Spencer’s ongoing battle for the wallum

Spencer Hitchen with his calendar. Picture: ROB MACCOLL

Margie Maccoll

Spencer Hitchen, 11, has a special affinity with the Glossy Black Cockatoo that carries him on a continuing journey to advocate for the protection of the unique wallum habitat in which the endangered species reside.

For the past couple of years he and his mother Maxine have been at the forefront of a community protest against an aged care development by Uniting Care at Lot 6 and Lot 9, Grasstree Court, Sunrise Beach, in a wallum area containing known Glossy Black Cockatoo feeding trees, black she-oaks, favoured by the fussy eaters.

Uniting Care obtained council approval for the development before the Glossy Blacks were listed endangered and prior to the release of the Threatened Species Action Plan last October by Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek aimed at zero future extinctions.

Lot 6 has already been cleared and construction begun on the nursing home stage of the project. Uniting Care has invested in offsets with she-oak plantings though there have been some technical issues with some planted on a former dump site and no guarantee of them, when mature, being considered favourably by the Glossy Blacks.

Spencer’s efforts have caught the attention of many. His petition calling for the protection of the wallum has attracted almost 75,000 signatures.

He appeared recently on ABC’s 7.30 Report, and has won praise from celebrity gardener Costa Georgiadis, who said: “Spencer sees the world through a unique lens of compassion and empathy for nature. His love and determination to protect the valuable and unique ecosystem that is the wallum is an inspiration for us all to draw on“.

Community concerns led Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation to convene a symposium on the Glossy Black Cockatoo and research on an action plan to secure their future is ongoing.

Last month Spencer and Maxine attended Noosa Council’s Ordinary Meeting to ask questions of the councillors.

Spencer pleaded for council to discuss a land swap with Uniting Care but were told council had been in previous discussions with Uniting Care on a land swap and been advised it was “not practical given the significant investment into the current design and approvals, the lack of vegetation-free land available, and the existing church congregation who are an important component of the precinct and who would be unfairly disrupted if they had to relocate“.

Spencer then asked council for evidence from Uniting Care that the community would be safe in the event of a bushfire in the surrounds.

Council said it was willing to contact Uniting Care to seek a further response to the question, noting the applications for landscaping for lot 6 and lot 9 had not yet been lodged with council.

In an effort to better educate the public about Glossy Black Cockatoos and the wallum, Spencer created a 2023 calendar that contains images, almost all of which have been taken by the budding wildlife photographer, and information on the fauna and flora of the wallum, with proceeds from the sale of the calendar going toward the protection of the wallum.

The calendars have been widely sponsored by organisations including Tourism Noosa, Birdlife Southern Queensland and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots.

For more information email savesunriseglossies@gmail.com or visit savesunriseglossies on Instagram and Facebook.