Camera Traps – October 2022 accrued 44-cassowaries, 24-dingoes and 76-feral pigs. Against the cumulative monthly average, cassowary numbers dropped by 65%, dingoes fell by 30% and feral-pigs also decreased by 5%. Against October 2021, cassowary numbers were 65%-down, dingoes rose by 600% and feral-pig numbers increased by 33%.
Fording Cooper Creek many years-ago and long before the causeway was elevated to its current height, I was shocked and annoyed to see a woman waste-deep in the middle of the torrent, about thirty-metres upstream from the Cape Tribulation Road crossing. Having obviously heard my vehicle, she looked back over her right shoulder and smiled with immediate recognition and then winked, with such a cheeky, reassuring confidence, that my mind surged with admiration and respect. Like a legendary surfer chasing the ultimate ride, this was Amy Heweston, rainforest neighbour and World Heritage cohabitant, penetrating deeply into the source of our environment’s awesome vitality. The Heweston family of Noah Valley and the Hewett family of Cooper Creek Wilderness are allied through Gondwanan rainforest inhabitancy and also the 1988 inscription of World Heritage across our respective freehold properties and although separated by Mount Emmett, for many compounding reasons, are closest neighbours.
World Heritage freehold land-management is supposed to enjoy the protection of competitive neutrality, such that government will not use its advantages unfairly. However, government contends that World Heritage-management is not a business activity and therefore National Competition Policy does not apply. The trouble is, if the full cost of private-sector World Heritage management is not recovered from user-fees alone, then the land-manager goes broke. Nevertheless, the Hewestons and Hewetts alike support the freehold precedent of World Heritage-listing, as a monument of internationally declared importance that biological diversity and ecological integrity will be protected, regardless of tenure.
On 16 June 1994, when the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments jointly funded the $23-million Daintree Rescue Package, forty-four percent of local land-holders expressed interest in selling their properties for conversion to National Park. Despite holding almost twice the funds needed to achieve this substantive reduction, only 83-properties were bought, with larger holdings strategically acquired for tourism infrastructure, to cater for the over-allocation of commercial activity permit-holders from the dormitory centres of Cairns and Port Douglas. With the taxpayer subsidising tourism onto these public facilities to the tune of some 97.6-cents-in-the-dollar and enough public boardwalks to cater for twice the number of travellers that were actually visiting, the Hewestons and Hewetts felt the pinch of unfair competition and in the spirit of cooperation, planned an epic hike between the two properties. After receiving enthusiastic Ministerial Council approval to proceed with the trial tour, it was summarily stopped, purportedly because, “Ministerial Council cannot fetter the discretionary decision-making authority of the Department’s Chief Executive.”
Further to these difficulties, the committee directing the Daintree Rescue Program seemed determined to stretch funding to the greatest possible extent and when the deal was done to seal the road from the ferry turn-off to Cape Tribulation, for a wholly inadequate $6-million, roads adjoining public-sector World Heritage rainforest were fully sealed, whilst roads alongside freehold properties were left prejudicially unsealed, with costs of sealing duly imposed onto disaffected business-owners to the extent of their road frontage. Cooper Creek Wilderness had only a 19.5-metres frontage, all of which had been previously sealed with the construction of the original causeway, but with astronomical cost, Noah Valley had full frontage from both sides of the Cape Tribulation Road for the full length of the 800-acre property. The details of what transpired thereafter remain confidential, but suffice to say that our neighbours lost the bulk of their frontage onto Cape Tribulation Road and the entirety of their absolute beach frontage onto South Noah Beach. Against the extortionary stench of coercion, the undignified gloating of ensuing governmental publicity, that ‘Paradise was protected forever’, will not readily be forgotten.
Daintree Rainforest landholders and residents have been subject to decades of seemingly relentless attrition. In the latest salvo, NSW-based not-for-profits are bleeding environmental philanthropy for all it can let, to purportedly save the world’s oldest rainforest from relentless residential catastrophe. However, the environment, which is so worthy of saving, legally contains ecosystems and their constituent parts including people and communities.
‘Fight-back’ is an appropriate community response to the deceptive and dishonourable ‘buy-back’ schemes, which falsely and uncharitably decry this contrived destruction, to raise revenue to purchase freehold land in the Daintree Rainforest, whilst sustaining the almost celebrity lifestyles of the jet-setting crusaders; but as much as this uninvited attack may have triggered a spirited community response, it would be a grave mistake for the current advocates of community integrity to overlook the long history of community defence since the Southedge-Daintree Pastoral Company had its sub-division registered by the Queensland Government in 1984 and it is highly disrespectful to marginalise community defenders of the past, even if they currently reside elsewhere, for their hearts and memories remain indelibly imprinted into the natural and cultural landscape, now and into the future.
The Community is in the process of taking its latest step in a long history of steps towards organisational fight-back, however, current residents who may not know much of the history of community defence, have defined full-membership to Daintree Coast 360 (DC360) to the exclusion of community stalwarts that are currently not residing locally. For the sake of respect and in recognition of past contributions, this membership criteria should be amended to include long term-residents and landholders who have maintained their connection with the Daintree Rainforest community. Membership that honourably supports comrades who fought for the community during those dark periods of our history will provide adequate assurance of those timeless pro-community qualifications.
Daintree Rainforest Foundation Ltd has been registered by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and successfully entered onto the Register of Environmental Organisations. Donations made to the Daintree Rainforest Fund support Daintree Rainforest community custodianship and are eligible for a tax deduction under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.