Traditional Owners. Access to country and culture has been returned again. With wonderful synchronicity, today is National Sorry Day.
As everybody who has visited, or lived on NSI knows, it is a special place. The island’s natural beauty, with its picture postcard beaches, lakes and lagoons and rich biodiversity is a favourite of Queenslanders and visitors alike. ‘Straddie’ is an easily accessible natural ‘playground’ with wide-ranging health, community and economic benefits.
Straddie’s remarkable natural and cultural heritage are worthy of protection, not exploitation. Although it has been well known since the 1970s that sand mining causes significant and permanent environmental damage, it has continued for decades.
Rehabilitated sand-mined areas cannot be returned to their original state.
NSI’s ancient dunes and the diversity of habitats, took thousands of years to create. How could humans expect to recreate these in a mere few years? There is no peer-reviewed body of science to demonstrate that the island’s ancient dunal landscape, ecology and hydrology can ever be returned to its original pre-mine state.
Sand mining on NSI is naturally coming to a close. Two of the island’s three mines have ceased operations. Jobs have already diminished. Further destruction and degradation of areas of high conservation and cultural value, including threatened ecosystems is not the most favourable outcome for an island whose major industry is known and valued for its natural environment.
Continual rearrangement of the end date of sand mining, has only served to delay the transition to long-term sustainability, full cultural recognition and environmental protection; and further damage a unique and fragile island.
The public debate and discussion about mining and the environment on NSI has lasted many, many years. Now the island’s future can be one of respect, and take into account the sensitivity and value of the natural environs, and the rich Indigenous culture and heritage.