Tuesday 29 January 2008

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


Nowakowski said...

Hi Sid,

Thank You for your updates concerning the Myola metropolis subdivision. If it wasn't for you none of us would now what the secretive and dubious Mareeba Shire is doing.

We pride ourselves in having one of the best democracies in the world but as you have highlighted at local council level democracy is yet to reach the vocabulary of these Mareeba dead-heads. It seems accountability, honesty and transparency in Government are other traits lacking and unheard of.

Keep us informed Sid - well done and lets work together to stop this ill-conceived planning decision.

Steven Nowakowski

Anonymous said...

Hi Sid,

Thank You for your updates concerning the Myola metropolis subdivision. If it wasn't for you none of us would now what the secretive and dubious Mareeba Shire is doing.

We pride ourselves in having one of the best democracies in the world but as you have highlighted at local council level democracy is yet to reach the vocabulary of these Mareeba dead-heads. It seems accountability, honesty and transparency in Government are other traits lacking and unheard of.

Keep us informed Sid - well done and lets work together to stop this ill-conceived planning decision.

Steven Nowakowski

Anonymous said...

This is just an example of the blatant arrogant, disrespectful and uncooperative attitude of the Mareeba Shire Council. The council does not serve the needs of the shire - namely Kuranda!

We form clicky groups like this when we are in high school. Secretive groups that make their own sets of rules to rebel. It is very scary that this sort of attitude reflects the actions of the Mareeba Shire Council - Myola project! It is not only the tourism industry at stake but most importantly some of the most beautiful flora and fauna in the Mareeba Shire is under threat!!! Their decision making would lead me to question what rewards do the Mareeba Shire Council think they will be recieving? Obviously the council know they are at fault, why else would they be so nervous the public might find out! The Myola project is obviously not of benefit to the citizens of the Shire!!! I suggest to serve the best needs of the Shire and fulfil the ROLES of a real council, the MSC take some serious training sessions in communication and morality or step out of the way and let someone with a brain take over!!!

Anonymous said...

And so, another 10,000 cars travelling up and down the Kuranda Range daily.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments.
I thought for a while you were talking about cairns council.
Certainly a spreading infection in this whole delicate enviroment.
Now everybody can understand why there has been a big push by byrne and his developer mates for the kuranda range widening.
Money, money, money.
Who cares about what the community thinks!

Anonymous said...

The Kuranda Range will soon be a twelve lane super freeway connecting the Myola suburbs with Cairns.

Anonymous said...

10,000 Cars ..12 lane highway!!! If the go ahead has already been given to Myola sub division than can we please look at putting in a good public rail service for the whole region, like most of Europe and Japan has been working so hard on to connect their towns and Cities.

The population of the Cairns- Tablelands-Innisfail region must surely be such as to warrant some better services.
People who don't drive(for many reasons) have to rely on family, neighbours and friends to drive them here for appointments and shopping ect when there is a perfectly good train track sitting there hardly being used at all.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with you people thinking we need or can support a rail line to anywhere? Comparing Cairns to Europe or Japan? Are you mad?

Germany has 60 million people in a land area about that of NSW. Even a small city in Japan with light rail has 2 million people. Even these system are not self-supporting, and require government subsidies. Where do you think the massive amounts of money to run a "rail system" in Cairns can come from?

Many of these discussions would be a lot more productive if you people had a modicum of education.

Anonymous said...

OK...25,000 people in the Barron River Delta, 10,000 people in the Myola area...

WHAT are these people going to DO? There are only 3 major employers in Cairns, forget Mareeba..maybe there will be a mining "boom", but then again..?

#1 - The Tourism industry, rapidly being killed off by;

#2 - The "Development" ...sic... industry, aided and abetted by;

#3 - Cairns City..soon to be Regional.. Council..!

State Governemnt employment is largely reperesented by Health, with the rest concentatrated in Townsville.

Aviation employs a highly skilled, but small workforce.

The maritime industry is largely defunct with the loss of Government contracts to WA

Sugar is suffering badly..

"Development" has pushed land values...hence Rates, to record highs, to the point where, as Factman states, property becomes the province of the FIFO mining industry workers, and "investors" (speculators)from the South. To live here? Oh no, but as "investment properties", or "holiday rentals", for people who no longer want to holiday here..!

Retirees able to move here? Don't make me laugh. The "grey nomads" have long since bypasseed this part of the world, taking their retirement dollars elsewhere.

The fact is we are building accommodation for the people who are building the accommodation for the people who are building....you get the picture..?

What happens if the building stops, or one of the "majors" goes "belly-up"?

A former golf course that attracted many tourists now attracts less than 20 "investors" to "snap up" sites in the Oceans Edge Development at Palm Cove.

Considering the reported $M300 investment (Cairns Post, 30-Jan-2008), the $M17 sales to date calculate out to be 5.7% of the sum committed to the project.

How did I arrive at the figure of "less than 20 investors"? Same article says prices range from $950,000 to $M2.5....do the Maths..!

Notwithstanding the dodgy photo used in the CP artcile to advertise the "Development", a photo clearly taken long before the bulldozers ripped up the fairways and green spaces, the fact is that $M1.0+ price tags on property in Palm Cove, and in the neighbouring Argentea Development do not bode well for a future sustainable city..

Kiwis have been bagged here lately, but at least they have the sense to "cash in" on the "golf tourism" boom which, when allied to other attractions, has the industry booming to the point where Michael Hill, (of Michael Hill Jeweller fame)sees fit to develop a spectacular new golf course, see;


but then what does HE know about creating a successful business..?

At the same time local "developers" pick away at the fringes of the last remaining championship course in Cairns....but OH SILLY ME...we're about to inherit all those marvellous courses in Port Douglas aren't we?

I wonder how long it will be before we see the CHAMPIONSHIP GOLFING IN THE CAIRNS "REGION" (read Port Douglas) mantra being espoused by ADVANCE CAIRNS..?

Anonymous said...

Well we could afford to run a rail system 25 years ago from the tablelands to Cairns. I used to come down on weekends along with heaps of other people to the old water works while mum and dad went shopping in town.
It was a great trip and we looked forward to it.
Grow up obviously either didnt grow up here or wasnt allowed out in case he/she got lost.
Why we dont have the service now when our population is much larger i dont know. Id have to guess it wasnt turning a huge profit so it was dumped. The Tourist train is about it now, but the local population has nothing.
Everyone is fully aware of the difference between here and europe thank you, but we are not asking for a service of that magnitude or speed.
With the downright arrogance you portray though youd be a shoe in for Big Kevs team over this election time. Perhaps a run with the ever arrogant factman....but of course youd know that with your superior intellect.

Anonymous said...

Holy cow! A rail service like Europe or Japan for Cairns. That would take us decades to catch up to those countries. The fastest train in Australia is still only the tilt train which takes about 6 hours longer to do the same distance as the trains overseas...lol.

I don't think I'll be holding my breath for Cairns to get a bullet train in my lifetime.

But I guess I was just reminding the powers that be that the rest of the world is putting in bigger and better mass transport services while we in Cairns aren't even interested in developing or planning for this kind of infrastructure.
Even though we live between 2 World Heritage Listed areas we don't give a stuff about reducing our carbon footprint (oh so hot in Europe right now) We will probably start to get with this trend in a few years time.

When we finally do catch on to this World trend and the Cairns region grows ,where are the service lines going to go if we don't plan for them now by starting small and laying the foundations.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you jj. Well said!

When 'experts' speak anonymously and tell the rest of us to "grow up", it's time to take a peek and see what clothes the Emperor is actually wearing.

Our expert friend would have us believe that FNQs publicly-owned rail easements are essentially a waste of space.

I can't accept that.

We need to use them - but not necessarily with old style rail vehicles. I suspect the answer for a relatively low population area with high environmental sensitivity is an ultra-efficient, highly-automated monorail system that allows free passage of fauna underneath.

As a rank amateur honest enough to admit that I hold no qualifications in railway engineering or transport planning, it seems to me our new rail system should be able to carry passengers in small numbers (and sometimes large), as well as container freight (although not necessarily the largest size of containers).

Now, let's just imagine that such a system doesn't exist at present, anywhere in the world. Maybe it doesn't?

Instead of accepting defeat because there's no-one else to follow, how about we design it - here in Australia - and implement it first in FNQ?

As it would pass by the Kuranda suburb of Fairyland on its way between Cairns and Mareeba, perhaps it could be re-named the Fairyland Express, in honour of all neotenous dreamers and Peter Pan enthusiasts?

At the very least, it seems to me, we should seriously investigate how to make good use of our existing rail network.

The Kuranda Range rail line was built at great cost by the first generation of Europeans in FNQ. It came with a high personal cost to many construction workers as well as the Aboriginal people of that time.

We have inherited it.

I believe we should try to use it - not as an antique for tourists that also moves the occasional consignment of molasses - but to serve the real needs of our generation's residents, visitors and industry.

Anonymous said...

When thinking about rail transport in Cairns, you have to consider that from Gordonvale, even further south to Babinda and Innisfail, through to Palm Cove, the rail system is already there. I may be wrong, but more than likely, there is a rail system that services most of the Mossman sugar industry as well. All you have to do it join the 2 pieces together. There is also a rail system that runs from Kuranda to Cairns that is used daily. When you look at the growing number of car and truck accidents that occure on both Kuranda Range and the Captain Cook Highway,(another almost fatal one happening at Oak Beach yesterday), Who cares if the state and local government have to subsidise the cost of running a commuter rail service around Cairns. If we could get only 10% of the domestic/tourist traffic and 10% of the freight traffic off these roads, the savings in insurance, medical costs and human lives would be worth it. We would not need a highspeed rail service. The distance between point a and point b are great enought to warrant having anything different to an updated airconditioned version of the Kuranda train. Just imagine how much of the local area we as locals and the tourists would be able to see while sitting in a train looking out of a window, rather than trying to watch the road and dodge highspeed motorists and truck drivers.

Anonymous said...

My Dad was a railwayman. Back in the 1960s, rail transport carried most of the bulk goods to the Tablelands. It can happen again.

Anonymous said...

Use your imagination or look on Map 14-11 in the big phonebook ...Sugarcane Tramway line runs past Hambleton State School Edmonton, then line passes the back fence of St Therese's School and Church in Bentley Park than passes between Southside Gymnastic Centre and Fretwell Park which is a five minute walk to Bentley Park(primary and secondary) College than along through Mt Sheridan (in walking distance from the Shopping Centre) through Forest Gardens which has Trinity Anglican College and White Rock Primary opposite side of the Highway and on to St Mary's College which also has St Gerard Majella Primary. Through Jeff Pezzuti Park and Hockey Field and through Woree where Woree High and Woree Primary are and also Public Pool not far away, passed the Bowls Club on Toogood Road on to Earlville within walking distance to Cannon Park.
Sizzler's is next with Earlville Shopping Centre across the road on to Our Lady Help of Christians School and Church at Earlville. Balaclava Primary is on the walking track behind OLHOC following Chinaman's Creek drain, if you feel like walking a few blocks. It is only used a few months of the year for transporting cane and is not opened to public use but what a fun way to get to school if you could catch a little tram would reduce morning traffic on Highway... and as for passing Cannon Park... what a exciting way to get to and from Race Day Mr Hedley?

Anonymous said...

Well what can i say to all of the comments going on around the area in which I lived in for many years and cherish, but let us go back 2 years roughly to learn that a dog & cat boarding facility was approved by the Mareeba Shire Council in a very sensitive environmental area, not to mention a rural but very residential area ( effective that their are many residents here)that also fall within the parameters of the Myola plan....The Kennels have now made application to expand and I am not sure how that is going to fit in with the Councils development plan, not to mention what it has done to the ambiance and tranquility of our once beautiful environment...The Mareeba Shire Council have more to answer for than meets the eye..Go Syd take em to task as you have only skimmed the surface i am sure T