Urannah Campaign Update

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Mackay Conservation Group’s former coordinator, Ian Sutton, undertook a biological assessment of the Urannah Creek west of Mackay in 2004. He found a hidden valley in almost pristine condition. Ian described a valley without weeds that provided habitat in the form of Bluegum forest and endangered Black Ironbox, with stands on Ironbark on its slopes.

Urannah Creek is the most permanent river in the Burdekin system and supports healthy fish and turtle populations.

Although Urannah is close to several population centres, the topography and the lack of good road access makes it a very remote place. During the dry season four wheel drive vehicles are necessary to access the creek. In wet season the area virtually impassable. The valley is walled in by the ranges on all sides, except for a gap near Mt Cauley where the Broken River exits on its journey westward.

These physical barriers and the joint boundary with Eungella National Park to the south east, plus the lack of any past ‘pasture improvements’ render the area an isolated ‘island’ of virtually pristine natural heritage. Ian described the valley as a secure, almost unique example of pre-European landscape of the area. Those values haven’t changed since 2004. This unique and important area west of the Eungella rainforest is once again under threat, with plans of a massive dam, industrial scale irrigated agriculture and a questionable hydroelectric scheme.

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Successful campaign to remove weeds

Many in the Mackay Community would be aware for some years I have been raising awareness and concern regarding the proliferation of weeds in water ways, particularly the lagoon in the Botanic Garden stretching westwards to Racecourse Mill. My concerns are the number of types of invasive weeds above and below surface almost choking each other for existence and totally choking the whole water way, to the detriment of platypus and other aquatic life species.

It is obvious that any neglect of controlling these weeds, they will eventually be transferred by bird life to every creek, dam, waterway in the region, eventually changing the whole ecology of our waterways, and I’m sure not for the better. 

So! After many times “knocking on doors” was very pleasantly surprised to see a major effort of a machine excavator removing the weeds west of the rail overpass.Combined with the weed spraying in the water near the water treatment plant, with biological trials the water way is looking clearer than it has for years.

The extent of weed invasion in surrounding waterways in the region I am now sure is well on the radar of authorities and being monitored, am pleased to see the increased effort to manage the problem.

Graeme Ransley

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COVID-19 recovery is no excuse to gut environment laws

E42F0001-F97D-4317-9E88-FADDD1163442.jpegThere is a good reason that Australia’s system of environmental laws has been developed. Without proper controls, people and the environment are at risk of long term harm.

Queensland has had its fair share of environmental disasters. A good example is the issue of toxic waste.

Prior to laws being enacted to list contaminated land, people who purchased a property in our state had no idea whether the land had been previously used to dump toxic waste.

The most famous case of land contamination in Queensland was at Kingston, south of Brisbane. A gold mine operated in the area for several decades. Cyanide from the mine was disposed around the site. After the mine closed, the local council allowed a waste disposal company to use the mine site to dump oil. It then became a domestic and industrial waste tip.

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World Environment Day - It's time for Nature

ButterflyHere’s a difficult question for you. If there could only be one other species of animal on earth which would you choose? 

Would it be a faithful dog to keep you company? Bees are important, they pollinate so many plants that provide us food. Maybe you’d choose beauty in the form of a cassowary or a magnificent wedge-tailed eagle. It could satisfy you knowing there are dolphins in the ocean. What about termites that dispose of fallen timber? Which one would you choose? It's an impossible question.

This year the United Nations' theme for World Environment Day is Time for Nature. We are all being called on to act to protect our natural world. To defend it from ourselves and to never give up.

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Gautam Adani wants a renewable future but still supports Carmichael Mine

In a blog published last week, Gautam Adani, chairman of the Adani Group, says that renewables are fast becoming the cheapest and best source of energy, especially for countries that currently rely on fossil fuel imports. 

He wrote “Today, as COVID19 challenges the fundamental assumptions of our lives, the urgency of a green revolution in the energy sector gains greater importance. While the immediate economic impact may slow us down, we are presented with an opportunity to pause, rethink, and design a new and faster transition to a low carbon future.”

“The adage that renewables are good for the environment, but bad for business is increasingly a thing of the past. Today, we see an accelerating trend where policies facilitated by governments, public awareness and support for action on climate change, and the economies of scale continue to create massive market demand and job creation through renewables while simultaneously addressing the energy security for countries dependent on energy imports.”

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Vale Rory McCourt

Rory McCourt, in his 70s, died on Sunday 10th May following a dreadful illness. He fought hard for the environment of the Whitsundays. Rory also advocated on wider environmental issues.

He lived at Shute Harbour, having moved from Sydney after a successful creative career around 20 years ago. He was a leading figure amongst those concerned about Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays, especially as a key person on the management committee in the local group Save Our Foreshore (SOF) formed in October 2004. 

SOF fought the proposed hotel development on Airlie’s foreshore, with Rory also playing a leading role campaigning against other inappropriate developments including the proposed Shute Harbour Marina development, which is still active.  He established links with Mackay Conservation Group and others beyond the Whitsundays.  

Rory had a calm, warm and gentle nature offering an intelligence and humour. It was always good to listen to his thoughts over dinner, or when talking with others providing a careful, thoughtful but persistent advocacy. He would not be ruffled in a heated discussion.

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We can't count on coal to dig us out of an economic hole

This week the Queensland Resources Council released a wish-list of mining projects it wants fast-tracked by our government, including six coal mines in the Galilee Basin and several in the Bowen and Surat Basins. Most of those mines are still undergoing federal and state assessment processes, including developing Environmental Impact Statements. Others have not been able to obtain finance. A High Court challenge by farmers over threats to water supply stands in the way of another.

Thermal coal (the type that produces electricity) has suffered from declining prices for nearly two years. It was selling for US$120 per tonne in July 2018 but by April this year it was less than half that price. According to respected industry analyst, Rory Simington of Wood Mackenzie, 30 per cent of Australia’s thermal coal mines are currently unprofitable due to low prices. 

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How politicians walked away from science for Adani

A recent report published in Nature Sustainability provides a thorough examination of the approval process for Adani’s underground water licence. The authors are some of Australia's leading water experts. They examine the evidence from all parties and show that there is still significant uncertainty about the water source of the ancient Doongmabulla Springs and 150 associated wetlands.

The assessment process was political from the start. The federal environment minister's approval came just hours before the government went into caretaker mode for the 2019 election. At the time, the Queensland environment minister commented that the decision "reeks of political interference". The federal minister had come under intense pressure from within the government to approve the water plan even though it wasn't complete. Mackay Conservation Group's concern was that the pre-election federal sign off on the water license was a rushed decision that didn't permit a full examination of the scientific evidence.

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What happens when you ask a marsupial to improve your life?

After finding some gliders living in a nesting box at his place, Tom Curtis recently pondered whether they had a better life than him. He wondered whether life would be calmer as a possum, without all the worries that Covid-19 and other crazy world events have brought. In response he received a letter from a marsupial living in the big Moreton Bay Ash in his garden. 

Dear Tom,
Thank you for your letter asking to become a glider and live in our tree. This raises a couple of points. Firstly, we don't have any magical powers to turn people into small and incredibly-cute marsupials. If you therefore remain at 65kg, with no gliding membranes between your arms and legs, we think you will struggle to survive launching yourself into space from a 30ft Moreton Bay Ash.

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Selective hearing on science

Every day during the Coronavirus epidemic there has been at least one state or national leader holding a news conference outlining the situation and their plans to keep us all safe. Every one of them was flanked by a senior medical expert to lend scientific credibility to their statements. During this crisis, Australians have trusted scientists, yet when it comes to the climate crisis politicians scoff at the scientific evidence.

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