Local Community Action To Inform On Private Development Plans For Cooloola National Park

Protect Our Parks-  Aerial view across Poona Lake to Double Island Point

Aerial view across Poona Lake to Double Island Point

Update by Protect Our Parks convenor Greg Wood

People at both ends of Cooloola National Park have worked hard over the past year to inform the public of the State Government plan to degrade Cooloola National Park with commercial land leases for the development of private luxury accommodation.

Public action is needed because the Government is acting to impose this huge change without public notification and consent. This stealth applies to the development itself, and also the legislation change that allows it to occur across all of our precious National Parks, not just Cooloola.

Information on the development issues and a convenient, effective objection form are available at www.protectparks.net

The actual development impacts are significant. A pristine site on the Double Island Point headland, and one in Blackbutt forest nearby Poona Lake, are both planned for construction of 10x38m² luxury cabins.

At a high price each one would overnight just two people between legs of a ‘luxury walking tour’. The indulgence of displacing so much precious, intact habitat for single overnight stays is truly breathtaking.

Three sites south of Poona Lake along the Great Walk, including beside globally significant wetlands adjacent to the Upper Noosa River, would each receive 6x24m² ‘Glamping’ units.

Impacts include tree and canopy loss, increased sunlight onto forest floors, site desiccation, soil disturbance and erosion, weed and pathogen invasion, public cost of service road construction and maintenance, potential for public access restrictions, and a categorical loss of park character by intrusion of buildings onto undeveloped landscape.

However the underlying change to Park legislation poses even greater potential for ongoing damage. Traditionally our National Parks have been managed under the Cardinal principle: ‘to provide, to the greatest possible extent, for the permanent preservation of the area’s natural condition and the protection of the area’s cultural resources and values’

This Principle has protected our National Parks to be what we now know them as, and to be what we most love them for.

If allowed, commercial development leases and construction would directly contest and destroy this gold standard of park purpose and function. The current plans explicitly show this contest in action and clearly demonstrate that commercial objectives win out over nature’s needs.

The developer sits directly at the plan-making table whilst nature sits outside. Its advocates are not allowed in the room.

This enables terrible site decisions that add glamour and value to the commercial product in disregard of natural site values. Nature becomes development wallpaper instead of being the primary purpose of the Park.

With public scrutiny and accountability disallowed, what would stop this commercial pressure from turning 10 cabins at Double Island Point and Poona Lake into 20, or 30, or 40? These would fit with more trees torn down.

Or maybe ‘evolve’ the ‘walking product’ to an accommodation product by allowing multi-day bookings? How might that drive demand for more units? The initial 10 are effectively a pavilion style resort. Additions would just add to that, not be a major change.

The changed legislation leaves these decisions to the Chief Executive who has no compulsion to care what you or I might think about any of this.

The community-driven information and objection effort seeks to right these wrongs. This is vital as the enabling State legislation covers all National Parks, not just Cooloola.

Current State policy very clearly proposes to convert public conservation and open space assets into infrastructure for private corporate tourism development. The public should be consulted on that massive change to public equity and expectation, but that’s not happening.

To fabricate a social license for this huge change to Cooloola National Park, the State and its collaborators are asserting that the proposal delivers important cultural and land management outcomes to the Kabi Kabi First Nations’ people. This claim is so tragically false that it borders upon being offensive. Indeed the proponents are playing a race card to give cover to this odious plan.

Their latest spiel says the Cardinal Principle is important but it collides with Kabi cultural needs and must be overridden.

In contradiction to this, and in harmony with the Cardinal Principle, authentic Kabi Lawman Wit-boooka says, “Cooloola and other National Parks are the only places left to walk on that are still like the land our ancestors walked on. This original land gave our old people the knowledge and the stories of our culture. Breaking down these last places for development and private ownership would continue the cultural destruction. This offends Kabi Law.”

The Cooloola development offers Kabi some economic return, but only as a subordinate to the developer. Local people standing up for Cooloola stand with Wit-boooka and his concern for Kabi culture and law. He and his family stand with us. We ask you to join us by submitting an objection.

Article submitted by Greg Wood, Convenor, Protect Our Parks – www.protectparks.net

All opinions expressed are of the writer and not necessarily RBCN.

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