St Helena Island; 65 years a Prison

St Helena Island at the mouth of the Brisbane River houses a museum and hosts many island visits from school groups studying incarceration and Brisbane’s convict past.

The old lime kiln pictured here was used by prisoners to make lime from coral which was used for cement – a precursor to the coral dredging of Mud, St Helena and Green Island which began in 1937.

54 years of Coral Dredging Mud, St Helena and Green Islands

“Prior to coral dredging Mud Island was a 1200 ha coral reef island. Air photo analysis shows that coral dredging for cement manufacture has removed about 74% of the open reef flat which is 50% of the island’s total area” extract from article The supratidal deposits and effects of coral dredging on Mud Island, Moreton Bay, southeast Queensland by D.P. Allingham and D.T. Neil


Exerts follow from A Managed Approach to Exiting Coral Dredging Operations in Moreton Bay taken from the River Mouth Action website.

Historical Background

QCL commenced coral extraction in Moreton Bay in 1937. In 1956, a 50-year exclusive licence was granted by the Queensland Government for the extraction of coral from the shallow shelf and off-shore areas of Mud Island (see Figure 1). Following this, a 25-year licence was granted in 1966 for the whole of the shelf surrounding St Helena and Green Islands as well as offshore deposits near Empire Point. An inshore licence for Cleveland Point, Raby Bay and Wellington Point was granted in 1974 for a 25-year period”

“Over the past decade or so, there had been growing community concern over QCL’s dredging activities in Moreton Bay. This concern had been adopted by a number of local environmental groups whose interests lay with issues variously attributed to QCL’s coral dredging activities. Identified issues include coral reef flat protection and rehabilitation, commercial and recreational fishing values, and water quality and boating safety.

With assistance from local media sources and platforms provided by such events as the Sixth International Ramsar Convention on the Preservation of Wetlands held in Brisbane, community pressure had enabled a significant degree of influence to be placed on the decision-makers of Queensland. This pressure culminated in 1995, when the Goss Labor Government made an election promise to the people of Queensland that QCL Darra would be closed as soon as practicable. This led to the eventual cessation of dredging in November 1997, the closure of three existing kilns (two wet kilns at Darra and one semi-wet kiln at Gladstone) and the $200M expansion of the existing clinker manufacturing facility at Fisherman’s Landing in Gladstone, incorporating state-of-the-art technology”.

Bridging the Island

A Redland City Bulletin published and article looking at how island fire risk can be reduced. Author Brian Williams states Redland City Council “owns 475.1 hectares of land on Russell Island, of which 426.6 hectares is conservation land. Russell is about 8km long by 3km wide.” (page 3. Wednesday February 01, 2017).

The Moreton Bay Combined Islands Association believes in part that the building of a bridge to Canaipa (Russell Island) will improve emergency response to island fires.

In this article Brian Williams states

“A bridge was first promoted and then dropped in the mid- 1980’s because it was not viable. In 2010, council commissioned consultants GHD to study island access.

The cheapest bridge would cost about $114 million and require annual revenue of about $8.5 million to break even.

It would need 6.25 million trips or $17 000 trips per day annually to break even after 25 years…. Russell Islanders using the bridge would arrive on the mainland in the middle of nowhere – Little Rocky Point North at Woongoolba – 17 km from the nearest major shopping centre at Beenliegh” (page 6. Wednesday February 01, 2017).