BY BILL MASON
BRISBANE — Residents of Springbrook, in the Gold Coast hinterland, have vowed to fight tooth and nail against a proposed Naturelink tourist cableway in the region. Thirty of them protested outside a June 18 meeting attended by Queensland environment minister Rod Welford.
The $50 million Naturelink proposal involves an 11.5-kilometre cable car route from Mudgeeraba, behind the coast, up through wilderness to Purlingbrook Falls atop Springbrook Mountain. More than 50 pylons — some as high as an 18-storey building — will need to be erected to build the cableway.
World Heritage-listed Springbrook National Park is ranked as the world's fifth most significant place in terms of biodiversity. The park is far more vulnerable and 300 times smaller than the wilderness through which the controversial Kuranda Skyrail cableway was built near Cairns.
Debate on the Naturelink plan has intensified since the release of the developers' draft environment impact statement on June 16. The statement claims that the project could "operate successfully with acceptable environmental impacts" and found "no rare or threatened species ... will be affected". However, researchers at Griffith University have warned that five endangered frog species could be put further at risk by the construction of the cableway.
In a letter published in the June 21 Brisbane Courier-Mail, Elaine Green from the Queensland Conservation Council wrote, "Allowing development in any part of the World Heritage-listed Springbrook National Park would establish a precedent. That should not be allowed to happen. It might lead to de-listing of the park, as the World Heritage Treaty prohibits cablecar-type developments in Category 2 areas under which it is listed."
The struggle over Naturelink looks set to heat up considerably in coming months as pressure mounts on both state and federal governments for a decision.