Dear Minister Scanlon,
I am an 85-year old scientist and conservationist but I write to you simply as a lover of nature.
In the 1960s, I climbed Federation Peak in Tasmania’s south west. From the top of the peak, looking across the Western Arthur Ranges, I saw a beautiful deep blue lake hemmed by a beach of pure white sand, nestled in a valley surrounded by rugged rocky peaks — Lake Pedder. When I returned to Hobart I learned the Hydro Electricity Commission planned to build a dam to flood the lake. That was when I became involved in conservation, joining the campaign to save Lake Pedder. In 1972, the dam was built and that strikingly beautiful vista was destroyed. Gone forever.
On returning to Queensland, I became involved in the campaign, led by poet Judith Wright, to stop the Bjelke-Petersen government approving sand mining at Cooloola. The campaign was successful and declaration of the area as Cooloola National Park followed. The dunes, the lakes, the forests and heaths were to be protected forever.
Many times, I walked into Lake Poona. The most recent was with my wife, six months pregnant at the time. We walked through the forest to Lake Poona, camped on the beach and swam naked in the lake. It was — and at this time still is — a truly pristine landscape, a real wilderness experience.
Minister, I understand that you are considering approval for private, commercial accommodation, a group of 10 cabins, being built in the forest on the slope just above the lake. The whole experience of Lake Poona will change — lost! Memories of Lake Pedder flood back and I am filled with sadness and despair.
In 1969, Kathleen McArthur and Judith Wright initiated the first ‘postcard campaign’ in Australia to protect Cooloola. It is sad, indeed, that fifty-three years later, another postcard campaign has to be waged to again try to protect Cooloola.
Apart from Judith and Kathleen, there were others who worked tirelessly for decades to protect Cooloola — the late Dr Arthur Harrold, Bill Huxley and Mavis Huxley. The national park would not exist in its present form were it not for the selfless devotion of those beautiful people. And there were many others. The national park was not the initiative of the Queensland Government. It was the result of the sustained efforts of conservationists over decades. It saddens me deeply to think that the vision of Judith, Kathleen, Arthur, Bill and Mavis of a protected wilderness — the legacy they left for the people of Queensland — could be desecrated for private profit, luxury accommodation for a wealthy few and a little government revenue. Is that what Queensland has come to?
Minister Scanlon, you will go down in history as the one who destroyed the unforgettable wilderness experience of Lake Poona, who destroyed the vision of those devoted conservationists who were responsible for the national park as it is today, who destroyed the vision of Cooloola held by Judith Wright, arguably Australia’s greatest poet.
Please don’t do it!
Yours very sincerely,
Dr Keith Scott
with sharks in your eyes
contracts in your hands
and balance sheets
that have to keep climbing
and you saying I know
but you can’t expect us
to do anything about it