BUSH walkers have raised concerns about a conservation area at Sheldon being turned into a sporting complex by Redland City Council.
Converting conservation land to a shared status has been a trend since the Newman government came to power, promising to “open up” national parks.
Opening up parks was a good line but was wrong because the most cursory glance at park and conservation reserve visitor numbers shows just how heavily they were already used.
Regardless, it gave councils and the Palaszczuk government the chance to introduce some tricky uses of conservation land.
After ferocious lobbying by sporting organisations, conservation areas and indeed some national parks have been turned over, or at least shared, with sporting activities.
Activities include mountain biking and horse riding, although in most places few horses are seen.
This public policy shows where political priorities on conservation lie – the bottom of the list.
There is nothing wrong with bike or horse riding and they should have areas with which to practice their sports but this policy removes the primary consideration for which these places were preserved – conservation of flora and fauna.
As well it raises safety issues when horses, bikes, runners and walkers are forced to share areas.
Redland walkers are right to raise the Sheldon issue. Bike riders rarely give way to walkers and given that many are understandably head down as they ride as fast as they can, there is great potential for a clash.
The Scribbly Gums Conservation Area at Alexandra Hills – home to koalas, wallabies and much other wildlife – was converted some years ago.
Since it has been “opened up” it has become something of a free for all, with many now treating it as a dog off-leash area. It is not clear whether this was because of change of usage or simply a trend.
A council “spokesperson” says the Sheldon conservation area is not being turned into a sporting facility but this is no more than PR guff and blithely ignores the change in use.
Ironically, the issue has arisen in the same week that University of Queensland research was released showing that the world’s last wilderness areas are rapidly disappearing.
It’s no wonder with policies like these.