Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
Some concerns were expressed about the advisability of permitting coral
mining in the Great Barrier Reef. In addition to public complaints about the
destruction of Upolu Cay, the archival sources indicate considerable differences
in the opinions of Queensland Government officials towards coral minin g. 32 One
supporter of the industry, A. Cullen, the Chief Engineer of the QDHM, discussed
the coral mining operation at Upolu Cay, stating that 250 tons of material had
been removed from the cay by Tanner and Kenny during the nine-month period
from 1 January-30 September 1931. Cullen argued that the public concerns
about the destruction of the cay were 'sentimental' ones and that the resulting
disturbance to seabirds - even if this occurred at several cays - could not be
regarded seriously. Furthermore, Cullen stated: 'Assuming (by way of argument)
that the cay at which material is being obtained by Messrs Tanner and Kenny was
in the course of years entirely removed, it would be because a product of some
value was being obtained' . 33 Cullen's view represented a utilitarian perspective
towards the resources of the Great Barrier Reef; such a view - in which coral was
regarded either as a source of limestone or as a means of promoting tourism -
formed the basis of the coral licence system.
In contrast to the view of Cullen, in 1931, the Cairns City Council expressed
its concern that the removal of coral from Green Island was threatening the
popularity of the island with tourist s. 34 In correspondence with the Queensland
Government, the Council requested legislation to protect Green Island reef
from being stripped of its coral, but this request was met with reluctance by
the Queensland Treasury because coral mining was 'an industry which the
Government considers it advisable to encourage' . 35 E ventually, the Queensland
Government, acknowledging that there was no legal authority by which the reef
at Green Island could be placed under the protection of the local Council, issued
a licence for the removal of coral from Green Island reef to the Council; that
licence conferred sole rights to removal of coral from Green Island reef on the
Council . 36 Subsequently, in 1937, the Queensland Government did legislate to
prohibit the removal of coral from the foreshores and reefs surrounding Green
Island, Low Isles, Michaelmas Cay, Arlington Reef and Oyster Cay. Yet, the
earlier decision to protect Green Island reef was a significant one: it created one
of the earliest marine protected areas in existence (Lawrence et al., 2002, p25) . 37
Nevertheless, the removal of coral continued in other locations in the Great
Barrier Reef. From 1936-1938, extensive coral mining took place in the Innisfail
area. Edward Henry Garner was granted a lease over Coral Area No. 2 Innisfail
(Kings Reef); Thomas Roper held a lease for the adjacent Area No. 5, and also
for Areas No. 3 (Hutchinson Island) and No. 4 (Jessie Island) . 38 Garner reported
mining about 70 tons of coral from his site at Kings Reef during the quarter ending
on 30 June 1935, and 60 tons the following quarter; he also helped to mine Roper's
adjacent lease on the same reef (Figure 11.6). The licences were granted on the
condition that explosives would not be used in removing coral; however, the
QDHM received complaints that Garner used gelignite to blast coral from the
reef before bringing the rubble ashore for burning (Jones, 1973, p317) . 39
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