Straddie’s future unfortunately has been caught up in myths, exaggerations and even lies initially spread by the Belgian owned sand mining company Sibelco and some politicians. For years false claims were made that ‘hundreds’ of Island residents would lose their jobs if sand mining ended. In 2016 the Redland City Council Mayor even claimed there were “650” Stradbroke residents employed in 'the mines'. In truth there were then around 40. When mining ended in December, 2019, 30 sand miners lost their jobs but 70 people were employed in rehabilitating mine sites, which will take many years.
Ending sand mining would not cause the Island’s economy to collapse as was claimed. But the fear which the mining company and others had created was used to justify the State Government’s much maligned and unpopular ‘Economic Transition Strategy’ (ETS). Over $40 Million has been allocated to the ETS, but it is largely a misdirected policy aimed at turning the island into an 'international tourism destination' and setting the island up for large scale 'development', which means clearing bushland inhabited by Koalas and many other species. The ETS has done little to improve facilities on the Island for visitors and residents.
The ETS is closely associated with the highly unpopular and controversial Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area (PDA) scheme which largely seems to be a real estate scheme to benefit a few at the expense of the public interest. The Toondah Harbour scheme is mentioned numerous times in the ETS document, raising concerns the speculators in Government and outside are eying off Straddie for “development”.
Stradbroke is a beautiful Island with many natural attractions, including its beaches, its plants and animals, its scenery and its laid-back feel. 95% of visitors are domestic tourists, with 72% from a 50km radius of Stradbroke. Visitor numbers keep growing, as the population of Greater Brisbane and SEQ continue to grow. This growth has increased since sand mining ended in December, 2019. Straddie’s future is assured through natural growth, without over-development and without forcing it to become an "international tourism destination".
What needs to occur without delay is the preparation of a fully comprehensive, whole of island management plan which genuinely recognises the island's fragile environment and its cultural heritage. The preparation of such a plan should be preceded by genuine consultation with all interested parties, especially the island's First Nations residents, and including all other residents and ratepayers, and the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC).