by Kerri-Anne Mesner
LAND management, protection of native flora and fauna and relinquishing land at Three Rivers for public use were hot topics at a Senate inquiry last week.
Livingstone Shire Council representatives, director of strategic growth and development Debra Howe and mayor, Bill Ludwig attended the inquiry on Wednesday into the impact of defence training activities and facilities on rural and regional communities in Rockhampton.
It was there that the possibility of Three Rivers (Five Rocks Beach, north of Yeppoon) becoming an ecotourism spot was raised.
"It's currently locked up,” Cr Ludwig said.
Capricorn Conservation Council coordinator Michael McCabe said his organisation was concerned about any increased military activity in the Shoalwater Bay area and unlocking Three Rivers for ecotourism.
"CCC strongly opposes the suggestions of "unlocking” Three Rivers for "eco-tourism” due to the fragility of the coastal zone and the risks to nearby high-value ecosystems, already under pressure from unauthorised entry and escaped fires from recreational drivers and illegal campers,” he said.
The council written submission outlines how the organisation foresees that by taking that land back into its possession, the council can better manage the site as a reserve for environmental conservation and recreation purposes.
"Livingstone Shire Council has prepared a management plan for the Three Rivers, which provides details on the natural and cultural values of the reserve area and the pressures on these values,” the submission states.
But Mr McCabe said Shoalwater Bay still needed years to recover from the devastation of Tropical Cyclone Marcia in 2015, on top of the extreme pressure from the rapid rotation of military exercises.
"There is precious little time for fire, feral animal, invasive weed, wetland and water quality assessment and protected species management,” Mr McCabe said.
The LSC submission to the Senate inquiry also highlighted this issue and also pointed to 2009 when the entire area was burnt.
"This was disastrous with the area still trying to recover a mosaic burn pattern,” council's submission stated.
"Ecological burning is a good concept but one that is still not well understood and implemented.
"The study of interactions of fire and weeds needs to be given higher priority in the environmental monitoring and management process.”
The council also pointed to 10-year gap since the State of Environment Reporting study was done.
"More studies are required into the long-term impacts of Cyclone Marcia, specifically the long-term impacts on natural systems such as changing vegetation types, fire hazard profiles and weed invasion opportunities.”
The inquiry heard there used to be two rangers who were very approachable and worked well with farmers in the area to focus on land management.
However, they were relocated to Townsville two years ago.
Land management services for the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area are now contracted to Spotless, according the ADF representatives.
Capricorn Conservation Council has for many decades worked closely with Department of Defence for the protection of the natural values of Shoalwater Bay Training Area. CCC however is extremely concerned about the constant push for massive expansion of military exercises or permanent bases at Shoalwater.
Coordinator Michael McCabe said, "CCC has drawn Defence Minister, Marise Payne's attention to the 1994 Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry, which determined that Shoalwater should be managed for dual use (at its then current extent of use).”
"CCC also highlighted Defence's State of the Environment Report (2008) which detailed the natural values, threats and management regime required to maintain Shoalwater's defence and conservation values.
"That report noted the national significance of Shoalwater due to its relatively undisturbed habitats, which support threatened or endangered flora and fauna and stressed the need to maintain the balance between military use and conservation.
"Shoalwater includes the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and internationally-recognised wetlands (Ramsar), Dugong Protection Areas, and represents one of the last remaining large areas of the Queensland Coast with relatively intact natural systems.
"The community and local landholders are already expressing concerns about increased air and road noise and traffic on top of the confusion over the extent and timetable for the proposed expansion of defence land for the Singapore Defence Forces.
"If residents are noting the disturbances, there is certain to be pressure on wildlife, for example low altitude flights over essential habitat for the endangered Ghost Bat Macroderma gigas.
"CCC has been urging that a full environmental assessment, including widespread public and technical consultation be undertaken of the environmental, social and economic plus and minuses, including such matters as increased road and air military traffic, restrictions to coastal waters, additional costs to local government ratepayers for infrastructure and maintenance.”