On December 7, environmental and conservation groups around Mission Beach in Far North Queensland organised popular community events for direct action and positive change for the environment. They also unveiled a plaque giving an area around Smith Gap its Aboriginal name.
The many activities on day which included commmunity gatherings, BBQs and tree planting were part of the #6dnow global movement for direct action and positive change. They were also registered as part of the National Tree Day.
Organisers aimed and managed to plant more than 1000 native trees on the day in an effort to re-vegetate and restore the natural habitat of endangered species including the cassowary.
Valérie Boll, a conservationist and art curator, has lived in the area for many years. She is also an active member of local conservationist organisations.
In the sidelines of the community events Valérie Boll caught up with Peter Rowless, C4 president, to explore the day's activites and their significance.
The C4 president explained that the direct change events took place at and around Smith Gap on a plot of land recently purchased by QTFN assisted by a donation from the C4 Land Buyback revolving fund.
The direct action for change events also included a ceremony to gift the area with its Aboriginal name, Gurrbum. This name was chosen with the agreement of Gulnay and Djirru Traditional Owners as this land is on country shared by both people.
Representatives from both Gulnay and Djirru people took part in the naming ceremony. Also on hand was Councillor Jeff Baines of the Cassowary Coast Regional Council.
C4 plans to re-vegetate this land, control the weed and turn it into a nature refuge. This area is culturally and environmentaly siginificant as it is adjacent to a national park and is considered a natural extension to the habitat of endangered species.
Peter Rowless also explained that Smith Gap is crucial for the local environment and endangered species as it provides crucial connectivity from the coast to the Southern Tablelands.
"Being a gap in the connectivity makes it extremely important for the protection of the wild life," Peter Rwoless said in his interview with Valérie Boll.
“It is called Smith Gap because initially when White people came here they couldn’t see any way through the mountain range and then they were shown that there was a gap, a lower pass that people could get through where there was a creek. But you just couldn’t see it until you got fairly close,” Peter Rowless added.
It is through this gap that the first roads were built, there is also a railway line and a new highway. Power lines also go through this corridor as well as cane trains.
“There is a lot of infrastructure at Smith Gap and that really disrupts the connectivity of the wildlife including the cassowary.”
“We know that there are cassowaries to the east and the west but they can’t cross all this infrastructure”.
Peter Rowless also elaborated on current and planned initiatives including the installation of traffic cameras to help motorists take notice of the specific hazards to nature and the wildlife in the area, construction of a cassowary highway overpass, etc.