Paradise loses a friend
IF YOU have ever driven on a Fraser Island road, there is a fair chance it was built by Norma Hannant and her husband Geoff.
Norma fell in love with the island, K'Gari (its Aboriginal name, meaning Paradise) in 1945, when her father took her there for her 11th birthday.
She promised herself she would buy land and build flats there and tell visitors what a wonderful place it was. It was a promise she kept 20 years later.
"Forestry had just opened 10 blocks of land in Happy Valley, so Geoff and I sold our Hervey Bay butchery,” she wrote. "We bought a block of land overlooking the ocean and built the Fraser Sands Holiday Units,”
They flew guests in from Hervey Bay, showed them the wild flowers, the rainforest, the animals and the scar trees left by Aboriginal residents to build baskets and shelters.
"We cared for injured wildlife and birds. Geoff became a ranger.”
They sold the Happy Valley property and bought 10ha near the beach, establishing The Cathedrals Resort, which opened in 1985 with 50 camping sites and self contained units.
World Heritage listing brought sorrow as well as joy, with a massive increase in tourism and no corresponding infrastructure improvements.
"No police, no ambulance, no doctors and a two-hour wait for the emergency helicopter,” she said.
Disaster struck in 1998, when Geoff died of a heart attack and that helicopter was just too slow. "I struggled on for another six years.” Norma eventually sold the property.
She is remembered as stalwart of the LNP, but one respected by all political parties.
She campaigned for better treatment of the island's iconic dingoes and tried to save its brumbies. She championed Aboriginal culture, spending years researching Aboriginal names for island landmarks.
For those who do not normally associate conservative politics and tourism development with concern for the environment and Aboriginal culture, she was a lesson in the complexities of life.
She is remembered fondly by political representatives, former Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Wide Bay MP Ted Sorensen.
Save Fraser Island Dingoes president Malcolm Kilpatrick spoke at her funeral, as did former Fraser Island Association president Eric Parups.