Friday 27 June 2008

Some hope for False Cape

Former mayoral candidate and renown peace activist, Bryan Law attended yesterday's special briefing at Council to witness the delegation of campaigners against the False Cape development.

He recounts his observations on a day when they were asking for local government to take action. Now.

I attended yesterday’s presentation by the Save False Cape group to members of the Cairns Regional Council. All Councillors were there, but they were not sitting as Council, had no power to make decisions, and in the event didn’t even have time for questions and discussion.

It’s clear that CRC has put thought into how to receive delegations, and SFC was one of four groups making delegations yesterday. The presentation ran for 40 minutes.

In the Byrne Council one could get 5 minutes at most, with certain Councillors willing to move that the speaker be no longer heard if the subject matter got too irritating. This new process initiated under Val Schier, is exponentially superior to anything sanctioned for community use by Kevvy (the Developer’s advocate) Byrne.

At this early stage I have some concerns about a few features of the current process, and I’ll watch events with a close eye to measure the effectiveness of CRC as an environmentally and socially responsible municipal Council.
  1. One of the four delegations yesterday came from Advance Cairns, which is hardly a community group. Advance Cairns has no difficulty in presenting its issues to this or previous Cairns Councils - and/or state and federal governments. There was no questioning or discussion of SFC’s presentation because Advance Cairns stole the time.

  2. As well as the complement of CRC officers (Noel Briggs, Peter Tabulo) the Department of Environment and Heritage had two operatives attend the meeting. None of these people responded, could be questioned, or were in any way held to account for their own actions in sanctioning the destruction at False Cape, resulting in the present problems – and are still the ones in charge of government action in relation to False Cape.

  3. DEWHA has kept secret its commissioned report into False Cape in order to preserve its evidentiary value (which sounds like piffle to me). Since when have we had trial by ambush in this country? If the science is sound and the evidence is collected the report’s evidentiary value can’t be diminished by public disclosure or by informed debate about the best way forward.

  4. The SFC presentation clearly demonstrated that the owners of False Cape have failed to meet development conditions, and that all the approvals given subject to those conditions must now lapse without compensation.

  5. The present situation will cause damage to the Great Barrier Reef marine park if left uncorrected. CRC and other governments get to consider the future of the land.
    The CRC must move immediately to rehabilitate and manage the damaged areas of the site before the next Wet Season. Somewhere in lawyer land there is $650,000 of bond money to start with.

Then the Queensland and Federal governments ought consider the area’s best future use as an asset for the regional populations of Trinity Bay, False cape and Trinity Inlet. I imagine the Yarrabah Council and traditional owners of that land might like a site on which they could develop things they need like jobs, housing, cultural and natural interpretation enterprises along with other conservation outcomes in civic partnership. For instance.

My chief concern is that right now we have no response or indication from any government bureaucrat or elected Councillor about what, when and how they are going to fix any of the problems and take advantage of the opportunities.

We don’t even have a date when CRC will next consider the matter.

I worry that the same bureaucrats who got us into this mess will apply the usual tactics to calm the waters and suffocate the spirit. To shift the blame and endorse a policy of urgent caution, while continuing to enjoy the nice quiet day that a professional Council officer feels entitled to. While extending their reputation for reliability in doing nothing.

Call me a cynic.

I hope I’m wrong. I really do hope the elected Mayor and Councillors can get together and forge effective action over False Cape and related development issues. Action which will work to develop Cairns as a healthy and balanced community living sustainably in this fabulous part of Planet Earth. I know they are able to do it if they choose.

Call me an optimistic cynic, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting. I’m going to keep a close eye on how all three levels of government respond to the present opportunities. I’m going to pay particularly close attention to how my Mayor and Councillors exercise their responsibilities.

It was hard at today’s meeting to gauge which way individuals are going to jump. A more dour and aloof bunch is hard to imagine, at least the ones in front of me. Paul Gregory, Thingo, Nancy Lansky was obscured from my view by the back of Kirsten Lesina’s Head. Sno Bonneau, Noel Briggs, Di Forsyth, Rob Pyne, Margaret Cochrane and Alan Blake, although he never made eye contact. Then the backs of heads, including Val Schier.

Paul Gregory looked at times as if was enduring enough guff to last a month, but mostly kept a straight face and looked prosperous, almost natty in a really nice shirt and tie. Thingo and I are a long way apart in the cultural realm and i don’t connect with most of the cues, but Thingo came across as inscrutable. Sort of Easter Island statue, but of alabaster with a business like perfume. Thingo is that radio woman whose show I never listened to.

I think it was Noel Briggs.

Di Forsyth is on side and will ensure the process of Council consideration plods along in due course. Her job now is to acquire the DEWHA report, commission a report from the CRC officers, and organise a formal Council meeting to vote on a set of high value recommendations. (The ones recommended by SFC).

Rob Pyne smiled at me and tried to ask a question, but was over-ruled by Val Schier. I was hoping he would be assertive and give us a 60 second grab, but alas. Margaret Cochrane reminds me of a kindly and well-meaning aunt, but I’ve got no idea where she stands on False Cape. The same goes for Alan Blake except that he would be an ambitious adversary rather than a kindly aunt. The backs of heads didn’t say anything so I have no clue at all.

Here’s hoping that Val Schier and Di Forsyth can fashion a coherent and functioning Council which acts purposefully to rehabilitate False cape and institute a positive program of appropriate development.

Here’s hoping CRC develops its consultation processes to forge effective partnerships with community groups to improve both the long-term planning and the everyday amenity of our town.

Call me an optimistic cynic but I believe these things are possible – but possible only if Val and all the other Councillors are well supported by citizens in the task. I’m willing to go so far as to watch carefully and contribute what I can to creative problem solving and greater community accountability – insofar as False Cape is an emblematic issue of good potential.

We live in interesting times.

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