Thursday 31 January 2008

Year of the Rat

It's the last day of January today.
In a week's time, on February 7th, the Chinese will celebrate Lunar New Year.
This year it is Year of the Rat.
I thought the last four years under this Council have been like living under the rule of a rat!
Let's hope that it is the year of the laughing Kookaburra, come March 15th

Tuesday 29 January 2008

All Tanked up

We received this photo over the weekend that sums up a great deal of feeling out there in voter land.
As Mayor Byrne's bulldozers levelled the Tanks site on Collins Avenue for a car park, some folk installed a large banner at the demolition site.
The sign was up all day Sunday, before disappearing as mysteriously as it appeared.
There is obviously and understandably some lingering disquiet at what has happened with the destruction of the Botanic Gardens area in demolishing substantial areas of the vegetation for the new road and additional car parks.
Again, little community engagement occurred for these works.
Such "development" is symbolic of the current Council. Natural vegetation is ripped out to make room for larger roads and more vehicular access, and more buildings.
What happens when our population reaches 150,000? Will we add two more lanes through Collins Avenue?

There's no iconic place

They rubbished Douglas Shire's push for the Iconic Place legislation at last week's Cairns City Council meeting, and the Councillors failed to endorse nor support it.

This was the first slap in the face and a measure of the contempt this Council has for understanding and embracing the unique Douglas and Mossman area the encompass the world heritage Daintree rainforests.

In a stunning rebuke of the proposed Bill, Mayor Byrne said it already has development controls in place like the CairnsPlan.

"If a Council have an effective and robust [CairnsPlan] planning scheme, then there is no need for additional protection of this so-called iconic places legislation," Byrne says.

There has been so many "Material Change of Use" presented to Council that this kind of claim is laughable.

Byrne believes it will add "more bureaucracy to a complicated planning process."

"How can the contemplate this and take people back 20 years," Councillor Pezzutti said. "It's a joke!"

Douglas Shire Mayor Mike Berwick says he fears for the future of the region shire after Cairns Council voted to reject the Queensland Government's iconic places legislation, as the merger of the two council closes in.

The Bill aims to protect amalgamated areas from over development.

"They've got development up the hillsides, they've got shopping centres scattered through cane paddocks, they've lost their agricultural industry - the Mulgrave area. We haven't done any of those things," said Mayor Berwick.

"There's a completely different mentality up here," Berwick says.

Mareeba Council, Myola and the Mushroom Treatment

CairnsBlog contributing writer Sid Walker takes his ute off to the Mareeba Shire Council meeting and asks some questions...

Today, 29th January, I attended the mysterious ‘Special Meeting’ of Mareeba Shire Council, described in the minutes of the previous Council meeting as a meeting “commencing at 8am to consider planning issues and other urgent matters.

The word was that Council was about to consider the notorious new Myola Plan. But I was half-expecting to find I’d been fooled. After all, Council hadn’t even looked at the voluminous submissions about the Plan at its previous meeting. Surely it wasn’t about to pull a cheap stunt, coming in under the radar when no-one was watching?

Arriving at the Council buildings a little late at ten past eight, I was told the meeting had yet to begin. I had a pleasant coffee on Mareeba High Street and arrived back at Council offices at 8.35am. The meeting had begun. Not an open meeting, I was told – although guests might be allowed in, after the “discussion part”.

And so it was. At around 10.30am, I was able to listen to that part of today’s Council deliberations deemed appropriate for the ears of the great unwashed - aka you and me, the public.

Of which, more later. I’ll stick to a chronological account of the day for now…

Around 9am, having browsed all the News Ltd reading matter provided free of charge to visitors on the day, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I had time to kill – and something I’d been meaning to do for a while. That was to ask to see the register of Councilor’s interests. I understand that under Queensland’s Local Government Act, Councils must maintain a register of their members pecuniary interests, and keep it available for public scrutiny.

My request caused quite a stir.

After consultations behind the desk, a polite staff member informed me that such a request must be made in writing. Illiterate citizens of the Shire, presumably, may not apply.

I requested a piece of paper, produced my own ballpoint pen and wrote a brief request for the register. That didn’t seem to do the trick either. By 10.30, still no register… and then I forgot all about it in the excitement of having the chance to observe our elected Councilors in session. Oh well, another day, perhaps?

I entered the Council chamber. An interesting layout. The Mayor, surrounded by senior council staff, sat in the middle of the high table, rather like a senior Viking warrior. Facing this table were regular councilors and behind them, the hoi polloi. It was hardly a packed gallery. Actually, there were two of us

The mayor read the pre-concocted motion to assembled Councilors and asked if there was dissent. There wasn’t. The motion passed unanimously. Whoever said Council meetings drag on and on?

What exactly was the motion? I can’t be sure at the time of writing, because Council has yet to provide me with a copy. That’s ten hours later and counting, despite reminder emails.

No matter – the guts of its decision was clear. Council approved a plan to site a suburb of 10,000+ new residents in one of the most beautiful and biologically diverse valleys in the country – a semi-forested area, adjacent to World Heritage, known to contain several endangered species.

I chatted with the Chief Planner afterwards and asked for a copy of the analysis of submissions on the Myola Plan. The Planner, an affable man, said he would see what he could do. I have no reason to doubt I’ll receive them sometime.

A week ago, after chasing the planning department by phone, I managed to obtain a copy of Council’s analysis of the survey of Myola residents’ views. It had conducted this absurd survey before Christmas, funded presumably via our rates. It offered residents a choice between the frying pan (the existing plan for Myola) and the fire (the new Plan). Most residents, given no other option, chose the frying pan.

It’s clear why these documents are not publicized by Council. They show Council took its ‘decision’ in the face of strong community opposition. A significant majority of residents surveyed rejected the new plan. I understand the same is true of the 200+ submissions made to Council on the new plan. The planner admitted as much. My friend, a diplomat by instinct, suggested kindly that people rarely make submissions on plans they agree with. The planner chuckled in agreement. I expressed the heretical view that it might be different if the public ever saw plans we actually want.

So it goes, in Mareeba Shire Council’s dying days. Decisions made in secrecy, community opinion disregarded, information shielded from public view… a Council not willing or able to justify an outdated agenda for which it has no mandate – but arrogant enough to push it through anyway, as far from public scrutiny as possible.

There was no media presence at the Council meeting. This merits comment. It takes two to put democracy to sleep. Deadheads on Mareeba Shire Council have done their bit. The mainstream media, to date, has been a perfect complement. Whatever happened to the crusading Murdoch media?

If not for a handful of conservation activists and independent media such as CairnsBlog, no-one at all would know about this story until ‘they’ decide to tell us.

I called Steve Wettenhall’s office mid-afternoon. Steve is the State MP for Barron River. He has a well-known interest in the Myola issue. According to his staff, he hadn’t heard that Council were to discuss the Myola Plan today and hadn’t been informed of the outcome.

Council’s furtive decision-making is not only an insult to the community. It seems the Bligh Government is also given the mushroom treatment.

Fortunately, the Queensland Government DOES have the last word on the appalling new Myola plan. When it reaches the Minister’s desk, I trust it goes directly into the NO tray. Likewise, when FNQ 2025 draft plan is published in April, Myola must NOT be in the designated ‘urban footprint’.

The Kuranda area is a world-class environment on the boundary of World Heritage listed rainforests. We deserve and demand the very best in governance, consultation and planning.

As a whole, the Kuranda community, black and white, young and old, rich and poor, male and female - cares deeply about our very special environment.

We expect better of local government than to be kept in the dark and fed occasional dollops of

It's in the Post

I don't know what's more disturbing.

Mareeba is turning into a retirement village or CairnsBlog is putting advertisements in the Cairns Post!

You choose.

We don't have to ask the residents

I blogged back in September about an astounding decision whereby Cairns City Council did not consult with the Yorkeys Knob Residents' Association.

This was all about the granting of a 35 year lease to the adjoining Half Moon Bay Golf Club for a strip of the Community's Centre's land in Wattle Street.

Council officer Leslie Sparkes, with the ironic title of Community and Cultural Development, informed the local Residents' Association that the decision was made in conjunction with the local Activities Group, which manage the community hall etc.

However, no discussion or involvement occurred with local residents, nor was any approach made to the Association.

As a curious aside, CairnsBlog has learn't that the hall committee are not even provided with funds to run the power in the hall or even purchase toilet paper. And this is a facility the Council provides it's residents out of our rates?

A story tells a story

It was there in 1908 and here's what they said in 1925...

...and 80 years on...

What the National Trust says...

Bitter Sweet Douglas' last Australia Day

Douglas Shire Councillor Rod Davis notes the last Douglas Shire citizen of the year.

On the 26th January of 2008, the Douglas Shire celebrated the last Australia Day as its own small community. From next year, there will be no longer be a Douglas Citizen of the Year.

So hearty congratulations to Shirley Vico, our 2008, last citizen of the year. Also congratulations also to Jaidyn Chambers, Julie Salam, Michael Staunton, Rose Coysh and the fabulous Jack Heywood.

The attendance and participation was at an all time high for the last event, and we didn’t miss the opportunity to run through the roll of previous winners, as well as acknowledging many of those who almost won a place, and whose place in future small community awards, thanks to the heartless and to my mind irrational destruction of shire like Douglas and Noosa, will never get aired again.
It was of particular sadness and joy, to bid farewell to the Mayor, of his last formal speech to Douglas, and the standing ovation at the ceremonies end giving tribute to Mike and all the works he has done for this shire will stay with me for some time, and clearly it’s been Mike Berwick that has be the main player in making this shire the way it is for my family and friends over the last 15 years, and to Mike, I salute you.
PS… I also thank you and Jane for your bag of mangostein gifts, they are delicious, in fact I’m going to grab one right now.
But we should also spare a though for the many other mainly rural shires where Beattie and Bligh’s knife have cut out the heart out of communities, homogenizing us into just another data entry on a rates payable spread sheet.
Ironically, Douglas’s last Australia Day also marks, to the day, 200 years ago, the day that Anna Bligh’s great, great, in fact, grate, grate grandfather, Governor Bligh, was removed from his Sydney office. But Anna Bligh got us before we could get her, unlike her mutiny linked forebear.

We over hear of loose talk from Cairns Water workers eyeing off our water supply last week, suggesting its would be cheaper and easier to just chlorinate our water, rather than keep maintaining the filters. And to the large minority who passionately oppose fluoridation, like myself, we just shake our heads in dismay that Cairns Water would even have the audacity to mention chlorination. Bear in mind, every man, woman and child in this shire, have each recently contributed a $1000/head to give us the cleanest, and most chemical free water in Australia, some say the cleanest water on earth. I’m nervous.
We also shake our head in dismay as the Cairns Branch of the Urban Development Institute talk up their future in Douglas as they look forward to the removal of the obstacle to their development intents, by getting rid of the Douglas Shire.
When the predominant political party in Cairns is funded by the development industry, you would have to be concerned. Just last week, the development site being used by the Unity Team billboard saw more steps made towards opening up more ‘business as usual’, big urban development, with not a word of credibility given to what smells like a need for a material (or at least perceived) personal interest declaration .
It’s outrageous, that councilors can use developers funds to pay for their adverting campaigns, and still be immune from declaring a, ‘material personal interest’ when it comes to voting up their supporting developers applications. This law stinks, but neither the gutless ALP or the equally gutless Coalition government will do the right thing, like the Canadians, ands restrict funding from development and other ‘stand to gain’ groups, as both the ALP and the Coalition are as guilty as hell when it comes to using corporate interests to fund their elections, pretending, like AWB executives, that these donations do not influence the way they vote. Yeah, right.
Welcome to bigger government, the one where corporate types all agree, we in the west, have the best democracy money can buy.
So you might excuse Douglas for tasting both the bitter and the sweet aspects of Australia Day just gone by.

Personally, the reason why I came here, was to be a part of a small, connected community, not city, especially not just a regional city. I have had a life of city living. My kids and I benefited immensely by the shift out of city, and with it, the caring connectedness of a small compassionate community, where we all look after each other, seen at its best when one of us, or our kids gets a cancer scare: just look at all the work, the raffles, do’s, and face to face help this community gives its fallen, and when it comes to recognition and celebration of these community achievements, even if only in an old fashioned, local of government kinda way, its is nonetheless a huge loss that our community is being disbanded to become part of a city 60k south of us, and with it, the recognition of community service.

I could almost feel the burn of anger directed between the shoulder blades of local member Jason OBrien, as he sat in the crowd at the last Australia Day event, pretending all was fine and dandy, when it was he and his government that took the knife to this and many other small rural communities, where the council is the focus of matters communal and civic.

Jason can cite the last atrocious week gone by, where yet again the ‘gang’ in the Douglas Shire Council displayed their appalling vendetta politics, bathed in alcoholism, ignorance and manipulated agendas. Jason could fairly argue that Douglas would be well and truly better off without this kind of governance and he would be right. Where he would be wrong, would be in the suggestion that the Douglas voters would not have sorted out a revenge voting of their own, had the State given our resident’s a vote for a new Douglas council in a few weeks.

Chlorination, fluoridation, amalgamation added together almost spells obliteration, in the twisted game of scrabble that is the Beattie Bligh government’s gift to this community.

I’m saddened, yes, but I’m noisy and determined, and I still believe in all the same things that attracted me here in the first place, and like many of the other candidates in the election, many whom I really like and respect, I’m in this election business to fight for the people in Douglas, and its nearby Palm Cove/Clifton, to keep our communities connected, compassionate and caring, caring for each other’s business success, yes, but not at the price of a degrading our environment into a dull urban sprawl.

Would Cairns care about the big M mounting Macrossan? I doubt it. Hey, what is wrong with fast food, I hear them say. Would Cairns care for clean water? I understand its and fluoride and maybe even chlorine coming our way, care of you loving ‘livable’ neighboring city. Drink it Freddy, it’s good for you.

So anyway, win or loose this election, I have a passionate view, and I’m willing to defend my community, and if you are wondering, what exactly are my views, well, there are 120 pages of the most detailed policy and perspective available from any candidate, from any of those index links, just to the left of your eyes’ current focus.

I wish me fellow candidates well. Get well Melinda, I love your spirit. To Bill Phillips-Turner, hold close to your heart those things that you enjoyed as boy growing up in Douglas, and good luck, you will do well. To Julia, go girl, your are a friend to many, and a lovely human. And best wishes to Dave and George, despite you attacks on me last week, you are forgiven.
We as a community have so much at stake ahead, and yes. I’m nervous about the future, but
I’m also determined to add what ever I can to the debate, that will keep this community shinny, prosperous and different.

Obama’s Speech

National Review is a leading conservative voices in America. They are not fans of liberal politicians however they gave top marks to Barack Obama’s speech, following the South Carolina primary yesterday.

  • Barack Obama’s speech tonight was simply exceptional — and a reminder of why he is one of the most remarkable political talents in our lifetime. He was able to speak in ways that seem to rise above conventional politics, even as he was able to masterfully push back against the Clinton attacks of the last several weeks. His capacity to touch and stir authentic emotions is remarkable. And unlike Clinton and especially Edwards, the Obama message is about unity, not divisions; and hopes rather than grievances.

Here's the second half of his speech. Obama comes across as inspiring and you can see he's a as a candidate for the future, which often contrasts Clinton.

Imagine if we saw this kind of impassioned speech in the lead up to our Council election, from any candidate. CairnsBlog will be inviting all Mayoral candidates to a open community forum in early March, prior to the election. We hope you will attend.

Roulette at the Cairns RSL Club

The lines are drawn, but as CairnsBlog readers know only too well, it’s not going to be a level battlefield when Val Schier’s Cairns 1st throws down the gauntlet to Kevin Byrne’s Unity team in the fast approaching Cairns Regional Council election.

During the 2004 election, Byrne's mob had access to campaign donations totalling $261,866 — mostly from big corporations (including a $13,000 hand-out from the CEC Group).

In-kind donations deducted, Val Schier's team only had $9,750 at their disposal.

Whereas the incumbent can expect his fat-rat mates to dig into their wallets again, Val and her team will be relying on grassroots support — and that includes fund-raising events.

Duet Roulette will feature some of the Far North’s finest duos strutting their stuff and will also see the launch of the Cairns 1st’s campaign song.

The song has been specially written by Chris Wighton, of the duo Suns of Icarus.

Other acts on the bill include the guitar-flute-vocal harmony duo Meridian, who will start the Roulette ball rolling at 8pm with a set of original songs, and singer-guitarist Mick Hodgkins and his multi-instrumental playing partner, Bronwyn (aka Mangrove Jack).

Clucas, comprising Kuranda’s finest jazz musicians, and Beamish will be playing a selection of standards, the latter of an Irish lilt.

Numbers for the event are limited, so bookings are encouraged.

WHAT: Cairns 1st Fundraiser with Roulette
WHEN: 8pm, Saturday February 9
WHERE: Cairns RSL, Cattalina Room, The Esplanade
TICKETS: Paul Matthews 0412 872 574 or email.

Sunday 27 January 2008

Australia Day at Yorkeys

Council & their community responsibilities

In all the discussions and debates over the last 5 years to save the historic Yacht Club building, this story acts as a symbolic example of a Council out of touch with it's community.

We get told many times, that the land the building occupies is on State managed land, however without the support of the local government, it was going to be a difficult battle to protect a community institution.

Residents also have little respect for an inconsistent Council that pick and choose what they want to lobby and support.

They blindly ignored Villa Romana's illegal construction, and now are washing their hands of it as the State Government rule on what to do following a second request from the owner to retain his 53sqmt extension.

We saw 846AM radio announcer John McKenzie rallies behind opposition to keep high-density apartments away from his home in Cairns Street, yet in the same breath he backs and endorses a number of substantial apartment constructions, supported by his regular on-air free advert with his mate the Mayor.

We see the Mayor's political billboards appear on the land owned by LHL, and the roof of CEC's roof, two large property developers that donate to the Mayor's re-election and seek substantial support for development approvals and get informed by Council officers that Local ByLaw 28 doesn't apply "because they are not really political."

We loose count of the number of Material Change of Use applications that this Council approve. At last week's Council meeting, four more were approved.

The CairnsPlan is continually amended and changed to suit an developers' application before Council.

Recently, the CairnsPlan was again amended to reduce the boundary distance of building alongside waterways. This is a shocking breach of protecting vital natural wildlife and also presents more serious problems regarding seasonal flooding.

Local communities are rarely consulted about proposed construction in their neighbourhood. There is no open democracy in this city under the stewardship of Mayor Byrne. This is why we need to remove him and his style of destructive leadership from our city.

We simply don't respect nor trust this Council.

We have no opposition in this Council that rallies together to effectively challenge and block Byrne's build-em-up programme.

There is no doubt that his tenure as Mayor has contributed towards the demise of the Yacht Club building.

This letter is from the State Department for Local Government & Planning. The highlighted paragraph refers to the plight of the old Cairns Yacht Club building.

The current Cairns City Council are guilty of blatantly ignoring their responsibility and accountability to their community on two counts:

  1. They objected to the nomination for State Heritage Listing of the Cairns Yacht Club , even though they (as stated in council minutes) were fully aware that the majority view of the Community was in favour.

  2. Their objection was identical to that submitted by the Cairns Port Authority, a body whose policies are determined in far off Brisbane.

It's probably timely that we provide a detailed account about how the Cairns Yacht Club building failed to gain Queensland Heritage Listing on December the 12th 2003.

In 2003 an application for State Heritage Listing of the Cairns Yacht Club building was made. A high level of public support was acknowledged and reported by the press.

Expectations were high, buoyed by comments made by the Chairman of the Queensland Heritage Council, Professor John Brannock, following an inspection of the property.

  • “The demolition of the Cairns Yacht Club would be a terrible loss to the city and would reduce the social and cultural value of its waterfront irreparably, Queensland Heritage Council chairman John Brannock said yesterday.-------”

In addition to this, the Queensland Heritage Council sent an Assessor, from Brisbane, to Cairns to inspect the place on two separate occasions.

14th of August 2003: The Queensland Heritage Council’s Assessor’s first of two reports stated:

  • “Assessors Decision: The place is not of cultural heritage significance--- because of discrepancies in the listing boundary it is impossible to determine whether the place is of cultural heritage significance---”

Then on the 3rd of December 2003: Having clarified the listing boundary, the Queensland Heritage Council’s Assessor’s final Decision states:

  • “Assessors Decision: That the place is of cultural heritage significance, and satisfies one or more of the criteria under section 23(1) of the Act.---”

The Objectors: There were four objectors to Heritage Listing of the Cairns Yacht Club building:

1. Cairns Port Authority
2. Cairns City Council
3. Tourism Tropical North Queensland.
4. The Hilton Hotel.

Another objector is listed on the initial report from the Assessor, namely Advance Cairns, a Council quango, funded by Council, and the Port Authority.

The reasons for their objections where found to be the same as that given by Cairns Port Authority. For example, an Ordinary Meeting of the Cairns City Council, dated 25th of December 2003, states:

  • “Council--- resolved to lodge an objection based on the grounds of the heritage assessment undertaken by the Cairns Port Authority----- that the building has a high value for the residence of Cairns. The heritage assessment undertaken for the Port Authority acknowledges that the social significance of the place may be demonstrated at local level but no evidence to support it at state level.”

The Vote: On Friday the 12th of December 2003, the Heritage Council met in Brisbane to decide the matter.

Of the twelve member Council, two came from North Queensland. Although both were in favour of heritage listing neither voted.

The reasons for not voting were, in one case, on ethical grounds, because of a direct involvement in the preparation of the submission for Listing of the place (Dr. Wagner). In the second case the other North Queensland Council Member failed to attend.

The outcome of the vote made by the remaining ten council members, that included the chairman, professor John Brannock, was split, five in favour to five against.

In this situation the chairman has another vote. He, professor John Brannock, chose to vote against Listing.

It should be noted that the professor resigned the following year.

The Fallout. The level of disappointment, cynicism and anger at the decision was great. It should also be noted that, the vast majority of the public were, at this point, unaware of any objectors to heritage listing of the place, or the manner in which it failed. As the facts of the matter came to light questions were raised. For example:

  1. Why, did the chairman of the Queensland Heritage Council, do a 180 degree turn, when a few months earlier, following an inspection of the place, he clearly supported Heritage Listing.
  2. Why, when placed in the position of a split vote, did professor John Brannock ignore, respectively, the Decision of the Assessor and the opinions of the two North Queensland Council Members, all of whom favoured listing of the place.

In Summary:

1. The Objectors claimed:

“The place is not of cultural heritage significance,---”

2. The Report of the Queensland Heritage Council’s Assessor states:

“The place is of cultural heritage significance,---"

3. The two North Queensland Heritage Council members were both in favour of heritage listing.

4. In the May of 2003 the chairman of the Queensland Heritage Council, Professor John Brannock, led everyone to believe, in his statement to the Cairns Post, that he was strongly in favour of heritage listing.

5. When met with a split vote situation the chairman of the Queensland Heritage Council, Professor John Brannock:

a) Ignored the Council Assessor’s Decision. (note: Decision, not opinion)

b) Ignored the views of the two North Queensland members of the Heritage Council.

c) Reneged on his media release to the public, via the Cairns Post, and voted against the heritage listing of the place.

Since its failure to gain Heritage listing, the historic value of the Cairns Yacht Club Building has been acknowledged on a state and national basis when it was listed on :

a) Australian Council of National Trusts 2004 Endangered places List.

b) The National Trust of the Queensland Register.(31st March 2005)

So much for the Objectors claim that: “---acknowledges that the social significance of the place may be demonstrated at local level but no evidence to support it at state level.”

At a meeting on the 27th of August 2004, the QHC issued the Cairns Port Authority with a Certificate of Immunity the effect of which was that the Cairns Yacht Club could not be entered on the Heritage Register for a period of five years.

Of the Objectors, the following have since resigned and left their position:

  • Bill Calderwood-CEO Tourism Tropical North Queensland.
    Brad Geatches -CEO Cairns Port Authority
    David Maguire -CEO Advance Cairns

Saturday 26 January 2008

Kuranda and Mareeba Shire - A race to extinction

CairnsBlog contributing writer Sid Walker believes conserving as many links in the chain of life as possible is imperative, as we already live in a seriously fractured environment - and it's about to go into hyperdrive...

Where in the third world do you think these photos were taken? The Amazon? Borneo? PNG?

The correct answer is the Myola valley, a couple of kilometers from Kuranda, near Cairns.

The photo shows Kuranda Envirocare volunteers, on their way home from an Australia Day tree planting, gazing at Kuranda Envirolink’s latest scar.

They’d spent the morning laboriously planting seedlings on a cleared part of this wildlife corridor. Then they spotted what had been going on down the road a day or so before. For wildlife connectivity in the Myola / Kuranda area, it’s like one step forwards and 100 steps back. Dispiriting!

This is ‘working family’ style development. The landowners responsible are Kuranda locals. I’ve been told it’s not the only local subdivision they have in the pipeline.

I live further along the exquisitely beautiful and exceptionally bio diverse Myola valley, but try to keep my eyes on the road when I navigate its twists and turns. I must have missed ads for this development application. Certainly, I never saw it was coming.

No-one I know was aware of it beforehand either. My phone started to ring late last week. Today, I visited the site to take a few photos and saw some ugly sights. It was a moving experience.

Now, it’s true I don’t attend Mareeba Shire Council meetings and perhaps I’ve been remiss in not regularly studying the voluminous minutes of these meetings. I’m told an average of around 15 development applications are processed at by Council at a meeting. That’s for the entire Mareeba Shire.

I’m a little involved with voluntary conservation work, don’t get paid to do this stuff - and there are only so many hours in the day...

But the development approval system in Mareeba Shire – as it has operated at least over the last ten years – makes it hard to find out what’s happening. There seems to be no consolidated public list of approved new developments or forthcoming applications. Presumably minimum legal requirements for public notification are met, but no obvious effort is made to inform the community about new development proposals and their implications - or involve the public in Council decision-making.

It isn’t good enough. It may be legal, but it ain’t right. If environmentally sensitive parts of this area are to be ‘cleared’, at the very least the community should be informed and assent to the destruction for a well-understood higher reason. Instead, a few developers are able to use this magnificent environment like a private cash-vending machine – and to hell with what the community thinks!

Was a wildlife survey carried out in this patch of rainforest before the bulldozers rolled? Has Aboriginal heritage survey work been conducted?

It’s the long weekend now and it’ll be difficult to get any answers before Tuesday morning. Perhaps some of the journalists who work for our local, well-connected mainstream media could ring up Mareeba Shire Mayor Borzi and ask him - if they’re not too busy at the beach?

Should anyone manage to get Mr Borzi on his private line, they might usefully ask a few questions while they have his attention.

Here’s question number one…

Is it true there will be a special meeting of Mareeba Shire Council this coming Tuesday (29th January) to discuss the notorious Myola Plan – a plan that, if approved, would accelerate destruction of the Myola valley and turn this rural, biodiverse and semi-forested area into a new suburb of 10,000+ inhabitants?

If there is a meeting about the Myola Plan in two days time, why no notice of this ‘special’ meeting in the minutes of the most recent official Council meeting? Who decided to call a special meeting? Has due process been followed? Why the apparent secrecy and rush?

A significant majority of Myola residents, according to the Council's own survey, oppose the new Myola Plan. At the last Council meeting, submissions on the new plan were not available. Is a review of submissions all that Council has in mind for Tuesday’s meeting? Or will it proceed immediately to a decision?

Imminent threats to Kuranda’s special environment go beyond this master plan for Myola’s demise.

I understand at a recent Mareeba Shire Council meeting some 25 development applications were presented – well above average. Doubtless most of them were approved. Does Council intend to keep up this tempo until its very last days in office? What mandate does it have to approve anything at all in the Kuranda area? (There are no Kuranda residents on Council).

I imagine similarly indecent haste may be underway in other parts of Queensland, as old Councils work with chummy developers to race though a hastily considered development wish list before the new local government arrangements come into force.

Today there’s smoke in the air in the lower Myola valley. Piles of smashed logs are aflame.

An even stronger stench hangs over the activities of a moribund Council ramming through an unpopular development agenda while clinging to the reins of power. I trust our local MP Steve Wettenhall, the Queensland Government and its various watchdogs are paying attention?

I have mixed feelings about State Government intervention in Local Government. It seems to me intervention should be an absolute last resort, exercised only in cases of blatant misdeeds. Yet if Mareeba Shire Council goes feral on the Kuranda area, locals will have no choice than to beg the Bligh Government to cull it early.

An honorable council, in its last days, would throttle back on new development decisions. Indeed, it would willingly enter caretaker mode.

Is it too much to ask that Mayor Borzi and his councilors do the honorable thing and leave all future decisions – at least non-urgent matters concerning the Kuranda area - for the new Tablelands Regional Council?

This new council will be elected and in place in less than two months time. Its councilors will have a fresh mandate – as well as the opportunity to work in harmony with the new draft regional plan, due for public release in April 2008. In the best case, there might even be an outbreak of development sanity! Diehards on Mareeba Shire Council must not be allowed to act as spoilers in the interim.

Kuranda residents see with our own eyes the destruction that can be done in a day or so.

At the time of writing, Mareeba Shire Council has seven whole weeks left.

It will be extinct within the span of two more lunar cycles. The question is how many other, more innocent species it may destroy in its dying days?

Friday 25 January 2008

New direction for Blogger

Google's Blogger, that drives CairnsBlog, have launched their blogging interface into Arabic, Hebrew and Persian.

Blogger is now available in 37 languages, and Google has 159 country sites.

The difference with Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew is that they are written from right to left, and therefore the back-end of the editing tools had to be flipped completely.

If you want a permanent link to instantly translate any text, you can add your own particular one to your Favourites.

It's tremendous that such a big player like Google is helping facilitate independent freelance journalism by encouraging more to join the blogging community.

And if you thought most blogs were in the English, you are wrong! Japanese is the top blogging language and we come a close second. In the State of the Live Web, Japan takes the top spot with 37% (up from 33%), with English at 36% (down from 39%). Italian overtook Spanish for the number four spot. The newcomer to the top 10 languages is Farsi, just joining the list at 10.

Both English and Spanish are more global languages based on consistency of posting, whereas other top languages, specifically Japanese, Chinese, and Italian, are more geographically correlated.

Technorati is now tracking in excess of 112 million blogs. This is one of them.

Fanuary is coming

This one will make the hair on your back crawl.

The Christchurch Press reports on the controversy over Fanuary.

You will probably be aware of Movember. This is all about encouraging men to grow a moustache in November to raise awareness of men’s health issues - including prostrate cancer.

Now we have a group called Fanuary.

They are asking women to go without bikini waxes in January - all in the name of raising awareness of women’s health, particularly gynaecological cancers.

Photos are abound when Movember comes around. How brave would the media be to put a pretty pic of Pam's perfect pruned pussy for us all to perve?

The good ol Kiwis have even set up a website for the event.

I know there's also some guys out there, especially swimmers, that like to mow downstairs, if you know what I mean.

I recall when David Tench asked Shannon Noll about his wee goatie, he was rather naughty.

Some online discussion forums have been active with suggestions for new "Fanuary" styles:

The Landing Strip
(used for the benefit of male first-timers to, “find things in the dark”) - extra points for the dashed line down the middle

The Bermuda Triangle
(Where many a good keen adventure has been lost without a trace. “Where the hell is Indiana Jones when you need him…?”) - Must have 3 clearly defined corners. Points for denseness and symmetry. Up-side-downess gains additional judges recognition

The Tache
(”Your boyfriend/husband/girlfriend took great pleasure in your discomfort during Movember… Time for payback!! Let him get pash-rash”) - Points for shape, thickness, ethnicity, Ringmaster pointy bits. NO GOATEES OR ADOLFS!

HatTip: KiwiBlog

Cairns dot com dot au

The Cairns Post will next week officially launch their new and improved website.
They paid a kazillion dollars (I'm joking) for the rights to own, retiring the old and, which both redirect to the new site.
Looks like they are now also uploading more news from the print edition onto the web, which is a good thing as more and more of our community look for what's going on in our community online.
With the new URL domain name, the Post are also aiming to attract broader web traffic and will include tourist and local information as well.
This is in direct contrast to our Cairns City Council that removes Council Minutes only after a short period online, and a Council website that has error messages for missing or relocated pages on a regular occurrence.
So, good on you Mark and the web team behind this new improved look and feel.
But please ditch the awful non-native palm trees in the header. That's the trick developers do after finishing a shitty 5 story high-rise. They plonk a row of palm trees at the front and think it looks postcard "tropical".

Why not plant Lilley Pilly - of which there are a great variety. White Cedar (Melia azedarach); Weeping Bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis); Native Willow (Agonis flexuosa); or even Melaleuca lanceolata (White bottle brush flowers). These are drought tolerant trees and provide better shade.

I recall there's been attempts to remove Christopher Skase's Oil Palms (Elaeis guineensis) from Africa, on the Port Douglas entry road, that he famously imported. While I'm not against these per say, can we please celebrate our own natural flora and fauna first?

Best fush n chups

The Cairns Post have just completed a survey from readers about where the City's best tucker is found.

Amazingly, there's no mention of Villa Romana. Tropos was also left out of the list, that CairnsBlog readers rave about. And that dodgy burger bar in Bungalow is ignored.

Sheridan Street's Ocean Wild Seafood market (opposite Tobruk Pool) was also omitted. They certainly serve truly amazing fresh fush n chups, and have you seen their cheeky new TV advert?

I have to say, and I'm not a huge pie fan, but when I do, Meldrums in Grafton Street is really Pie Heaven.

Here's what Post readers said. However I'd love to hear your fav and not so favs, which could be even more interesting!

The best: Cafe China.
Honourable mention: Taste of Hong Kong.

The best: Not Just Fried.
Honourable mentions: Sheridan Gourmet Seafood, Davina's Takeaway

The best: Hog's Breath Cafe.
Honourable mentions: Cock & Bull, The Northerner Steakhouse

The best: Botanic Gardens Cafe.
Honourable mention: Lake Barrine Teahouse

The best: Little Ricardo's.
Honourable mentions: Pedros Pizza, Pizzarito

The best: Annabel's Gourmet Pie Shop.
Honourable mentions: Meldrums, Natralicious

The best: Twelve BC.
Honourable mentions: Cairns Courtyard Cafe, Cafe Sole

The best: Divine Gelato.
Honourable mention: Wendy's outlets

The best: The Red Beret Hotel.
Honourable mentions: Trinity Beach Tavern, Court House Hotel

The best: Sheridan Gourmet Seafood.
Honourable mentions:
Rex Burger Bar, Pete's Place

Bligh & Bligh

Douglas Shire Councillor Rod Davis and local radio celeb is careful when brushing his teeth, and wants you to make your own choices.

Those with an eye for history might be interested to read about Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, the great, great, great, great, (this is starting to grate on me) granddaughter of the original Governor Bligh.

Tomorrow, Australia Day, try and avoid noting that it was 200 years ago, that her grandad was removed from office.

With 30-40% of the community opposed to compulsory fluoridation, Anita Boyden makes some interesting observations below.

Likewse, we in Noosa and Douglas, communities opposed to amalgamation with the homogenising blur, have a similar bone to pic with Ms Bligh, and given nice tropical island, and some cute grass skirted chics, I'm sure a mutiny would be again on the cards given the chance.

But sorry, in 2008 we don't get such a choice. I had Bob Abbot, Mayor of Noosa on my radio programme today, and he is battling the same issues as Douglas, the take over by the great nothingness.

Interestingly, Noosa has several sad functions planned before its removal under Bligh's March of the Nothingness, and one group plans to bury a time capsule. Not just any time capsule, but a time capsule buried in a coffin, after a community wake.
  • Do you know what connection Australia Day has to the mandatory addition of fluoride to up to 90 or 95% of Queenslanders' public water supplies for claimed dental benefits?Well, when NSW was a penal colony, a governor of NSW was arrested and jailed by the NSW Rum Corps.

    This happened on the 26th day of January, 1808 - exactly 20 years after British settlement in Australia. Tomorrow, Australia Day will be celebrated precisely 200 years since this governor was removed from office. He will be better known to you as Captain Bligh, Captain William Bligh, whose ship, the Bounty, was seized by Christian Fletcher nineteen years previously (April 28th, 1789).

    Bligh and 18 others were turned adrift in the longboat in which Bligh skillfully navigated 4,000 miles to Timor. History records Bligh as having "undoubtedly insulted many of his officers" and his "abusive tongue and overzealous and overbearing manner made him unpopular as a commander". Now 200 years after Governor Bligh's removal from office, his Great Great Great Great (4 Greats) Granddaughter - Premier Anna Bligh - has also been making herself unpopular - but in this instance, it is by her intention to mass medicate Queenslanders by having an industrial-grade fluoride compound added to their public water supplies: a compound that contains traces of the carcinogens arsenic and lead, as well as other heavy metals.

    One of the compounds Premier Bligh has the choice of using in your water supply, is, according to its Material Safety Data Sheet, used as a roach and ant killer.

    Premier Bligh, like her Great Great Great Great Grandfather Bligh, could also be accused of being overzealous and overbearing: overzealous meaning "marked by excessive devotion to a cause or idea" (the idea being to add fluoride to public water supplies) and overbearing meaning "expecting unquestioning obedience"; such as unquestioning obedience to drink the water - from the cradle to the grave - to which has been added an industrial-grade Scheduled 6 or Scheduled 7 accumulative poison.

    If you think "overzealous" and "overbearing" are strong words, please bear in mind that Premier Bligh's intention to add fluoride to most of Queensland's public water supplies is despite the fact that the adverse effects of extremely low doses of fluoride have been substantiated scientifically - and when I talk about adverse effects at extremely low doses I am talking about the amount of fluoride consumed by the average person from drinking artificially fluoridated water.

    I now quote from a current nursing reference book:
    "Competent clients can refuse drug treatment at any time. Continuing to give treatment when clients have clearly refused can constitute trespass".
    (Source: Fundamentals of Pharmacology, Galbraith et al, 4th Edition).

    Listeners, DEMAND freedom of health choice.

    If Premier Bligh follows through with her intention to force medicate Queenslanders with an accumulative poison, do you think we ought to set her adrift?

A new cycle track

Now I know Richie Bates who is running for the city Division 5, is a mad cyclist. I don't know how mad, because some are a bit more extreme than others.

Bates has a load of medals and awards from the prime of his road and track cycling days, but nowadays does more coaching and sports administration. He's also a regular commentator on the radio for local sporting events.

Anyway, I spotted this video and thought that something like this around Cairns would be a great attraction, if it's done in harmony with our environment.

I know some local lads often take a rather obscure track off the side of the Copperload Road which looks rather frightening from the top.

God Hates Fred Phelps

The lovely Christians of Westboro church are planning to attend Ledger's funeral.

They will protest the Academy Awards and the funeral of Heath Ledger, because the actor played a gay cowboy in the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain.

They also demonstrate at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and believe God hates gays.

A press release on the church's websites and, and even says: "Heath Ledger is now in Hell, and has begun serving his eternal sentence there - besides which, nothing else about Heath Ledger is relevant or consequential."

The Chaser boys made fun of these extreme nutters last year.

Thursday 24 January 2008

An endangered species

Ray Taylor wrote this poem about the woes of the endangered Cairns Yacht Club site.

The Old Cairns Yacht Club
(and The Objectors)

For those that followed up this tale,
Of how Heritage Listing came to fail.
A vote that you and I have seen,
Does not reflect what should have been.

Please spare a moment to review,
The Objectors, and then pursue,
Those oh so keen to see it gone.
So now, dear friend, I ask - read on.

Before me lies a letter sent,
By the Queensland Government,
A Minister on this matter wrote,
And from his letter I will quote.

“Four Objections” -does this letter state,
Each one, it claims, was “separate”
But there’s a link between this group,
A common chain to form a loop.

Now, there is a place, I would suggest,
That fits this scenario the best.
Behind closed doors, in the heart of town,
This is where the deals go down.

Whose rampant name to me suggests,
A large bronze lady with big bare breasts,
With a fist of dollars held on high,
And at her feet old Cairns doth lie.

The carpet bagger’s rub their hands,
“I really like this place called Cairns”.
And having made a quid or two,
Under darkness, then shoots through.

And with their bags stretched to the wide,
In another town they now reside,
Leaving we that love this place,
Their concrete structures then to face.

This somewhat cynical may appear,
And/or offensive to the ear,
I feel it lands right on the mark,
When on Heritage listing you embark.

Now, for the first cab off the rank,
Our Local Council, the first sword sank,
Who by their Objection it’s plain to see,
Have no respect for history.

These Council actions are worth noting,
When you have to go a voting.
For what they did one can’t ignore,
Remember- they’re one of -The Four.

The second gives his sword a twist,
His job involves the tourist,
Where they come from, where they go,
All these facts he wants to know.

If one takes time out to reflect,
Why on earth would he Object.
When around the world it’s plain to see,
The tourist’s love of history.

The third to give his sword a tweak ,
Really has no grounds to speak,
Views majestic, to all excludes,
His concrete structure to the sky intrudes.

And by his actions we deplore,
This hotelier- this Objector.
For to put the boot in, you’ll agree,
Is hardly very neighbourly.

The fourth applies the coup de grace,
So give this man a big cigar,
It comes as no surprise to we,
He works for an Authority.

No time for things so sentimental,
His needs are far more fundamental,
And by his act that we view as sad,
To his resume’ he now can add.

This quartet, this motley lot,
All of whom are in the plot,
To sabotage a noble cause,
The views of locals each ignores.

So by their actions all helped to thwart,
Those who Heritage Listing sought.
Whose noble act was but a plea,
To save what remains of our history.

Ray Taylor, Little Mulgrave)

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Free rice

This seems to be just what the Internet can do best - teach and do the world some good at the same time.

Just try playing the game for fun, then go to FAQ for an explanation of how it works.

Wicked stuff

One of my early posts back last August, was about the wicked folk at Wicked Campers.

On the way along Grafton Street this morning, I snapped this gem. I'd love to be a copywriter for Wicked. Well, after Kev's Speech and Media Manager of course.

Pop in, say hello to Kev

I was wandering down to the Nard this morning to meet Salman Rushdie, Elvis and Osama. We get together every year for a tea party.

Then something rather shocking happened. I nearly fell over in Spence Street. It wasn't due to any dodgy Council footpath that was looking like a tourist death trap. Oh no.

The Spence Street footpaths are surprisingly and totally restaurant-free. Makes walking a breeze.

I stumbled across the Mayor's election campaign HQ he's just set up in the Bolands Centre.

Big Kev's picked an office that is heritage listed. Oh, the irony. I can see all the joke headlines already.

I was delighted he's chosen such a lovely spot, in the heart of the city, and area that is frequented by tourists.

Hardly a local wander along there, amongst the tourist shops.

It's almost right next door to yet another tourist junk shop, called "Loose Change", which is rather appropriate after Deputy Mayor Terry James comments last week.

Anyway, I snapped a couple of pix and dropped my calling card in the door, to say I'd called.

Next time, I hope TJ pops the jug on.