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North Straddie: Moving On

North Straddie: Moving On

Exploring the plentiful natural beauty of Queensland is not the most arduous of tasks, especially when you are lucky enough to call the Gold Coast home. With enough beaches, scenic lookouts, waterfalls, rainforest hikes, and sunrise views to make even the most unexcitable traveler stop and praise the sweet skills of Mother Nature, we would be doing your eyes a major disservice not to mention the neighbouring natural wonders of North Stradbroke Island.


Known as Minjerribah to the native title-holders of the island – the Quandamooka people, whose cultural heritage stretches back some 20,000 years – the island is currently home to approximately 2,000 residents, about 400 of which are Indigenous. While it is also home to 180 local businesses, 70 percent of which are tourism-based, only six major industries support the majority of North Stradbroke’s economy, namely accommodation and food services, mining, health care and social assistance, retail trade, construction, and education and training. The island receives an average expenditure of $111 million from its 800,000 annual visitors.


Being the second largest sand island in the world, after Australia’s Fraser Island, North Stradbroke accommodates sand mining that naturally emerged as a major industry in the late 1940s. The Sibelco-run sand mining leases continue to prevent access to approximately 40 percent of the island, including an area of national park. Recent controversy has surfaced concerning the negative effects of sand mining on more than 700 hectares of high dune habitat, wetlands, endangered animal species, and an underlying aquifer, not to mention the island’s overall water quality. In 2010, the Labor Government made a promise to the Quandamooka people to end mining activities by 2019, a promise they followed through on with the North Stradbroke Island Protection & Sustainability Act 2011 (NSIPSA).


Looking to Fraser Island and Moreton Island as examples, both of which successfully moved away from the timber and whale processing industries to focus more on tourism, North Stradbroke is set to follow in their footsteps with a $29-million Economic Transition Strategy to implement sustainable, ecotourism-based businesses, expand education and training opportunities, and stimulate local business development and growth. With the obvious success of Fraser Island’s Kingfisher Bay Resort, which employs 600 staff members who live and work on the island and whose island-wide visitor numbers doubled in the 15 years after logging was ended, it seems that North Straddie accepts that imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery.


Though a 2013 amendment to the North Stradbroke Island Protection & Sustainability Act threatened to renew the mining leases until 2035 without the consent of the Quandamooka people, the amendment received considerable pushback from the Federal Government under breach of the Queensland Legislative Standards Act of 1992.


However, that is not where the controversy ends. In response to the government-mandated sand mining phase-out, Sibelco claimed 650 workers would be adversely affected by the closure, when in fact, as confirmed by the members of the local community, the real number is only around six percent of that, or approximately 41 resident sand miners. As a benefit to these displaced employees, a Toondah Harbour Revitalisation Proposal was later set forth by the Queensland Government in partnership with Redland City Council and private developer, the Walker Group, calling for the use of 50 hectares of Moreton Bay’s Ramsar wetlands and the further construction of 3,600 apartments and a 400-berth marina. While the Federal Government’s decision to accept or reject this proposal has currently been suspended for a record six times until July 2017, conservationists like Friends of Stradbroke Island (FOSI) and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) have made their opposition known, arguing that a modest upgrade to the Toondah Harbour Ferry Terminal is all that is necessary for the relatively small number of affected mining employees.


Looking forward, it is clear that North Stradbroke still faces a fair amount of uncertainty and mixed emotions, both from residents and business owners alike. While Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) CEO Cameron Costello’s vision is to create “a global eco cultural tourism destination that showcases the island’s natural beauty and 20,000 year old Quandamooka cultural heritage,” a reported survey released in February of 2016 states that 52 percent of businesses wanted mining to continue until 2025 or 2035, and 32 percent did not want it to end at all. Still, with Sibelco’s mandatory participation in a “rebirthing” program to rehabilitate the affected mined land of North Straddie, focusing on tactics like weed management and control of the local fox populations, along with opportunities for Indigenous business development programs, nature and adventure-based tourism activities, expansion of the market for educational tourism events, and further development of existing tourism concepts, the sky’s the limit.


To reinforce their support for the transition, the Queensland Government in December 2016 has allocated up to $5 million for the Workers Assistance Scheme, available for five years up to 2021. The scheme aims to assist affected workers transition to alternative employment, including job search support, training and skills support, housing assistance, commuting subsidy, income supplementation, and dislocation assistance.


Noting that the mines currently limit visitors’ and locals’ access to valuable Aboriginal heritage sites, Environment Minister Steven Miles also draws attention to possibilities in the further development of local Quandamooka resident businesses, such as seafood harvesting, fish processing, nature-based tours, timber products, and traditional medicine.


No matter your opinion on the future of the island, an upcoming visit to learn more about its fascinating history, culture and landscape is certainly in order.


By Kelsey Love


Plan your trip

By boat:

You can plan a trip from the Gold Coast by boat and take advantage of the many opportunities for island hopping on Southern Moreton Bay. Check for available anchorages and moorings in Dunwich. For island hopping tips, visit While on the island, you can take the public buses from Dunwich to Amity and Point Lookout, and back. Be sure to check the bus schedules beforehand for convenience. (And in case you miss the bus, there is a good chance that a local will be happy to give you a ride.)

Dunwich coordinates: 27.5000° S, 153.4000° E (approx.)

Gold Coast Seaway to Dunwich: 35nm (approx.)



By land:

There are several ferries that take passengers and vehicles to Dunwich from Cleveland. Hire a 4WD vehicle and reserve a spot on a vehicle ferry from Cleveland. From Dunwich, take a drive along the gorgeous Flinders and Main Beaches (permit required for 4WD) and the sand tracks weaving through the Old Pine Forest and bushland, taking time to stop and enjoy the sand, surf and sun at popular hangouts like Cylinder Beach, the North Gorge Walk and Brown Lake.


4WD Transportation – FleetCrew



Ferry Transportation – Stradbroke Ferries



4WD Permit – Straddie Camping



Accommodation – Dunwich

The Nautilus Room on Straddie – Airbnb




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