Bimblebox Nature Refuge is a peaceful 8000 hectare sanctuary in central-west Queensland. It is composed of remnant semi-arid woodlands with an understorey largely made up of native shrubs, forbs and grasses, and has a rich diversity of birds, reptiles and other animals. In May 2011 a flock of endangered Black Throated Finch (Poephila cincta cincta) was sighted on Bimblebox, which has been confirmed by Birds Australia.
Bimblebox is a genuine example of how production and biodiversity conservation can co-exist. A small herd of beef cattle assist in the control of exotic pasture grasses, and a number of long-term research projects are aimed at generating knowledge and management practices to improve outcomes for biodiversity across the region.
Bimblebox was secured in 2000, an era when Queensland’s land clearing rates were amongst the highest in the world. It was purchased with the savings of a number of concerned individuals, as well as funding from the Australian National Reserve System program. In 2003, the Bimblebox Nature Refuge Agreement (category VI IUCN protected area) was signed with the Queensland state government to permanently protect the conservation values of the property. Tragically, Nature Refuges and the protected areas that make up the National Reserve System are not automatically protected from mineral exploration and mining, which in Australia are granted right of way over almost all other land uses.
Waratah Coal has an exploration permit that covers all of Bimblebox and parts of the surrounding properties. In late September 2011 the company released its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project. It details plans to extract 40 mega-tonnes of coal per year, which will be transported on a yet-to-be-built rail line up to Abbot Point and shipped through the Great Barrier Reef on its way to China where it will be burnt for energy generation. Their ambitious and polluting plans have not yet received formal government approval. It is absurd that in the 21st Century, with all that we know about Australia’s biodiversity crisis and the threat of climate change, that a protected area rich in biodiversity and with carbon stores intact could be sacrificed for the sake of producing more climate changing coal.
If Bimblebox survives the current coal mine threat, it is likely to continue to be an important long-term research site, an example of sustainable rangeland grazing, and one of the very few large areas of intact remnant habitat remaining in the bioregion. It will also serve as a test case as to whether the Queensland State and Australian Federal governments are willing to alter out-dated legislation so that conservation values are considered as, if not more, important than mineral interests.