7/1/14 Pre-trip jitters

I feel sick, anxious, apprehensive and at the same time confident  and keen to just get going. There have been some set-backs with extra work required and training is almost non-existent with just six walks up the Lismore hill so far. This has shown some bugs in the old kayak wheel setup but hey, a good engineer should be able to sort that out. This time I will try not to go like a bull at a gate from the start so I’m hoping the extra maturity will compensate for lack of fitness.

Two days ago Klaas’s eldest son, Dirk, ended his life. That is just so sad for the whole family. Even outsiders like me have not been immune from tears so I can only imagine their pain.

Monday is media engagements at Lismore and Ballina and then Klaas and I are off. What is not done by then won’t happen. Only 220km walking and 110km paddling by the end of January so that’s no big deal, surely.



Townsville Trip 3/11/14  – A chance to iron out some bugs before the big one starts.

Day 1

It was great to be reminded of a win. Spent the night at Tiaro with Ross and Gail Smith whom I met on the Save the Mary River Campaign and have stayed in touch with Tanzi, their daughter. We didn’t know during the campaign that we would win. Government money and propaganda was stacked against us, but we were pretty sure that the Federal Labor Govt would not sacrifice the EPBC Act, and go against two senate enquiries, for a bunch of Qld cowboys. When they lost, the Water Resources Minister – Stephen Robertson – reckoned he was devastated. Didn’t take it well when I suggested why he lost. Sent him a copy of my book so that he might learn something, but I doubt that he read it.

Interesting that there was no enquiry into how the stupid dickheads managed to waste over a billion dollars of Queenslander’s money. Seems like it is good Queensland practice though, with the Newman Govt investing heavily in what will be stranded coal assets to prop up something that is only 4% of their revenue, minus what they spend of course, which last year was about half that.

Day 2

Stopped at Gladstone. The coal port there caused untold havoc – generation of toxic algae, hundreds of dead turtles and dugong, habitat loss, sustainable fishery loss, health problems with fisherman, scandalous performance of CSIRO, abysmal engineering practice, destruction of Curtis Island… the list goes on. The big problem is that they got away with it. An even bigger problem is that many people don’t care. It’s depressing really, so I shot through to Mackay.

Mackay greeted me with a drenching. The company was good though. During the downpour I dropped into the Mackay Conservation Group, but only Moira was home. Ellen arrived back by bus at 9.00pm and Gemma was in Airlie Beach. Moira organized for me to stay at the share house where I met Phil. He told me that Mackay was better now. The drunks on meths have gone and the streets are safe at night which 18mths ago they certainly weren’t.

Conservation is tough in Mackay. It loves mining, even though mining pushed prices of everything through the roof, and caused a loss in population of 10,000 people when the bubble burst. The local Italian eatery had a wine list with about half the bottles over $150 each. The house red at about five bucks a glass was fine though. A marina berth is still 60% more than Brisbane, so maybe there is still some rationalization left to occur.

With mines cutting jobs and increasing mechanization Phil reckons depression is a big problem. Luckily our politicians understand that coal is good eh!


Days 3 & 4

Easy couple of hours to Airlie Beach. The area is a lot different to when I was here about three decades ago. Proserpine looks forgotten. Airlie Beach is modern and the main street area looks great, even if council is heavily in debt. Cannonvale has grown unbelievably and both places join together, so it is sort of like a mini Hervey Bay.

Drying out at the Cannonvale caravan park2014-11-05 11.21.26

I attended a Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping (WRAD) meeting which is trying to stop the Abbott Point Coal terminal ecocide. Most Queenslanders think they had a win when the Newman government said it would pump the dredged spoil to land and not dump it on the reef. What they didn’t say is that it is to go into the wetland adjacent to the port.

Jeff Seeney reckoned their original proposal was to put it into an area that was underwater desert. Ignorance in the extreme! The area is between the reef and the land which is like a marine highway. Fish spawn near the seagrass and mangroves. The resulting baby fish grow up in wetlands and seagrass and gradually move out to the reef using what are called isolates. These are very small patches where they congregate before moving on. The government’s proposal was like taking a link out of a chain and wondering why it won’t still work.

So after the public outcry they are proposing another Gladstone. Trust us they say. With a track record of one gross fail out of one? Sure.

Why did the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority agree to dumping at sea? I have no idea, because scientifically it ain’t smart. Corruption? You decide. What I would say is that GBRMPA has lost any public license to be involved in the wetland dumping debacle with its current chairman. They have painted themselves into a corner that they cannot get out of without a sacrificial lamb.

There were sixteen passionate people at the meeting – high energy and commitment – so I have hope that they will be effective.

In front of the Fat Frog cafe at Cannonvale where Gemma bought me a milkshake2014-11-05 09.32.25

The next meeting was the Whitsunday Local Advisory Committee. There were about a dozen there with four from GBRMPA. One of them gave a presentation on Crown of Thorns, they call ‘em COTs up here. This is what I learned:

  1. They are natural although there is some doubt about the severity of outbreaks. If outbreaks before 1960 were as severe there probably would be no reef.
  2. Need more than 15 per hectare to start an outbreak
  3. They eat 150-250 cm2 of coral per day per COT
  4. They spawn Oct-Feb with millions of eggs that spread on the current so they have enormous reproductive potential
  5. There have been four recorded outbreaks. 1960s, 1979, 1993, 2010
  6. Outbreaks start near Lizard island and move south in waves
  7. There are different types of COTs in many parts of the world

In summary it is likely that they have been increasing but we don’t know. If they have, we don’t know why, despite a plethora of theories. Note that it was not until the 1960s that diving and fast outboards turned up.


Day 5

Bit of a hot trip up to Townsville to set up for the 150th anniversary of the Port. The kayak is right out the front.

At the Townsville Port building2014-11-07 12.20.27

Bowen, near the Abbott Point coal loader was on the way. I am told that there are reef passionate people in Bowen, maybe 10% and there are pro Abbott Point people, again maybe 10% and then there are those in the middle.

What I have found, is that this area is not like the northern rivers of NSW. I thought most people would be passionate about their reef but it seems to me that there is a disconnection in very many places and the saviours are  a small minority.

Day 6

Exhibited at the 150th anniversary celebrations for Townsville Port. A few people were interested but most walked past the kayak with its big banner without even noticing it.

The big day2014-11-08 16.19.52

Thought I did a good interview with 4TO FM but copped flack from Port authority. I was talking about coal and coal ports but failed to specifically say Abbott Point when I mentioned dredging, so they were pissed off. Funny how you can upset some people without even trying.


Day 7

Paddled over to Magnetic Island. Everyone told me it was 8km. Reckoned I must be just slow after bashing into a 15-18 knot Nor-easter. Even got a bit queasy bouncing up and down. Lunch was scheduled at Wendy Tubman’s place and I think I just managed to get there at a reasonable time.

The bike and trailer in the trailer car park next to the ferry terminalP1000277

The walk was painful because I had forgotten my thongs. It was less than a kilometer and the kayak rolled well with its new wheels, but the road was bloody hot. It took five days for my feet to settle down after it. Probably looked a bit funny I suppose, trying to run, pull the kayak, and use it to launch myself into big astronaut moonwalking type steps so my feet were on the road less. Wendy took me to the IGA supermarket where I spent the best $12.95 ever on a new pair of thongs, plus beer to cool the inside.

Paddling overP1000278

Wendy is a great campaigner and manager for North Qld Conservation Council. She is paid for 15 hours per week but works more than 50 and rarely has time off. I was humbled many times on this trip by the dedication of the people that give their lives to making the world a better place in the face of arrant stupidity by government and industry.

Nearly back to TownsvilleP1000282

Distance 11.8 km, not 8km so I wasn’t as slow as I thought

Day 8

Drying everything that was in the kayak. All bulkheads filled with water and I hadn’t taken everything out. Met with Townsville Bulletin which did a fine article

Where I met the Bulletin (Castle Hill in the background)P1000276

The evening was spent at the NQCC office, in the back yard actually, where I did a bit of Climate Reality stuff as well as the trip and fellow leader, Sandy McCathie showed some great videos from the 24hrs of hope. This is Sandy, taken from behind the first row of chairs just with my phone.Sandy presenting

Day 9

Big day. Rode down to Mackay and stopped to take advantage of Gemma’s hospitality and check emails at the Mackay Conservation Group. Kept going to Bundaberg which was about 1100km for the day.

Day 10

Wide Bay ABC Radio interview at Bundaberg, photos and story at the Gympie Times and then over to Kandanga to see the Save the Mary museum and dinner on the pub veranda with lots of the old crew.

It was a bit humbling to see me with my trips in amongst the paraphernalia on the walls. The museum is also a great idea. Next politician who wants to dam the Mary, and there have been three attempts so far, just needs to look in the museum to see what they would be up against. The Mary Valley area is a bit like the Northern Rivers in NSW. Try and tamper with their land at your peril.

Kandanga – Museum is at the old railway stationP1000283


Day 11

Sunshine Coast ABC Radio with Annie Gaffney who read out this from the web site:“species loss, habitat loss, sustainable fishery loss, health problems with fisherman, scandalous performance of CSIRO, abysmal engineering practice, destruction of Curtis Island… the list goes on. The big problem is that they got away with it.”

I was able to answer that I had my information from a fish vet who was heavily involved in the biology, a doctor who was embroiled when trying to save a fisherman’s leg along with other disastrous health issues, and as an engineer following the bund wall saga.

At the end of the interview Annie asked what I thought of the  just announced USA/China emissions agreement, and would that make a difference to our leaders. I answered that the agreement was a start, and better than nothing.  Also if you are an unfettered free market capitalist believer, that will be the essence of your being, your core belief. If climate change is real then your core belief system is wrong and it can’t be, therefore climate change cannot be real. So no, our government will not be swayed. They have not been swayed by the unequivocal scientific evidence so nothing will shift them.

Then it was over to Sunshine Coast Uni with the sustainability mob and after my presentation a thought provoking exchange.

To finish off it was back to Lismore via Riverview where I picked up some things. From Bundaberg to the Sunshine Coast I had been treated like royalty. Being well remembered with a bit of ego massaging thrown in wasn’t hard to take at all. The five year anniversary of the Peter Garret announcement that the dam would not proceed was the day before the Bundaberg interview. A fitting note on which to finish a quick trip where both Connor and I  learned a lot ready for the real thing next year.