The letter ‘e’ from Ian

The Conondales owe a great debt to Heather Harford, or Heather Petersen as she was then. Although Heather’s involvement (and that of her then husband Lutz) was before I became involved, I was there at the celebration when, thanks to the combined recollections of Richard Giles and Heather, the story of how the letter "e" saved the forests of Bundaroo, emerged and has since become something of a legend in the conservation history of the Conondales.

At a particularly hyperactive time in the battle to save the Conondales, perhaps even at the blackest hour, Heather had somehow made contact with Joh Bjelke-Petersen's pastor who suggested that she ring him (Joh) at a particular time of day and she would get to talk with him.

Heather followed the advice and to her surprise found herself speaking directly with Queensland's most controversial and conservative Premier. Joh was struck that Heather spelt her surname with an "e" as did he, and Heather managed to somehow sow the seed for what would become a scientific study, the Paired Catchment Study, leaving one catchment (Bundaroo) unlogged while logging the adjoining one and comparing impacts.

I believe Joh ended up announcing it as his idea, no doubt with a view that it sounded responsible but that as soon as it was over they could get on with logging Bundaroo.

Other events intervened however, and Joh fell from both grace and office as the Fitzgerald Inquiry dug ever deeper.

The forests of Bundaroo were saved and eventually became the centrepiece of the Conondale Range National Park.

I can't visit Bundaroo Creek now, without thinking of this wonderful story and a wonderful woman.

Ian Mackay - June 2014

Walking on the Wilder Side
.. in the Conondales.

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