Have your say by Jan 5 – Closure of the Esplanade – Chili Beach – Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park

Chili Beach

Chili Beach

NOTE: We’ve closed the petition as we had to have all communication to DERM by 5pm Jan 5th.

Thank you to the people who signed and I’m sure emails direct to the member (Lorinda.Morrissey@derm.qld.gov.au) after the close date can’t hurt.


Have your say by 5pm Jan 5 on the proposal for Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) to close the ‘Esplanade as Road’ for Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park CYPAL which includes Chili Beach. (Chilli Beach)

The QPWS will be able to remove the iconic Coconut Trees that line the beach. The trees are part of the history of the area and are part of the beauty and special character of Chili Beach. Nearby islands have had esplanades closed despite objections from Cook Shire and their Coconut trees have been removed. This is also of concern as coconuts can be a lifeline to stranded seafarers.

QPWS will also be able to restrict vehicle access to the area in front of the Chili Beach Camping Area and restrict marine vessel access to the National Park shoreline.

Residents of the area – Portland Roads, Weymouth Bay and Lockhart River are concerned and have only been given until Jan 5 to respond. Portland Roads and Weymouth Bay have a very low population with some 20-30 residents, they have created a petition but would like to include the many travellers who visit in the dry season.

Here are the notices of intention to close the esplanades as road and our letter to the minister

Notice lot 6 DP241419.pdf

Notice lot 8 DP241421.pdf

Download letter of Petition ref 2005/004670 to DERM from the landowners, residents and interested parties of the Portland Roads, Packers Bay, Pascoe River, Restoration Island, Chili Beach and adjoining areas.

Lynda Morrissey
Department of Environment and Resource Management
Level2, William McCormack Pl
PO Box 2066
Cairns 4870

File reference: 2005/004670

Community Objection to Application for Permanent Closure of Road

DP241419 and DP241421

Being made under section 100 of the Land Act 1994.

This objection to permanent closure of road is regarding areas of about 43.7ha of esplanade abutting the north-eastern boundary of lot 46 on NPW712 and shown as area of closed road on DP241419 and about 47.4ha of esplanade abutting the south-eastern boundary of lot 46 on NPW712 and shown as area of closed road on DP241421.

This objection is submitted on behalf of landowners, residents and interested parties of the Portland Roads, Packers Bay, Pascoe River, Restoration Island, Chili Beach and adjoining areas whose details are listed as Attachment A. This objection letter is available for access under the RTI act without consultation.

This objection is part of the wider concern that if the road is closed, it will be the first step to include said ‘esplanade as road’ areas into the adjoining state land (NP) whose policies and practices differ markedly  to that which is current; a public right to use the esplanade.

Following the due process of “public notices and appropriate enquiries about closure”, it is also of concern when, DERM, the applicant for the road closure, also provides the assessments and advices on the decision to the minister (DERM). There is no decisional transparency for our community when DERM is advocate, judge, and jury on the road closure.

This objection is consistent with the Land act 1994 section 101(3)

By definition:- Roads

An area of land, whether surveyed or not, dedicated, notified or declared to be a road for public use, the term “road” includes esplanades, reserves for esplanades, pathways, thoroughfare or track. A “road” does not need to be constructed as a pre-requisite to dedication to public use.

The road is an integral part of our community.

Our community objects to the road closure:

  • The road (esplanade) ensures ongoing access
  • Historical access
  • Lawful public access
  • Connectivity for locals
  • The ownership of the land within the road is already vested in the state and local government has trustee management over public use.

The road (esplanade) ensures ongoing access

The need for ongoing, full and unrestricted, access for gazetted public use needs to be protected not only for current uses but for potential uses.

These include but are not limited to:

  • Protection from any land use or tenure changes on adjoining lands.
  • Current Land uses on adjoining land which are not that of a road for public use
  • Access to the coast line regardless of the tide
  • An alternative access to the constructed road network

 Historical Access

  • The history of use of this declared road predates the establishment of the adjoining National Park and it continues to be used as gazetted.
  • This road/esplanade has been used as the land access point to access safe mother shipping anchorages in the monsoon season and in times of adverse weather. Utilizing the natural protective features of both Cape Griffith and Restoration Island requires access to the full length of Chili Beach.
  • Use of this road as a motorised thoroughfare for direct access the mouth of Chili Creek, as the old local tracks, not gazetted, via Portland Roads road through NP were closed by QPWS.
  • Use of the esplanade to walk and exercise domestic pets as permitted under local government bylaws and not permitted by QPWS in the adjoining area.
  • Access by public to safely launch small craft at any point off the beach.
  • Conduct social functions and gatherings as permitted under council bylaws on the esplanade.
  • Use of the esplanade to scavenge or “beach comb”

Lawful Public Access

  • Under the current tenure the ‘esplanade as road’ provides lawful public access for all to the waterfront, regardless of tide.
  • Lawful public access is for lawful activities and offers protections and commitments for those using this area for public use and from those who try to restrict its use.  Any unlawful activities are issues for local and state law enforcers in this state owned, local government controlled asset. Rangers could be authorised by council to ensure local government compliance in jointly managed areas.
  •  Lawful pursuits, such as possible extractive industries would need to have permits granted to operate. As these esplanades are adjoining both a national park and the GBR, both state and federal approvals would be required. Neither DERM nor EPBC would issue environmental licences to operate from this location (QPWS are well aware of this considering their current application for a riverine sand extraction stalled under Wild Rivers legislation). Therefore the foreshores are already protected from these types of activities/developments.
  • Access to current lawful pursuits such as land based licensed commercial fishing.
  • Lawful right to use the esplanade to access a marine vessel or be accessed by a marine vessel, moored or otherwise at any point along the esplanade and regardless of tide.

Connectivity for locals

  • With historical vehicular access tracks to Chili creek now restricted or blocked by QPWS, the only vehicular access to the mouth of Chili creek is along the full length of the esplanade.

Ownership of the land is already vested with the state

  • The state owns the existing land title; it is gazetted as a road/esplanade for public use.
  • QPWS has stated in correspondence, that including foreshores in national parks allows public access, to allow no net loss of access to foreshores; the existing esplanade already gazettes public access to the foreshores at this location therefore is already consistent with state policy. The opposite could be put; that QPWS restricts access to the public in areas under their management as demonstrated through and not limited to park signage, restrictions, conditions of entry and the authority given to rangers to ensure adherence to policy under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. History is not a good judge for the QPWS in allowing public access.
  • QPWS, in correspondence states that, camping is not legally permitted in a road. It is currently permitted and is the situation, with designated camping on the esplanade/foreshore; designated camping is permitted under the authorization and agreement of the trustee of the esplanade, Cook Shire Council.
  • QPWS in correspondence state; rangers need the authority under Nature Conservation Act 1992, to manage public activities in the foreshore. Authority of rangers for management of lands under the Nature conservation act 1992 includes all policies and practices of QPWS in how they manage public activities and is not necessarily consistent with public use rights of a road. Matters of illegal conduct or noncompliance of local government by laws observed by rangers should be reported by rangers to the relevant authorities. Local government could allow an extension of their authority into designated camping areas within the esplanade.
  • QPWS already has a relationship with trustee, Cook Shire, the two parties could formalise a management agreement that would preserve the tenure and allow an outcome suitable to all parties and the owners of the land, we, the people.

In conclusion, our community objects to the road closure and requests the tenure of DP241419 and DP241421 remain as Esplanade as Road. Further, our community requires an itemised response to all points raised as part of the minister’s decision on this matter.


Portland Roads and surrounding Communities

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Road Conditions

Here is a link to the Cooktown and Cape York website with road conditions that are updated regularly

Dark-shouldered snake eel. Ophichthus cephalozona

Ophichthus cephalozona by Ben Naden
Ophichthus cephalozona, a photo by Ben Naden on Flickr.

Here is a better photo of our sea creature, taken on North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Strange sea creature


Dark-shouldered snake eel

When we first got here and walked at low tide we spotted one of these strange creatures, when I asked around no one had seen anything like it, a sea snake with a frilled neck sounded pretty unlikely. Nothing came up on google and I had no picture to post on the forums.

We just spotted another and got a photo, I put it up on a snake and python forum and some brilliant mind has identified it for us! Apparently it is known in these northern waters and many countries across the tropics see fishbase.

Dark-shouldered snake eel - closeup on head

Dark-shouldered snake eel



Trip to The Tip

We have just done a trip up to the tip of Cape York and back so I thought I would share where is good to go. We had friends up from Canberra so it was a good excuse to explore.

Bramwell Station was a find, we took a wrong turn on the way to Bramwell Junction. They are nice people and have proper meals for a break from cooking or roadhouse food and spacious campgrounds with hot showers and a laundry. They ask how you like things cooked! And they are good at varying the menu for kids. Also good if you like to sit around and have a drink and a yarn and throw horseshoes.

Fruit Bat falls is gorgeous and much easier to get to than Elliot Falls if you don’t want to tackle the corrugations of the Old Telegraph Track. Fruit Bat is pretty shallow, there are some rocks to get past when you get in but then you have sandy bottom so not too challenging with kids or older folk. It is one of the few places that you can swim without worrying about crocs.

Everyone you meet tells you something different about the road conditions since with 4×4 what is fun for one is a nightmare for another.

Someone told us that the first river crossing on the OTT was the worst and if we thought we could handle it then that was a good gauge to see if we wanted to continue or take the bypass road.

We looked at it and decided against it mainly because I was worried, Seamus would have loved to do it, though the vehicle is in need of repair. I didn’t want to risk sitting around for hours while boys dig and winch or worse lose travel days to repairs. Maybe one day he can do it with 4×4 enthusiasts and with no family tagging along. Later we ended up needing repairs anyway and nothing to do with road conditions.

I am glad we didn’t do the OTT, maybe the info was from last season. A family who just did it told us that the first one was not the worst, there were plenty more risky creek crossings and bad corrugations, they had 5hrs of hell! (the others had said 4hrs). Though Seamus wondered how experienced they were.

Hann River Roadhouse and campground has great burgers and meals. They are very customer focused. They have a resident Emu who was hand raised by the owner, he dances when she whistles! They also have a rainbow lorikeet that is a friendly clown that will climb up your arm, and some little fluffy chooks wandering around.

Near Seisia, near the tip, we stayed at Loyalty Beach. They have a restaurant at the end of the campground where you can get a table actually on the sand. So beautiful at sunset!

We were running out of time to see the tip before my friend had to get back to Weipa to fly home, so we took a helicopter flight around the tip – expensive but so gorgeous. An awesome way to do it and something I will definitely remember. You see all the islands around. You can also take a ferry trip to Thursday Island.

At Coen there is a campground with the turn off just out of town, there is a hand painted sign saying Bill’s Place or something, I am not sure of the name, maybe Bob’s place, it says 4U2camp. We didn’t go there, but were curious. Some friends stayed there since and said that it is great, with showers and toilets and his house made of bottles.

And of course there is our place at Portland Roads with amazing views of the water. You can visit Chili Beach, maybe go on a boat trip with us in a tinny, fish, experience the rainforest – we are surrounded by Iron Range National Park, Lockhart River Aboriginal Community including the Lockhart River Art Gang and an Aboriginal Culture Guide for hire.

Lockhart River Aboriginal Community

This is a beautiful video of the Lockhart River Aboriginal Community just near us. It shows the places we visit regularly, Quintel Beach, Chili Beach, and some of the people we know. It was made in 2008.

Lockhart River intro to Bush Tucker video

Restoration Island – the ultimate Wwoofing experience

Restoration Island view from Chili Beach

Dave's place on Restoration Island viewed from Chili Beach

Portland Roads is the access point for Restoration Island which is just a quick boat ride across the water.

Restoration Island is listed in the Wwoofing directory. In February 2010 this Wwooofer called to find out if Dave was taking anyone. He said no since it was the wet season and he was going away, but after a chat about his skills they struck a deal for him to caretake his place while Dave was away for a few weeks!

He had an amazing experience, having this peaceful, tropical paradise all to himself for 7 weeks. White sandy beaches lined with palm trees backed by rainforest. Friendly neighbours took him fishing and he got to know the local aboriginal people from nearby Lockhart River. His adventure included experiencing a cyclone and being stalked by a croc. Cyclones are common in the wet season, a regular occurrence that the people of Cape York take in their stride.

Restoration Island is home to our neighbour Dave Glasheen. Dave gets media attention for advertising on RSVP for a mermaid to share his paradise home. The media are fascinated by his lifestyle living alone on this island, he would like a girl Friday, but he would prefer the news reports to help him find investors to develop the island as a tourist mecca.

Any development would be eco-friendly, preserving the beauty of this paradise. Dave is open to options but it could be an exclusive eco resort where visitors can enjoy the tranquility of a tropical island with access to the Great Barrier Reef as is Lizard Island.

For any prospective mermaids out there, there is some company at the small settlements nearby Portland Roads with about 10 houses, Packers Creek with about 5 and nearby Lockhart River which has a post office, supermarket and health centre. There is an airport at Lockhart River which flies out to Cairns 5 days a week.

Restoration Island looks across the water to the beautiful Chili Beach. A popular camping spot for people exploring the Cape in their 4×4.

The island has historical significance as the landing place for Captain Bligh in 1789. It was their first landfall after the mutiny on the Bounty at Tahiti where they were set adrift in a small boat. The name Restoration was appropriate since they were restored by the fresh water and feasting on seafood. Also the date was the anniversary of the Anniversary of the restoration of King Charles II.

See Daves site Restoration Island Blogspot

Wildlife of Iron Range National Park

I found this wonderful article about a trip to Iron Range National Park. They spotted an incredible amount of wildlife in their 3 days, and have some beautiful photos of many of the species to be found around the Portland Roads area.

He says ‘The Iron Range is a special place and really is like a piece of New Guinea that has been trapped in Australia. Many plants and animals are only found here. It is an essential destination for Aussie birders. On our three-day visit, we saw most of the special birds even found the first reported Red-bellied Pitta of the year.’

See the article on the Aussie Pythons forum

Planning our Cape York adventure

Well, we have been living on Cape York for 6 months now. Portland Roads is very special, but we haven’t really explored further yet. We have some friends coming up from Canberra soon, so now we are planning our Cape York adventure. We thought we would share our research here as it may be useful for those of you who like to travel the way we do.

Identifying Bird sounds

We often hear birds but don’t always see them, so we are left wondering what they are. I was thrilled to find this site to help identify our local species, especially the night birds.

Bird sounds from Australasia and the Pacific is a site where people have submitted their bird recordings, it is also a resource if you have a recording of a call that you can’t identify.

Check out the sound of the Papuan Frogmouth found at Portland Roads – on our clothes line we still hear this regularly.

Check out the sound of the Blue-Winged Kookaburra found between Portland Roads and Lockhart River – Iron Range National Park

The birds spotted by Jun Matsui when he stayed here in December, we haven’t seen them yet but would love to. The Palm CockatooWhite-faced RobinLarge-tailed Nightjar and the Eclectus Parrot.