Balancing act for 'unique' Bribie

Published 5:00pm 15 May 2024

Balancing act for 'unique' Bribie
Words by Nick Crockford

Pictured: Bribie's surfside beach which is seeing a sharp rise in traffic. Photo © Darren Jew

The future of Bribie Island’s national park – including a possible cap on vehicles on the beach in peak times – has been outlined in a long-awaited report.

Recommendations in the Bribie Island National Park and Recreation Area document completed in 2022, also include new toilets, an alternative Ocean Beach access point, camping charge review and tackling ‘ghost camping’.

The Sustainable Visitor Capacity Management Study, which precedes a draft management plan, also calls for two more Bribie rangers and upgrading Poverty Creek Camping Area, which both now have State Government funding.

Reaction to the Study has been mixed but capping vehicle numbers on the surfside beach was welcomed by community groups.

It follows a sharp increase in vehicle access permits (VAP), which have leapt from 38,837 in 2020-21 to 43,185 post COVID in just nine months of 2021-22.

BIEPA (Bribie Island Environmental Protection Association) backed - and took a harder stance on - some recommendations, while calling for “immediate action” on others (listed further down).

These included a daily cap on vehicles using the beach, no night driving in hatching months, “hard-sand driving” only and boom gates at beach entrances.

Vehicles crowing around one of the popular stopping points along the Bribie beach. Photo © Darren Jew

On the Bribie Island Community Facebook page Beth MacPherson said the study was a “terrific start”, but Ann Trubshaw added “unless they put a cap on vehicle numbers the whole management plan was a waste of time and money.”

The visitor study covered the entire park area with a focus on Ocean Beach and lagoons, North Spit, Fort Bribie, Ocean Beach and Poverty Creek campgrounds.

Queensland Environment Minister Leanne Linard says there’s a risk “the area’s unique natural environment will be adversely impacted”.

“It is important well-informed future planning is at the forefront of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services future management of the park and recreation area.”

Ali King, State Member for Pumicestone, says growth has “both benefits and risks” and “we must find the right balance between visitor growth and conservation”.

“We cannot allow Bribie’s unique environmental values to be degraded,” she said.

The State Government’ response to recommendations in the study include:

Cars parked and driving along the surf Beach at Bribie. Photo © Darren Jew
  • Bribie compliance support team is being bolstered with two new management positions, to work with police and enforce compliance with such as the Automated Number Plate Recognition System and VAPs
  • To help reduce the impact of visitors, investigations have started into new “ablutions and amenities”, including portable toilets, at such as Ocean Beach Lagoon

  • State Government has pledged $890,000 to upgrade Poverty Creek camping amenities and a ban on open fires, outside designated campfire rings, continues

  • A study into seasonal/night driving found limits were not needed “at this time”, but “non-essential night-time driving in nesting cycles” will be discouraged

  • Current camper capacities will be maintained, but additional camping, day use and off-park areas will be considered in consultation with the Kabi Kabi People

  • Work has started on possible regulation of visitor numbers at peak times, with the study calling for a new booking system on the 20 busiest days each year

  • Using shuttle buses to ferry visitors to areas at peak times was not endorsed, but a new camping and vehicle access booking system is being developed to help “monitor, regulate and report” numbers

  • Finding ways to stop ghost camping bookings (reserving a spot by leaving a tent or trailer or booking and not turning up) was recommended and is under way

  • Consultation is ongoing over tackling unsafe behaviour by reducing speed limits at certain areas, double demerit points and banning repeat offenders

  • Improved mobile and internet coverage was recommended and has been “endorsed in principle” by the State Government

  • Other considerations include trialling “vehicle exclusion buffer zones and time limits” at key sites and opening other beaches to 4WD visitors to spread the load
Photo © Darren Jew

BIEPA, with more than 400 members, has campaigned on many of these issues for years and president Richard Ogden said it is “now able to make its voice heard”.

“Our Eco-Tourism and Sustainability Team, and Wildlife Team, as well as our Committee have all been focused on achieving these outcomes,” he said.

BIEPA wants immediate action on the following (below) and longer term to work with authorities to further enhance protections for the national park.

  • Capping daily vehicle numbers, removing peak days from yearly permits and a lottery system for the 20 peak days

  • No night driving during turtle season from November-April, except for emergencies and authorised park management activities

  • Hard sand driving only with the beach closed to traffic two hours either side of high tide, with boom gates at entrances

  • An active education program that engenders a high level of community respect for the national park

  • Enhanced and innovative strategies to police illegal activities on the beach and associated access routes with drone patrols to be considered by authorities

Bribie Island National Park and Recreation Area visitor study was undertaken by consultants Earthcheck. It was completed in 2022 and released this month.

More than 2000 stakeholders, including the Kabi Kabi People, businesses, tourism operators, permit holders, experts and community members took part.

Public consultation is expected to start later this year and the Draft Bribie Island Recreation Area Management Plan released in 2025.

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