Illegal clearing of National Park wetland an “international embarrassment”

The bulldozing of a 2km-long driveway through Bowling Green National Park near Townsville is an international embarrassment for Queensland, highlighting critical problems in the state’s ability to respond to illegal clearing across the state.

The illegal clearing of a 19,000 square meter corridor of internationally-recognised wetland - home to endangered species including the curlew sandpiper and northern quoll occurred over an 8-month period and went undetected for months by the Department of Environment and Science.

The man was ordered to pay nearly $145,000 for unlawfully destroying parts of Bowling Green Bay National Park, with the majority of that money going towards rehabilitation of the site, which will take years to accomplish.

North Queensland Conservation Council Coordinator Crystal Falknau said:

“Bowling Green Bay National Park contains an internationally-significant Ramsar wetland, and is home to migratory birds and more than 20 threatened fauna species is a special place for locals to enjoy.

“It is devastating to see the impact of one person’s actions on this unique ecosystem.

“Our park rangers work hard to manage our National Parks. The restoration of this damage will take many years, and be an unnecessary drain on their limited resources, that could be better used managing weeds and feral pigs in the National Park. 

“Our environment is facing enough pressures as it is without thoughtless human behaviour adding to the mix. Illegal dumping, four-wheel driving, arson and clearing have no place in our National Parks. People committing these acts must be held accountable.”

Queensland Conservation Council Nature Campaigner Natalie Frost said:

“This shocking clearing has caused untold damage to an internationally-important wetland in a protected National Park, all for one man’s own convenience. It is an international embarrassment.

“The fact this man was able to bulldoze a 2km-long scar through a National Park over an 8-month period is proof the state needs better early detection and response to stop clearing like this as soon as it starts.

“Queensland has a nation leading vegetation monitoring system, however the resources needed to ensure timely monitoring and compliance with the laws are not adequate.

“Queensland has the lowest percentage of protected area estate with only 8.2% protected, so each park plays a critical role in protecting our iconic plants and animals. 

“The fine of $145,000 should make people think twice about taking a bulldozer to National Parks in future, but it will take decades before the damage to this ecosystem will be restored."