Who’s trashing North Stradbroke’s economy?

Sand mining on North Stradbroke Island - from Google Earth

Sand mining on North Stradbroke Island – from Google Earth

Redlands Mayor Karen Williams, Andrew Laming MP and Cleveland MP Mark Robinson stand guilty of actively talking down North Stradbroke Island’s economic future.

These community leaders – who all should know better – negate anything positive they may have said in the past by piling on the negativity now.

Andrew Laming’s website has this:

‘Its [sic] official: State Labor turning Straddie into the next Palm Island, by snuffing out all Indigenous mining jobs in just FOUR years. Try selling a home in Dunwich now.’

It’s not the first time Laming has – disgracefully – dog-whistled a confected link between Palm Island and Stradbroke. What is he thinking?

Mark Robinson is deaf and blind to Stradbroke’s manifest alternative economic prospects, preferring the island remain hostage to an international mining conglomerate. He trumpets exaggerated claims about the number of jobs affected when mining quits the island.

What prevents Mr Robinson from talking helpfully about retraining schemes for mine workers and building new economic opportunities for our community?

The Friendly Bay Islander reports the Mayor’s opinion that ending mining ‘early’ in 2019 will ‘[make an economic] transition almost impossible’.

Further, North Stradbroke Island Chamber of Commerce president, David Thompson, is quoted saying the ‘lethal’ uncertainty ‘would completely devastate business’. It’s disappointing language from an officer responsible for promoting Stradbroke’s commercial interests, not rubbishing them.

‘Early’ closure of mining?

Auntie Rosie Borey, Paul Keating and Uncle Bob Anderson at QYAC’s inaugural annual general meeting, Dunwich, 2013

Auntie Rosie Borey, Paul Keating and Uncle Bob Anderson at QYAC’s inaugural annual general meeting, Dunwich, 2013

Characterising 2019 as an ‘early’ end to mining is misleading, as both the mayor and Chamber of Commerce president are in a good position to know.

The Quandamooka People signed an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with the State Government in 2011 as part of native title. The North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act was passed to implement the rights and obligations created in the ILUA. Mining would end in 2019; and the North Stradbroke Island Economic Transition Strategy was part and parcel of the deal. This created certainty.

The 2011 Act was designed to provide ‘a clear timetable for the end of sand mining’ and facilitate ‘the growth of business and employment opportunities in ecologically sustainable tourism and other like activities’ (quoted from the Act).

$27.5 million over five years was allocated to implementing the transition.

It has to be remembered that the Bligh government in 2011 granted a generous extension of eight years for Enterprise mine. However, in 2012 when the LNP Government reversed the Act to extend mining until 2035 – at the behest of Belgian multinational Sibelco – it simply ignored the ILUA and failed to consult the Quandamooka People.

Sibelco had spent $90,000 helping get Newman elected.

After enabling Sibelo to continue mining for many years, the LNP Government did almost nothing to put the island on a path to a post-mining future. An Economic Transition Group was belatedly established in July 2014. By December it had only just had its first meeting where terms of reference were discussed. And who is on this Transition Group? The Mayor Who Talks Down Stradbroke’s Economic Future.

Mining a growth industry?

2019 will mark 70 years since the first bucket mining on Main Beach. The minerals are simply running out. The last vestiges are being wrung from the ancient dunes.

Deposits at Yarraman mine are exhausted. Even prior to the 2011 Act, the closure of this mine (and jobs) was announced for 2013. Yarraman is in the throes of closing now. The smaller silica mine has contracted owing to loss of markets.

These are only the latest indications in a long line of signs that mining is winding down, not gearing up. The workforce has repeatedly been downsized, and in recent weeks more workers were laid off.

The selling off of miners’ housing in Dunwich years ago and closure of the secondary school are chapters in the story of mining’s decline. Consecutive Censuses give the full picture: from 2001 to 2011, Stradbroke’s population fell from 2400 to around 1900.

Currently there are 110+/- island jobs in mining (it is not possible to verify operational information of this private company). Many mine workers live on the mainland.

When mining ends in 2019, there will still be jobs in rehabilitation of the mined areas for many years to come.

Yet throughout the steady decline of mining and the island population, Stradbroke’s economy did not implode.

Most island businesses in fact are unconnected with mining. These varied, successful businesses provide island jobs in educational, creative, social, health, construction industries, not to mention also tourism and hospitality. They provide scope and hope for growing a sustainable alternative economy.

Trashing Stradbroke Island’s economic future is stupid, unacceptable and counter-productive. It’s time to resume the North Stradbroke Island Economic Transition Strategy. What could be holding it back?

‘What you need above all else is imagination to know that a place like Stradbroke can do better – particularly juxtaposed with a big city like Brisbane’. Paul Keating, former prime minister of Australia, Dunwich, 24 February 2013.


Opinion: Jackie Cooper – 18 June 2015

Further Reading

Labor must honour vow on Stradbroke Island mining law, Indigenous group says  The Guardian/AAP, 15 June 2015

Minister plans to introduce Straddie mining legislation this year Judith Kerr, Redland City Bulletin, 13 June 2015

QYAC briefing for Queensland Government and Parliament, May 2015


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2 thoughts on “Who’s trashing North Stradbroke’s economy?

  1. Good article Jackie, but Sibelco spent more than $1 million, not $90,000, helping get Campbell Newman elected. They only declared $90,000 to the Electoral Commission for the cost of letters distributed in Ashgrove.

    The Rowland report, tabled in parliament by Jackie Trad in 2013 revealed that Sibelco’s campaign against the Bligh government also included “108 prime time television ads’ and numerous full page newspaper ads. It also included social media, a sophisticated website and many more bells and whistles. The Rowland report (which can be googled) can be read here

    The Environment Minister, Steven Miles, on 7 May this year (Hansard page 543) said Sibelco’s campaign cost more than $1 million:-

    “…Let us look at some of the former government’s dodgy deals. First up we have to start with Sibelco—the company hungry to extend its sandmining leases on North Stradbroke Island. Prior to the 2012 election they coughed up more than $1 million for a hard-hitting campaign. Sibelco also came good with a political donation of more than $90,000 in the seat of Ashgrove. In a 2012 radio interview, Campbell Newman—
    An honourable member interjected.

    Dr MILES: These are the three we know about. How many do we not know about? In 2012, Campbell Newman said twice that he would not extend Sibelco’s mining interests. But then, come November 2013, the Newman government amended the legislation to allow mineral sandmining by Sibelco up to 2035. It also removed the usual objection and judicial review rights. Sibelco stood to benefit $1.5 billion in additional revenue.”

    One Labor MP colourfully described this in 2013 as a “dirty stinking rotten deal”.The sooner sand mining on North Stradbroke ends the better!

  2. Finally a sensible article on the future of NSI after mining. As long-term residents and finding ourselves unemployed approximately five years ago after having to sell our business of 20 years due to health reasons, and by that I mean almost giving it away, and with two children of school age, we really didn’t know what we were going to do. Five years on and we are both meanfully employed on the island and outside the mining industry, thankful for what change has brought to our lives. Shame on those community leaders who are not helping the situation with their negative comments and not promoting a positive future for NSI.

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