How we saved our wonderful wallum world

If you go walking in the Noosa National Park to the west of David Low Way, you will be wandering through wallum country. At first glance it may appear to be a tough, somewhat barren landscape. But the wallum is full of plants and animals exquisitely adapted to life on nutrient-poor, acidic, sandy soil. So tough are the conditions for life, that the wallum could be viewed as nature’s battle ground, where survival comes only with clever adaptation.

The wallum is an ecosystem of coastal southeast Queensland, extending into northern NSW. It sits behind the coastal dunes, often on flat land or undulating ridges. Unfortunately, humankind’s desire to build and live along the coast has resulted in the wallum almost disappearing.

The founder of the Noosa Parks Association (NPA), Dr Arthur Harrold, was a terrific chronicler of local plant species, including the wallum heath. Noosa Council’s emblem is based on a boronia that was thought to be extinct, until Dr. Harrold discovered it growing in the wallum of Cooloola in 1971. NPA led the charge in rescuing Cooloola from mining, forestry pursuits, and yet more urban development. 

Here’s something that may shock you. Queensland cabinet documents released in 2000 under the 30-year classification rule revealed that a company named Australian American Imagineering Developments had been lobbying state cabinet for permission to build a string of 68 towns plus 1600 kilometres of roads between the Noosa River mouth and Double Island Point. Imagine what a different place Noosa would be if that plan had been realised.

Although the wallum supports various threatened and endangered creatures such as the ground parrot, glossy black cockatoo, and various acid frogs, the animals most likely seen are the many varieties of honeyeaters, parrots, fairy-wrens and finches, as well as a range of reptiles from tiny skinks to massive goannas. 

scaly-breasted lorikeets
white-cheeked honeyeater on banksia

Next time you drive between Noosa Heads and Peregian Beach, remind yourself that you are travelling through once disputed territory, where development came head-to-head with environmentalists and, for the most part, the latter won.

Sure, there are a few streets and houses along this strip of coast, but it is mostly national park. NPA campaigned over decades to prevent a wide range of development proposals and thus to protect the native wallum.

Here are just a few examples of what was proposed: the state wanted to run the Sunshine Motorway south and east of Lake Weyba; TM Burke wanted to cover the Marcus high dunes with a motel, shopping centre, service station and housing estate; and at one point, TM Burke also wanted to build a space-oriented theme park, artificial lake, commercial hub and more in the swampy heath behind Peregian Beach. All of these were fought off by NPA and its supporters. 


The name wallum derives from the Kabi Kabi word for banksia. The word “wallum” doesn’t appear as a regional ecosystem in the Queensland Government’s list of threatened ecological communities.

That’s because it is broken down into more discrete sub-genres of vegetation. For example, Regional Ecosystem 12.2.13 is dubbed Open Dry Heath, with banksia and black she oak as the dominant plant species. It was once found in the South-east Queensland and NSW North Coast wallum country.

As the government’s description notes, “All existing sites of RE 12.2.13 occur within Noosa Shire, mostly within Noosa National Park, to the east of Lake Weyba.” 

There you have it. Thanks to the efforts of NPA, Noosa is the last refuge for this particular regional ecosystem within the wallum country. And that’s just a part of it. 

From Emu Mountain to Noosa wallum

Tony Wellington

Writer & Photographer

Former Mayor of Noosa, author, photographer, artist, film-maker, lecturer, musician, social commentator and environmentalist. Welcome to Tony’s stunning view of what makes Noosa special.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Thank-you to NPA and all conservationists involved since the 1960s, in advocating and fighting to save the heathlands. My recently completed PhD data examining conservation values of the heath from Cooloola to Bribie, clearly showed the marked difference this advocacy has had on retaining remnant heathland. As Tony Wellington points out, RE 12.2.13 is rare and endangered, with shining examples in the Marcus High Dunes, and is a treasure beyond measure.

  2. Avatar

    Such a wonderful man and if he is « WOKE » then WOKE is what we all aspire to be and those that seek to destroy nature and are “anti woke”are a miserable bunch of selfish ,often greedy types who seek to diminish our beautiful Noosa and replicate the Gold Coast ,otherwise known as Miami by many of us .Keep on filming Tony such joy you bring .!

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