Point Cartwright Reserve is located immediately east of the tourist township of Mooloolaba. It has long been recognised as a place of natural scenic beauty on the Sunshine Coast. It has a rich Indigenous and European history that forms an integral part of its enduring legacy. Before colonisation, two established villages were located on either side of the Mooloolah River mouth. The area was recognised in Aboriginal Dreaming stories of the Sunshine Coast and sites of significance now lost, were located on Point Cartwright itself. In the early 1900s, the local progress association recognised the unique natural values, beauty and vibrant wildlife of the area and fostered Point Cartwright as a place of environmental and scenic value for locals and visitors to experience with ferry tours and an on-site day shelter. In 1933 the progress association were instrumental in getting the Queensland government to proclaim some 10 acres around the headland as a formal reserve.


Today in 2021, Point Cartwright is an iconic regional landscape feature, widely appreciated and utilised by locals, visitors and tourists alike. There are wonderful vantage points to enjoy whale watching, picnicking and sunsets. It is applauded for its natural amenity, scenic value and enjoyable walkways as reflected by many social media and tourism websites. The surf breaks are popular among surfers across the region. But, there is so much more to the reserve when you look closer at forested areas, dunal beach zones, surf-side intertidal rocks and the riverine mud flats that give the reserve it’s unique aesthetic. These areas support a diverse range of fauna and flora including some ecologically significant migratory species. The unique coastal ecological systems, biodiversity traits and combination of species that use the reserve mean that these values cannot be readily replicated anywhere else on the Sunshine Coast.


In recent years, the local community has unfortunately witnessed the reserve’s natural features under observable stress from increased visitations and inappropriate uses occurring on the site. There is serious concern about the steep decline in natural values that underpin what makes Point Cartwright Reserve so special. This decline has been on the back of decades of rapidly expanding population base and increased tourism on the Sunshine Coast. Residents have formed the Point Cartwright Care Group seeking to engage with the designated custodial agent for the reserve, the Sunshine Coast Council, to control and reverse this decline. The intensification of on-site activity has been allowed to perpetuate unabated and without commensurate measures to protect and maintain natural features. This has led to significant degradation in the state of the reserve and surrounding environs, and general overuse of the site (‘loved to death’).


To compound this situation, there has been a concerted effort by the Sunshine Coast Council to allocate increased recreational pursuits within the bounds of the reserve such as the designation of an unfenced/roaming dog off-leash area that encompasses large parts of forested and riverine environs essential to the ecology of numerous wildlife species. There has also been an active program by Council to intensify the utilisation of adjacent community parks and expand infrastructure for these areas, without implementing suitable control measures to protect the reserve and minimise the consequences of this intensification on the reserve’s natural assets. Consequently, there has been an observable and concerning reduction in vegetation health, decline in the diversity and vibrancy of wildlife, decrease in the extent and quality of habitat available to wildlife, compaction and erosion of soils, significant edge deterioration around forested areas, drying of remnant forest stands, and reduction in forest understory.


The unique qualities of sites like the Point Cartwright Reserve contribute to the overall biodiversity and liveability of the Sunshine Coast. The Point Cartwright Care Group is of the view that a new policy framework is needed to ensure the long-term viability of Point Cartwright Reserve as a unique coastline green space for the enjoyment of generations to come. The development of an appropriate policy instrument and management framework for restoring and preserving Point Cartwright’s unique and diverse natural attributes is essential if a continued decline in the state of the reserve is to be avoided. To this end, the Point Cartwright Care Group believes the Point Cartwright Reserve should be managed as a conservation area and given environmental reserve status.


As custodian of the Point Cartwright Reserve, the Sunshine Coast Council is now at a pivotal decision crossroads that will decide the future of a very special place – a decision that could guarantee Point Cartwright can once again be a place of natural beauty and vibrant wildlife; a tranquil place for passive recreational pursuits for generations to come; or potentially lead the reserve to being irreversibly altered. Council’s recent attempt to include the reserve in the Recreation Parks Strategy is a clear indication that, to date, Council has not fully appreciated or valued the unique history and environmental values inherent to the site. Instead, Council as the custodian of the site, has been prepared to perpetuate the same management regime which may eventually see the loss of an important part of the Sunshine Coast’s natural and anthropogenic heritage.


In light of the reserve’s seemingly increased pace of decline, the Point Cartwright Care Group has argued for a new vision for the reserve’s future. In doing so, have laid down a challenge for Council to transform the reserve back to a high quality environmental reserve, representative of its pre-disturbance state. To achieve this, resources will need to be directed at an intensive rehabilitation program to restore the reserve’s intrinsic and remnant natural values while coincidently creating a policy and management framework that can stand the test of time and future population pressures.


This challenge is an opportunity for Council to transform a degraded site with many biodiversity and human experiential opportunities into a well-managed environmental reserve. Council has an opportunity to champion the process and the resulting outcome – Point Cartwright Environmental Reserve. This challenge will have to start with Council embracing a bold new paradigm of managing Point Cartwright Reserve as a conservation area and be prepared to commit to the adoption of a well honed management paradigm.


It is the Point Cartwright Care Group’s aim to ensure Point Cartwright Reserve is managed carefully to guarantee its long-term viability as a continuing place of intrinsic natural heritage and enjoyment for humans for perpetuity, whilst being a home, a nesting place and a feeding ground for many animal species for years to come.


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