Leaked: Crucial Fraser meetings skipped
Leaked State Government documents reveal Federal bureaucrats didn't show up for 13 crucial meetings about Fraser Island's management prior to its worst bushfire in recent history.
The blame game has now begun over how the fire could've been prevented, with a Queensland Environment Department source saying the Federal Government is "hanging park rangers out to dry" over the crisis.
Just $610,000 was given to the island for conservation and management over the past two years by the Federal Government, compared to $5.8 million per year for Far North Queensland's Wet Tropics.
Two Fraser Island advisory committees - established by the Queensland Government - were disbanded in late 2019 after almost 30 years. They have not been re-established.
Between March 2016 and August 2019, 18 meetings were held between political bureaucrats and the advisory committees.
The committees had warned both governments of the landmark's dire management.
Federal Government representatives attended just four of these meetings, while they were not invited to one.
A full list of attendees reveals two now-assistant directors of the Federal Environment Department were among those who didn't attend.
An outraged Queensland Environment Department source said the Federal Government had "dropped the ball" more than Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
"Time and again the (Fraser Island Advisory) committee has asked the Federal Government for more funding and more help. Time and again they've ignored those requests," the source said.
"The Australian Government has dropped the ball massively. What's even worse is they're hanging park rangers out to dry."
QPWS has come under fire in recent weeks, after it was revealed in The Courier-Mail they allowed an illegal campfire in the island's north to become out-of-control and jump a track.
The fire started on October 14, but QPWS then did not hand over management of the blaze to Queensland Fire and Emergency Service until November 27.
Last week, a State Government spokeswoman said Queensland had "consistently sought extra Federal funding" for Fraser Island.
"Federal Government's investment in Queensland's world heritage areas has not increased for more than a decade," the spokeswoman said.
A Federal Environment Department spokesman said: The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment attend meetings of advisory committees as an observer when it is able to do so.
"Minutes and reports from these meetings are provided to the Australian Government by Queensland," the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the Queensland Government has come under fire after its prized Large Air Tanker plane was grounded for five days at a crucial stage in the blaze due to a "contract bungle".
"The people of Bundaberg were promised a water bomber that could be deployed at a moments' notice but instead we had a temporary plane that wasn't available when we needed it," Opposition fire spokesman Dale Last said.
The plane was leased as part of a five year $15 million commitment, but its contract expired after 84 days.
Mr Last has called for the government to negotiate a longer contract and more crew with the remaining four years of the deal yet to be finalised.
"The devastating fires on Fraser Island have exposed Labor's failures in preparing for the bushfire season."
"This contract debacle should never have happened and lives and livelihoods were at risk."
Originally published as Leaked: Crucial Fraser meetings skipped