Monday 31 March 2008

China off the planet

It would appear that some lobbying is well-underway for former mayor Kevin Byrne to be appointed as the new CEO of Advance Cairns, an organisation that he formed whilst mayor of Cairns.

It's expected the role comes with a significant salary package.

Letters have now appeared in the Cairns Post giving support to Mr Byrne running the "non-profit" group. Mayor-elect Val Schier has made it clear that a review of the organisation's return on investment will be undertaken by Cairns Regional Council.

The former Cairns City Council funded Advance Cairns to the tune of $250,000 pa, along with a contribution from the Cairns Port Authority.

Additionally, James Cook University, CEC Group, and Ergon Energy throw in $20,000 each.

The following are also financial donors to Advance Cairns: HS Vision Group, GHD Pty Ltd, Telstra Country Wide, Williams Graham & Carman, Tong Sing, The Omega Group, CaPTA Group , Suncorp Group, Shangri-La Hotel, Savills real estate, Sofitel Reef Hotel Casino, Quicksilver Group, Piccones family, Pacific Toyota, MacDonnells Law, and BDO accounting.

Advance Cairns has just updated their website, and it appears that they have removed all references to China, something that was very prominent in the past.

CairnsBlog has been very critical of the amount of attention that this Council-funded body had in China. The former Mayor went on at least 8 trips to China to lead a "trade delegation". Numerous requests for information about outcomes were never answered.

I had never advocated that investing in China, as an emerging market, was contrary to what we should be doing. I merely questioned what ratepayers were seeing in return for such a large annual financial investment. Any shareholder should be asking such questions of their local Council.

Of course local government needs to play a key role in facilitating and stimulating economic growth. They have to guide, assist and lead new and any emerging business to our region.

However, I think it's a fair a reasonable question to ask in the months leading up to the local election. We've contributed around $2m+ to this body, and it would be good to know what we have achieved by this investment.

Whilst I have no doubt that Kevin Byrne would be a formidable candidate for the role, and his relationships with China would be held in good stead, I think we are at a time when we need to question and review the effectiveness of Advance Cairns before we invest one more cent.

I have heard that our new Chinese friendship garden is growing a treat, somewhere in the South of China.

Not really naked bike ride

Queensland Pride reports that nudity was conspicuous by its absence for the World Naked Bike Ride at Wynnum recently.

They said this was due to the police presence. The event is held in cities all over the world to “protest against oil dependency and environmental abuse, and to promote social acceptance of naturism and sustainable living”.

The ride in Brisbane, attracted six police cars two hours before the event at Glenora Park on the Wynnum North Esplanade. Police told the naturists that public nudity would not be tolerated.

A female rider attempted to cycle topless. “Put your bra back on!” screamed a voice from a police van.

Organiser Dario Western believed “family groups” had made complaints about the bike ride to attract the police. "It's unlikely future nude rides would be promoted in advance," he said.

Muslims up, Catholics down

Today we learn that Muslims now outnumber Roman Catholics for first time in our history.

The Vatican's 2008 yearbook says Muslims made up 19.2% of the world's population and Catholics 17.4%

As a lapsed Catholic myself, I have contributed to this downward decline.

"For the first time in history we are no longer at the top - the Muslims have overtaken us," Monsignor Formenti says in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper.

However, as a good spin doctor, he says that if all Christian groups were considered, including Orthodox churches, Anglicans and Protestants, then Christians make up 33%, about two billion people.

There are around 1.13 billion Catholics, and it's estimated that there's 1.3 billion Muslims.

It was said that Catholics as a proportion of the world's population is stable, and the percentage of Muslims is growing because of higher birth rates.

Council morning meetings

The new Cairns Regional Council will now hold its meetings in the morning.

Access to Council officers and staff is one of the reasons cited for the daytime meetings. The previous Council held it's various meetings and sub-committees in the evening.

Daytime meetings will also free up Councillors to attend community events and residents' association meetings.

The first full 'ordinary' meeting of the new Cairns Regional Council will be held this Thursday at 10am. This will include the swearing-in ceremony for new Councillors and the Mayor. It would be advisable to arrive by 9.45am.

VIEW Council meeting Agenda - Thursday 3rd April

What I want from the new Council

Residents speak out about what they want the new Cairns Regional Council to address....

"Kids have little to do. Besides the new Skate park, there's simply not enough here for them to do. There needs to be activities and things organised for them to do.
- Toni, Cafe Soul Organics, Smithfield

"I'd like to see a lot more done for women, young women. These are very important issues. Things that are life-threatening, like sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy.
- Gail, Cairns

"This new Council should sort out a legal nude beach. For years and years it's being ignored by the Council and the State Government. Bowen have finally done it. It's time Cairns sorts this out too.
- Bob, Kewarra Beach

"Business needs support. The last attempt about the Smithfield town centre was crazy. Council needs to provide good infrastructure and assistance to keep business alive.
- Luke, Cafe Soul Organics, Smithfield

"I want to see improved health facilities. The hospital is in need of more staff. They are stretched. We need more mid-wifes and a better hospital service in the region.
I'm also concerned about the destruction of the environment. The rainforest is being ruined. Look at Redlynch and Clifton Beach."
- Jenna, Redlynch Valley

"City parking is awful. There's hardly any place for local workers to park in and around the city.
I work in Grafton Street and there's no where close to park. It needs to be dealt with.
I voted for Kirsten Lesina, and I think she'll be great.
- Anthony, South Cairns

"I moved here from Townsville recently, and Cairns is starting to look like just another tourist town.
I can see why they say we don't want another Gold Coast up here. When I heard Val Schier say she didn't want that, she got my vote."
- Janelle, Holloways Beach

Nothing can be done: Pitt

At a meeting on Friday with Save False Cape activist Terry Spackman, Local Government Minister Warren Pitt said that, although he doesn't like it, "the owner has a legal right to develop it, so nothing can be done about it."

John Ewens of Starline Australia Holdings, has been developing the kilometer long site under Reef Cove Resorts for the last 2 years, amid huge scrutiny and difficulties. There have been a number of serious worker injuries and one death from large falling boarders.

Terry Spackman also asked the Minister who would pay for the clean-up of the site, now in obvious ruin from substantial sediment run-off on the abandoned site. This would be if the the developer John Ewens, and financial backer MFS went broke.

"If it is a threat to Trinity Inlet, then the State Government would intervene," Minister Warren Pitt said.

CEC, who was contracted to undertake excavation and construction on the site, is still hopeful for work to recommence. However, they are awaiting payment in excess of $1 million in outstanding dues for work carried out since December.

Meanwhile, former Liberal leader Andrew Peacock has quit as company chairman of MFS, in light of the financial turmoil of the group backing the project. He will step down in May. On Friday, shareholders were angry as they have seen a high of $6.85 last May to 99 cents when trade was suspended in January.

They have consistency blamed their state in a "downturn in global financial markets and the short-selling of MFS shares."

Legal funder IMF will fund a shareholder class action against MFS over the company's disclosures to the stock market in the lead up to its suspension from the ASX.

At least $750 million of investment money is tied up in MFS' Premium Income Fund. It is frozen due to the company's financial situation. Most is from everyday small family investors. New board director Chris Scott, said the MFS debacle had "buggered his life".

The meeting however did achieve something positive. They changed their name. Octaviar, as it will be now known, was the sister of Roman emperor Augustus and wife of Marc Anthony, who died in 11 b.c.

Sunday 30 March 2008

Schier wants openess and accessibility

Sunday's State Focus presenter Mike Frame believed that the public have put confidence in the new Mayor of Cairns Regional Council and that was a factor in the change for the Cairns region.

"You stand on the platform of transparency. It's something that a lot of governments around Australia could well take head of," presenter Mike Frame said.

"Openness is really, really important," Val Schier said.

"People want to know who's in on the decisions, and how they're made."

"My platform is one of involving people, in many different ways, and then being able to take their points of view into consideration when we make decisions, and letting them know those decisions in an open and transparent way. There won't be decisions behind closed doors," Schier told State Focus.

"One of the main reasons why people voted for me is because I am approachable. I like to think that I'm a good listener."

"People wanted to talk about my hair [rather] than about my polices. That's been a bit disappointing in some ways. I think people are questioning me already around a whole range of things I said I'd be able to do."

"I gotta tell you Val, your hair looks terrific!" Mike Frame said. "A lot of people made the same comments about Julia Gillard and she's one of Australia's leading ladies, and it looks like you're going to be one of the leading ladies in the far north."
"A lot of my team members didn't get up, so I will be the mayor in a Council that's got some very disparate people in there."

"We have seven new people in there [Council] with inexperience in local government. We've got some older wise heads that we'll be taking some wise counsel from, and also people of different sides of the political spectrum," Schier says.

"The biggest challenge initially is to get that Council to work, to create good relationships and make sure that we're all heading in the same direction which is that we want the Cairns region to be looked after really, really well and guided in the way the majority of people want," Val Schier said.

"This is part of that new approach of being accessible and being able to connect with people. Local government is the level of government closest to the people, and we have to be available and responsive.

Listen: Val Schier - State Focus

Beaches community forums called for

Former City Councillor, Ross Parisi calls for active community associations to be formed on the northern beaches to keep their new Councillor accountable.

It is now official that Sno Bonneau suffered a 15% swing against him and now sits on a 7% margin. The swings that occur in a local government election are volatile and a 7% swing is a paper thin majority.

Sno can be forced into quitting if the blow torch is applied. He wont be able to rely on his duplicity as he wont be given the opportunity to hide behind Val and pass blame onto her as he readily did with Kevin Byrne.

I have it on good authority that he trembled with fear of defeat as early figures rolled in. We all know that his fragile ego would not sustain a determined effort to unseat him and he very well may throw in the towel.

To this end what is needed are two Community residents forums. One established for Kewarra/Trinity and the other for Smithfield/Lake Placid. There are numerous issues that need attention and above all we must keep him honest and accountable.

First hand experience shows that Sno preforms poorly at public meetings and much prefers one on one dialogue where his agility has allowed him to prevail.

I would welcome comments and input on the above suggestions.

Something free from Council

One of the last gracious acts of former Mayor Kevin Byrne, was to provide residents with a free call 1800 number.

The number is 1800 070 444

Customer service and cashiers will be able to provide first line contact with the community via the new number. Mobiles can also call this number.

The Mossman office will remain a key centre for the former Douglas Shire residents and will offer a full range of services.

Byrne said earlier in the month that the 1800 number had been established to enable people in the farthermost corners of the new Regional Council area to call the Cairns administration centre without incurring toll charges.

Both Douglas Shire and the former Cairns Council’s unexpended budgets will be analysed and consolidated during April. Financial statements will be prepared and presented to the new Council in May. It is expected that Councillors' workshops for the 2008-09 Budget will be held during April and May and interim annual reports would be prepared by September.

Byrne said that the merger process had presented significant challenges for the transition committee and staff.

“However, the sky will not fall in when both offices re-open for business [under the new Council]despite what some doomsayers may have predicted,” said Kevin Byrne said.

Byrne said that as chair of the transition committee he was proud of the efforts they had put in to ensuring the continuation of service delivery occurs right throughout the new Council area.

“I have nothing but admiration for the way staff from both councils have gone about the job behind the scenes. What they have achieved is highly commendable,” Byrne said last month.

“Soon the people of Douglas can put the dark days behind them and start to enjoy the same high levels of good governance the people of greater Cairns have enjoyed for eight years,” he said.

FNQ 2025 - A disgruntled preview

The FNQ 2025 Regional Plan discusses accommodating growth, to containing urban development to protect rainforests, hill slopes, farmlands, coastline and waterways. Alternative forms of transport and restricting urban and infrastructure development on the coast due to impacts of sea level rise are also included. Respondants in the first stage of the consultation wanted to avoid urban sprawl to increase densities in some locations.

It's an important over-arching document.

CairnsBlog contributing writer, Syd Walker believes there are some serious flaws for the sustainability of the draft FNQ 2025 plan. You will soon be able to comment on Stage 3.

Sometime very soon, a draft FNQ 2025 will be released, setting the direction for land use planning in this region for the next few decades.

The draft will be open to public comment, but from the outset the inside word has been to expect few changes to the draft in the final version.

This plan, in other words, if our State political masters and mistresses have their way, is almost done. After the great unwashed get to look at it, there may be minor tinkering around the edges – but nothing fundamental.

Not only is the fate of FNQ being determined, behind closed doors, at this moment. The State Government’s explicit intention is to make the plan statutory. In other words, if we ever want to change FNQ 2025, we must talk to the State Government about changing the law (although statutory reviews are likely).

One might think this is exciting widespread interest throughout the region, but until now, there has been little public focus on FNQ 2025. There hasn’t been much to get teeth into. Just a plethora of opportunities to be consulted - to what effect heaven only knows.

Before Christmas, I spoke to one of the planners by telephone. They were all very busy, but she was good enough to take a few moments off to answer my questions. I kept them brief.

First, I wanted to know about population growth scenarios. What scenarios were being used?

Second, I wanted to know about greenhouse emission targets. What targets were being employed?

The answer to the first question seemed to be: one - just under 2%. In other words, the planners are using only one population growth scenario.

The answer to the second question seemed to be: no and none. In other words, the planners have not been told to devise their proposals to achieve any given greenhouse emission target.

By now you may have sensed that I am a critic of what appears to be going on behind closed doors where planners are currently beavering away deciding our future.

I believe the applicable formula is something like this:
Unrealistic Assumptions IN = Silly Plans that Will Need Changing Soon OUT

I won’t comment here on the agenda that I fear may be driving FNQ 2025. I’ll wait till I can read the document and look at some of the small print.

My goal in this article is merely to highlight what I regard as obvious follies.

I’ll assume that nothing has changed in these basic FNQ 2025 guidelines since December.

First, a plan that is based on one, population growth scenario alone, is not a real world plan. It is not a plan devised so it can be easily adjusted to actual circumstances over time. It’s more like a plan that attempts to achieve (or exceed?) a predetermined population growth level, come what may. In other words, the current government apparently has no plan for the region’s prosperity that does not entail ongoing population growth. That’s a worry. What if tourism collapses, for example? How can such inflexible planning safeguard our best interests given all the unknowns of the future?

Second, a long term plan that will become ‘final’ in 2008/9, which fails to embrace a greenhouse emissions target, will need to be re-done rather soon. The idea that there will be no target is highly unrealistic. Australia is now a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol.

What weight, for example, can be attached to FNQ 2025’s proposals for long-term transport infrastructure if they don’t take greenhouse emission targets into account? None, I trust. But such a policy conflict will give rise to precisely what the plan is trying to avoid: planning uncertainty.

Now I will be really gloomy and give another reason why I believe the new plan may need to be scrapped within five to ten years.

The latest IPCC report did the world a great disservice in understating the likely problem we face with sea-level rise. Evidence is starting to come in fast that this may be a much more immediate and serious problem than the IPCC’s 4th Assessment report (2007) suggested when it marginally downgraded the Third Assessment Report’s estimate of end of century sea level rise, offering a figure of approximately half a metre for policy makers anxious to read the Exec Summary only.

When IPCC 4 was being finalized, scientific disagreement over the timing and extent of ice-cap and glacial melt as a factor in sea level rise was so great that the contribution to potential sea level rise of this crucial factor was simply left out of the estimate. Yet to leave out the biggest part of a calculation because that part of the answer isn’t clear is highly misleading.

Several millions of years ago, before the Pleistocene Epoch, the world was hotter than today by an average of some 2 or 3 degrees. At that time, sea level was higher by approximately 25 metres. Moreover, there is evidence of quite rapid sea level rises in the geological past - in the order of metres per decade.

We should take the prospect of substantial sea level rise within coming decades much more seriously.

For an informed, and very alarming discussion of these topics, I recommend Scientific reticence and sea level rise by J E Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

I hope worst case scenarios on glacial melt do not materialise. If not, before too long it’ll become clear that Cairns must effectively be abandoned, along with any more suburbs built between now and then within metres of current sea level.

Given uncertainty about sea level rise, unless we put coastal suburbs on floats, I believe the only sensible place for new development in this region is on the tablelands. That’s where we can be much more confident of long-term benefit.

A modern rail line, for instance, between the Tablelands and coast, is smart infrastructure to put in now. Under most conceivable scenarios it will be useful in the future.

But I fear the penny hasn’t dropped about sustainability and the global environmental crisis in Queensland’s portals of power, not yet, at any rate.

Don’t expect state of the art solutions to a low emissions future in FNQ 2025. If the draft of FNQ 2025 does aim for urban growth on the tablelands, it may mean, God forbid, that Myola is still within its intended ‘urban footprint’. (That would really raise the temperature around here!)

Expect instead plenty of new settlements designated for the Cairns coastal plain, a little more concentrated than before, but effectively new extensions to the sprawling mini-city of Cairns.

They are settlements that, if built, may eventually become interesting habitat for puzzled fish.

A skimpy weather report

Was it a weather report or simply an excuse for a Bikini girl gallery promotion? Good on ya Cairns Post!

Confusion for Tablelands Council merge

Some staff of the new Tablelands Regional Council have expressed confusion at how they may be relocated.
It's still uncertain where the various administration staff will be located on the Tablelands.
Talking to CairnsBlog on Friday, Atherton works department staff Lane and Victor, said a number are still uncertain of their future.
"I think the admin and office staff still don't know what's the future for them," Victor said.
"I don't know where the new administration will go yet. Some are still confused about what will happen."
The Works staff however confirmed that there was plenty of the usual duties to get on with.
"We need to carry of with what we were were doing last week. Not a lot has changed for us on the road," they said.
Sporting the old Atherton Shire Council yellow and green uniforms, including Council-issued shorts, they were amused at the suggestion by the Cairns Council bringing in mandatory long trousers.

Blake reassures public

Councillor-elect Alan Blake would like to reassure the public it's "business as usual".

This follows some commentators that have said people are 'terrified about the next four years' under the new Council.

Alan Blake, on John McKenzie's radio show has said things will go on, and there's no need for alarm.

He reports that some businesses have threatened to take their business elsewhere if it becomes to hard to deal with the new Council. Blake says there should be no reason for such action.

"It's true that my phone has been running hot since the election," he says.

The reported panic amongst some after Cairns 1st pursued a more open and accountable approach to development and town planning throughout their campaign.

"There won't be a lot of change. The city is strong. We have a strong growth rate," says Alan Blake. "We have five councillors that have eight or more years experience," he told John McKenzie.

"If we have a mayor who is anti-development, the mayor chairs the planning committee. However we have a full council that votes on this," he says.

"We have tightened up hill-slope development," says Alan Blake. "There is very little room to move. If there was a builder or a developer, that didn't agree with [a decision], they would take to to the planning and environment court and they get a decision.

Blake says that there's a strong management team in Council to help with the transition.

"The CEO's job, if it was to change, has to come before Council," Alan Blake said in relation to the possibility of a change.

AUDIO: Listen to Alan Blake on 846 AM

Public allowed to speak at Council meetings

On Friday, the new Councillors met and discussed a range of issues before the first formal meeting of the Cairns Regional Council, ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, to be held on Thursday.

Incoming Mayor Val Schier, chaired the meeting, with assistance from Acting CEO, Noel Briggs.

The election of Deputy Mayor was discussed and it is likely that long-term Councillor Margaret Cochrane will be appointed at next week's meeting.

The appointment of Standing Committees and membership of each Committee was also discussed, along with the representatives on Boards of the Cairns Regional Gallery and Advance Cairns.

The Councillors’ Code of Conduct was on the agenda and how the new councillors should interact with Council staff.

Two things dear to the new Mayor's heart, is the public access of Council information and the ability for ratepayers to speak at Council meetings. Her Cairns 1st team campaigned for a more open and accountable style of local government and she was keen to set the scene from the first meeting.
"We will be conducting business a different way," Val Schier says.

There was objections from existing Councillors about allowing the public to speak at full Council meetings.
"This isn't allowed, is it?," questioned one long-term male Councillor. Acting CEO Noel Briggs confirmed that this was an allowed practice if the Councillors agreed to it. This, however, had not occurred for the last two terms of the previous Cairns City Council.
In a radical departure from the past, an allocated time at the end of each ordinary Council meeting will probably be set aside for the public to raise questions or subjects for all Councillors to hear. Previously, this had to be done in writing and advised well in advance of meetings.
It is expected that the numbers for voting may well fall into two groups with Councillors Paul Gregory, Alan Blake, and Sno Bonneau, all existing Councillors. Whereas a natural grouping of Robert Pyne, Kirsten Lesina, Diane Forsyth, Margaret Cochrane, Julia Leu, along with Mayor Val Schier in the other group. New Councillors Nancy Lanskey, Linda Cooper could well play a key role deciding voting.
The swearing-in ceremony will occur this coming Thursday. Everyone is welcome to attend, and should be at the Council chambers around 9:45am.
"The ceremony and subsequent meeting [on Thursday] represents a changing of the guard and hopefully a period of greater transparency, accountability and community engagement," says new Division 3 Councillor Robert Pyne.

Saturday 29 March 2008

76 minutes you won't regret

Luciano Pavarotti, Syd Barrett and Patrick Swayze all were diagnosed with it.

Thanks to David at KiwiBlog, he told me about a story in the NZ Herald today about an inspirational speech by Carnegie Mellon University Professor Randy Pausch. He spoke as part of a “last lecture” series where lecturers are meant to pretend they are near death and want to sum up the most important lessons for their students.

Pausch, who is in his late 40s, didn’t have to pretend, as he has terminal pancreatic cancer, with between two and five months to live.

Here's his lecture (below), which is 76 minutes long, but it will be one of the better ways you can spend an hour or so this weekend. Here's his speech in text form and the powerpoint slides, if you can't access the video. More than six million people have watched it to date.

He makes you focus on what really is important in our lives. I doubt anyone cannot be touched by the speech.

Pausch says he's most proud of project Alice, and his Time Management lecture, which he first gave 10 years ago, and repeated in November. Here's the rest of Randy's lectures.

Here's his book The Last Lecture, that is due out in a couple of weeks. You can listen to his intro.

Here's the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network TV advert featuring Randy Pausch.

Here's a few words from Randy last Wednesday...

  • "The last few weeks have been tough; I've been in bed most of each day, having to ration my energy, which is very unnatural for me. Total exhaustion is very frustrating. However, I am starting to, very slowly, gain more energy each day.

    Tuesday's trip to the cardiologist yielded great news: my echocardiogram showed that my heart function is definitely returning: my "ejection fraction" (measure of blood ejection by the heart) was at its low point 25%; it's now up to at least 45%, and "normal" is 55 to 70% . Also, my cardiologist says a lot of the fatigue may be caused by one of my blood pressure medications (coreg), and next week they will probably swap that out for another drug, now that I'm doing better.

    On the kidney front, my nephrologist is extremely encouraged - for those of you scoring the game at home, my creatanine level (peaked at 3.9) is now down to 3.1, and he says that's a very strong indicator my kidney function is going to return.

    The only bad news is that the tumors have apparently decided they've been chivalrous enough; my CA19-9 went up from 103 to 170; while not definitive, it's a strong indicator that they are on the move. So I need to hurry up and get healthy enough for our next round of treatment."

More about pesticides in the Barron River

Syd Walker continues his tale about the H2O in the Barron River...

Following the howls of anonymous outrage that followed my earlier article on CairnsBlog, I was lucky to have a chance to speak with someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Yesterday I had a phone conversation with Dr Jon Brodie, a water quality scientist based at James Cook University in Cairns. In what follows, I have tried to combine his information with my own commentary. Any errors in interpretation are my responsibility.

A knowledgeable man, Brodie has experience testing numerous rivers and coastal marine areas in Queensland. He has a grasp of what information on this topic is - and isn’t - available in FNQ.
Brodie was not effusive, but he was not reticent either. He was willing to answer questions and to mention relevant work undertaken by others.

I asked him quite specific questions about pesticide levels, possible conseqences, tecniques for removing pesticides from drinking water, water quality guidelines and new work in the offing.
It appears there isn’t any data about pesticide concentrations in the Barron River – not in the public domain, at any rate.

Brodie believes the Barron is likely to contain traces of a wide range of pesticides, reflecting the diversity of cropping and other land uses in the catchment.

Organochlorines were banned in 1987. The newer generation of pesticides tend to be more short-lived, with half-lives in the order of one year. Some breakdown products, however, are also be toxic and have their own breakdown pathways. The combined effects of different chemicals in this complex brew are another unknown.

Unless the water supplies for Kuranda and Mareeba have an advanced filtering system (Brodie mentioned activated charcoal filter as a solution), the pesticide content of the river is unlikely to be filtered out of municipal water supplies.

Communities which draw a water supply from the Barron, such as residents of Kuranda and Mareeba, may therefore wish to consider their own home filtering arrangements.

Also, if Val Shier and the new Cairns Regional Council are keen to use the Barron for drinking water in Cairns, an advanced filtering system will be needed to ensure the supply in not contaminated with pesticides.

Under national Australian Water Guidelines, any trace of pesticide in drinking water is regarded as unacceptable. If discovered, it triggers (or should trigger) action to discover the source and remedy the problem.

In practice, at least in Queensland, that doesn’t appear to happen. Of course, by conducting few if any tests for pesticides, no breaches of the AWG are detected, so no follow up action is required. Convenient!

Brodie has experience testing numerous rivers up and coastal marine areas in Queensland. The pesticides detected tend to be consistent for similar industries, irrespective of the catchment.
For instance, sugar cane farming is typically associated with atrazine, diuron, hexazinome and ametryn; plantation forestry with simazine; grazing lands with tevuthiuron. There are many more different chemicals used with smaller agricultural industries such as potatoes, bananas and the numerous commercial varieties of tropical fruits.

Brodie is less concerned than I have been about biological concentration in fish in the middle Barron River. He thought modern pesticides would be unlikely to bioaccumulate in river animals.
But he couldn’t be sure – or rule out the possibility that heavy metals in the river that might accumulate in fish. He thought significant heavy metal contamination of the Barron is unlikely, but no evidence = no certainty. On the other hand, he expressed rather more concern than I expected about the possibility that the water supply for Kuranda and Mareeba is unsafe. But he made it clear that no-one really knows. With regard to pesticide content, there’s no data.

Apparently a series of Water Quality Improvement Plans (WQIP) are being rolled out for catchments around Australia.

The study for the now-amalgamated Douglas Shire was done first in FNQ and a WQIP published in December 2006. But that study didn’t look at pesticides and only the most cursory references to pesticides can be found in the final report. A WQIP for Tully in is progress.

Brodie told me that the local not-for-profit ‘natural resource management’ organization Terrain has obtained the contract to do a WQIP for the Barron River.

However, apparently Terrain didn’t get much money to do this study and intends to do a desktop plan, using only existing data. No new testing, in other words. It will, however, identify 'information gaps'.

Which brings us back to the beginning: There is no publicly available data on pesticide concentrations in the Barron River. (We know that already).

Without new testing, pesticides could effectively remain off the agenda, even in the Barron’s yet to be prepared Water Quality Improvement Plan.

Catch 22.

After talking with Dr Brodie, I made a couple of web investigations of my own.
I wondered about the local Catchment Management Association and its efforts to clean up the river.

On its website, the Barron River Catchment Management Association refers to targets for sediment, phosphorous and nitrogen, but makes no mention of targets for pesticide reduction.
It is as though there is a conspiracy of wilful ignorance about the extent of pesticide pollution in the Barron River.

(Almost) no one wants to know. No one with power and resources wants to think about it. Don’t spoil the party – we’re all pretending to protect the river and it’s vital we don’t offend the farmers!

Heck, farmers can even apply via Terrain for a $5,000 grant towards the purchase or modification of shielded spray units for Diuron and Atrazine!

Close eyes and hope for the best.

One final thing. I looked up the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Chapter 10.6 is the Guide to monitoring and sampling frequency. I read with interest that testing for pesticides in ‘raw water’ (storage, stream or bore) should be “one sample per month should those pesticides previously detected water, or where their likely use they might be detected.”

Can someone - anyone - in Government, whether local, State or Federal, please explain how that standard is met for the Barron? If not, can we please make it happen - fast!

Water quality is not a joke and it should not be insider information. Public health is at stake.

The community deserves some real answers and action, as appropriate, based on publicly-available and adequate data.

From the other side

Friday 28 March 2008

Candidates declared

Ken Gorton, the Returning Officer for the Cairns Regional Council election, has declared this afternoon, the Notice of Election results. They are posted on the ECQ website and the successful candidates are:-

Mayor : Val Schier (Cairns 1st)
Div 1 : Paul Gregory (IND)
Div 2 : Nancy Lanskey (IND)
Div 3 : Robert Pyne (IND)
Div 4 : Kirsten Lesina (Cairns 1st)
Div 5 : Alan Blake (IND)
Div 6 : Linda Cooper (Cairns Unity)
Div 7 : Diane Forsyth (Cairns 1st)
Div 8 : Margaret Cochrane (IND)
Div 9 : Sno Bonneau (IND)
Div 10 : Julia Leu (IND)

A formal Declaration of the Poll will be held at 11am on Monday 31st March at the foyer of the Cairns Regional Council offices.

Thursday 27 March 2008

Local 2020 summit

Member for Leichhardt Jim Turnour is inviting far northern families, business owners, young people and senior citizens to participate in local 2020 summit, ahead of the Australia 2020 summit in Canberra later in April.

On 5th April 2008, Jim will host a local summit to ensure the best local ideas are collected and included in national process. He wants to encourage people from all walks of life to have a direct say in the Australia of the future.

Please register you name by telephoning Jim’s office on 4051 2220.

If you missed Jim's maiden speech a couple of weeks ago, here it is, on his sister's blog...
  • “Political leaders and governments impact the daily lives of the citizens they represent. The good ones provide leadership and vision that can inspire great endeavour and achievement and that can heal historical pain and suffering.

    Through legislation, they shape the foundations of the country and the society they envision. So the decisions we make in this parliament can improve the lives of every Australian, whether they know it or not. And I can think of no more important or rewarding work than to be part of a government ready to provide that leadership, to be part of a government ready to shape the foundations for a fairer and more prosperous society that ensures that every Australian—no matter their economic, social or cultural background—has the opportunity to participate fully and reach their potential.

    This is the Labor ideal, and I am proud to be part of a Labor government. I therefore come to this parliament recognising the power that we as a government possess and determined not to waste the opportunity that I have been given to help shape a fairer and more prosperous Australia.


Has King lost his marbles?

CairnsBlog contributing writer Syd Walker thinks we should read Gavin King's feature on Saturday with great caution. Lock up your kids.

Gavin King, currently Chief-of-Staff of the Cairns Post, is like an annoying boy who exhibits crass behaviour as a badge of pride. King reminds me of the kind of maladjusted youth who, shown an unusual flower, spits at it to demonstrate his manliness.

Taking him on is probably unwise and I have avoided it until now. But enough is enough. King pushed beyond my limit last Saturday.

In his hit-piece on Val Schier’s first week, King made some reasonable points. But he doesn’t know when to quit while ahead - and mixed fair comment with ignorant nonsense.

In the process, he revealed, yet again, more about his own prejudices than the subject matter.

Take this: "In these environmentally enlightened times, our pockets of rainforest will never be bulldozed..."

Is that so, Gavin? I haven't done a region-wide survey, but why don’t you visit the Kuranda area and take a look for yourself? You are mistaken. You exaggerate the ‘Enlightenment’ and are apparently oblivious to what’s happening, nearby.

King continues: “...but Val’s crowd still bang on about ‘sustainable development’ and ‘innovative tropical style?. What on earth does that mean? Unit blocks of mini-Queenslanders on stilts? Energy efficient light bulbs? No air-con??

That is like saying that because you don’t understand Algebra, it must be ‘crap’.

It’s true that sustainable development is a concept that at present seems more like a quest than a destination. It’s true there are perilously few practical examples beyond the small-scale. It’s true there’s ongoing debate about the most appropriate definition of sustainable development and the best ways to operationalise the concept.

But does that mean it’s OK to sneer at anyone who uses the term? Apparently so, if you have a leadership position at the Cairns Post.

Val Schier, and her new Council, may not have a magic bullet that will deliver sustainability in region, in our times. But at least Mayor Schier is interested in the idea and engaged in the process of trying to understand and deliver it. That’s significant progress for Cairns.

As for ‘innovative tropical design’, I cannot understand why any normal person would find the idea objectionable.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Pyne delivers on first promise

The new Division 3 Councillor, Robert Pyne has delivered on his first election promise.

During the campaign, Robert had to enlist the help of every volunteer he could find.

He asked for the help of his 10 year old daughter, Katie.

"If you help me during the campaign, I'll get you whatever you want," Robert said.

Following his successful election, Katie asked for her wish to come true, and yesterday Robert delivered.

Katie took her dad shopping for a puppy to join the family.

Fairy, Fury, Flip, and Fleur were an abandoned family without a home at YAPs. in need of a loving home.

YAPs, situated at Smithfield, is an animal refuge to rescue dogs and cats around the region. They also have boarding kennels available. YAPs re-home abandoned, abused and unwanted animals.
Now, three month old Fleur, a Kelpie Cross, is the latest resident in Division 3.

"I'm a great supporter of the work YAPs do in the community. From a public policy point of view, it is extremely important to support the work that they undertake," says Robert Pyne.

Along with Katie, the Pyne's resident dog, three year old Duchess, is also delighted with her new companion.

Personally if I was Katie, I would have asked for that awful multi-unit high-density high rise on Woree's old to caravan holiday park to be demolished. That would have been my election wish.

Cyclone Pancho a Cat 2

Cyclone Pancho on the West Australian coast is brewing up a storm.

Although it's still 1,200 kilometers off the coast from Exmouth, that is expected to half in the next two days.

You can follow the action here.

The world is flat

The Australian Retailers Association thinks getting rid of plastic bags as “populist emotional rhetoric.”

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett aims to end the use of all plastic bags in shops by January 2009.
"Retailers will respond to any change in legislation, but Minister Garrett is supporting an increased burden on consumers, who are already struggling under interest rate rises and increased petrol prices," says ARA’s Executive Director Richard Evans.
Evans wanted retailers to be consulted before the decision was made. He also believes there is misinformation being spread about the environmental impacts of plastic bags.
They sight reporting in the The Australian Scientists trash plastic bag ban, where scientists and environmentalists have questioned the case against the use of plastic shopping bags as based on flawed science and misreporting.
The retailers body also mentions UK's The Times newspaper that says scientists that say plastic bags pose only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds.
“Retailers are concerned about environmental damage too, and while the ARA agrees more should be done to reduce plastic bag litter, it does not agree with legislation or increased taxes," Richard Evans says. "Ultimately the consumer will pay. This latest attack on plastic bags as a major environmental issue is overly emotive and needs to be looked at from an economic perspective."
Evans says that retailers have been leading on this issue for over six years and the phasing out is just more emotional rhetoric and populist politics. He is seeking a code of voluntary compliance.
The use of plastic bags in supermarkets has reduced by 45% between 2002 and 2005.
They say that returning to paper is also counter productive.
The Retailers Association says it's not about the availability of plastic bags, it is about litter management. They say that consumers need to take greater responsibility of how they reuse and dispose of plastic bags. "It’s a litter issue,” says Richard Evans.
So, what's the answer? Paper or Plastic? How about neither! Fellow blogger Joe Kennedy in Portland has been having this same debate in his neck of the woods. He said after bagging groceries during the summer he graduated from high school, he hated asking that question 50 times a day.. "Do you want a bag with this?"
He says that the answer is not as easy as "Paper good / Plastic bad" More and more these days, people are looking at much more than just the environmental impact of the single item, as paper decomposes faster than plastic. Kennedy says that the total costs of manufacturing, of the resources, transportation, as well as the handling and disposal costs are being added up. states that plastic bags in landfills decompose at similar rates to paper bags, take up less space in landfills, and plastic bags require less energy to both manufacture and recycle. SO they conclude that the selection is a choice between two evils.
Tasmania are looking at only allowing reusable bags by next year. The city of Athens, Greece now sells only reusable shopping bags. Ireland passed a tax or around 50c per bag a number of years ago, and within a month or two, usage was down 94%.
The three billion bags a day - 3,000,000,000 - that China manufacture will be banned by June. They use 37 million barrels of crude oil to keep the annual production. USA's Whole Foods will also phase out plastic bags by mid-year, offering paper made from 100% recycled.
So with this ban in Australia, it's not a bad thing to radically change the waste in our everyday shopping. Some retailers even tax bag consumers. If you bring your own bags, you may get a per-bag discount.
Once we address the plastic bag issue, it will be time for manufacturers to cease double-wrapping everything. It's got worse over the last year. Everything is 'hygienically wrapped' for our 'convenience and safety'.
Gosh when dad worked at the grocery store, it was bulk food and you simply scooped a a bag of sugar or flour etc. It was a time of waste not, want not. My pet hate is all this extra packaging on products. Even some brands of milk now have a "freshness seal" under the top. What the %*$# is that about? You can even find special stickers around the top of many cosmetics that say "tamper evident seal".
I know when I get home from the supermarket and unpackage everything, I nearly fill a rubbish bag with the packaging waste. I hope Mr Garrett will address this one next.

Average salary now $79,334

MyCareer has just released it's average salary of job listings, based on the last three months.
You can check out your particular trade or business. Figures often incorporate total package.

Tuesday 25 March 2008

ANZAC Day @ Pine Gap

Cairns peace activist and 2004 Mayoral candidate, Bryan Law heads back to Pine Gap spy base in the Northern Territory over ANZAC weekend. He will again attempt to breach the perimeter high-security fence. He did this in 2005. Law, along with three others, known as the 'Pine Gap 4', were acquitted of charges under the Special Defence Undertakings Act 1952, last month.

He tells us why.

I’m going to Pine Gap next month, even though it’s difficult and expensive, and I’m going to do another long walk through the desert, even though it’s difficult and dangerous. The cause seems hopeless, but I remain optimistic.

I’d particularly like to praise Terry Spackman, who turns 70 in the week after ANZAC Day, and whose heart and courage is as big as the sky. Terry continues to be a prime force behind the exposure of False Cape, and he hardly ever gets the recognition he’s due for all his good works in Cairns.

Here's a photo of Terry taken outside Pine Gap, with Edward Cranswick, during our trial in June 2007. They’ve just been released by Commonwealth Police, without charge, for climbing the fence into the alleged prohibited area.

This is an invitation to all Christian and Gandhian nonviolence activists who want to advance their knowledge and practice of nonviolent direct action in Australia together. Other faiths welcome!

ANZAC DAY - April 19 - May 3 Peace Gathering

For years I've dreamed about reclaiming ANZAC Day from the war glorifiers, by re-consecrating it as a day of peace in memory of all those who've died in war.

I've been able to do little bits in Cairns, sometimes with Stu and Michael Martin (no relations) and Margaret Pestorius. I've made some displays featuring testimony from original WW1 ANZACS from Gallipoli and France - to remind people the original ANZACS proclaimed the futility and horror of war. During WW1 Australia defeated two conscription referenda and dedicated itself to international peace.

I know from the little bit so far that lots and lots of people engage with ANZAC Day. It's a prime site for action. (Margaret tells me the memorialisation of the fallen came out of community movements and committees of folk around Australia in the 1920s and 30s who wished to remember their loved ones).

In 2008 war has changed, society has changed and ANZAC Day has become a day to promote and valorise nationalist military capacity rather than to embrace peace. It's time we changed that back.

For the past two and a half years I've been involved with Christians Against ALL Terrorism, and the very successful nonviolent direct action (NVDA) we carried off by inspecting the "technical area" of Pine Gap in December 2005.

A key objective of that action was to demonstrate the powerful effect a well planned and executed small group intervention could produce in a national context, at a time when numbers in the peace movement were small and conditions were hard. Here's a reflection I wrote about my experiences in that action. Here's an article about it from Frank Brennan (a Jesuit priest and hero of mine) from Eureka Street this month.

It has always been my intention to follow up Pine Gap NVDA 1 with Pine Gap NVDA 2.
(Persistence produces results).

In consultation with the Pine Gap 4 I used the conclusion of our recent appeal to announce that a second Citizen's Inspection of Pine Gap Terror Base by Christians Against ALL Terrorism will occur at dawn on ANZAC Day, 25 April, 2008. This announcement has received considerable coverage and ongoing interest from media, both mainstream and independent, across Australia.

I've booked Campfire in the Heart, a retreat centre in a community of prayer and hospitality at Alice Springs, between 19 April and 3 may 2008 to act as a base from which to organise the next Act of interventionary NVDA.

If you want to explore nonviolent interventionary action, share insights, hone your skills, or celebrate the developing peace networks on earth, come to Campfire in the Heart this April for ANZAC Day. Participate in your way in a full range of available nonviolence activities and options (including solidarity actions for the Samuel Hill 4 who are on trial 24 April in Rockhampton for Talisman Sabre 07).

There's some possibility we'll do a vine and fig tree liturgy/action. A small group of loving activists committed to nonviolence can do anything!

We'll be seeking 4-6 people from among locals and visitors to make the dawn attempt on ANZAC Day - to penetrate the Technical Area of the Pine Gap Terror Base. I'll be one of them, and my Grandfather mate Terry Spackman will be another.

There will be solidarity actions around Australia and in New Zealand.

We are going to shine the ANZAC light on Pine Gap, and ask why we've abandoned our friends across the Tasman for a murderous Imperial master like the USA and its rampant militarism.


There was a special moment during our trial in June 2007 when two dozen support crew gathered together with the defendents at Campfire in the Heart and we did an appreciation circle where supporters were affirmed for all the qualities they brought to our common task (we were a community of peace-makers). My wonderful wife and teacher Margaret Pestorius was being praised for her persistent and powerful organizing of music, liturgy and collective action.

Her response to this praise came as a statement "Every skill you want can be taught".

Convention Centre lures business

Ross Steele at the Cairns Convention Centre reports that a team from 20 local tourism businesses has just visited Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.

He says the annual roadshow provides an opportunity to meet 250 clients and event organisers to discuss holdings their meetings in Cairns.

The International Confederation of Principals will hold their 2013 World Congress in Cairns.

These businesses were part of the roadshow:-
Cairns Convention Centre; Cairns International Hotel; CaPTA Group; Destination Cairns Marketing; Down Under Tours; Events NQ; Hilton Cairns; Kuranda Scenic Railway; Off-Site Connections; Pacific International Hotel; Shangri-La Hotel; Skyrail; Sofitel Reef Casino; Stageworks; Novotel Cairns Oasis; The Quicksilver Group; Tjapukai; and Wildlife Tropical North Queensland.

The exodus grows

David Farrar at KiwiBlog reports that New Zealand's February migration statistics show an acceleration in the rate at which people are leaving New Zealand.
  • 7,406 people left NZ for good last month. That is a massive 1,850 people a week or 255 people a day. Yep everyday one of those 767-300s which fly out internationally was full of people not planning to return.

    Net migration to Australia has increased dramatically in the last four years. In the year to Feb 2004 net migration to Australia was only 10,623. For the year to Feb 2008 it was 29,586. Net migration to Australia has tripled in four years.

    What is also interesting is not only are more New Zealanders leaving, less are returning. In the Feb 2004 year 39,483 NZers left - this has increased by 17,500 to 56,932 in the current year.

    But some NZers return. In Feb 2004 year 27,539 people returned. In the year to Feb 2008 only 22,849 returned. The net migration of NZers (those with NZ citizenship) has increased in four years from 11,944 to 34,093.

A letter from Paul

From: Paul Freebody
Sent: Tuesday, 25 March 2008 5:37 PM
To: Sno Bonneau; Val Schier; Kirsten Lesina; Alan Blake; Margaret Cochrane; Julia Leu;
Cc: Briggs Noel; ~~Councillors

Subject: Good Luck Kirsten

Hi Everyone,

You would all probably know by now that it seems Kirsten Lesina got me by 8 votes give or take a vote on preferences!

Well done Kristen, you should be very proud of your effort to unseat an incumbent who run a very strong campaign.

It is a credit to you. I sincerely wish you all the best in the future and at an age of 21, I am sure you have a long political career in front of you.

Kirsten the offer still stands if I can ever be of help in matters regarding Division 4 than please pick up the phone and just call.

To save having to do another email to staff and Councilliors I take this opportunity to thank all of you for the experience of the past 8 years and the support and professionalism you have shown towards me in your positions.

It has been a great ride and I have learned a great deal and made some life time friends. I think my family is more disappointed then me as they worked very hard during the campaign.

The fact that I have a beautiful wife and 3 great boys allows me to move on and put this disappointment behind me.

I am sure your new division 4 Councillor will do a great job and I feel I hand over the reins in good condition. Kirsten go and get them and good luck with your future as you have had earn it!

I will say good bye and wish you all the best

Sincerely Yours

Paul Freebody
General Manager (Freebody Group)
Mb: 0418 741 160
Cairns QLD 4870

Lesina and Lanskey in, Freebody and Martinuzzi out

In final results that will no doubt be questioned by a re-count, Kirsten Lesina now has a 14 vote lead ahead of sitting Councillor Paul Freebody in Division 4.

Nancy Lanskey, in the southern Division 2, has pulled ahead of Jeff Martinuzzi by 20 votes, after the final preferences were counted this afternoon.

Final votes still two days away

Cairns Regional Council Election Returning Officer Ken Gorton says that the final preference votes are being sorted and allocated today, nine days after the election.
"The process is a slow one, you have to be careful," he told CairnsBlog. "It will be at least two or three days before I make an official declaration of the votes."
The mayoral preference votes will be done at the same time.
Gorton, a perennial electoral administrator, says that this process is the most important of all. "There's a lot to do over the next couple of days. It's hard to say when I will have the final result."
Division 2 still hangs in the balance, which includes Bentley Park, Edmonton, Lamb Range, Mount Sheridan and White Rock.
There are now only five votes between Cairns 1st's Jeff Martinuzzi on 2,389 votes (36.53%) and Nancy Lanskey on 2,394 (36.61%), prior to preferences being allocated. Kaye Kinghamn, from the former Mayor's Unity party, collected 1,757 votes (26.87%).
The other area that is very close is Division 4, that includes Bayview Heights, Brinsmead, Bungalow, Earlville, Kanimbla, Manoora, Mooroobool, along with parts of Portsmith, Redlynch, Westcourt, Whitfield and Woree.
Incumbent Councillor and Unity team member, Paul Freebody, holds onto his seat following an election night lead of only 219, at 3,039 votes (41.86%). Preferences from independent Norman Miller may help narrow the gap between him and Cairns 1st's Kirsten Lesina, who has 2,820 (38.84%).
The mayoral votes are Val Schier of Cairns 1st on 31,528 votes (46.73%), and Kevin Byrne on 30,224 (44.80%). With a lead of only 1,304, it would have only taken an additional 653 votes for Byne to retain office. This would suggest that although there was a significant change in Councillors, there was still strong support for Byrne and his politics.
Two independent mayoral candidates also ran. Peter Sandercock received 2,096 votes, just over 3% and Selwyn Johnston 3,619 votes (5.36%).
The most significant leads in the election were in Division 10 that includes Clifton Beach and the former Douglas Shire where Julia Leu, was convincingly ahead her Unity party rival Bill Phillips-Turner by at 2,342 votes.
The Division 3 contest between Robert Pyne, son of former mayor Tom Pyne, gained nearly 63% of the vote against former Deputy Mayor Terry James, was also a significant swing to a independent. Pyne won every booth in his Division.
Sitting Councillors Annette Sheppard, Terry James, Kevin Byrne, Kath Plath, and Deirdre Ford, all lost their seat in this election.
Cairns City Councillors Margaret Cochrane, Alan Blake, Paul Gregory, Paul Freebody, Sno Bonneau, retained their seat around the Council table. Councillors Jeff Pezzutti, Margaret Gill and Fran Linsday all retired at this election.
Douglas Shire Councillors Rod Davis, Melinda Cox, and George Pitt all ran unsuccessfully for Division 10.
It is expected that Mayor-elect Val Schier will call the first Council meeting, possibly on Thursday 3rd April, and propose either Paul Gregory or Margaret Cochrane as her deputy.
The Electoral Commission Queensland was criticised for their performance in running the election, amidst numerous problems, not the least that a large number of residents did not know where to vote or what division they were in. In the past, local Councils have undertaken the administration of local body elections.

Monday 24 March 2008

False Cape still in ruin

Prior to the Council elections, I was extremely concerned with the devastation from the abandoned works at the False Cape development site.

I was pleased to provide exclusive video footage of the environmental destruction on the site.

Late last week, Coates Hire removed the construction site office from the property.

Local Councillor Paul Gregory, who was returned unopposed at the Council election, has in the past attended the local Koombal ratepayers meetings, along with Council's town planner Peter Tabulo. He was very supportive of the False Cape development at the time. When questioned why the Council was giving the Esplanade away to the developer for the site access road, they were informed that they could change the name of the area given away to road reserve, or whatever else they liked, and therefore not give "esplanade" away.

Over the last three months, the wet season rainfall has caused havoc and the newly exposed roads and house sites have taken the full effect of the elements.

Boulders the size of houses are simply falling down the hillside, exposing more hill slopes to substantial sediment run-off. The sediment control traps are now totally ineffective. Although the previous Cairns City Council, under the guidance of town planner Peter Tabulo, said the site was being monitored, there has been no prevention action undertaken on the kilometer-long construction site.

Former Deputy Mayor Terry James was also vague if the $650,000 bond was held in trust with the National Australia Bank, after asked where the money was at the Sustainability Forum three weeks ago.

Natural Solutions were touted as the 'independent' erosion and sediment control officers who the Department of the Environment and Water Resources (formally DEH) have contracted to look at False Cape, however this is not known to be the case. There is concern that Natural Solutions are not an environmentally conscious organisation, as they have been in bed with the False Cape developer, John Ewens, since day one. Activists following the collapse of construction and the aftermath since the site was abandoned, would like to see a truly independent officer look at the site.

Natural Solutions are also part of the C&B Group. Former Deputy Mayor Terry James' brother, Peter James, who is the CEO of Conics (previously C&B). C&B are the planners responsible for the False Cape development.

Save False Cape activists will be meeting with Local Government Minister Warren Pitt, this Friday.

Fixing up this mess is going to be the first real test of the new Schier-led Cairns Regional Council. She has inherited a substantial and complicated problem, made all the more messy by a complicit previous administration that did not act with vigilance and with the environment uppermost in it's planning mind. The Council's allowance of wet season works has exacerbated the erosion and sediment run-off destruction.

Some have suggested that a post-grad student could do a great thesis on the failure of government and the environmental judicial system in regards to False Cape. Sadly, I think they're right.

Here's some photos that Terry Spackman has taken over the last few days. They show the entire site is now falling apart and is dangerously unstable.