Govt did ‘precious little’ to stop Fraser Island fire

 

Furious tour operators have launched a scathing attack on the State Government as bushfires ravage Fraser Island.

Mark Robinson, of Drop Bear Adventures, said the devastation could have been prevented but the government "had learnt nothing from its mistakes" with the 2019-20 blazes.

"This is a nightmare, and every other tour operator on the island feels the same," Mr Robinson said.

"Why weren't the fires put out sooner?

"Now the island has been shut down, having a massive effect on tourism again, not to mention thousands of hectares of burned vegetation and untold loss of wildlife."

Mark and Hana Robinson anticipating a welcome return to business after COVID, just weeks before the bushfires hit. Picture: News Regional Media.
Mark and Hana Robinson anticipating a welcome return to business after COVID, just weeks before the bushfires hit. Picture: News Regional Media.

 

Hana Robinson in October. Picture: News Regional Media.
Hana Robinson in October. Picture: News Regional Media.

He said "precious little" had been done by way of preventive measures, such as maintenance of tracks and controlled burning, during the year, and Queensland Wildlife and Parks Service rangers were "severely under-resourced".

"They don't have the manpower to make sure the island is OK - it all comes down to funding; I pay tens of thousands of dollars every year in permits and government fees, but it's hard to see where that money goes.

"The Government must be held to account, because this is not good enough.

"We are ridiculously frustrated as we were just starting to come out of COVID and now all we are doing is refunding and cancelling bookings - it's hard to stay motivated and not throw in the towel."

Mr Robinson, in business for nine years with wife Hana, said Fraser Island generated millions of dollars in revenue for the government but was not getting the "attention and management it deserves".

"This is a world-heritage-listed island with unique flora and fauna, and one of the most popular national parks in Australia, yet it seems to be very low priority."

The Government was being approached for comment.

Josh Hobbs (left) and Chris Merrison return from Fraser Island today. Picture: Stuart Fast
Josh Hobbs (left) and Chris Merrison return from Fraser Island today. Picture: Stuart Fast


Meanwhile, a Fraser Island fisherman has captured the moment he and his friends came face-to-face with the bush fire which has ravaged the island for the past six weeks.

Chris Merrison and his friend Josh Hobbs returned to Hervey Bay on the Fraser Venture barge today.

"We could hear the roar of the fire between the crashing of the waves … we heard the bush crackle and pop," he said.

"It was surreal to hear the bush alight."

The men had been with their friends on a fishing trip to the island, and while they had planned to return today, both agreed they were lucky to come back when the did given the fire conditions.

Mr Merrison said the wind picked up on the eastern side of the island over the weekend, causing conditions to worsen.

Mr Hobbs agreed the fire had become worse.

"We smelled smoke, there was ash falling, we knew it was going to get worse," Mr Hobbs said.

"It was a bit of a shock at first to see ash fall … we realised the gravity of the situation when we saw it (the fire) up close," Mr Hobbs said.

When asked whether the fire would deter future visits, both Mr Merrison and Mr Hobbs said they would visit Fraser Island next year.


Originally published as Govt did 'precious little' to stop Fraser Is fire



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