50 Years of reef conservation celebrated at Ninney Rise

October 16, 2017

Marine researcher Eddie Hegerl at Ninney Rise. Image: Liz Gallie

Marine researcher Eddie Hegerl at Ninney Rise 50 years on. Image: Liz Gallie

Community, conservationists and scientists came together at a sold-out environmental heritage event on the weekend, with the aim of inspiring people to continue to help give the reef the best chance for survival.

The “Friends of Ninney Rise” event marked 50 years since locals initiated an international campaign that ultimately resulted in the Great Barrier Reef being declared a marine park protected from mining, and a World Heritage Area.

In 1967, when a newspaper published public notice of an intention to harvest coral from the “dead” Ellison Reef near Mission Beach as a cheap source of agricultural lime, local people quickly rallied together.

The resistance was spearheaded by Bingil Bay artist John Busst, poet Judith Wright and forester Len Webb. With the help of student divers and marine researcher Eddie Hegerl, they set out to survey the area and prove that the reef was in fact thriving.

The case was heard, and won, at the Innisfail Courthouse, and set an important precedent in a time when state government was looking to open up the entire reef to mining prospects.

The achievements were commemorated on Saturday with a boat trip with Eddie Hegerl back to the original survey site, and an afternoon of guest speakers at John Busst’s heritage-listed Ninney Rise, which functioned as the reef conservation headquarters during the campaign.

Speakers included Terrain CEO Carole Sweatman, who acknowledged the work that cane and other industries are doing to protect the reef, including through the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project.

“This event truly was a fantastic way to celebrate the reef and all of the people who have, and continue to work to protect it, but also to reflect on how we keep the momentum up. We’re all in this together, and we’re really proud to be working with a lot of committed farmers and industry partners to co-design and implement solutions to improve reef water quality.”