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Koala ark: push to stop mining on Straddie
Conservationists are using koalas to help them reclaim some of North Stradbroke Island, more than 50 per cent of which is controlled by mining leases.
Just an hour from Brisbane, off the south-east coast of Queensland, North Stradbroke Island is a popular holiday destination, but only 2 per cent of the island is national park.
The Stradbroke Island Management Organisation (SIMO) estimates mining covers 75 per cent of the island, while the mining company Unimin puts it closer to 70 per cent and the State Government’s official figure is 52 per cent.
Conservationists have recently stepped up their campaign to stop mining on Stradbroke and are appealing to the Queensland Government to convert the land to national park.
Their latest weapon in their fight Golden Goose Shoes to reclaim mining land is the koala.
In a recent koala census, researchers estimated between 300 and 1,000 koalas live on the island.
It is the only naturally occurring island colony anywhere in Australia and the koalas there are genetically unique and healthier, being largely free of the chlamydia that plagues mainland koalas.
With this in mind, SIMO believes it has a strong case to halt mining, which it says has the potential to destroy the koalas’ habitat.
Mining company Unimin has a koala protection program in place, including extensive rehabilitation of the land it mines.
In its koala fact sheet, it admits “the extraction of mineral sands undertaken by Unimin has the potential to disturb the koala population on North Stradbroke Island”.
But it says “rehabilitation procedures designed to return the landscape to a state similar to that pre-mining are already in place”.
“These procedures need to ensure that koalas and other fauna disturbed by mining will have the opportunity to regain their previous range post-mining,” it adds.Current measures ‘not enough’Conservationists say that is not enough and Jan Aldenhoven, who is helping lead the charge against mining on the island, says the destruction of old-growth forests has the potential to devastate Stradbroke’s koala colony.
“We’ve reached a point where there are not many tracts of old-growth forests left,” she said.
“And science tells us that to maintain the ecosystem health of a region you need those big tracts of original vegetation to bolster and buffer the rest of the island.”
SIMO’s president, Jackie Cooper, agrees.
“Sand mining has wrought enormous damage and devastation and should be stopped as quickly as possible,” she said.
“Stradbroke’s ecological value, its environment, its animals and plants, many of which are endangered, need to be protected at the highest level.
“The island should be national park as Moreton Island is, as Fraser Island is.
“It’s one of the great chains of sand islands.”State Government plansThe Queensland Government appears to be listening.
A spokesman for the Department of https://www.goldengooseshoesit.com/ Environment and Resource Management says 18 mining leases are currently up for renewal, half of which are for rehabilitation purposes only.
The department is scrutinising the leases to ensure they have been rehabilitated to an acceptable standard before the leases can be surrendered, and says these sites may be considered for conversion to national parks.
Conservationists are pleased with the Government’s commitment, but Ms Aldenhoven says authorities need to act swiftly.
“Islands can be very important in the conservation of animals,” she said.
“Straddie could become an ark for the koalas … and I think we need to get really serious about koala conservation on the island.”