FRIENDS OF THE EARTH KURANDA
NEWSLETTER, MARCH 2010
We are most concerned about the fate of these creatures, whose numbers are plummeting. I recall when I first came to Kuranda watching for half an hour at sunset when tens of thousands left their roosts to fly off to the west in seemingly numberless quantities, a sight never seen now. Even at my place now, already some kilometres away from the town, I never hear their chirping.
These bats consume fruits of the rainforest and also pollinate trees, so are needed for the reproduction of many of our iconic trees. As well as the intentional slaughter by Tablelands farmers, some come to grief on barbed wire fences, which could surely be replaced with plain wire in many places.
Other threats to the bats are pesticides in fruit orchards and paralysis ticks. This latter problem is created by habitat loss and feeding out of desperation on the wild tobacco berries, a weed, where they come in contact with the ticks. They don´t have immunity to the ticks like eg bandicoots and wallabies and hundreds of adult flying foxes fall paralysed out of the trees during the baby season, leaving the babies to starve.
That’s when the bat hospitals like Batreach are really struggling, feeding babies and treating tick bats with antivenin, which costs about $ 25 to treat one bat.
Pam of Batreach, Kuranda does a stirling job treating wounded bats and other wildlife such as possums and gliders, but is sorely in need of help with construction of pre release pens, with funding and needs volunteers to help cut up fruit to feed her wildlife. Please contact Pam on 4093 8858 if you can help.
Another concern is with roadkill. The worst spots seem to be on main roads but also on newly bituminised rural roads. There seem to be local extinctions of bandicoots and now the pademelons are being decimated. We have decided to contact the Tablelands Council with a view to getting their assistance with developing signs and having them installed in the worst areas.
Owen’s Creek Bridge
A new bridge is being constructed on the Myola Road, beside the Barron River, The amount of soil being moved around this construction has raised our concern for Litoria Myola a rare and endangered frog found only in the Myola Valley. Upon being approached the Workers on site agreed to clear the stream of clay and other debris. We’ll have to keep an eye on this one.
A great deal of both legal and illegal clearing of natural forest is taking place. We are promised a visit from the Environment Department official responsible for this issue which may help to raise awareness about the problem.
Cairns Environment Roundtable
Syd and Elke attended this roundtable as representatives of FoE Kuranda. The meeting was with Minister Kate Jones and other environmental groups.
A copy of the briefing paper that Syd presented follows:
1/ Transport with specific reference to the Kuranda Range
During this visit to FNQ, Ministers may well be lobbied by advocates of a proposed Four-Lane Highway through World Heritage, linking Cairns to the Tablelands.
This proposal was put on hold by the Bligh Government – when it announced that a decision over the highway would be deferred for at least a decade. But the main roads lobby never lets up.
Friends of the Earth Kuranda is one of many groups and networks that applauds the decision taken by the Bligh government to defer a decision on a new Highway. Developing the tablelands with the same car-dependency model that’s already rampant in FNQ is no way towards a sustainable future – quite apart from World Heritage and biodiversity issues specific to the proposed area and route.
However, we urge the Government should act now to reduce pressure on the existing two-lane Kuranda Range road, through effective demand management and better use of existing local rail facilities.
It is nothing less than a scandal that the busy and scenic Kuranda Range Road is still used by waste trucks to transport solid waste from a long-time malfunctioning ‘recycling’ facility in Cairns to landfill in Mareeba. Both ends of their journey are on existing rail links. Why isn’t rail used?
We ask the Government to put serious effort is put into revitalising rail in FNQ – and to pursuing transport demand management strategies. Taking effective action to reduce traffic on the Kuranda Range would be an excellent test-bed for broader sustainable transport planning.
FoE Kuranda proposed quite a sophisticated demand management project a couple of years ago. Our proposal was not accepted for funding by the State Government. We wish to know what the Government intends to do instead?
2/ Water quality
Among the plethora of threatening processes affecting the Great Barrier Reef is the hot potato of sediment , nutrient and especially pesticide run-off from land.
We have been appalled, over the years, at the complete absence of any serious monitoring of our local river – the Barron – for pesticide content. It’s known that several hundred pesticides are used in this catchment annually. The toxicity of this complex brew is really unknown. It is a serious issue for the reef and river wildlife – but there are additional concerns that the drinking supplies of townships such as Kuranda, extracted from the river without elaborate filtering for complex chemicals, may also be unsafe for long term use.
The Premier’s aspirational target of a 50% reduction of pollution run-off onto the Reef over the coming 4 years is a positive beginning. But there must be real monitoring – or it will be impossible to know whether or not it has been achieved – and real action, especially with regard to farmed land – or such an ambitious target will never be achieved.
Organic agriculture provides an obvious way forward – and we’d like to see a lot more government support for this small but not insignificant part of the Queensland agricultural sector which tends to overlooked.
We would also like to see the State Government require its own agencies and local councils to move rapidly, where possible, to chemical-free land maintenance strategies.
3/ Continuing vegetation clearance and associated wildlife habitat loss
As other groups at this meeting are leading on this issue we will not duplicate their efforts in this short briefing presentation, other than to note our deep concern over continuing loss of native vegetation in this area and our frustration that the existing planning regime fails to give adequate protection to this priceless asset.