Saturday, 27 October 2007

Jon Nott very happy

About time we see an esteemed local educator telling it how it is.

In this week's The Cairns Sun, Professor Jonathan Nott of James Cook University, has again lashed out at how ill prepared we are as a town, when we face a serious natural disaster.

Following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was flooded, 200 billion dollars of damage was done, and over 1,000 people lost their lives. Now as our cyclone season approaches yet again, Jon Nott says it’s only a matter of time before a crisis of that scale happens here.

Jon Nott, also a geologist and and professor in Geomorphology and Natural Hazards, is no stranger to attacking the Cairns Council poor development record in terms of readiness for a natural disaster.

He told a public forum last week that Cairns is known worldwide for is risky location. He points to the disastrous planning over a long period by successive Council and governments for vital infrastructure that is located in disaster areas, like he hospital and the airport, in a high frequency cyclone area.


Nott also highlights the resorts and other tourist infrastructure that is worth millions, possible billions, that will be affected by a Category 5 storm. He says immense cyclones like Katrina have been pounding the Australian coast for centuries.

Nott says the evidence is in 'steps', or terraces piled up by storms at the back of the beach. We know when they occurred by carbon dating buried corals.

"I’d say that coral would be aged between 130 to 200 years. Numerical modelling shows us that to get a surge and waves that big you need a category 5, a severe category 5 to come through and cut away this terrace. Comparing this to Hurricane Katrina, Nott says that it would be more intense.

"A supercyclone like this comes through every 200 years," says Professor Jon Nott. "We know how often they come through and that’s why we’re confident in being able to say that we definitely know another one will occur in the future."

The Cairns Sun gave Nott's repeated claims a strong public airing, and deservedly so.

He said that developers and profits are ruling supreme at the expense of safety.

"I know they're tough words, but I'm sick and tired about beating round the bush," Nott told The Sun. He condemns the places of development, that are ill-thought out planning and approvals by Council in known cyclone and flood storm surge areas.

The Mayor of Cairns got all flustered a year or so ago in a remarkable public debate with Professor Nott. He thought he was smarter, calling scientists 'neanderthals' and saying that 'we've never ever had a natural disaster ever hit in the history Cairns'.

In the debate of global warming that focused whether housing development was right on the coast, making residents vulnerable to increased and more extreme cyclones. Professor Nott accused the Cairns Council of putting people and property at risk. Mayor Byrne regards him as a doomsayer and a neanderthal.

Even the State Government seems to be taking the threat of increased cyclones pretty seriously. Premier Peter Beattie promised $52 million over five years to improve training and equipment for emergency workers in cyclone-prone areas in northern Queensland. Some want to halt beachside development in vulnerable areas.


"They will always blame the council, the easiest way to go is to blame the council," says Byrne. Nott responded saying "How does a newcomer to Cairns find out where it is safe to live?

Professor Jonathan Nott is an internationally published expert in extreme climate events. He says his research shows that Cairns is about to face more cyclones, perhaps many more, because North Queensland is coming out of a relatively quiet century of cyclone activity and that combined with the double whammy of global warming, the cyclones will probably be bigger and more violent than before.

"Every 50 or so years or even less sometimes, it could be every 10 years, we will have big cyclones coming through that will whip up big seas, big storm surge and tides and waves and they will literally go through houses and destroy houses, many houses along the beach front in Cairns."

In Cairns, we are in coastal property boom and we haven't seen a serious cyclone in 100 years - besides Larry last April to hit Innisfail.

Mayor Byrne dismisses the repeated warnings as extremist. "If we listened to neanderthals in this debate we would have to pack up Cairns and move it to the Atherton Tablelands and we are not about to do that, let me tell you we are not about to do that." Byrne points out that Professor Nott's warnings are out of step with official forecasts which predict super-cyclones every 100 or more years. Nott says those forecasts are based on just 30 years of records and his research draws on 5,000 years.

"The frequency of these super storms is 10 times higher than Cairns Council has planned for. That means you could be in deep water because where they allow you to live is in a much more dangerous location than they will acknowledge." "We haven't had any catastrophes hit Cairns in the history of Cairns," says Byrne.


"I think we've been pretty good at development in this part of the world. We've got wonderful growth, a wonderful economy." The precarious nature of beach front development in a low-lying flood-prone city like Cairns is beginning to show. In 2005 tide and strong winds saw houses inundated along the coast.

Cairns Council has spent $1.5 million shoring up Holloways beach wall which would probably collapse again.

Nott also took on the Council over another development on a hillside. It was a site that Geoscience Australia declared was prone to rare but potentially deadly landslides, which could be triggered by severe storms and cyclones.

He took the Geoscience report into Council Chambers. "Many of the councillors had their jaws hitting the table in front of them. They were quite surprised and shocked."

Byrne was asked by the ABC what scientific advice he took from other geologists that said that Geoscience Australia was wrong.


"We take our advice from a whole series of people including our own data including other professional engineers in Cairns. And we don't get too bothered or hot under the collar with what Geoscience Australia says or anybody else says."

It's not surprising that the Cairns City Council is where developers come for the green light, business is booming.


A couple of years ago Byrne put out a press release attacking Professor Nott calling him 'disgraceful, unethical, and ill informed and ignorant'.


"Look, I've been in this job for years, I've attended all sorts of seminars on catastrophes and disasters and everything else over the years and listened to differing views. I've got a whole planning department behind me and a raft of advisors about a range of issues and I'm not taking my riding instructions from Nott," said Mayor Byrne.

19 comments:

Paul - Edmonton said...

well this sounds like the perfect person to have running a council. Mr Byrnes .. you have my vote .. NOT!!!!! ... I seem to recall earlier this year, when there was the threat of a Tsunami for Cairns .. Guess what!!! .. If it did actually hit, you would not have a city to rule over. There are only 4 roads in and out of Cairns .. 2 are coastal, and the other 2 are goat tracks that would not be able to deal with the traffic. Maybe, people like yourself, not only here in Cairns, but all seaside communities, should listen to science, they may just be telling the truth. And if they arent, well, we will all have nice beachfront areas that everyone can enjoy.

Terry Zarsoff said...

Byrne subscribes to the flat Earth Society. You know - the one that believes that greed and constant growth is good especially when there is no environmental responsibility to have to pay for it later on; that Cairns is protected by mountains and therefore from serious cyclones- unlike the open spaces of Innisfail; that the reef will protect us from tsunamis; that hillslope division developments like Kingfisher Estate are the birthright of the rich and famous - of course with no environmental responsibilities or repercussions; that the reef will continue to be a financial drawcard for tourism for years to come despite the Greenhouse thingy....really he and his ilk are sooo last century!!

JCU Dodgy Uni said...

Nott may be right or wrong, I don't know.

I *DO* know that the level of intellect at James Cook Uni Cairns is extremely low - graduates have little more than the skills of high schools in Japan or the USA. Professors at JCU are generally poorly regarded and end up here only when they can't get jobs at REAL universities.

As such, Nott's ability to conduct such research is severely in doubt.

Bryan Law said...

JCU Dodgy Uni: I stand in awe of the superior intellect which not only can write DO in capitals, but has the courage of their beliefs such as to remain anonymous while sniping at others. My bum is yours sir.

BTW, were you one of those cretinous dickheads involved in the proposed private university so well supported by the Chamber of Commerce that it sank without trace? There was a real measure of intellect.

Anonymous said...

Bryan Law, as a convicted felon and commie rabblerouser, should be roundly ignored when he makes any comments. Pot + Kettle = Black.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in Cairns for more than 5 years now but certainly don't call myself a "local, I haven't earn't that right however I am bloody pissed off by the arrogant attitudes of the people that live here. For god's sake get over it. People from all over will continue to migrate here, it's a booming town and you have to face reality. Cairns is going to grow bigger just like any desirable place to live in this country. I constantly read comments in the "Cairns Post", and listen to the talk back show on the radio and have to say I am embarrassed. Thats not what I want from a city I love and choose to work and reside in. I hear so many complaints about urbun devopment and how bad these structures look. Look who's doing it all, Tom Headly and the like, a Cairns local. You are all so quick to blame us "southerners" for what has happened to your town. If anything we have brought you life, culture, and employment. Seriously, where would Cairns be without this infrastructure. You can't rely on sugar and bananas for ever.

Jude J "Troublemaker" Clifton Beach said...

Hmmm when the Mayor can put Professor in front of his name then he may get some credibility.
As for putting "Independent Engineer" and Cairns in the same sentence, along with "take advice" and "The Mayor" - these are contradictions in terms.
While I am sure there are some excellent staff employed in Council, their competence is by no means universal. Several well documented cases where advice given in writing by Council Officers has been woefully deficient. But that is another very long story.

Bryan Law said...

Brave anonymous said "Bryan Law, as a convicted felon and commie rabblerouser"...oooh, now I'm going to cry.

Are you Warren Entsch anonymous person? He's the only person that's ever used the quaint Americanism "felon" to describe me in the past. As in most things, he was wrong - but at least he has the guts to say it to my face.

Under Australian law I'm a convicted "criminal". Given that's a tag I get for resisting the illegal, immoral and futile war in Iraq, I can live with it.

Nor am I a commie. I'm an anarchist.

I can promise brave anonymous one thing - if you ever have the courage to debate me openly on any issue I'll wipe the floor with you. I expect you already know that.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on Jude troublemaker- when you can put major retd in front of your name, attend seminars on catastrophes and disasters, and with a whole planning dept with a raft of advisors would'ntputting Proffessor in front of your name be a bit of a comedown.
the artfuldodger

Jude J "Troublemakr" Clifton Beach said...

Artful Dodger, Major (Retd) goes after the name not before it. After the March elections the Mayor may be able to add Mayor (Retd) after his name as well.

thersites said...

Bryan your distinction between 'felon' and 'criminal' would appear to be incorrect as a 'felon' is in fact a class of 'criminal' i believe reserved for more serious offences. Rather than being a quaint Americanism, 'felon' is actually an old English word which has been replaced in our own legal system by concepts such as summary and indictable offences i thinnk? So it is still not clear to me in our legal system what class of criminal you are as distinct from simply seeking to be a legend in your own lunchtime?

Wow an anarchist? How philosophically quaint!

Achilles said...

Crikey Thersites, I thought you were dead!

Bryan Law said...

Thersites is perplexed. "So it is still not clear to me in our legal system what class of criminal you are".

Why, the very best class of course Thersites. Completely disqualified from standing for parliament i.e. forced to be an honest man.

What class of criminal RU?

Bryan Law said...

More seriously, in Australia we have summary and indictable offences. In the US it's misdemeanor and felony.

I was convicted of an indictable offence, mostly because AG Phil Ruddock approved our prosecution under never-before-used cold war legislation.

The trial judge refused to imprison us. The CDPP (also responsible for the Haneef prosecution) is appealing our sentence and wants us in prison.

I think of it as a badge of honour. After all, Phil the Ghoul isn't gonna be around that much longer.

thersites said...

Dear Bryan, If you are a genuinely pure anarchist then there is no criminality, or illegality, or any kind of moral social compact, for you to even discuss?

thersites said...

"The CDPP (also responsible for the Haneef prosecution)"

Ummm just how many other such prosecutions does one reckon that the CDPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) is repoonsible for apart from you Bryan?

This kind of self portrayal would appear to demonstrate some kind of god complex?

Anonymous said...

In reply to JCU Dodgy Uni, this person is most ill-informed.
Fact: Professor Nott graduated with his Phd from the Wollongong University, NSW, which has won the University of the Year in Australia for many years in consecutively, particulaly for its engineering and science courses' reputation.

We are most fortunate to have a man with this level of knowledge living in our community and teaching our children, and willing to share his concerns about environmental issues.

There are none so blind as those that will not see Mr Dodgy.

Bryan Law said...

Thersites, how many of those prosecutions do you think are politically motivated?

How many ought be politically motivated?

Anonymous said...

Jude troublemaker, point taken on the place of rank, mayor retd or just plain kicked out sounds so much better.

the artfuldodger