Every day Dave Thelander of Dunwich shows people around his beloved North Stradbroke Island.
And when Sibelco closes its mine on the island in 2019, there will be so much more to show. He talks about exploring Black Snake, Blakesley and Native Companion lagoons. He dreams about eco lodges, swimming holes and walks along boardwalks.
“It will be wonderful without the mines. The whole island will open up. There will be so much more to see and it is the island’s beauty that will be its salvation,” he said.
A former electrical supervisor at the Gordon mine, Mr Thelander, 60, known to all as Barefoot Dave, started Straddie Kingfisher Tours (named after his children Steven, Kim and Tracey, SKT) 17 years ago. His venture brings predominantly international tourists to the island and he delights in sharing its diverse attractions.
“Every day, I see animals, I share this environment and I meet new people. I see the best in people. They are always here to have a good time and every day I get to see my favourite part of the island. That’s the part where I am at that moment. Tourism is the island’s future, particularly eco tourism,” he said.
Mr Thelander talks about the first time he came to the island, then to visit his uncle who was a fisherman in 1966. He shares his stories as an altar boy at St Pauls. Interspersed with this conversation are salient facts about the island.
Did you know, for example, that goannas have glands of poison (there are quite a few at Brown Lake) and that grass trees, prolific throughout the island, grow at one metre every 100 years and that the patterns on a scribbly bark tree are caused by moth larva. He points out hop bush and she oaks and talks about the 253 varieties of bird, three of which were logged by his brother Andrew.
Mr Thelander knows his island facts, facts about sighting 320 whales off Point Lookout on July 12 last year and that the dolphins have lunch at Amity Point before heading to Tangalooma on Moreton Island for dinner. He knows that there is a koala for every resident on the island with the populations almost matching (2000 koalas to 2100 permanent residents). The people population swells during the Christmas season with 12,000 full beds on the island and more day trippers.
He points out in one sweeping gesture the fact that it’s just 32km between the most easterly point in Australia (Byron Bay) and the most easterly point in Queensland (Point Lookout), the two points clearly visible along Main Beach. His is a broad vision for the island.
“Imagine Dunwich with the walkways of Redcliffe and a wading pool like Wynnum.”
Full story: redlandcitybulletin.com.au