Wildfires on North Stradbroke Island due to lack of hazard reduction burning
North Stradbroke Island lies just off the coastline from Brisbane and is a popular tourist destination for adventurers from the mainland. With its long sandy beaches and easy surf fishing it attracts thousands of anglers each year who make the short journey from the mainland by barge.
‘Straddie’, covering 54,500 hectares is the second largest sand island in the world. Its only industries are sandmining and tourism, which support its 2000 permanent inhabitants.
On any weekend and during holiday season the beach becomes an extension to the Pacific Highway where hundreds of four wheel drives converge, turning the beaches into major thoroughfares.
Last week, due to lightning strikes, fires broke out across the tinder dry island, eventually causing some settlements to be evacuated. A lack of hazard control burning in the cooler months of the previous 10 years created the most dangerous fuel load ever seen on the island.
The Rural Fire Service had a major incident on its hands with volunteers battling kilometres long fire fronts fanned by gusty winds. Fortunately there was no loss of human life but the island’s flora and fauna copped a savage beating.
Fires with such a large fuel load burn extremely hot for a more prolonged period, in many cases far too hot for standing eucalypts and other flora to survive. Most of the island’s scorched eucalypts will sucker from the trunk and limbs rendering their function in the natural habitat as useless.
In the aftermath of the searing flames, the environmental damage is strikingly evident. Hot fires also reduce the amount of already low levels of organic nutrients thus making it more difficult for regeneration.
Brisbane ecologist Dr Greg Baxter said the island’s ecology would take at least 20 years to recover, unless of course there is another wildfire in the meantime.
A lack of seasonal rainfall is also inhibiting plant regrowth
The island is home to a large koala bear population, 59 species of birds including a large colony of glossy black cockatoos, native rats and numerous reptiles.
North Stradbroke Island ablaze with wildfires causing extreme damage to flora and fauna which according to an ecologist, will take more than 20 years to recover.
The island has been claimed by the Quandamooka and Noonuccal aboriginal groups who assist the National Parks and Wildlife Service with management of its natural resources.
Perhaps the best known of the Noonuccal clan was the late activist Kath Walker, who fought for many years to gain native title to the island for her family.
Kath was one of the last of the island’s traditional people, passing away in 1993, and it seems some of the handed-down tribal lore Kath possessed was not passed on to the present generation of island inhabitants claiming aboriginality.
This writer stood on the hustings with Kath in the early 80’s.
If Kath did pass on what she knew the message did not get through to the great ‘custodians of country’ residing on the island and mainland.
These people who claimed native title, in a similar fashion to most other ‘aboriginal’ groups, either do not know how to manage ‘country’ properly, do not care or have been prevented by the idiotic Labor Party policies of the 90’s from burning excess fuel loads each year or whenever it was deemed necessary.
Former Queensland Forestry Department practices of conducting annual or two-yearly cool fires, guarantee the damage from uncontrolled fires will be minimal and does not have a great impact on flora and fauna.
But what happened to the traditional hazard reduction burning of the open forest and grassland in the traditional August burning off period?
Did the NPWS prevent the local indigenous people from burning off in previous years? Perhaps it seems from similar lessons learnt in other indigenous controlled land or national parks, most of the old knowledge has not been passed on because the gap between the ways of the last of the traditional people of the 1920’s and the present generation is too wide.
This knowledge is lost forever. It is accepted in some anthropological circles that the lost messages from true traditional people have been supplanted by university trained anthropologists with an agenda not necessarily in the best interests of indigenous people.
Some commentators liken the beaten up stories of modern anthropologists to ‘reinventing the wheel.’
Unfortunately politicians of all hues believe it as gospel that modern day aborigines are the only capable ‘custodians of country,’ the latest fashionable coinage of the annual $25 billion aboriginal industry.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
This lone koala survived the wildfire which left its food source of various tree leaves and other plants a scorched, parched and devastated landscape.