Archives - Articles

Articles reproduced here come from past Rottnest Society Newsletters and other documents up to 2005.

Rottnest or the Whitsundays?

In August this year I took a much anticipated trip to the Whitsunday passage in Queensland. I have always felt that the sandgropers and banana benders shared a similar climate, lifestyle, and ideas on the way things are. It took a few years of convincing to realise that not all of Queensland looked like the abomination that is the Gold Coast, with its seemingly endless lines of tasteless, 1980's high rise architecture, a sign of uncontrolled development at all cost, with no consideration of the surrounding environment. Having fallen in love with sailing three years ago, I was drawn to the Whitsundays, the Mecca of Australian cruising grounds.

There is something infinitely special about islands. Their very finite borders, their sunrises and sunsets on a sparkling ocean, their harmonious eco systems that have preserved and nurtured the rarest of species for unknown numbers of years.

My first realisation that things weren't as up to speed as I had naively assumed, was my first visit to the head (marine toilet) on our charter yacht. On emerging from the cubicle and heading outside I realised the transaction I had just performed hadn't gone into the holding tanks which I imagined would be mandatory, but directly into the coral sea. Hundreds of charter yachts operate in this area, with no sewerage discharge laws in existence to convince charter operators to install holding tanks. Consequently with six of us on board, a warning had to be given fairly regularly to anyone swimming while the head was in use. In all fairness, the tidal flow in that area is quite large, but when you're in a busy anchorage this pollution can be quite obvious.

The development in the Whitsunday Islands varies from untouched wilderness with the odd warning sign (yes, it seems the banana benders must be litigation mad too), to full-blown tasteless concrete high-rise, complete with bitumen, golf carts, and pool after pool alongside crystal clear ocean.

All in all it is a fantastic place, but not one of the hundred plus islands seemed to have the all round appeal of our beautiful island. The main thing I took from this experience is in the Whitsundays you can arguably bastardise a few of the islands, as there are plenty of them. We only have one Rottnest – one fragile ecosystem, with sunrises and sunsets over the sparkling, pure Indian Ocean, contained within its sand and limestone borders, harmonious eco systems, under constant pressure from an ever expanding population. Education is the answer to many of the world's complex problems, and Rottnest has many complex issues that need our attention, as we have collectively created them. Educating visitors, both regular and infrequent, to the problems our island faces, will hopefully make them realise the need to conserve the special place we have, as unlike our friends in Queensland, we don't have another one spare.

Courtney Powys (committee member)