Austrop: Australian Tropical Research Foundation

History

Station History
The AUSTROP Research Station was established in 1988 as the Cape Tribulation Tropical Research Station by Hugh Spencer and Brigitta Flick in the wake of the Daintree Blockade (1984) which drew world attention to the plight of the area and to its highly vulnerable conservation status.

The Research Station was set up to provide a platform for researchers interested in studying ecosystems in the lowland Wet Tropics and is dedicated to conserving this very fragmented ecosystem. The Research Station is operated by the Australian Tropical Research Foundation (AUSTROP), an independent, not-for-profit organisation, founded in 1992.

In its 25 years of existence, the Station has produced approximately 50 research and conference papers, commissioned a major economic study of the area, and carried out studies of local issues ranging from tourism, appropriate technology, impact of weed species, and the fringing coral reef. Through the AUSTROP Gift Fund it is able to support a range of groups involved with rehabilitation of flying foxes. It has also been intimately involved with the efforts to conserve the lowland rainforests of the region.

Cape Tribulation Area History 
The Station is at the northern boundary of the Cape Tribulation Basin, about 0.6 km from the Coral Sea. Behind the Station are the mountains of the Coastal Range. Most of the flat land of the basin was cleared for farmland between 1932 and 1980, but areas of the original rainforest remain. The Research Station property was completely cleared in 1970, and is now approximately 90% re-vegetated.

Tourism is the main industry in the area; there were four major accommodation businesses in the area (two “3-star” resorts and 2 Backpacker establishments), plus a plethora of “bed and breakfast” businesses, but these are now (2013) falling on hardtimes with the downturn in tourism. The area sees a continuous stream of visitors; in fact, in 2006 the Daintree region was estimated to generate over AUD$400 million annually from tourism-related activities.

The community is predominantly “blue collar” in social structure, and is very divided over conservation issues. Much of this division stems from the fact that there has been a pattern of “divide and rule” politics applied to the area by successive Governments, both State and Federal, with promises of provision of infrastructure (such as provision of grid power being made, but which were never intended to be kept).

The World Heritage listing of the area surrounding the Daintree lowlands in 1988 was accompanied by a massive dis-information campaign by the then Bjelke-Petersen State Government, suggesting that this would result in compulsory land acquisition. The result of all this has been a very deep distrust of anything that might be considered restrictive of “freeholder’s rights”. The Cape Tribulation community is now dominated by a transient workforce associated with the Tourism establishments.

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