Award for Ian

Our President Ian Mackay received a Sunshine Coast Environment Council Life Membership award for his services to the Environment and SCEC


Mark Ricketts, who has worked with SCEC and has also been the Vice President of CRC for many years, presented the award. He enlightened us about Ian and some of his environmental achievements.


“Ian Mackay has been a stalwart of the Sunshine Coast environmental movement for over 25 years.  He is President for life of that auspicious body, the Conondale Range Committee, who have styled themselves after a bankrupt banana republic where elections for office bearers resonate with the same groans that accompany those of Nth Korea.

President Kim..sorry Ian...has tried to rid himself of this troublesome group but we continue to follow him love-struck puppies singing “ if you leave us, can we come to?”.  I suspect he isn’t the messiah but just a naughty boy.

SCEC has always been a benevolent big brother to the CRC – helping us through our self-created crisies - the blockades, the libel suits, the battles with bureaucracies.  Throughout the last couple of decades, the kind Father Time-like visage of Ian Mackay has smoothed his spiky minions more abrasive sides and presented an image so benign and sensible that none could not love him and so, us in turn.

Ian’s sense of humour is one of his greatest weapons.  Its not at the expense of individuals though it has made many look incredibly foolish.  The lack of malice and undeniable good common sense make his enemies smile as his juggernaut rolls over them.  I remember his classic line about the Labor Government’s Traveston dam abomination .  It was in the drought of all droughts and Ian said “Building Traveston dam to solve a drought is like giving a beggar a wallet.”

Ian takes his role of Mr Nice Guy of the environment movement very seriously.  Many years ago, the two of us headed to see the Minister for Mines, the formidable Tony McGrady from Mt Isa.  Now Mc Grady was not known for his love of greenies, particularly ones who had been sticking it to his beloved mining industry and department for the last five years...and..crime of crimes....kept getting it right.

Ian and I were going up in the lift to the Minister’s office to hammer him about the toxic dump his dept had left in the Conondales when I said “ El Presidente...I’m a bit hobbled by my job with Jim about we reverse our usual Bill and Ben and I’ll be the good cop and you can be the bad cop?”

Ian looked like I’d spat on his mother’s grave.  “Me.. the bad cop...” he stammered.  “But everyone loves me.”  “Yes, I know..but imagine the element of surprise..” I cleverly replied “ and you are so good at everything you do.”  You don’t survive in the shadow of the mighty without picking up some north korean survival skills.

So we frog marched into the Minister’s office – me trying to smile and look ingratiating and Father Time practicing his “vengeful god” look hoping that Tony McGrady’s catholic up-bringing would bring him to his knees. it look at Ian in his “St peter won’t let you in” visage, and Mc Grady gave us more than we had intended demanding.  Mind you, I’m not sure if Ian will ever trust me again.

So Ian has kept the ragtag bunch of misfits that pass for the Conondale Range Committee together and talking to each other for all this time and when the Regional Forest Agreement looked like delivering wood chips to employ Bill Ludwig’s mates, was able to rise like the living dead and help defeat the evil AWU shock troops.  In his time he and his happy helpers have stopped that bloody gold mine and got it all cleaned up, delivered a national park equal to lamington, a good working relationship with the Mines and forestry departments and still everybody likes him.  Just like Comrade Kim....

Ian has also taken his natural wit and performance skills and turned them into a formidable cultural force for good.  We all give lip service to the three pillors of sustainability while still focussing on the environment.  Ian doesn’t – he has taken his cultural skills as a poet, performer and MC to many non-greenie functions, and, through his skills, made people who wouldn’t normally be affected by a tirade from Ian Christesen or a reasoned argument from Narelle (SCEC), think about the environment and our impact on it.  Even better, he does it while getting them to smile.

I went into the lunch room of the Luggage Point sewage treatment plant one day and there...up on the wall.. was a copy of a poem by Ian about the plant.  Some worker had come across it somewhere and they had taken it on themselves to post Ian up high.

I think Ian has made our region a richer place for that approach and in the same way that we take our hat off to the Noel Gardners, Mark Gilletts and Barry Charles who put our message into song, we dips our lids to Ian Mackay and thank him for his enormous efforts over the years by asking him to become a life member to match his president for life title and if you are really nice to him, he’ll recite his Luggage Point poem.”

- Mark Ricketts

 Ian was actually taken by surprise at the award and could not remember his Luggage Point poem on the spot.Before the award Ian did recite his Gastric Brooding Frog Poem. It was interesting to see the audience reaction, some I’m sure had heard it before, and all seemed delighted and amused to hear this poem which is a favourite of mine.


The Bowels of Brisbane

Just let this little poem of mine

Serve as a timely warning,

Of something not widely known,

That happens at 9 each Wednesday morning.


Now Brisbane is a largeish town

In fact, the largest in the state,

And it boasts a host of eating spots,

That many find just great.


They all vy to seduce you,

“Come eat here, my hungry friend,”

No-one seems to give a thought

To…what happens at the other end.


In fact, they quite ignore it,

One of life’s unpleasant facts,

It seems a well kept secret

That we all have INTESTINAL TRACTS!


Now I hope you’ll not find these words of mine

Either shocking or obscene,

But I’m asking you, do you know

Where it all goes once you’ve BEEN.


Down in pipes and sewers,

Like a giant bowel that’s headed east,

Go all those little reminders

Of many a tasty feast.


I hope you get my drift just here,

I know it sounds disjoint,

But I reckon Brisbane’s got an anus,

And it’s down at Luggage Point.


So all these pipes and drains and things

Must serve as a kind of a rectum,

And, you know, there are folks whose job it is

To go on Wednesday mornings to inspect ‘em.


Well the breather pipes are opened up,

I tell you the air’s not scented;

In this way the pressure’s released,

The rectal gas is vented.


So if you’re round Brisbane Airport,

Or anywhere near those parts,

Beware 9 on Wednesday morning

‘Cos it’s like the whole of Brisbane..FARTS.


Presidential Ponderings

The recent lungfish kills/rescues at North Pine Dam raise some pretty serious issues for the Queensland government, through its SEQWater and even its Environmental Protection Agency.

Many might say that loosing a few lungfish in a release of water from the dam was inevitable but there’s a lot more to it than this. Along with many others we have called for an investigation as to whether the lungfish deaths from each of the releases were reported to the federal Department of Environment as is required under EPBC legislation.

At this stage it would appear that SEQWater used the rescue of survivors as more of a media exercise for its own purposes and totally down-played any mention of those killed. We can but speculate what happened after the first couple of releases but we fortunately have a better idea of what took place after the one in late June.

For a whole day after the waters had receded, well over fifty dead and dying lungfish, many with horrific injuries lay stranded below the dam.  The force of the water that carried them out of the dam and down the 25 metre drop was so great that some were found wedged in trees. The total of dead may never be known as only a small area was searched and several days later the site was flushed with a smaller release presumably to remove rotting corpses. In spite of this being the third release, in spite of knowing with reasonable certainty that it would result in stranded, injured and dead lungfish (not to mention a number of other species also), the SEQWater rescue operation, which consisted in mobilizing volunteers of the local fish stocking group didn’t begin for another 24 hours.

Despite the need for careful handling, surviving lungfish were shown on television footage the next night being dumped back into the dam from the tray of a utility along with claims that 12 lungfish had died.

When you overlay this episode with the pending federal court case against Burnett Water over its operation (or lack thereof) of the fishway for lungfish at Paradise Dam on the Burnett River, its hard to escape the feeling that our state government has failed to live up to its obligation to protect the lungfish, classified as “Vulnerable” under Federal EPBC legislation.

Adding Traveston Dam to all this would be just adding insult to injury.


Quoll Day draws a good crowd

More than 70 landholders turned out in Gympie recently for a weekend Quoll Discovery Day organised by Marc Russell, the tireless and hardworking local Land for Wildlife officer.

Principal researcher Dr Scott Burnett provided a most informative account of the biology and conservation status of the two species of quolls previously found in this area. He also answered a wide range of questions relating to their survival and what can be done by landowners and the public to prevent these animals from becoming another extinction statistic. Martin Fingland provided a unique experience by producing two live quolls, the first seen by most of those attending.

Many signed up to be part of the Quoll Seekers Network. Its recent newsletter carried a report that Scott Burnett and research assistant Alina Zwar, along with their team from the University of the Sunshine Coast, had been busy setting automatic camera traps at 90 locations in the Conondales, Kenilworth and the Gympie area.

So far no quolls have been photographed, however they have captured approximately 2316 images of 23 vertebrate species including 11 mammals and 12 bird species. The most significant image is that of a long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus) classed as Vulnerable (EPBC ACT 1999). Several images of the feral red fox have been taken within the Conondale National Park.


Green Legends: People Power on the Sunshine Coast by Elaine Green

When Elaine Green kicked off our Walking on the Wilder Side…in the Conondales book project a few years back, it must have served to whet her appetite for more. And who better to research and write up more of the conservation history of the Sunshine Coast than Elaine, long-time SCEC member and past manager, ex-Maroochy Councillor and pivotal person in both the Marooochy River Catchment group (MRCAN) and the Conondale Range Committee.

Launched at this year’s World Environment Day celebrations at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Elaine’s book really is a story of people power. The assumption (widely held in the 60’s and 70’s) was that the Sunshine Coast would inevitably dance down the same path of development as the Gold Coast, albeit a decade or so later. But at every turn, the Sunshine Coast produced heroes that challenged this inevitability… unlikely and tenacious heroes like Kathleen McArthur, Stan Tutt, Heather Melrose, Jim Cash and a host of others.

What comes through Elaine’s meticulous research (she did inherit Stan Tutt’s voluminous collection of newspaper clippings to give her a head start) and compelling style of writing is the long-term commitment these “green legends” had to display.  Few of the “battles” were played out quickly.

But as well as the numerous battles, you can’t help but imbibe the growing environmental awareness on the coast, and through its hinterland, the shifting sands of public attitude. Today you wouldn’t find much support for a chairlift up Mt Coolum, a string of high-rises along the foreshore, a rocked-up river mouth or canal estates on each and every waterway but they very nearly became part of the coast’s landscape.

This is a book that should be widely read. While it plainly recognizes and pays due credit to the “green legends” (and of course their ever widening support bases), it helps the newcomer better understand what has gone before. It goes a long way towards explaining why the Sunshine Coast isn’t a time-lagged duplicate of the Gold Coast and it helps us all to understand why the phrase “We don’t want this to be another Gold Coast” is an oft-repeated refrain among residents, even the most newly arrived.

And if we owe a lot to our “green legends”, then it behoves us to continue their vision and determination into the future.

Green Legends:People Power on the Sunshine Coast is available from the Co-Op Bookshop at University of the Sunshine Coast and distribution to Sunshine Coast bookstores is being organized.  Buy direct from SCEC 3 Porters Lane, Nambour (PH 5441 5747) for $20 – RRP is $22.  Bulk buys for wholesale prices are available for SCEC member groups to re-sell and make a profit.  All proceeds from the sale go directly to SCEC.


Key to Saving Mary could lie in Paradise

Readers are probably aware of the forthcoming Federal court case into the failure of the much-touted fishway at Paradise Dam on the Burnett River near Biggenden.

The fishway consists of two parts; a large  mechanised “cage” which should transport fish from below the dam wall up into the dam, and a downstream passage where fish enter a slot near the top of the wall and are  carried to the base of the wall through internal  plumbing.

The downstream passage hasn’t been able to operate for most of the dam’s life due to low water levels and the upstream passage would  appear to have operated quite infrequently.

One of the conditions under which the Paradise Dam was approved was that it must “install a fish transfer device on the Burnett River Dam suitable for the lungfish. The fishway will commence when the dam becomes operational”.

The Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council initiated this case with the support of peak environment groups  including SCEC, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Environmental Defender’s Office and Save the Mary.

After various preliminary hearings, the case has been listed for a 4-week trial in the Federal Court in Brisbane commencing on 7 September 2009.

The outcome of the case will prove critical for the Mary as the Paradise fishway was always proposed as a model for the proposed Traveston Crossing Dam.

The cost of mounting such a case is daunting for small environment groups. With the hearing expanding from two to four weeks, the costs have increased even though the barrister and EDO have capped their costs.

Here is one of those times where the wide net of those who care for our environment has to be tapped into, in the hope of financial assistance. For many who warmed to both the Greens and Nick Xenophon’s stance that some of the government’s stimulus package

should go to environmental matters, here is your chance. At a very personal level, some of your “Rudd Money”,or  equivalent, your personal stimulus package, could be sent in the direction of the WBBCC.

Dr Chris McGrath - barrister for "Team Wheezer" - has set up a website where we can follow the progress of the court action

Further details and comment can be found at

At the recent 3rd anniversary “floatilla”,  many people made generous donations to the legal case, understanding that this case is a powerful opportunity to stop the proposed Traveston  Crossing Dam in its tracks.

If you’d like to donate tax deductible funds to help Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council with this case, contact Emma-Kate Currie at (07) 4123 3361 or Interestingly the revised EIS for Traveston seeks to downplay the need for a fishway and takes the argument that lungfish aren’t all that migratory anyway.

-          Ian Mackay


Dam Opposition well and truly afloat

For a community that Government sources claim is starting to accept a dam, Mary Valley residents and others were showing no sign of it when they took too the river to visibly signpost the three year mark in their fight to stop the proposed Traveston Crossing Dam.

Three years to the day since Peter Beattie’s shock announcement of plans to build the dam, several hundred canoeists and supporters turned out to a “floatilla” to show their energy for battle was undiminished. Paddlers were shown lungfish breeding sites and turtle nesting beaches before taking part in ceremony, celebrations, speeches and entertainment.

“Today we’re celebrating the resilience of our community and the wider community,” said Save the Mary River Coordinating Group President Glenda Pickersgill. “We’re celebrating that we have dug our heels in and mounted a very strong case against damming this river.”

“Peter Beattie may have called it ‘hardly pristine’, Anna Bligh may say it’s been damaged by farming, but the real test has to be what lives in there now and with a number of unique species, this is pretty impressive. International turtle experts are even coming to regard the Mary as ‘ the turtle river’.

The truth is that the dam presently proposed is much smaller than Peter Beattie originally envisaged. When it became apparent that it would require federal EPBC approval, the proposal was split into two stages. This means that the yield of the proposed Stage 1 is less than a third of the original proposal while the costs have more than doubled.

“This is why Premier Bligh was so keen not to make mention of the dam at her recent election launch.  The irony is that as soon as she was elected, she claimed a mandate to build it. Many in Brisbane remember her ‘delay’ announcement and think it’s on hold,” Ms Pickersgill said.

This was the third “floatilla” on the river, and was the biggest yet. After the first, in 2006, Greens Senator Bob Brown told opponents to be prepared for a long battle. When he visited the area in 2007, Roberto Epple of the European Rivers Network said to expect maybe a seven-year battle. From the looks of it, both pieces of advice have been well-heeded.

Dam opponents heard today of a ‘milestone’ legal challenge to the Paradise Dam fishway which will be heard in the Federal Court in September. The case, mounted by the Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council and a coalition of Environment groups is significant as the Paradise fishway is intended as the model for use on Traveston Dam should it go ahead.

“We’ve already won this on the science,” says Glenda,  “and it’s defeating itself on the economics. Sometime soon the penny will drop for this government and they’ll realize they can’t cry poor to nurses and teachers and public servants wanting better, fairer, conditions, they can’t press on with the highly unpopular plans to sell off key state infrastructure while they pour more and more money into the black hole that is the Traveston Crossing Dam proposal.”

Anyone who went into the state election under the misguide notion that the dam proposal was on hold or even “shelved” should have noted the Premier’s assertion in Parliament just the other day, that her government remained totally committed to building it. She didn’t offer any idea of when the State’s final EIS which was due to go to Peter Garrett in April, would be wending its way southward seeking federal approval.


Dr Lennard J Webb, AO (1920-2008)

Len Webb was the founder of rainforest ecology in Australia and his scientific studies have formed the foundation of much rainforest research in this country. He was widely acknowledged by his peers as ‘the pioneer of Australian rainforest science’.

Len was born in Rockhampton and grew up in the bush. He gained a bachelor of science degree at Queensland University and began work for the Council for Scientific and Industrial research (now CSIRO). His work has been recognised by awards such as the Inaugural Gold Medal of the Ecological Society of Australia (1983) BHP, Pursuit of Excellence (Environment) Prize (1984) and the Order of Australia (1987)

Lens connection with the conservation movement dates back to the early sixties where he was hailed for his determined commitment and contribution towards the preservation of Australian rainforests by generation of conservationists and greenies. During this time, he became involved with the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland where he met Judith Wright, foremost poet and devoted conservationist, who had a profound influence on him. Len also played a vital role in the campaign against sand mining on Cooloola and Fraser Island.

He was an active member and supporter of CRC especially in the early years.

In December 1970 Len Webb (CSIRO) along with P. Stanton (Forestry) and G Tracy (CSIRO) submitted a National Parks proposal for 5000 acres based on their flora study of the Conondales. As a result of this submission a small National Park 1100 (1740 hectares) was declared in 1977.

His many legacies include a much greater public awareness of and appreciation of rainforests and a historically significant collection of approximately 2000 images of native vegetation, fauna and landscapes archived by Griffith University (


Springbrook couple donate outstanding property to Australian Rainforest Conservation Society (ARCS)

Residents of Springbrook for nearly 40 years, Geoff and Shirley Miller have donated a 156-hectare property to ARCS. It adjoins a 52-hectare property also owned by the Millers. The two properties together are known as ‘Ankida’ which means ‘where heaven and earth meet’. The smaller property lies on the north-western ‘corner’ of ‘Springbrook Plateau while the large property now owned by ARCS covers a major part of the Waterfall Creek valley and includes Horseshoe Falls and nearly two kilometers of cliff-line around the Plateau escarpment.

The land is host of a rich variety of plants and animals of World Heritage significance, including a range of rare and threatened species. Vegetation includes both rainforest and open eucalypt forest. The property is covered by a Nature Refuge Agreement with the Queensland Government and a Voluntary Conservation Agreement with Gold Coast City council which protects it from future development or interference with the natural environment.

- from Rainforest News No. 46, June 2009


Forest Drive Open

The forest drive from Charlie Moreland to Booloumba Creek is now open (weather permitting). It had been closed for some time because the Bundaroo Bridge was deemed too dangerous to traverse.


Booloumba camp ground No 1 is now open after being closed since before Easter, area No 3 is still closed, it may be open in the future but will have a reduced number of sites. Area 2 is still open.

For more information contact Kenilworth Department of Environment & Resource Management (DERM) (formerly QPWS) 5446 0925.


Poets Breakfast is on again

Saturday 26 September  8am to 10.30am

Fund raiser this year for Save the Mary campaign

Ian Mackay, our favourite poet, is still running the show

No booking necessary

Lots of good food and great poetry


Eastern Bristlebird

The Eastern bristlebird is a small brown bird with short wings, strong legs and distinct bristles in front of its eyes. It is a secretive bird, foraging and nesting in dense undergrowth which makes it elusive and difficult to see but it has a distinctive and loud melodic song.

The low dense heathland favoured by most Eastern Bristlebirds is so fragmented by development that almost all the remaining populations occur in reserves and national parks. In south-east Queensland (including the Conondales) and northern New South Wales, the eastern bristlebird lives mostly in upland open woodlands with dense, grassy undergrowth. The bird prefers woodlands near rainforest. Plants commonly found in eastern bristlebird habitat include tussock grasses such as wild sorghum Sorghum leiocladum, and scattered small shrubs, ferns and vines. Fire is necessary to maintain this habitat. The eastern bristlebird has had to develop effective tactics to survive in this fire-dependent environment. During fires, adult birds take refuge in the nearby rainforest, though eggs and nestlings can be destroyed. With so few birds, a fire during the breeding season (July to October) would be devastating. Finding the right balance of fire is crucial to the eastern bristlebird's future.
 'Rescuing a Gondwana Survivor' project which has been funded by the government will focus on the iconic and nationally endangered population of the Eastern Bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus monoides). This species is a relictual survivor of an ancient Gondwanic avian lineage and only a few isolated populations remain in south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. It is estimated that the Northern population of the species has declined by approx. 80% during the last few decades and that the total known population of the northern sub-species is now less than 50 individual birds. Threats include predators, weeds that effect their specific habitat, and inappropriate fire management impacts on the habitat.

This project will undertake a 'three phase' conservation strategy: habitat identification, a habitat threat minimisation program (controlling weed, animal pest and fire threats) and a captive breeding/species reintroduction and monitoring program.

The aim is to increase the number of bristebird colonies and density of populations throughout potentially suitable habitat.

It is awesome to witness the effort, the anguish, the furious righteous anger a bristlebird displays when it believes its boundaries have been violated and the survival of its single, precious young jeopardised. This is a bird with attitude - a battler. Andy Quirk, QPWS Ranger

Walking on the Wilder Side
.. in the Conondales.

A new book of history, information, walks and activities for the Conondale Range region

Buy a copy