$10 pw or $685 a night?

$685 per person

The same in both cases. The same pearly warm water. The same tropical reef with thousands of colourful fish playing in the crystal blue shallows that nudge the same brilliant white beach sands.

So the question is: Which option would you prefer for the same experience – paying $10 per week or $685 for a single night?

In a rare miracle for the Aussie battler, ordinary families and pensioners have been paying just $10 a week to pitch their tents and camp alongside the magnificent Ningaloo Reef coastline. For more than 20 years, these cheerful migrants have been travelling from all over the southern states of Australia to escape the chill of winter. The first ones arriving in May and the last few leaving by September, which is when the relentless winds and scorching heat return. The kids swimming and snorkeling in the warm, protected waters. They and their friends from last year playing in the pristine rock pools and exploring the unblemished sand dunes alongside. Retirees warming their bones in the sun whilst casting their rods during the day and savouring a drink or two from their camping chairs during regular afternoon beer o’clock. They have been completely self-sufficient, bringing their own food, water and even their own container toilets. Yes, they have been coming with everything they need and $10 per week is all they have been paying under the Pastoral Leasehold system.

The WA government is changing all that. Right now. They are taking the coastline from the pastoral leaseholders and opening it for development. See website for more details on what they are doing. Oh, they talk about environmental protection, low impact development and eco-tents. But their real goal is for them and their obsequious developer friends to make money, lots and lots of money. This pristine coastline – currently more than 100km of wilderness camping without any man-made structures to spoil the view – will be transformed into sealed roads, telecommunications towers, sewerage treatment works, buildings, water tanks, drainage systems, electricity and all the other infrastructure required to support rich fly-in/fly-out tourists. This rich elite are not at all self-sufficient, they expect everything to be laid out for them.

So how much does it cost to camp under the new regime? A cool $685 per night, per person. That’s for a tent as pictured above including double bed, deck, shower, basin and stainless steel kitchen. There is also a camp chef and bar. See SMH newspaper article for more on this dollar gouging obscenity called Sal Salis.

The WA government gets their development fees, so they’re happy. The developer and operator both rejoice in raking in such obscene amounts of money. The rich tourists fly in and out, presumably not knowing that exactly the same Ningaloo Reef camping experience used to be available to the ordinary Aussie battler for just $10 per week, with far less impact to the environment since they required no facilities at all except for the warm tropical waters and bright white sands provided by Nature herself.


Developer Corruption

Minister stood downThe State Government of NSW is in crisis.

In the midst of a flood of sensational revelations during the ongoing investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Premier Morris Iemma today stood down one of his Ministers.

This was due to the latest scandal in a multitude of corruption allegations emerging in the development approval process, which has so far heard evidence of payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars (as well as sex) provided by developers in order to help their applications along the approval process.

Will the government of Western Australia be next in the headlines? What lies behind their push to develop the pristine Ningaloo Reef coastline, one wonders….?

<SOUL website>

New Government & Ningaloo World Heritage

Ningaloo coastPrior to winning the Nov 2007 federal elections and whilst still in opposition, Labor promised to fast track a World Heritage listing for the Ningaloo Reef and adjacent land areas.

There are at least three, greatly differing, opinions regarding where the eastern (or landward) boundary of the Ningaloo Reef World Heritage listing should lie.

1. At or near the high tide mark
The pastoralists have kept the coastal land undeveloped and in pristine condition compared with every other stretch of tropical coastline in Australia. Hence the pastoralists argue that the best protection for the coastline, is to leave it under their care and to draw the heritage area boundary at or near the high tide mark.

This would also be the opinion of the many ordinary folk that travel hundreds or thousands of kilometres from all over Australia to camp along this unspoilt coastline. A world heritage listing that extends inland from the Ningaloo Reef would no doubt lead to focussed development areas and a very different access regime for visitors.

2. WA State Government
The WA State Government wants to excise a 2km wide strip of coastal land from the pastoralists, denying both the pastoralists and campers from accessing to the coast. Furthermore, the State Government is explicitly catering for man-made developments that will despoil this beautiful coast forever.

3. Conservation Council of WA
Unbelievably, the Conservation Council of Western Australia is urging the new Environment Minister, Hon. Peter Garrett MP, to adopt much wider land boundaries still. They want the boundaries to take in the whole “catchment” area (a misnomer, for this is desert country with less than 300mm of annual rainfall), the eastern side of the Exmouth Gulf and the pastoral lease areas. See ABC news report.


“World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located” as quoted from the UNESCO website

Our country is being taken away from us ordinary Australians. Why should we be handing over our pastoral land to UNESCO? There is absolutely no benefit to including the adjacent land in a world heritage listing of Ningaloo Reef, since this land has been kept in pristine condition for scores of years under the pastoralist leasehold system, at little or no cost to the taxpayer.

Now we are expected to go along with our tax dollars being spent on depriving us ordinary Australians of access to our last remaining stretch of unspoilt tropical coastline.

Its fine to list Ningaloo Reef itself, since we do need better protection of the fish stocks and since this will attract more tourism. But leave the land alone!

Seizing the land for World Heritage purposes is a wolf dressed up in sheep’s clothing.

<SOUL website>

Save the Ethos

TrustThere is something different about being here on the remote sheep stations of the Ningaloo coast. For instance, most people leave their entire quiver of surfboards on the rocks near the entry point, way out in the open, completely exposed. There they lie, some hundreds of meters from from the nearest camping site, day and night. Apart from when their owners take them into the water for a surf, of course. Most of them are good new boards too, each worth many hundreds of dollars. There are also some older boards that look like they have lain there for years, completely untouched. Not only that, people leave their wetsuits and towels there too, often weighted down with rocks to stop them blowing away.

There is a lot of unspoken trust and hidden understanding. It would take a while to understand the whole ethos. But it is latent in everything around here.

A young surfer visiting from down south mentioned his partner worked for DEC, the Department of Environment and Conservation in WA. He said he had divided loyalties of course, but thought that DEC coming in and laying boardwalks around etc would kill the atmosphere of the place.

One couldn’t agree more!

<SOUL website>

Global Treasure

ANU bookIn a new book published by the Australian National University (ANU), the authors describe Australia’s North as a global treasure.

Although the authors concentrate on the Savannah region of Northern Australia, the following quotes from their book about recreational activities in and amongst nature (unlike the over-used remainder of Australia) are very applicable to the neighbouring Ningaloo coastline:

“Northern Australia stands out as one of the few very large natural areas remaining on Earth: alongside such global treasures as the Amazon rainforests, the boreal conifer forests of Alaska, and the polar wilderness of Antarctica.”

“Unlike much of southern and eastern Australia, nature remains in abundance in the North.”

“Across the North, recreational activities such as fishing, four-wheel driving and visiting beautiful country depend on the opportunities provided by a largely intact and natural landscape. Being in and among nature remains a normal part of life for people in the North, in contrast to the situation for those living in the now highly transformed, cleared and urbanised areas of southern Australia.”

“Over the course of our history, Australians have grappled with working sustainably on our continent. In many regions we have demonstrably failed. Our generation, and future generations, are now recognising the consequences of unsustainability, and the price of attempting to restore over-used environments.”

The Nature of Northern Australia – Its natural values, ecological processes and future prospects
John Woinarski, Brendan Mackey, Henry Nix and Barry Traill
ANU Press ISBN 9781921313301 ISBN 9781921313318 (Online)

The press release accompanying the book, refers to the new Carbon Economy mentioned throughout the book and encourages the involvement of all the land managers.

“The Nature of Northern Australia calls for investments in the management of the North; using the emerging carbon economy associated with extensive natural vegetation to provide investment and employment; and recognising management skills of all land managers, including Indigenous Australians.”

Exactly! We couldn’t agree more – the SOUL Ningaloo website echoes many of the conclusions of the above research by the ANU.