An arson attack on the last remaining coastal reserve at Kingscliff, known as Lot 490 and which thousands of locals want protected, has destroyed a stand of endangered orchids.
The fire, which also levelled a large area of native grassland between Casuarina Way and Kingscliff South Beach, broke out around 6pm on Friday and took firefighters around two hours to bring under control.
A spokesman for the Save Our Lot 490 group says the fire destroyed a stand of the endangered ground orchid Geodorum Densiflorum from which, only two weeks before, staff had collected seeds and sent them to the Millennium Seed Project at Royal Kew Gardens in the UK.
‘The seeds, collected by staff from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Mt Annan in Sydney, joined a collection of endangered native species from around the 80 different countries in the world’s largest off-site conservation project,’ Lot 490 spokesman Jerry Cornford told Echonetdaily.
Firefighters told local residents that, given the mild conditions on Friday evening, it was almost certain the fire was deliberately lit.
Mr Cornford said the fire ‘makes it imperative that the state government and Tweed Shire Council come to immediate agreement on the future of the last stand of native habitat between Fingal and Cabarita’.
More than 8,500 Tweed residents have now signed a petition calling on the government to preserve the Crown land and coastal reserve as a wildlife habitat and public native parkland. Mr Cornford said that ‘since Leighton Properties withdrew from a lease to develop a tourist resort on the site in April, the lands department had had ample time to do the right thing by the community’.
‘Another fire of this nature would be devastating, not only to plants and animals but to the future tourism potential of the Kingscliff and Salt communities.
‘The combination of beach and bush is what brings tourists to the Tweed coast,’ he said, ‘and Lot 490 is the last remaining local attraction.’