Not so long ago, the so-called fairy pools near Granite Bay were a local secret. Then everything changed. Suddenly they exploded on social media, and visitors swarmed to the natural wonder, enthusiastically encouraged by the local tourism sector. The result was devastating to the soft corals and other creatures that lived in the pools. Once brimming with life, the fairy pools quickly became devoid of it.
Recently, I was kayaking in the frying pan area near the Noosa River mouth, next to the signed no-go area that is supposedly reserved for migrating birds to seek shelter. Right near the warning signs asking people to keep away, a couple had moored their boat, offloaded their two dogs and erected one of those now ubiquitous marquees.
Noosa’s environment will continue to be impacted by ever-increasing tourism as well as locals with a sense of entitlement. I could list numerous concerns: from the carbon footprint of the tourism sector; the absurd amount of waste overwhelming our local landfill; erosion caused by tour boats in the Everglades; destruction of frontal dune vegetation by coastal property owners demanding their own private access to the beach; and so on.
Noosa is extremely fortunate to have enjoyed a history of local environmental activism over six decades and more, mostly at the hands of Noosa Parks Association. In 1962, when NPA was established by Dr Arthur Harrold, the only national park in the shire was on the top of the hill at Noosa headland – and nowhere did that small park meet the sea. Meanwhile, Cooloola was being logged and mined, and further mining leases were threatening Alexandra Bay, Burgess Creek and around Lake Weyba. Today, significant swathes of Noosa Shire, from hinterland to coastal heath, are protected as national park and conservation land. All of this is thanks to decades of effort by our premier environment organisation.
Close to 45 percent of Noosa Shire is now protected in some form, either as national park or some other conservation covenant. But simply declaring an area as a nature refuge doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story. Conservation areas must be managed, by the state and the local government.
One way to ensure Noosa’s natural values are properly maintained is to elect a group of councillors that are genuine when they claim to care about the environment. Of course, every candidate will have the “e” word near the top of their policy proposals. Some will do so cynically, as clearly occurred at the last election. Voters need to check each candidates’ track records. Already I am witnessing one candidate spruiking their passion for the environment, when I know on the strength of their past activities that they have zero interest in environmental preservation.
More than any other authority, the local council has a responsibility to educate both residents and visitors about Noosa’s environmental values. For this to happen effectively, the Council’s environment team need to feel that they are being supported, both financially and ideologically, by the elected councillors and mayor. Even more importantly, the staff need to feel that they are working in sympathy with the council’s overarching vision.
We need a council that understands that Noosa’s greatest asset is not its bloated tourism sector, but rather it’s natural environment. Noosa’s natural assets are Noosa’s real point of difference. That’s what truly gives this place its mojo.