Lamb (Ngudooroo) Island, Queensland, Australia

by Patricia Arland-Gray, Lamb Island Community Group Inc

365 islands, one for every day of the year, nestle in the quiet waters of Moreton Bay. Very few are habitable. Lamb (Ngudooroo) Island covering an area of 263 acres is fortunate to be within the midst of a declared Marine Park. The community is small, some 300 people living in a modern village type setting. Our island has undergone tremendous changes in the last century and only recently is taking part in a state government Strategic Planning Study for the Southern Moreton Bay Islands. The island is only 60kms from the centre of the City of Brisbane but remains remote from the mainland because access is via water bus and vehicle barge only - 20min from Redland Bay. No bridge joins the southern islands to the mainland. This has, to some degree, allowed preservation of a wide variety of flora and fauna on the island.

European discovery

The legends and mythology of the islands are preserved with the Qandemooka Land Council which has also undertaken an Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment.

A remember legend, believed to be from the Noonukul Dreamtime, tells of a girl child soon to be taken as a wife by a man of the tribe. The girl did not want to go, so the parents said ‘No’ to the man. Consequently the family was speared and thrown into the Bay. The child being Lamb (Ngudooroo) Island, Macleay Island the mother, Russell Island the father, and Karragarra Island the Spear.

The 1842 Survey Map of Moreton Bay and the Greater Brisbane Area shows Macleay and Ngudooroo joined together, as well as unbroken shoreline from the area now known as the Gold Coast Seaway (in 1842 there was no breakthrough to the ocean which now exists separating North and South Stradbroke Islands).

The first land purchase title issued by the Governor of the Colony of Queensland, George Augustus Constantine, Marquis of Normanby was dated the 16th January, 1871 and was issued to Ninety Pounds Fifteen Shillings and reads: “Portion 5A Selection No.1225. Being an Island situated in Moreton Bay to the Eastward of Macleay Island and known as Ngudooroo. Being the land purchased by the said John Harris under the 46th Clause of the Crown Lands Alienation Act of 1868.” It is believed that this may be the only original title in Queensland to carry the lands Aboriginal name, which loosely translated has a meaning of ‘place of the paperbark trees’.

John Harris had the island divided into 26 ten acre farms which over the years developed into traditional European small fruit and vegetable farms. These farms provided the City of Brisbane with produce but had quite an effect upon the natural landscape. The land yielded bountiful crops which were ready approximately one month ahead of the mainland farmers. Mangoes, pineapples, tomatoes, peaches, avocado, apricots and paw paw are some of the varieties still enjoyed by islanders. Unstructured land development which followed the farming resulted in the island being divided into as many house building blocks as possible, the legacy of which is now being addressed within the Southern Moreton Bay Islands Planning Study. The community on Lamb (Ngudooroo) Island is fortunate that many blocks of land have still not been built on and it is hoped that the outcomes of the Study will allow most of the destructive practices of the past to be reversed and the land repurchased, rehabilitated and preserved.

Southern Moreton Bay Islands Planning Study

The islands are inter-connected and both collectively and individually have a distinct character. Their location, quality of natural environment and existing level of infrastructure provide a unique opportunity for a blend of island living and nature conservation. The popular recreational boating waters of Southern Moreton Bay further suggest the islands are well placed to provide a range of recreational and tourism uses which are consistent with their setting within the Moreton Bay Marine Park.

Based on the findings of the consultation process to date, input from the Community Reference Group and the results of the social, environmental and ecological studies, an image of the islands has emerged which suggests a broad vision for their future development.

In support of this vision a number of development principles and broad policies needed to implement them, have been prepared under the following themes:

  • Lifestyle - Development on the Islands should reflect an affordable and ‘easy going’ Island lifestyle. Characteristics of this lifestyle would include a desire for high levels of access to Moreton Bay and lower reliance on both private transport and the need for immediate accessibility to suburban services and facilities.
  • Land use and development - Ideally, development should reflect the individual landscape character of each Island and be responsive to the natural environment and unique setting of the Islands within the Moreton Bay Marine Park.
  • Developing Sense of Community - The emergence of socially cohesive communities will be promoted and supported by a range of services and facilities which provide a high level of self reliance.
  • Access and transport - the Islands will be accessed by an efficient and convenient water based transport system which will be fully integrated with public transport services both on the Islands and the mainland.
  • Environment and Conservation - Adopt a holistic approach to environmental management of the Islands which provides protection for areas of environmental and cultural significance and which is sustainable.
  • Utility Infrastructure Provision - Infrastructure will be progressively provided to the Islands to a standard that not only meets community health and safety requirements and environmental imperatives, but which also reflects the unique individual Island character.
  • Open Space and Recreation - There should be enhanced public access to public open space and recreation facilities.

Community Bushcare Program

Bushcare is a program co-ordinated by Redland Shire Council’s Nature Conservation Unit and is designed to encourage community “ownership” of bushland sites. Bushcare volunteers work in Council conservation areas to control weeds, plant trees and undertake a range of tasks planned in consultation with Redland’s Community Bushcare officer. Groups are encouraged to participate in management planning but will be working with Council’s management framework for each conservation area.

Some people spend many hours with Bushcare, while others help where they can. The time invested depends on the work load taken on by the group and how degraded the bushland site is. Some projects may take two months - others may take two to ten years. It is important volunteers are realistic about the time they have to contribute and that it matches the size of the project undertaken. Taking on too large an area can result in disappointment and further degradation if energy runs out before the job is complete.

The preservation of quality bushland corridors throughout the Redlands is essential if we are to maintain habitat for koalas, gliders, wrens, finches, bee eater birds, a range of butterflies and many other animals that are dependent on particular food plants, nesting sites and interconnecting bush areas. The Redland Shire manages close to 3,000 hectares of bushland - some is in an excellent state and some has been severely degraded. A number of these areas are in large tracts but many are small and fragile, and need the care of their suburban residents. Degradation of urban bushland is caused by disturbance of areas by too frequent bush fires, clearing, vehicular traffic, dumping of rubbish and garden clippings and changes in drainage and water levels.

Bushcarers on Lamb (Ngudooroo) Island have been operating for just under 12 months and site projects commenced are Clarkes Point Reserve on the North-east tip of the island and Harry Brook Reserve on the western side facing Lucas Passage. A flora species list has been completed and databased inclusive of over 100 species of trees, vines, ferns, shrubs and herbaceous as well as ground cover plants. Harry Brook Reserve is significant to the island in that there is little intact bushland left and this area contains a number of mature native specimens (including the mangrove species) which are significant on the island, as well as Shire wide. There are many native species of birds, animals and reptiles on the island and databasing has begun and will continue during 1998. The mudflats and sandbars host many migratory wading birds, some coming from as far as Siberia.

The group depends largely on the wealth of knowledge that island residents provide, and every individual effort has been appreciated. The success of the Bushcare Program has taken the Redland Shire somewhat by surprise and we congratulate their helpful staff for providing our community with a basis of training and resources. The New Year will give our community a chance to try new projects including spotlighting, seed collection/propagation and the “little bushies” won’t be forgotten with the chance to adopt a butterfly and maintain their own bush-friendly garden.

The Future

The Lamb Island Community Group Inc is looking forward to continuing work on the island and encouraging like minded people to join us. The consultation process with the Planning Study will continue in 1998 and we are hopeful that the future will afford opportunities to develop some or all of the following ventures.

There is ample opportunity to establish a Marine fauna and flora Study and Educational Centre on the island and encouraging day visitors to come and learn, photograph, canoe or sail. Other possibilities include the establishment of an indigenous plant and tissue culture nursery and the development of a special Retreat. We are currently about to undertake feasibility studies regarding the viability of the nursery and possible joint venturing to plan a wooden boatbuilding education centre for youth.