Sunday 26 October 2008

Is Phil Hartwig waking up?

CairnsBlog readers will be well aware of the expose I've done on the debacle unfolding up near Palm Cove at Foley Road.

It is all about uncontrolled sediment run, just like False Cape. You know, the development at East Trinity that Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett closed down pending a clean-up by Cairns Regional Council. Interestingly enough, Council in their wisdom have decided to use ratepayers money to fund the clean up exercise at False Cape, and bill the owner, one John Ewens. Why they simply didn't dip in and use the $650,000 bond that they are meant to be holding, is beyond me. The Safe False Cape folk are still ever vigilant about this project and I doubt we've seen or heard the end of this rogue developer.

Meanwhile, back to Sediment Run-Off Criminal Number 2. Mr Hartwig.

The Combined Beaches Community Association first bought this site to the attention of the Government and Council a long while ago. At first they were exchanging information, then Federal inspectors visited the site at the same as the False Cape white coats were in town.

The wall of silence came from the EPA office, so the Beaches Association took me for a look at the site three months ago. Of course, I was shocked at was unveiling at this steep development site, and it was all being done by one man and his big yellow bulldozer.

Now I'm no expert on sediment controls or run offs, but this is 101 environment protection science. Community environmentalist and water watchdog, 71-year-old Terry Spackman, has been policing building and development sites for more than 10 years now, bringing his 'WaterWatch' results to the attention of Council officers. Just a couple of months ago, he shouted himself a nice Sony Handicam, and it's proved an invaluable tool in exposing rouge developers like Phil Hartwig at Foley Road and John Ewens at False Cape. Here's the video Terry and I filmed last month. This embarrassed Council and showed them up. Our objective it's not to be high and mighty, it's simply to get some action and make sure they're doing their job. We want Council officers to wake up to what's going on under their nose.

Last week an email was received from Lana Gishkariany about Foyley Road. Lana is the assistant policy advisor for the Office of the Minister for Sustainability. She said that the Environmental Protection Agency had received complaints from local community groups about sediment runoff on a property at Foley Road. Serious?! This is finally an admission that there is a problem, and just weeks before our wet season is about to take most of the Foley Road dirt into every river and creek below it, then the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will cop the rest.

There were a couple of statements in Lana's email, including:

  • ‘Please note that the EPA is not a concurrence agency for this proposal and hence has no role in the approval and conditioning of the project’.
This is very interesting because although this development has been under construction for about two years, and was passed by Council under the non-transparent process of Delegate Authority. The EPA were not a concurrent agency at this time. Serious questions need to be asked why not, given the significant hillslope area and proximity being adjacent to the Wet Tropics Management Area, vegetation codes and waterway category of Sweet Creek.

This issue was later rectified when another subdivision went before Cairns Regional Council earlier this year (July 2008 – Lot 2RP808351) involving 19 Lots in a parcel of land situated below Mr Hartwig’s property. If you drive up Foley Road, on the left of Captain Cook highway heading north, this new approved sub-division is at the end of the road on the right.

Council’s recommendation in this approval was that lots 13-18 (6 Lots) did not comply with Hillslope, Vegetation and Conservation, and Waterways Significance Codes. Both Department of Natural Resources and the EPA were concurrent agencies in this approval.
  • Hence, ‘the EPA advised Cairns Regional Council that they will not be investigating this matter at this stage, as CRC has the jurisdiction and necessary tools under the Integrated Planning Act 1997 and Environmental Protection Act 1994 to investigate and deal with sediment runoff concerns.’

This statement is interesting because it clearly identifies the Cairns Regional Council as having responsibility for all future run-off and sedimentation problems on the Foley Road site. Now are we shocked or surprised by this admission? What should surprise us is that Council are lame in the extreme at policing and ensuring controls are in place of approved Development Approvals. You'd think that's why us ratepayers pay them.

During a visit to Foley Road yesterday, it appears the developer has been made to stabilize the benched blocks with some sort of white material with planted grass being seen to be growing out of this material. Has Council made this rogue developer do something to stabilize the site?

Let's hope that this is enough to stop the whole slope from coming down over the next few weeks as our annual wet season kicks in so that further runoff from this site is prevented.

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