Saturday 8 March 2008

Double-Dump Mareeba - Time for a Clean-up!

Due to popular demand, he returns!

As the election campaign enters the last crucial week, contributing
CairnsBlog writer Syd Walker, candidate for Division 8, Tablelands Regional Council, picks through more of the flith surrounding Mareeba Shire Council.

Management of solid waste in FNQ is a mess – and Mareeba has become the centre of a noxious, hazardous and toxic vortex.

Not only did Mareeba Shire Council lack any real system for minimizing solid waste and facilitating recycling. By stages, it also allowed Mareeba to serve as super-dump for solid waste from the entire region, including Cairns and Port Douglas.

Mareeba has not one but two large dumps: the Mareeba town dump on the Dimbulah Road and another, privately-managed dump at Springmount.

The former lies within the area zoned for noxious, hazardous and offensive industries, which Council recently (in closed session) decided to expand.

Leaching of toxins from these dumps – especially from the older facility lacking the more advanced bed lining built into the Springmount dump - has the potential to pollute the Barron and Mitchell rivers. Is there any systematic monitoring of these crucial watercourses to check if this is actually happening? Testing, that is, for the full gamut of potential toxins? If so, could someone please let me know? (references appreciated)

In the 1990’s, the Bedminster plant in Cairns was touted as the ‘solution’ to waste disposal in the region. But the performance of this facility has been disappointing to say the least. Huge amounts of solid waste has been diverted to landfill in Mareeba.

This has increased traffic pressure on the scenic Kuranda Range Road. Adding insult to injury, the more benign option of transporting waste by rail has been overlooked, despite calls from environment groups.

In the late 1990s, a new FNQ waste management strategy called for the closure of many dumps in the region. Mareeba town dump was on the list for closure. Yet while the super-dump at Springmount opened in accordance with this plan, the town dump has remained open. Hence Mareeba’s double-dump status.

Mareeba Shire Council has long been out of its depth on the issue of waste management. To be fair, it was also a victim of poor management at regional, state and national level. But unlike Cairns, Douglas Shire or other nearby local government areas, Mareeba Shire Council enthusiastically welcomed the region’s waste, turning Mareeba into FNQ’s premier dumping ground.

Mareeba’s landfill facilities are supposedly monitored by the Queensland EPA. The same applies to activities carried out within the Noxious, Hazardous and Offensive Industries zone.

Can we be confident these burgeoning landfills and dangerous industries are properly regulated? Can we be certain there is no leaching of toxins into watercourses - and sure that human and environmental health is not at risk?

It would be nice, but is it likely?

The Queensland EPA has statewide obligations. It operates under weak legislation. It has never had crusading leadership.

Without strong and active oversight by local authorities and/or community groups, the EPA alone cannot enforce high standards. Put another way, it allows lax standards. There are many examples of this around the State. Mareeba may well be one such case.

Lacking any noticeable environmental consciousness, the Borzi Council has bequeathed a legacy of huge landfills and industries that most places don’t want to the new Tablelands Regional Council. It’s a legacy of unknown scale and dimensions.

Strategic discussion is urgently needed in this important policy area. I believe the new Tablelands Regional Council should conduct an audit of waste management and disposal throughout the Tablelands, ideally as part of a larger regional study. We need a new plan for waste minimization and recycling.
We need a comprehensive toxics inventory. We also need baseline pollution data for watercourses, especially our major rivers. Without that, we’ll never know whether we’re making progress on water pollution (from a multiplicity of sources) - or not.
Long term solutions must be found at regional level and above. We need nothing less than a comprehensive waste minimization and recycling strategy. Ultimately, that entails major industrial re-design.

But while we wait for the region, the State and the nation to get its collective act together and fix the solid ‘waste’ problem in the long-term, Mareeba should stop putting up its hand to serve as the region’s dunny.

Until it can be shown that Mareeba’s landfills and noxious, hazardous and offensive industries are safe and contain their toxic content in perpetuity, thoughts of expansion should be set aside.

It's therefore particularly outrageous that at its notorious Special Meeting on January 29th, in closed session, Council revised the Shire Planning Scheme with a raft of amendments described in a previous article. One of these amendments was to expand the Noxious, Hazardous and Offensive Industries zone. Council decided the expanded zone would lie immediately adjacent to an area zoned ‘Future Residential’.

How many more appalling planning decisions by the Borzi Council will the new Tablelands Regional Council be expected to wear?

When will the State Government put a red line through the entire proceedings of Mareeba Shire Council’s noxious ‘Special Meeting’ - and declare all its proceedings null and void?


Anonymous said...


Could you PLEASE check some FACTS before writing this CRAP.

Your claim - "Leaching of toxins from these dumps – especially from the older facility lacking the more advanced bed lining built into the Springmount dump" I guess you might want to know the the Mareeba Shire Landfill has exactly the same modern cell lining as the Springmount Facility. OOPS, better wipe that egg away.

This modern lining has been put in place by the BORZI Council.

Your statement "Lacking any noticeable environmental consciousness, the Borzi Council has bequeathed a legacy of huge landfills" - The Borzi Council fought very hard to have the Springmount Landfill refused in the Planning and Environment Court. Check your facts.

Just as the Borzi Council has fought very hard to have a grease trap waste disposal facility at Dimbulah refused. The Judge is still considering this appeal.

As for the Noxious, Offensive and Hazardous Industry zone, have you bothered to visit this area? You might be suprised that the new uses in this zone are traditional industrial activities, no more noxious than some of your posts.

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous
Don’t come here telling everyone the full story. Where is the fun in that! Its not like Sid is trying to obtain a position of authority or trust in the community from this… oh wait.

I am sure Lord Sidious will call another press conference and the “media tart” will be more than happy to wheel out the 10 foot banner again.

Got me thinking do you have to declare income from website adverts?

As for Lord Sidious, I hope you get in because “It’s easy to be GREEN when you aren’t in power”.

Anonymous said...

Hi there anonymous 1 & 2,

At the risk of stating the obvious, rebuttals on Council letterhead - or at minimum put out under the name of an identifiable person - would carry more weight than anonymous comments.

Why would a Council with facts on its side hide behind anonymity?

If it can be shown my article has significant factual errors, I would like to correct it. That's always the case. Some hard evidence would assist me in this process.

I notice that neither anon rebuts the crucial point that there appears to be no serious monitoring of rivers in this region for pollutants that might leach from dumps (or testing for pesticides, for that matter).

Is silence confirmation on this point?

If so, it's actually impossible to know whether toxins are leaching into the watercourses, as no-one apparently bothers to test and find out.

Anonymous said...

from 'Close-Down-Town-Dump'

It's not exactly clear WHY another
"anonymous" blogger feels a need to
defend "the Borzi council" on these
contentious Mareeba Dump issues -
but the inexplicable and substantial expansion of the Mareeba Town Dump is unquestionably an act of enviromental irresponsibility.

This facility, which council itself
classifies as 'Noxious, Hazardous
and Offensive' is smack-bang in the
middle of residential and recreational precincts - and well
may Syd Walker ask about the potential for toxic leakage in to
both the Mitchell and Barron River

Incredibly, the facility is also
adjacent to land zoned 'Future
Residential' - perhaps in the
expectation that new residents
will be as appreciative of a
major regional waste facilty in
their neighbourhood as the outgoing
"Borzi council" seems to be.

The town dump is "managed" by Cairns company C.E.C., currently in share-price-crash-crisis. At
this critical time for their unhappy shareholders, the likely
leaching of poisonous pathogens
and toxins in to our local river
systems would be the LEAST of
C.E.C's problems.

The "cell-lining" referred to by
'Anonymous' is not installed beneath the total area of the site,
as is the case with the Ariga 'super-dump' - which is located well away from residential

Does 'Anonymous' remember the FIRE
at the Town Dump in October 2006,
which triggered an evacuation alert
for not just the nearby residential
precincts - but the not-so-nearby
Kerribee Park 'caravan camp'...?

People were advuised to keep their
windows and doors 'shut-tight' -
and to expect "mild irritation"
to their eyes, noses and throats !
The fire burned for at least a

'Anonymous' is correct on one
point - the "Borzi council" did
oppose the Ariga 'super-dump'
project in Planning & Environment
Court as he/she described - after
strident objections from standng-
room-only public protest meetings
in Mareeba and Dimbulah made it
crystal clear that community angst
was 'running hot'.

Mind you, councils have been known
to "go through the motions" of Court actions and even appeals,
just to satisfy aggrieved citizens
that their elected representatives have taken their concerns on-board.

But would the "Borzi Council" stoop
so low ? Surely not !

Syd Walker has done well to bring
this inexplicable act of environmental madness in the Mareeba town area to public attention...

Were it not for whistle-blowers like Syd, exposing the "Borzi
council's" closed sessions and
sequestered meetings, unsuspecting buyers of 'Future Residental' land could well find their dream-home-site eight next door to something potentially toxic - and certainly "Noxious, Offensive
and Hazardous"...

And for the folks who already live near-by, or use the recreational
facilities like the Golf club and
the International club, it's too

ONE regional dump is more than
enough - and second one, in TOWN,
is environmental insanity !

from 'Close-Down-Town-Dump'