Springbrook National Park is a short drive inland from Surfers Paradise and is a national park that is so exceptional that it has the status of being a World Heritage listed area, but it too suffers from all the same threats and needs our ongoing support and protection from inappropriate development.
Springbrook is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. The Gondwana Rainforests have an extremely high conservation value and provide habitat for more than 200 rare or threatened plant and animal species.
The World Heritage listing of the Gondwana Rainforests is based on the following criteria:
- As an outstanding example representing major stages of the earth’s evolutionary history.
- As an outstanding example representing significant ongoing geological processes and biological evolution.
- Containing important and significant habitats for the insitu conservation of biological diversity.
These irreplaceable qualities and values are often forgotten by those who only see national parks as a place for visitors to walk and picnic, or to exploit with commercial development such as a cableway from Mudgeeraba to Springbrook. All of these precious relics of past eons of time have had to be defended from exploitation and it is the community which takes on their defence frequently with little assistance from governments or legislation.
Reasons to remain vigilant and actively protect Springbrook National Park
Water mining or water extraction via bores has been going on for several decades with little regulation, monitoring or investigation as to whether it is having an impact on the surrounding national park ecosystems. The water mined is carried by truck down the mountain to bottling plants where it becomes “spring” water in an endless supply of plastic bottles.
Coca Cola and a highly placed public servant both have unregulated bores operating at Springbrook and efforts to contain the amount extracted and monitor this have proved extremely difficult as neither party answers requests for such data until many months have passed or not at all. Water mining falls between the cracks of State and Local government legislation with both parties passing the buck to the other.
A third application has now been made and the applicant has sunk 5 bores on his property before he has been given approval by City of Gold Coast Council. No doubt he is relying on the precedent of the other two water mines to get approval.
However some 300 objections have been lodged to this application citing the following factors:
- Zone: The land in question is zoned rural, which does not permit the commercial extraction of ground water.
- Need: The applicant has not demonstrated any current or future resource need for bottled water, indeed one could state that there is no need for bottled water as the tap water provided by Gold Coast Council is sufficient for the community’s need and the use of ground water for plastic bottles adds to the pollution of the Gold Coast.
- Sensitive environment: There can be no argument that the areas surrounding this Lot 36 are extremely sensitive as they are worthy of World Heritage listing. Neither can the applicant “ensure that site rehabilitation enhances the ecological functions and visual amenity of the resource areas” when he has illegally cleared the land of all vegetation and it is not possible to reconstitute an ecosystem as sensitive as those on the Springbrook Plateau.
- Scientific evidence is required: The applicant has not provided adequate scientific evidence that the drawdown of unspecified amounts of water from these bores will not affect the amount of water needed for the local ecosystems.
- Cumulative impact: The applicant has not taken into account the cumulative effect of his bores and those already existing in Repeater Station Rd. These other two water extraction sites are also largely unregulated and the cumulative impacts has not been assessed or adequately studied
- Traffic: the applicant claims that the trucks do not present a traffic hazard, despite the fact that the road (indeed all Springbrook roads) is narrow, only 5 metres, and has an intersection with poor visibility. The trucks would not be able to pass the tourist buses safely especially when there is no footpath and there will be pedestrians using the same road to access best of All Lookout.
Gecko and residents of Springbrook await the Council decision on this third application. This application and the two pre-existing ground water extraction businesses along Repeater Station Road, demonstrate the urgent need to regulate ground water extraction on the Springbrook Plateau either under the Gold Coast Water Plan or under State legislation as it has been scientifically proven the extracted ground water and the creeks that create Springbrook’s Waterfalls have connectivity.
Cableway to Springbrook
Every few years an entrepreneur or politician comes up with a proposal for a cableway to be constructed through World Heritage listed Springbrook National Park. The last serious effort was made in 2000 and went all the way to an environmental impact assessment, before the Government finally recognised the negative impacts and refused approval in 2002. It took a great deal of effort and energy for community members to convince the Government of the day that a cableway was not a positive development for Springbrook.
The primary purpose of national parks is the conservation of nature not to provide joy rides for visitors. Many people find it difficult to understand conservationists’ strong objections to a cableway to Springbrook and often cite the Skyway in Cairns which appears not to have much impact on the Wet Tropics rainforest over which it passes.
However the two places cannot be compared:-
- They are different in size – the wet tropics is enormous compared to tiny Springbrook so the impact on unique flora and fauna is so much greater.
- Geology – Springbrook soils are very unstable as can be seen from the frequent landslides onto the roads, and any clearing for construction of pylons should be avoided.
- Flora and fauna are sensitive to the clearing for pylons and noise from the mechanism and people talking, and this impacts on feeding and breeding. This is especially true of wildlife that avoid human contact on the various trails such as Albert Lyrebird and many others.
- Bushfire risk – Springbrook has highly flammable sclerophyll forests compared to wet rainforest in the north. This risk will increase with the drying of the climate as a result of climate change.
- Springbrook has no town water or sewerage and would not be able to cope with the mass tourism that a cableway brings. The alternative would be large tanker trucks using both dangerous roads to bring water to the Plateau or remove sewerage.
- The impact of the infrastructure on the visual amenity of the area would be significant. One reason people visit national parks is to see nature free of human structures.
It has been suggested that the cableway could be alternative transport to road journeys, especially for people with disabilities. However at a suggested $80 per person return, this is not feasible.
Mayor Tate, City of Gold Coast, states he has a plan to resurrect the cableway plan by buying suitable properties for the infrastructure from the State Government. It seems unlikely that such an approach would succeed, but all conservationists need to be vigilant and oppose this intrusion into one of the loveliest and most environmentally significant places in Australia.