Craig Crawford Please Explain! :( SAD FACE

clearfelled_native_forest_with_young_pines.jpgHOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

We couldn't understand how our Wet Tropics Forest- right next to the World Heritage- could  get sold off without mentioning it to the local community or the public.

So we wrote a comprehensive letter to Mr Craig Crawford to try and understand what had been decided and what was in the agreement with Hancocks.

They hadn't even mentioned it to the local groups who had been tree planting in the area for years.


Dear Mr Crawford, 

Friends of the Earth Kuranda would like to congratulate you on your success in the State election and we hope that this will be the beginning of a much better future for our area.

There are a few of issues that we are greatly concerned about and that we would like to draw your attention to.

Barron River Water Quality and the Reef

UNESCO has threatened to list the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) as “endangered” largely due to sediment and run-off from industry.  We believe it is counterproductive for the government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try to reduce sediment, chemical and nutrient runoff on to the Great Barrier Reef while unsustainable land uses in our region are still being encouraged, such as the expansion of the sugar cane industry and pine plantations on the Tablelands, which negatively impact on the Barron River and the Reef.  

The negative impacts from these types of intensive agriculture developments threaten the future expansion of Cairns and the status of Kuranda and Far North Queensland as tropical eco-destinations.  As tropical tourist destinations, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA) and the GBRWHA continue to be degraded with sediment, nutrient and chemical run-off leaching into waterways and ending up polluting the Reef. 

Friends of the Earth have been campaigning for many years for more rigorous monitoring of the Barron River for agricultural and industrial chemicals. Presently there is no requirement for the Council to test the Barron River for the pesticides that are currently used in the Barron catchment and that are known to be contaminating Kuranda and Mareeba town water supplies and waterways. 

An assessment, or audit, of the main agricultural chemicals used in the shire would mean that water testing could test for the chemicals that are actually being used in the area. Also we think that the sheer quantity of pesticides being used should be actively monitored with the aim of trying to reduce the amounts.  

The future growth of Cairns presently relies on the capacity of Copperlode Dam to provide water to increasing populations and it is virtually at its capacity now to meet the needs of Cairns. Any future developments, such as the Aquis proposal, or new southern suburbs, will require new water sources.  The mayor of the Cairns Regional Council states regularly that he believes that the regions long term water supply needs would be met by the Barron River.  For this reason alone, the Barron River catchment should have improved protection from pollutants and inappropriate land uses to ensure a healthy river into the future. 

The negative impacts from these types of intensive agriculture developments threaten the future expansion of Cairns and the status of Kuranda and Far North Queensland as tropical eco-destinations.  As tropical tourist destinations, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA) and the GBRWHA continue to be degraded with sediment, nutrient and chemical run-off leaching into waterways and ending up polluting the Reef. 

Black Mountain Rd logging and aerial spraying

In 2010 Hancock Queensland Plantations, a company managed by Hancock Timber Resource Group on behalf of institutional global investors won the right to manage and harvest the trees growing on 4,400 hectares of Crown plantation land near to Kuranda.  This American company seems to have been given a “sweetheart deal” by the Bligh government, without public consultation, to “manage” for 99 years what was previously a State resource.  These “secret” asset sales forced this destructive industry on our region without due process and/or social licence.  As an Eco-tourism destination, the Kuranda community was never consulted and we feel this industry is totally incompatible with Kuranda’s ecological and nature-based values.  Furthermore, due to the industrial nature of the plantation there are minimal employment opportunities for local people and negligible sustainable outcomes. 

The pine plantation along Black Mountain Rd are presently being logged and shipped out due to the inferior quality of the timber.  The particular species (Caribbean Pine) is considered “too sappy” for sawmilling and the logs are exported for pulp.  Our local roads were never designed to handle such heavy truck use and added to the constant rubbish trucks our roads have become more hazardous and in need of constant repair work. Cassowaries have been killed and injured on the road by logging trucks and continued erosion, sedimentation and soil loss impacts on the natural landscape including rainforest streams (cassowary habitat) the Barron River and inshore marine areas.  As the pines species are extremely acid, under which barely anything else grows, pine plantations are a monoculture of barren land. Increased erosion and run-off from this area will increase the carriage of chemicals and sediment to the reef.

At a time when essential and iconic species such as cassowaries continue to decline and reef water quality shows no great improvements, it is indeed ill-conceived that this operation is allowed to replant invasive pine plantations and aerial spray enormous amounts of biocides when it is surrounded by the WTWHA and will bring devastation to our Wet Tropics waterways and remaining cassowary habitat.  Also, even though the waterways within the plantation have been given mapped “protection” as cassowary habitat, these “protected areas” offer no protection as they are being aerially sprayed with roundup and starane to kill regrowth and weeds in the plantation. 

We have been informed by HQ Plantations that roundup mixed with starane is being aerial sprayed at quantities of 100 litres per hectare in the pine plantations in the middle of the WTWHA on Black Mountain Road.  The run-off from the plantation feeds into the Barron catchment above the Kuranda town water supply intake.  The World Health Organisation has recently reassessed and reclassed roundup as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.   Starane is banned in many countries due to the serious risks it poses to human health.

The chemical drift from aerial spraying has been known to travel up to 10km and yet residents of the surrounding areas have not even been informed that the helicopter flying over their house at night is spraying poison.

Considering the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently reclassified roundup as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, and that this chemical is being deposited into Kuranda’s drinking water at a high rate, we have the following questions and requests.


  1. Is there a management plan for the pine plantation available to the public?   If not why not?
  2. Considering the close proximity to the Wet Tropics was there an EIA?  If so we would like to view it.
  3. Which Govt. department authorised and approved aerial spraying near to residents and the town of Kuranda and what monitoring is being done to ensure that the operation is meeting health and safety standards and logging best practices?
  4. Is there are requirement for HQ Plantations to notify the public living nearby before aerial spraying is conducted? If not why not?
  5. Which Government Department regulates and monitors pesticide use on the Kuranda pine plantation 
    • Who is responsible for overseeing its water testing?
    • What chemicals other than floroxiypur and glyphosate are used and in what quantities?
    • What surfactants are used with the weedicides?  - POEA?
    • It there testing done for the metobolites of roundup – AMPA?
    • Is there testing for Dioxins remaining from the use of 2,4,5T and 2,4-D?
    • Considering the World Health Organizations’ recent reassessment of glyphosate, will the Department be reassessing the use of glyphosate in this plantation and in the drinking water catchment?
  6. Who is responsible if the chemical spraying is found to be unsafe for the environment and the surrounding communities and for monitoring the extent of spray drift away from the plantation, or if spray drift is entering inside the World Heritage Area?
  7. What size buffer zone is considered to be adequate to protect the WHA from spray drift when scientific research shows that spray drift can travel 5 to 10 km from the target area?
  8. What opportunities does the plantation’s logging contract allow the Govt. to intervene in the method of their operation if there are concerns that health and safety standards are not being met or that are no longer acceptable due to new information or research?
  9. Why wasn't there any community consultation before a 99 year license was signed with them, just a few years ago?
  10. Were any native forests included in the plantation?


  1. We call on the State and Federal governments to; 
    • Review the suite of pesticides that are being tested for in our region so that it includes the pesticides that are mainly being used.
    • Update the suite of pesticides required to be tested for by Queensland Councils so that they include the pesticides that are mainly used in their areas.
    • Legislate that the chemicals that are required to be tested for by Councils should include the chemicals that are mainly used in the area - as opposed to the current practice of mainly testing for chemicals that are not being used. 
  2. That you request Hancock Queensland Plantations to stop aerial spraying of the Kuranda plantations immediately, especially near residential areas near Kuranda and areas adjacent to the World Heritage Area until the publics’ concerns are addressed and resolved.
  3. That you request HQ Plantations test the creeks and rivers in the Flaggy creek catchment  (including immediately after rain events) and that they make their test results public.
  4. That you request the Mareeba Shire Council do water testing for the agricultural chemicals that are actually used in the area and that would be likely found in the Barron River and Kuranda’s town water supply.
  5. That you investigate an alternative source of town water for Kuranda than the Barron River which is contaminated with agricultural and chemical runoff, or that a filtering system is installed for the town that is able to remove agricultural chemicals, heavy metals and bacteria from the water.
  6. That you support and advocate for more appropriate and sustainable agricultural activities be conducted in the area other than ones that require clear felling,  heavy chemical use, aerial spraying, or intensive annual land clearing that will continue to diminish the water quality of the Barron River and the Reef.  

We look forward to hearing from you on these issues as a matter of urgency.

As these issues have been causing concern in Kuranda for some time we request a reply as soon as possible and we ask you to work to ensure adequate resources are allocated to find solutions to these issues so that the World Heritage status of the Great Barrier Reef and the health of the Barron River can be secured. 

Yours sincerely,


John Glue

President FoE Kuranda

Ph. 0499 207 492

email: [email protected]

[email protected]


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