On August 6, 1984, rainforest defenders kicked off a new round of blockading in an effort to prevent the ramming of a 33km four-wheel drive track through the Daintree Rainforest. 

The idea of constructing a coastal road had been under consideration since the inauguration of the Cook Highway in 1933 that linked Mossman and Port Douglas to Cairns and markets in the south. This left a 32km stretch between Cape Tribulation and Bloomfield that remained unconnected, earning it's tagline as the 'missing link'.

In 1968, local farmers decided to take matters into their own hands and established the Baileys Creek and Cape Tribulation Development League. Determined to prove the feasibility of a coastal road, they resolved to forge a path along Kuku Yalanji walking trails, historically traversed by the Indigenous people for centuries. Despite facing mechanical obstacles and resistance from a family that owned the final block near Cape Tribulation, they managed to carve out a track. A small section between Cape Tribulation and Emmagen Creek remained uncleared, and over the following years, the rest of the track became impassable.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, an influx of individuals seeking a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle settled in the area. Unlike the earlier pioneers who cleared the rainforest, these newcomers embraced a conservationist outlook, advocating for the preservation of the region they now called home. As developers began subdividing the rainforest for sale, the 'new settlers' united and raised their voices in opposition to further developments north of the Daintree River.

By 1983, the once-missing link had been transformed into a renowned walking track, drawing attention to the need for conservation of the Daintree rainforests for scientific research and the burgeoning nature-based tourism industry.

Meanwhile, scientific interest in the region was on the rise. In 1971, the discovery of the Green Dinosaur (Idiospermum australiense), a plant previously thought to be extinct, substantiated the belief among scientists that the rainforests north of the Daintree River were among the planet's oldest.

The Douglas Shire Council remained determined to build the road, and with the support of the Queensland state government they pushed ahead in the dry season of 1983. In response, the local conservationists established the Daintree Blockade until the wet season stopped construction. 

On August 6, 1984, forest defenders kicked off a new round of blockading to prevent the ramming of a 33km four-wheel drive track through the Daintree. Faced with activists buried up to six feet deep in the ground, some with their legs chained to concrete slabs and logs, bulldozers were halted for days. Once removed, activists took to tree sits and held out against arrests, heavy fines and attacks by police dogs for a further 3 weeks.

The Daintree Blockade controversy resulted in a concerted effort by the conservation movement that resulted in the end to logging on state owned land and the creation of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. 

Although the Queensland State Government and local council triumphed in the short term, destroying precious rainforest in the process, the delays and publicity associated with the blockade played an invaluable role in the campaign against the destruction of rainforest ecosystems in Queensland.

The track’s launch in October 1984 proved to be embarrassing affair. Even before the wet season had fully arrived, a 50 vehicle convoy, including those carrying the Douglas Shire Council Mayor and Queensland’s Environment Minister, became bogged with eight or nine cars stuck late into the night. Within three months, sections of the road had collapsed 300 metres from its beginning at Cape Tribulation. Despite remaining inaccessible to most vehicles, promised upgrades never eventuated. Following concerted campaigning, World Heritage status and greater protection for over 900,000 hectares of rainforests in North Queensland was granted by the federal government four years later.

Clearing for housing development on a property since purchased for conservation. 

Development is still a threat in the Daintree

The struggle to save the Daintree Lowland Rainforest from the threat of development has been ongoing since the early 1980s. 

In the mid-1980s, a pro-development state government inappropriately rezoned leasehold and freehold in the Daintree Lowlands Rainforest, enabling a developer to subdivide it into 1,136 blocks. This resulted in inappropriate road building, clearing and development of high conservation value rainforest. In the 1990s and 2000s, the Douglas Shire Council and the Queensland and Australian governments all contributed financially to the purchase or ‘buyback’ of freehold land aimed at preventing development and winding back the impacts of the subdivision. Governments can and should do more. 

For 40 years, governments have been unwilling to put an end to development so the campaign to save the Daintree continues.

The exceptional biological and scientific values of the Daintree Coast mean the conservation and transmission of those values to future generations must take priority. 

If you agree, please, act now to help us buy back the rainforest blocks created by the subdivision, so they can be protected and conserved.

Prefer to use PayPal? Please donate here.

You can also sign our petition to send a message to the Douglas Shire Council, Queensland Government and the Australian Government, calling on them to dismiss current development plans and to develop a conservation management plan for the area. 

The Daintree Lowland Rainforest in North Queensland is the oldest rainforest on the planet, with an unbroken evolutionary history going back over 120 million years to the first flowering plants. Let's not change that now.


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