By Margaret Moorhouse
Syd Curtis (1928-2016) was a committed proponent of the Cardinal Principle of national park management. His principled thinking was important in establishing a representative basis for selection of new national parks. He had initiated this approach after moving from forestry work to the Forestry Department’s national park section, in 1963.
The Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service (QNPWS) was not founded until 1975. Syd was QNPWS Director of Management and Operations and later (1992) Assistant Director (Policy and Legislation), retiring in 1988.
"National Park concept was one of mankind's finest ideals" Syd Curtis
In the early 90s Queensland moved towards elements of the Western system of democracy Syd referred to above; including public consultation.
There began a program of vastly improved environmental protection, as illustrated in a letter (see following) from the Hon. Henry Palaszczuk MP (father of Queensland’s present Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk) to Margaret Thorsborne (now A.O., deceased 2018), just after the introduction of the first-ever Queensland Vegetation Management Act (1999):
Syd’s hopes would seem to have been supported – until the latter years of the Bligh government, when a serious decline overtook environmental protection, democracy (meaningful consultation), and the professionalism of the public service.“Feral Cat” played an important role in this general movement and in keeping up the morale of those QNPWS officers who were dedicated to the cardinal principle of national park management.
The first draft of the Hinchinbrook Island National Park Management Plan (HINPMP) was prepared in 1991, in consultation with Margaret Thorsborne. ASH holds a copy of the HINP_walking_track_draft. bearing Margaret’s handwritten remarks. In 1992 the first Nature Conservation Act was gazetted, enshrining the Cardinal Principle.