Monday, October 30, 2006

Hinchinbrook Channel...And Breakwaters!

I was very surprised when watching the News on television last night to see that Keith Williams is planning to build a breakwater nearby to his Port Hinchinbrook development at Oyster Point, south of Cardwell.

1986/87...I managed the resort at Cape Richards, which is situated on the far north-eastern tip of Hinchinbrook Island. A 40-minute boat trip from Cardwell deposited guests and provisions to the resort. Daily, except Mondays, the 'Air Whitsunday' seaplane arrived from Townsville, south of the island, bearing other guests. Some days it made two deposits, stopping off at Orpheus Island either before or after landing in the water off 'my' island. Twice-weekly, a seaplane flew in from Cairns, north of the island.

When I first took over the management of the resort, Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne came over to the island to meet me, to satisfy themselves that I wasn't going to do anything that would be detrimental to the environment of the island and its surrounds. I assured them this would be the furtherest thing from my mind. Arthur not long after I was on Hinchinbrook, passed away. Before he died, he and Margaret produced a wonderful 'coffee-table' book full of the history of the area and a magnificent collection of pictures, glossy and otherwise. Just prior to the book's final pressing, they brought it across to me to see what I thought of it. I cherish my copy. Later, I had Margaret sign it when I visited her tiny cottage in the midst of a national park. As an aside, when Margaret passes away, her property will go back to Parks & Wildlife. We stayed in contact throughout the years. She is a wonderful lady...tiny, but a little fire-brand. I say that in the nicest of ways. Hinchinbrook Island and its surrounds are dear to my heart, still. I will always love it...a piece of me remains there forever.

In the mid-nineties, I moved back to the area to managed a motel in Cardwell. It was at the time Keith Williams began work at Oyster Point, on the mainland opposite Hinchinbrook Island. The protests were beginning. Keith stayed at the motel, so I got to know him as he was a regular guest. We had a couple of 'heart-felt' discussions about the area. I liked Keith Williams as a person. He definitely is a strong-minded man...a straight-shooter...and even though many would believe they are poles apart, he and Margaret are not dissimilar in many ways.

I laughed when Margaret told me one day...."Keith Williams called me 'a little grey-haired old lady'...if that is the case, then he is a 'little bald-headed old man!" Margartet is now 79 and Keith is 77! And the battle recommences.

Margaret also told me at that time, she didn't want to stop Keith Williams' planned development, but she wanted to make sure that if it went ahead, it went ahead to suit the ecology and landscape of the surrounding environment...that the size of the planned development not be allowed to get out of control...that some restrictions must be put on to it. I thought this was a very fair and open comment coming from a person who would live and die for her love Hinchinbrook Island and its surrounding and sea.

Of course, a lot of the 'professional' protesters got on the bandwagon at the time, as they do anywhere. The media reports were false in some Sunday a protest 'drive' was held, its destination, the contruction site...I watched from the motel. The cars that were part of the protest drove slowly along the highway in front of the motel I was managing. There weren't many of them in total...but on the television news that night and the newspapers the following day, they reported there were hundreds of cars on the highway. That may have been the case..but a lot of those vehicles were those travelling southwards that were held up behind the slow-moving protest vehicles upfront!

Now...don't get me wrong...I do not want to see that area up there turn into a clone of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts....but we, humans, never do learn, do we? I have sat many times on the foreshore in front of the Sunrise Motel in Cardwell and watched the dugongs only feet away from where I sat. Keith Williams, at the time, said there were no dugongs in the area and that is the proverbial bull dust! You can rest assured I informed him of my sightings...they weren't my hallucinations!

When I first arrived on Hinchbrook Island, it was days after Cyclone Winifred had gone through that area between Kurramine, Mission Beaches, Dunk Island, Bedarra Island and Hinchinbrook Island. There was a lot of work to be carried out, not only the clearing of the cyclone debris (the island also lost its jetty) but I had workmen there on the island to do renovation work for me....such as building a huge deck out around the pool on the ocean-side of the restaurant building. A Sunday came and I said to the guys it was 'down tools time', we were going to go on a picnic trip up through the creeks that run off from Missionary Bay. Coming back in the island boat (an Abalone) that afternoon, to the amazement of the five men and myself, we were surrounded by a pod of dugong (I'm not sure if they are called a 'pod' or not, but that will suffice). We immediately cut the motor and just drifted quietly amongst them. It was such a serene, awe-inspiring few minutes. There would have been 12-14 of these cumbersome, yet graceful creatures around us. Never will I experience anything like that again, and neither will those who were with me that day to witness it. I still get tears in my eyes when I think (and write) about those magical moments.

I gasped last night when I saw on Channel 7 News that Keith Williams is planning to build a breakwater out into the Hinchinbrook Channel! My God! Enough is enough! Put on your battle fatigues and hard hat, Margaret, it's on again! I wish I was back up there to help her but I know she has many on her side to assist her.

The rock groin built at the northern end of Laguna Bay...Noosa Heads....has ruined the beach at Noosa in front of the surf club!! It's nature's way that it sweeps sand to the northern outcrops! All the beach, no matter how much and for how long they keep spending a fortune pumping sand back, will continue being swept up to that rock groin! Nobody ever listens! Nobody ever learns from past mistakes! Humans think they can beat nature! Nature will always rule! I've spent much time at Noosa, as a child, a teenager and I lived there for seven years. The beach in front of the surf club, Laguna Bay was a wide expanse of sand in the days I surfed and swam there!

I argued with Peter McEchnie back in May, 1986 about similar situations. He was the then Minister for Tourism, Sports and Recreation, amongst other things. He was in Cardwell to open the newly-erected National Parks and Wildlife Information Centre. I was managing the resort on Hinchinbrook Island at the time. A special dinner in his honour was held in Cardwell, to which I was invited. He rambled on and on with a lot of useless political spiel and when it came to 'question and answer' time, I couldn't contain myself any longer! That's another story!

I shrug my shoulders in frustration....and anger. This breakwater, (actually there are going to be two!) the construction of which is to begin next week, should not be allowed. Why has it come to our attention only now...less than a week out from when they plan to commence work on it???
PS...this is what Margaret wrote on my copy of her book...."For Lee...With every good wish, Margaret Thorsborne...may Hinchinbrook stay as beautiful and unspoiled as it was when you loved and cared for it - as you still love and care for it...M. 15.1.1995


  1. Lee, Thanks for stopping by my blog and leading me back here to learn about the endangered existence of the dugong, a marine mammal I had not heard of before reading this post and doing some on-line research. What lovely creatures these ladies of the sea. I appreciate the introduction.

  2. Hi Lee...thanks so much for dropping by my blog and leaving a comment:-) I love "meeting" new people!! I read a few of your posts and I thoroughly enjoyed them, I'll be back!! What a shame that some people accuse Australians of copying the Americans with the Halloween's for EVERYONE so you have every right to enjoy it as well:-) I hope Margaret holds her own against this Keith guy!! Happy Halloween:-)

  3. You are welcome, wenda...thanks for stopping by. Dugongs are marvelous creatures and their sea-grass habitat in the Hinchinbrook channel and its surrounds is once again being threatened. Not only for the depletion of the sea-grass but from injuries caused by boat propellers.

    Nice to see, you Pea...thank you, too, for popping in. I look forward to you coming back! ;) I believe Halloween is to be enjoyed by everyone,'s all just a bit of fun...and there's not enough fun around these days. A little 'insanity' doesn't hurt anyone! Just look at me for instance! ;)

  4. Anonymous3:17 AM

    Gidday Lee, what a interesing and informative post on Hinchinbrook. 'Tis marvellous what truth can be learnt from someone who has been there and seen what occurs as to what is reported in the press or on TV. We are all conditioned to what we read and see as being true, when alot of the time it is far from the truth, but then how do we know what is true or false unless we question it?

  5. So, true, Wazza. I don't know why things have to be distorted, I guess those reporting think it's more interesting that way.

    Hinchinbrook Island is a majestic, awe-inspiring, beautiful island. The resort area is covers only 22 acres of the 245sq miles of island. The balance is national park. One would hope it remains this way through to eternity.

    The third highest mountain in Queensland, Mount Bowen, stands proudly, its peak mostly shrouded by cloud.

    I would hate to see the natural beauty of this area spoiled any further than it has been already, but ideas (and a lot of the mistakes) from the developments in south-east Queensland and elsewhere are already encroaching.