Friday 14 September 2007

Where will all the Hobbits play?

I’ve recently watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy again, and as any patriotic Kiwi, I got lost in it's magic.

However, I had a mixture of feelings when Frodo and Sam finally made it back to the Shire.

Our own little bit of paradise here in Cairns and the northern beaches, including Port Douglas, are undergoing open heart surgery. We are so quickly losing our hobbitown.

Without doubt, I moved here for the environment, what it has to offer and the specialness of being allowed to co-habitat and live alongside it. City living doesn't give that opportunity. Therefore, we are blessed with a unique gift.

It’s usually the reason most move here, however subconscious. I believe that this comes with some big responsibilities and respect for the land.

In the seven years since I’ve settled on the northern beaches, I’ve witnessed a mass of environmental clearing and destruction (they call it development) encroaching from all sides. There's more $7 billion+ of development projects underway, most of which is accommodation.

The Mayor, who will loose his foot-hold in the March elections, wants or expects our population to double in 15 years. It's been said that up to 20,000 new residents will reside on what we now know as the Barron River flood delta.

Property continues to increase at an alarming rate, more than 30% in the last 2 years, yet the environment is being torn down left, right and centre. I’m sure it is being devalued more than 30% a year, in fact we’re probably losing about that amount every year.

One of the most vile palaces to be constructed along the coast is at Palm Cove. Built by the infamous Juniper Developments of Port Douglas fame, the blazing white Sea Temple is a monstrosity that has carved acres of natural bushland on the south side of this beach community. It is four stories high and stands out like a rugby player at a drag ball.

They shamefully left a couple of tall Paperbarks where they could, to look like they protected something along the way. However, I don't live at Palm Cove. It's full of wall-to-wall hotels and is ghastly overcrowded in every way. It's become a concrete castle, perched right on the beachfront. God help the remaining locals that live there.

Juniper also had their eyes on Yorkeys Knob some time ago, until they flogged the beachfront land off for $12m. It's now available for $20m, if you want it. Beachfront spots are also up for grabs. Maybe this land should be returned to the community as a natural park. What a gift to the community if the Council would actually invest in land for the people for a change.

We all remember last year when Council drew up a list of around 80 chunks of community parks dotted right across the city and suburbs, and told us they were "surplus to requirements". One that angered me was the park next door to Serpent Hostel at the north end of Lake Street. However, thanks to CMC, it's now in the midst of apartmentville-construction.

We can hardly breathe with all this building boxing us in. Where are the open spaces within the city? Is there a town planner in Spence Street with a human heart?

The former Bures site at the south end of Yorkeys has a toroid recent history. Developer Alister Toma, came and removed our lush land that surrounded the Beach Bures. After he was told by the Environment Court what was approved by Council, was illegal, he up and left town. Council should be ashamed of this whole affair and their part in it. They were on the side of the developer right up until they learnt it was a disaster and was not allowed. Conflicting reports were exposed in Court to the surprise of most. To give some credit, Cr Cochrane had being pursuing Toma to pay for the clean up for the mess he left behind. This is an example of developers and a Council that was largely not managing what they are there to do.

The Yorkeys yokels banded together under Pam Bigelow and the Residents' Association. It was a nasty fight with Toma, who Bigelow claimed made threatening phone calls to her. The owner of the local video store said Mr Toma walked into her shop one day and announced that he was the developer, and would be bringing jobs and opportunities to this community, adding that if he bought his DVDs back a day or two late, he didn't expect any overdue fees. To which Gail replied, "well, I might stay in you place for a week extra, and don't expect to be changed!"

Anyway, Sea Temple were are about to rip apart the last of our natural Esplanade with a resort of 300 rooms, including hotel and shops. What was disastrous about this project is that it would sabotage a huge natural swamp wetland and bushland, with Melaleucas and Paperbarks that house an array of native wildlife. 37 significant trees were air marked to be removed on the site. Eight were of substantial size and age.

30 meters along this same beachfront, the camping ground was bulldozed and in it‘s place now are two high-rise apartment buildings. Now there is nowhere for a backpacker or a family to camp, caravan and enjoy this beach. You'll find it difficult to find a room under $150 to stay in this region.
Just south of Trinity Beach, near Smithfield, development approval signs have appeared for 1200 houses, wiping out massive canefields and bush. No wildlife corridors are planned to protect access or thoroughfares.

This wall-to-wall sprawling suburbia occurred on the south of Cairns seven years ago as the sugar prices stated to slump. And now look at the traffic infrastructure that doesn't even cope between 8-9am every day?

At Yorkeys, we are blessed with a world-class marina and boat club. However, right across the inlet is 400ha of bushland and a unique tidal estuary that services the reef, forming a valuable breeding ground for Dugongs and a number of fragile fish life. The Environmental Protection Agency ruled that this area was an important ego system, and shouldn’t be touched, yet Premier Beattie flew to Cairns in 2003 and over-tuned their decision to allow a developer to construct a $600 million housing and canal estate to the horror of locals. He was here for 3 hours and took the next plane home. The press release announcing the decision was on his website before the plane touched the tarmac.

Some wins do occur. A developer wanted to triple the size of his 55-unit project near Redlynch recently, and local opposition stopped it. A multi-unit development here in Yorkeys along Varley Street was also ceased and they will now build low set houses suitable for families.
However, 10 acres of bush was bulldozed in the intervening period. Developers and Council love to rezone, which allow for higher density living, more natural bush removal, quicker construction, and more rateable properties. Money, money, money. They rarely consider social constructs of urban planning that residents will like to co-habitat in.

Our landscape is been demolished and I fear the destruction will continue under Mayor Byrne. Safeguards and proper open debate on new developments does not occur in Cairns.

Like hobbits Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, I now start to seriously doubt if they returned to our shire, there’ll be any green landscapes in an idyllic setting for visitors to enjoy.

You may wish to visit us before it’s all gone.


Anonymous said...

Agree with post but why all the focus on foreshore development when the real horror story is in the new high-density CEC suburbs. Tiny yards, no sound-proofing, people going mad bcause they cannot make any sound or open their curtains to look outside because there is no privacy. The new suburban home blocks are too small. I unfortunatley live in one, though only rent so I can go soon. People and dogs can not live this close together! It will backfire on developers, is already with people sellingup and the word of mouth getting around abot how these new CEC or Glenwood suburbs are hell to live in.
For example one can hear neighbours flushing their toilets or coughing, and one cannot walk one's dog because of all the dogs left in yards who set off a domino effect of all the other dogs barking. If a family has a BBQ the whole neighbourhood should not know about ait nd have to hear the conversation but it just the cheap design of the homes and the suburb that allow noise to carry and people across the road able to see you going to the toilet if your curtain is open. Byrne and CEC board members live on big properties without this problem. A senior police seargeant in Cairns for 25years has told me that once these high-density suburbs fill-up then I should leave because there will be crime, fighting and other crowding issues occurring.
Anyway, though Cairns people are nice I cannot wait to leave because I cannot find anywhere normal and private to live. Much of Cairns is like the back of Penrith or outskirts of Brisbane, you could be anywhere.
Please beware do not buy one of these small blocked new homes in these new estates, you will hate it!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

imprisoned, please feel free to move to yorkeys, we have a lovely village atmosphere, friendly happy faces,glorious beach and lots of fun.we will always give you a wave, however we also give you your privacy.come and give it a try.

Anonymous said...

hi yorkey's lover, thank for your sentiment, I have been looking for at Yorkey;s Knobs and surrounds and van only find units and townhouses to rent, which if I wanted to live in I would move to Sydney to get the same. Too many, many units in Cairns and surrounds. I shall go back to Tassie wilderness where I came from eventually and maybe take up the ancient Kiwi art of 'loosing'.

Anonymous said...

Well that was an incitefull comment from "Stupid Bastard Greens". A lot of people do forget what has actually built Cairns to what it is today. My forcast for Cairns is pretty simple. Over the next 5 to 10 years will see the end of all rural businees here. We have already lost the tobacco industry. The Dairy industry is on its way out, and we are building houses on cane farms. With out this rural industry, what else do we have left to employ the expanding community of Cairns. Tourism. while at the moment that is going well, if we loose our tourism, Cairns will die a very rapid death and become a ghost town. With the threat of terrorism still on peoples minds, over the top air fares in Australia, and the mindless muggings in the city, tourists will start to find somewhere a little more tourist friendly to go to. Just remember what happened with the airline strikes. How many "Cairns" people where laid off due to lack of business. The terrorist attack on the US .. how many people where laid off due to lack of business. Cyclone Larry. How many people where laid off due to lack of business. The fear felt by tourists and locals alike with our Tsunami scare earlier this year. Just remember, without rural business, Cairns only has one industry to support its masses, and if we loose that one industry, we are all jobless, cos no one will be here to pay us.