K’gari (Fraser Island) flooded with rubbish left by tourists

K’gari (Fraser Island) is Queensland’s little piece of paradise with a huge problem.

The heritage-listed island threatens to become a victim of its own success as millions of tourists are lured onto the water every year.

But they leave piles of trash in their wake, and the overflowing trash stations on the island are in dire need of improvements.

“People go out there with cheap camping gear, and when they’re done with their vacation, they just throw it in the tip,” said Fraser Coast Councilor Darren Everard.

“It’s a fragile place, and it has to be respected.”

Cleaning up the mess isn’t cheap either.

It costs more than $400,000 a year to transport rubbish from tourists and islanders via barge to the mainland, prompting the Fraser Coast Regional Council to plead with the public to follow a rule “pack, pack”.

“If you bring a product to the island, you should take it with you as you go…that’s best practice,” Mr Everard said.

A Wongari or dingo fence is all that separates the dump from the surrounding bush.(ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)

Not a Happy Valley with a dump nearby

In the small township of Happy Valley, east of K’gari, there is a junkyard a stone’s throw from the nearest house.

“It’s 50 meters from a house. It’s about 20 yards from a recreation reserve where there’s a picnic table, so it’s not ideal,” said Scott Bell, who has lived in Happy Valley for 36 years.

With just a dingo fence separating the landfill from the forest, Mr Bell said the Happy Valley station was a major concern for locals.

“Properties that are very close have to deal with the smell coming from the tip – and the flies,” he said.

“The blowflies have gotten pretty awful in town…I think everyone agrees that it’s not an ideal situation to have this dump so close to the township.”

An older man in a blue shirt and Broncos cap smiles.
Mr. Bell says this is more than a small township problem.(ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)

The resort is one of three landfills on the island, including Eurong and Orchid Beach, consisting of dumpsters that collect trash not only from the townships but also from K’gari’s mass tourist population.

“We have things like commercial kitchens that are dumped there, national parks have to dump a lot of trash just left on campsites, so it’s really more than a small township problem,” Bell said. .

Nice place in the face of challenges

The Happy Valley Community Association is working with the Fraser Coast Regional Council to identify alternative sites for the landfill, but it could take some time before the mess is resolved.

A line of dumpsters in an open forest area.
The landfill is removed from the island in tippers which are transported to the mainland via barge.(ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)

Mr Everard said transferring the waste to K’gari was a work in progress that would begin with a 10-year waste management and resource recovery strategy.

“The island is a beautiful place and presents a number of challenges, so we want to try to make waste disposal more feasible and less invasive on the island,” he said.

“We have a bit of work to do, so we’ll start with the Eurong transfer station and then we’ll move on to improving the Happy Valley and Orchid Beach facilities.”

The upgraded Eurong station will be capped to mitigate legacy waste and will feature new bays for stainless steel waste and bulk recycling bins when completed in 2024.

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