Monday 18 February 2008

Beside the seaside, beside the sea

Oh, the irony.

After years of criticism from JCU's Professor Jon Nott about this Council's push for extensive high-density housing along our coastline, Mayor Byrne, in a surprising plea for help, is seeking financial support from the Federal government to manage the problem that would be posed from a tidal surge or a cyclone.

Mayor Byrne says in the Cairns Post that our stretch of coastline is more exposed to rising sea levels than anywhere in Australia.

Did we read that correct?

However this is not news to renowned climate expert at JCU, Professor Jon Nott. "A super-cyclone ...comes through every 200 years," he says. "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."

Nott has repeated this claim on many occasions over recent years. He also says 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 says. He condemns the places of development that are ill-thought out planning and approvals by Council in known cyclone and flood storm surge areas.

Mayor Byrne got rather flustered a while ago in a remarkable public debate with Professor Nott. He called 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 regarded Professor Nott as a doomsayer and a Neanderthal. Now, Byrne is saying that there is a threat of a tidal sea threat to our coastline. My, how some people change their tune.

Last February, in a letter to the Cairns Post, he calls for a reasoned debate on climate change and global warming and then stated "that as Australia represents only one third of 1 per cent of the world's population, it is reasonable to assume that our contribution to the problem will be of similar proportion." We know that per capita, Australia is one of the worst greenhouse gas polluters in the industrialised world. Australia needed to show leadership in reducing green house gas emissions and that leadership needs to be at the personal and local government level as well as at the Federal level.

Byrne has been in denial about the impact of human activity on global warming and climate change. Cairns Council continues to approve buildings that are not designed for the tropics and depend on electricity rather than embrace the natural airflow elements?

This is odd. Mayor Byrne lives in a $430,000 traditional Queenslander in Whitfield with overhanging roofs and verandas on a large corner section, designed to capture the breeze. Why then, when he's in his Spence Street air-conditioned 3rd floor office, would he not want to ensure the over-whelming majority of unit and house development approvals, embrace a similar code of design?

It's beyond me and probably most rationale people to understand the answer to that. Cairns could and should be leading the country on such designs in this climate conscious time we live.

Traditional North Queenslander house elements like large over-hanging external window covers should be mandatory. But they're not. Take a look an any new unit complex. All you'll see is rows of Air Cons loaded up the walls.

Few native tree plantings have occurred in the "Garden in a city" programme that the Mayor is so proud of. Medium strips along main roads is where these have largely occurred. "Garden in a Traffic Island" the project should be more aptly the renamed.

Such native planting would offset the electricity and energy used by Council staff, travel and vehicles?

It's time that this Council looks at the real differences we can make in our own backyard. How we can share ideas about how we can all contribute to reducing global warming rather than denigrate people like Professor Nott who has been working for years to bring such concerns to the attention of politicians and decision-makers.

The Mayor now says that, in conjunction with his China-loving Advance Cairns qango - the first organisation that should be dismantled and funding withdrawn under the new Council - he's working on a submission to the Federal government for "assistance in flood prevention and mitigation". Big words. But rather empty in meaning when local development is working in contrast to such submissions.

Byrne goes on to say that he's been "at the Federal Government for four years to help with flood works".

Yet Kerry Eaton, an independent Cairns engineering surveyor, who submitted an extensive report to Council following last month's Gordonvale flooding, says the problem is in the planning department. He stated the real cause of the flooding could be blamed on the new neighbouring developments.

Cairns Council have put it down to "unusual weather that is a once-in-a-20-year occurrence." However, it is all about poor planning of the new subdivisions and lack of infrastructure.

A CEC plumbing contractor who spoke to off the record to CairnsBlog, said there was a serious drainage problem on the Southside. His observation followed months of laying sewage pipes in the newly developed land.

"We would dig down only a meter in some places and there was water there, heaps of it. The water table is often just below the surface," he said. "We were often laying pipes in water, so it was obvious that something extra needed to be done in this area, you know, substantial culverts. You could see that only a small rainfall was going to have an impact here."

Which such a massive addition of hard surface been added to a natural adsorbent landscape, especially in high rainfall area like South Cairns and Gordonvale, it's imperative large channels are built in to housing developements.

The mitigation measures now being undertaken in and around Chinaman and Clarke's creek are reactive.

It appears that Eaton's report was very controversial as it questioned the very developments that Cairns City Council had approved and permitted, along with stormwater systems the were seriously inadequate.

They also didn't take into account neighbouring established housing.

There’s a lot of questions about how such planning is undertaken and approved in our region. The State government should be taking a long hard look.

This is further important in light of huge sediment run off at False Cape that now appears to be contributed from Council allowing wet season works and excavating.

There's a pattern of neglect to strategic planning and an urgency to build without following due process and best practice. Some do not simply understand, nor embrace the effects of the tropical weather patterns, flood delta and kinetic flows in North Queensland.

In view of Mackay's experience this last week, Cairns has a great deal to be extremely concerned about.

Something to think about on a rainy day.


Anonymous said...

Mayor Byrne is creating a blame diversion. If anything does happen, then he will create a personal wind tunnel in fingering the Federal Government for "all blame".

Anonymous said...

I thought it was the State Government him and factman where blaming for everything that happens in Cairns. With factmans blame everything on the State Government period, I was starting to wonder what we had local council for.

Anonymous said...

Well Ben ... if you want the RATEPAYER and not Fed/State Govt to make Cairns fully flood proof, be prepared to dig real deep into your pockets.

But you wont will you, because you probably live in a Qld Govt State rental house on taxpayer subsidised rent without any idea what paying rates is all about.

I can tell you that Qld Govt State housing renters are the biggest whingers that Council have to put up with.

And they all vote for that Labor dog, O'Brien.

Anonymous said...

Well, Ben, welcome to the mind of Andrew Fraser.

The communists of the Beattie and Bligh Govts have centralised all power they can to themselves.

Amalgamations are exhibit 1.

Did you know that all planning and development for Cairns and every other council in QLD is now done in Brisbane, thanks to Bligh legislation?

They've seen State Governments becoming obsolete and they've moved to make Councils obsolete instead.

We should be bringing it all back to the local level, and doing away with State Govt altogether.

And I've been saying that regardless of who has been in.

Anonymous said...

Is Byrne finally (just days before an election) admitting that GLOBAL WARMING IS HERE!! He should have listened to the academics years ago, and started planning for changing weather. His lack of foresight could cost us citizens our lives.

Anonymous said...

Obviously Tyson works alongside Factman with the almighty KB.
Actually Factman, I do notlive in "Qld Govt State rental house on taxpayer subsidised rent without any idea what paying rates is all about." I run a business here in Cairns and pay quite a considerable amount of rates. The last increase for me was $3000 a year. If my increase was $3000, you can sort of figure out how much I actually pay.
Flood proofing Cairns is everyones problem, not just the local or state governments.
Mackay City council did the same things that Cairns has done, and look at the condition of Mackay.
My point is, If the council, and I dont care who is in council at the time, took more notice of what was going on around the city, things wouldnt be as bad as it is. To say that Council has no control as to what is being built is a crock. If that was the case, why are we paying councillors $88k a year. KB and Factman blame the state and federal governments for every thing that people of Cairns dont like. And now does Tyson. You dont even have to be an environmentalist to see what is going to happen around here when we get a decent wet season.
Even if all the decisions where made in Brisbane or Canberra, council, as our local representitaves are there to fight for what Cairns and its people want. Not just sit back and receive all the kickbacks from developers, and blame everything on everyone else.
As for the insult by presuming that I live in taxayer funded rent, that just goes to show that the current council has no respect for the people who voted them in, and pay their wages. It is this view of themselves that people despise around here. Everyone I talk to in Cairns thinks that KB and his minions are the rudest, most arrogent pig headed pricks to ever walk the town. Factmans comment to me just goes to prove that the people of Cairns are right.

Anonymous said...

Oh Ben.

No, I don't work for council, in any capacity whatsoever, I'm just a casual observer who actually takes note of legislation passing in our state parliament.

Now as for your theory of advocating for local areas.. where has that got Noosa? Port Douglas? The other councils that tried to gain some rights through the amalgamation process? Overwhelmingly voted against, Council Amalgamations were forced on us nonetheless.

Followed shortly thereafter by removing all planning and development from local councils.

As for blaming State and Fed Govts... who, and how, else is the Council going to advocate to for the people of Cairns? The blame must be put somewhere for the attention of the fight to be lain there.

You'll also note that at no point was I overtly advocating support for the current council in my previous comment. I was responding to attempt to help justify the blame on the State.

Councillors are advocating for local areas with less and less jurisdiction being left to them.

Blame Bligh.

Anonymous said...

I apologize Tyson for grouping you in with the current council, but no one can tell me, that this local council has zero controll over what happens in this region.
These people are our locally elected representatives, supposedly concerned about the direction that this town is going. If the local authorities do not have any control over how the town is run, maybe we should dispose of all local councils completely.
I do know that a lot of the approval process has been directed to the state government, but, as our local councillors, if it is not the direction that the people and rate payers of Cairns wish to be heading, then why arent they fighting the state government to get what we want????? ...
It amazes me that the Unity team get so many donations from the big developers towards their re-election campains. If as they and you say, have so little to do with the developement and construction approval process, then why, at the last election, did CEC donate $15000 to the unity team? .. There must have been something in it for them for them to donate so much money when the average donation was only about $1000. I find it hard to believe that there was nothing in it for them to get Byrne back in control.
It all boils down to our local councillors striving to move the town in the direction that the people of Cairns want it to go in.

Anonymous said...

Repeat after me;

Bad Planning and Corruption,
Bad Planning and Corruption,
Bad Planning and Corruption,

Now you’re getting the hang of it,

Second verse,

Poor Leadership and Corruption,
Poor Leadership and Corruption,
Poor Leadership and Corruption,

Third verse,

Factman and Corruption,
Factman and Corruption,
Factman and Corruption,

Final verse

Corrupt Councilors belong in Jail,
Corrupt Councilors belong in Jail,
Corrupt Councilors belong in Jail,

This is No laughing matter, accountability is shared equally between Council and Queensland State Government. The State because they have factored into ALL areas of development an “Acceptable Risk.” To the residents of Cairns and surrounds this means your life! Should you be killed in a flood event or landslide you will be deemed, depending on the number of deaths as within range and an acceptable risk! Hell of a way to justify things.
Council because they flout their own planning instrument by offering exemptions to developer far beyond even the State’s acceptable risk limits. Knowing full well that by the time their term is completed, they can no longer be held accountable for their actions.
You could fill volumes on political accountability and the total lack there of but we’ll save that for another day.

Do you feel save in the knowledge that this, a corrupt council has the ability to play god with so many lives, your life?

Anonymous said...

What you say is right, Ben, but again, I will totally and unashamedly point the finger at Bligh.

The planning laws passed late last year following council amalgamations. So, this time around, with less sway on the development front, it shall certainly be interesting to take note whether the developers are still as interested.

I've no doubt in my mind that council has some sort of impact.

Yet, the rights of QLD Councils, of our grass roots representatives and essentially our right to have local representation, have been stripped away.

As I said previously, State Govts were, and still are, becoming quickly obsolete. Bligh and Beattie saw this and they have made the move (regardless of right or wrong, a very clever move) to shift the redundancy to Local Councils.

You must remember Beattie pledging to sack whole councils if they were to support local plebiscites?

I'll leave it here, before I chatter on too much.

The base of what you're saying is true and correct indeed, Ben, but just take a peek behind at the tactics employed by Bligh and her cronies to make this happen..