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?

11 comments:

Sid Walker said...

My apologies to Mareeba Shire Council.

On further examination, the minutes of its recent meeting DO refer to a "special meeting" on the 29th January.

My mistake was to search the minutes with the term 'Myola' instead of 'special'.

Here's the reference I missed earlier:

"ADH-7 Special Meeting

Resolved that Council hold a Special Meeting on Tuesday, 29 January 2008 commencing at 8.00am to consider planning issues and other urgent matters.

Carried"


So there we have it.

Thanks to MSC for the highly informative resolution.

We residents do like to know what's coming up :-)

Anonymous said...

http://statements.cabinet.qld.gov.au/MMS/StatementDisplaySingle.aspx?id=44475

Anonymous said...

Applications to clear native vegetation can be found under Vegetation Management on www.nrw.qld.gov.au. Currently there are 2 for the Mareeba Shire.

The Myola planning study can be found on www.kurandarangeupgrade.com/status/myola_planning_study.html This may have been updated so you might need to check but it gives you a basic idea what is planned.

Where protected matters are concerned [ World heritage areas, Wet Tropics, protected flora and fauna] application must be made under the EPBC Act ( Federal legislation) Interestingly, the Myola Palm is a listed “endangered flora.” See
www.environment.gov.au/epbc/notices/index.html This will allow you to search for referrals associated with intended development etc. The Kuranda Range upgrade has been given approval – 2002/719 and there is another Kuranda related decision 2007/3416.

Sid Walker said...

Well, thanks for the tips, 'anonymous'.

Is there any reason, incidentally, why an apologist for Mareeba Shire Council feels the need to post anonymously?

The public processes to which you refer are, in my opinion, woefully inadequate to protect a highly sensitive area such as Myola from a development onslaught by an out-of-control Council.

As for the Myola Planning Study, it is such a shonky document one might reasonably wonder if it's some kind of joke?

Jude J Troublemaker said...

Sid, Don't know why you think Anonymous is an "apologist" for the Mareeba Shire Council. I think "Anonymous" was giving you the tips as to where information could be found. I doubt if anyone thinks that the process is adequate whether it be in Mareeba Shire or in Cairns. Just imagine what will happen in Douglas Shire after the almalgamation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks jude j troublemaker. Sid I can assure you I am not an apologist for the Mareeba Shire Council. I have no connection with any Council or any Local,State or Federal government body. Like most on this blog, I am a concerned member of the community who endeavours to learn as much as I can.

Factman said...

Troublemaker ... your comment ... "Just imagine what will happen in Douglas Shire after the amalgamation."

Let me tell you.

What will happen is, the good folks in the ex Douglas Shire will get, a coherent, united and progressive council under the leadership of a disciplined and forward thinking leader.
Compare that to the crap those poor souls have had to put up with.
A totally dysfunctional council consisting of pack of clueless fractionated, wannabees, that has unfortunately been in power over the last 5 years.

Mind you, if Val and her dreamers ... architects, vets, uni union leaders, nobodies and wannabees, get in, then god help Cairns!!!

Sid Walker said...

If I was too hasty when responding to the anonymous poster, I apologize.

It is sometimes hard to gauge the intent of contributors, especially when they post anonymously.

I thought he/she provided references to show in some way that adequate information about development in the Kuranda area is available to the public, contrary to the theme of my article.

I'm glad if I misunderstood his/her intent.

Teresa said...

Factman...you should be more specific...Mike Berwick, Mayor of the Douglas Shire Council is one of the most respected and visionary politicians in the country. Despite some of the "clueless, fractionated, wannabes" (some of whom have been on air with Mackenzie and Byrne slagging Mike at any given opportunity) we in the DS have a far superior, sustainable and dare I say it, community based town plan! I can also assure you that there are many in this area who want it protected and will pursue that goal through iconic legislation.

Jude J Troublemaker said...

Factman, I don't doubt that the current Douglas Shire Council is dysfunctional, and I am concerned as to the representation Division 10 will get. I do disagree that Cairns has the right answers and that Council has been "lead by a disciplined and forward thinking leader". My concern is that the Developers will see the Amalgamation and Port Douglas as an Aladdins Cave.

CathyR said...

Sid,

Just a small correction to your original story on the latest development off Myola Road. This development impacts on the Fairyland link Corridor, not the Envirolink Coridor, which is further to the west. However Fairyland link corridor is also vitally important in the Myola Valley. As recently as late last year a young cassowary was sighted on a property within this wildlife corridor.
Cathy Retter, President, Kuranda Envirocare