Wednesday 8 October 2008

Their heads are stuck in a sediment trap

I nearly choked on my cornflakes (with appologies to KB).

It appears that the Cairns Regional Council sent a few officers to have a look yesterday at the Foley Road developement.

Chief town planner Peter Tabulo says his officer's claim that they found 'no evidence of any erosion, sedimentation or siltation of creeks or waterways.'

Now, just in case you missed that, I'll repeat what Council officers said. They found no evidence of any erosion, sedimentation or siltation of creeks or waterways.

Right. Peter Tabulo, you also couldn't see the sediment for the trees at False Cape for three years, so it's hardly surprising that your staff are wearing mud-coloured glasses when they get within 100 meters of a development that they approved.

He's also called into question the video we filmed, and the dates of them. Well, the CairnsBlog film department has no elaborate special effects department. Tabulo said the creek was not flowing and looked as if it had not flowed significantly recently. Well, it was on the weekend. Here's the first lot of videos, and four weeks later, almost to the day, we filmed this. Notice the difference?

"No creeks in the vicinity of Argentea have water in any case, besides the frontal dune area where there is a reasonably large body of salt water not unlike Palm Cove's Creek, which occasionally rises on spring tide inundation," Peter Tabulo said late yesterday.

He doesn't seem to think there was a big enough problem to take action and that the site managers (read Phil Hartwig and his big FO bulldozer) "managed the run-off effectively over the weekend."

Tabulo has also questioned the footage and when it was taken. "The creek was not flowing and looked as if it had not flowed significantly recently," Tabulo said.

Can someone please pop in a street map of the region into Council today, as it's reasonably obvious that they were looking up a different creek without a paddle.

"The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has not raised any concerns," Peter Tabulo went on to say. Well, they haven't got out from behind their desks, have.

Steve Ryan of CAFNEC (Cairns and Far North Environment Centre) is surprised by the answers.

The latest film footage was taken around 11:30am on Saturday 4th October. The creek is called Sweet Creek and if you look carefully, clearly it runs through and below Phil Hartwig's property, you can see and hear it flowing.

Terry Spackman, who has been reporting on dodgy developments for ten years, says you will never get a Council officer to admit there is a problem with Erosion Sediment Control on any development. "I have tried for years," he says.

"Going back to the days when I was a member of Water Watch, that was run by the Department of Natural Resources, we realised that sediment run-off from property developments, was a serious problem," Terry Spackman says. "A group of us set up Sediment Watch. Among our group was Mike Frankcombe, who was president of the International Erosion an Sediment Control Professionals Association.

Frankcombe is now director of IECA (Australasia), chair Australasian CPESC Committee.

"Although it is a volunteer-based group, there were others that had relevant professional qualifications and expertise," Terry says. "We and DNR people, met with Council's Bryan Smyth, and agreed to a format for reporting sedimentation problems."

"Exact location, time, date, weather conditions, photographs, water samples, and readings from a brand new state-of-the-art turbitity meter, was undertaken," Spackman says. "We submitted report after report, in exactly the format requested, and I have submitted reports that must run into three figures in numbers since."

Terry says that not one of those reports led to a fine or prosecution.

For Cairns Regional Council staff to admit that there is a problem with sediment run-off, is for them to admit that they have not been doing there job in the first place.

If Council officers made sure the Contractors Stormwater Management plan was put in place, and work was carried out in compliance with FNQ ROC, there would be no sediment problem.

As for Peter Tabulo's comments, it's worth remembering that in a reply to Steven Nowakowski's enquiries, he said, the contractor at False Cape had left the site in an 'acceptable condition from an Erosion Sediment Control perspective' and we all know about False Cape, don't we?

Anyone who has seen the photos and video footage taken at False Cape can see what a mess it is to this day. In fact it's far worse than the photos and videos show. Independent ESC experts, RNA, who did a report on False Cape, believe it's a mess and have recommended work to "fix it up."

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garret called a halt to it because it's a threat to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. However Peter Tabulo thinks it's acceptable, it seems.

"You can throw as much evidence as you like, from now until kingdom come, but you will never have them admit there is a sedimentation problem at a development in their area, like Foley Road," says Terry Spackman.

The big question is why?


Anonymous said...

No surprises re Council findings on Foley road creek pollution.

This council is spectacularly incompetent when it comes to the environment, especially the wonderfully heavily vegetated areas and riparian corridors of the many creek systems on the Northern Beaches.

They have done nothing so far to protect the environement here, and their level of incompetence knows no bounds unfortunately!

Anonymous said...

I am convinced, the pro development element in the CRC is so entrenched, nothing will change untill there is some outside intervention.

Anonymous said...

We are chasing this up further. I can understand your frustration and perhaps this new council needs to consider the value of re-establishing Sediment Watch again in partnership with concerned community representatives. Terry, I note on your distribution list that you have no council officers. Please include Noel Briggs the CEO on your list. It would be wise to also include Peter Tabulo who is currently working hard to get remedial works underway at False Cape. and

Anonymous said...

Peter Tabulo has already provided feedback on this matter some ago when it was raised by Michael Moore.

Anonymous said...

Val, I'm fed up with wasting time with Council Officers, did you not read my history of dealing with them.

You are the Mayor, I expect you and elected Councilors to deal with those Officers who are clearly conspiring with developers to avoid putting in effective ESC's

They are directly responcible for the mess of False Cape, that you now have have dropped in your lap.

I don't envy your position Val, but deal with this you must.

Anonymous said...

There is a problem with sediment run off.

Your work is very worthwhile, even if you often do not see a direct result.

Anonymous said...

Why are you telling me there is a problem Rob?

I have known there has been a sediment problem since I told your father's Council there was a problem.

The only change since that time is, the contractors put a bit of silt fence in place, dig a hole and call it a sediment trap, it all looks great untill it rains.

Look at any creek or drain downstream from a development this wet season and see how effective their controls are.

Who has got the balls to take on these council staff members who continue to see no problem?

Anonymous said...

You guy's have done all you can, I guess we will have to wait for the rain. You know, the rain that causes Deadman’s Creek to overflow, and rush through the ground floor of the nasty Clifton Road Units, taking out the railings on the bridge over Yule Ave. The same rain that washes down from the Subdivision across the road form Argentea, blocks Captain Cook Highway because the traffic Islands prevent it from flowing down into the tributaries that flow through Argentea and into Delaney’s Creek. The same rain that falls in the hills above Palm Cove flowing through Phil Hartigs subdivision into Sweet Creek. It is this rain falling in the Creeks (oops sorry, drainage easements) that causes the “body of water” to open up to the sea, not the “occasional inundation of the spring tide”.
Of course it will be a good video opportunity if the spring tide and the rain coincide.
I did happen to see water in Argentea the other day, not in the creek beds, which I agree were very dry, but in the latest excavations for another resort, I guess they had found the water table.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday the Report on the Status of the Great Barrier Marine Park was NOT GOOD!

Sediment washing down our creeks and rivers into the GBMP is contributing to this decline.

Here we have a narrow coastal strip on the Northern Beaches less than 5 klm wide, with many creeks travelling from the McAllister ranges, (Deep, Sweet and Delaney's), all entering the Coral Sea within a few klm of each other.

Now look at the massive scale and unprecendent amounts of developments that are going on adjacent to these natural systems.

Foley Road, Paradise Palms, Clifton Views units, Clifton Waters units, Sanctuary Point Housing Estate at Kewarra, Royal Palms 5 Star resort at Palm Cove and Argentea and all of these developments have in the past had creek interference or sediment runoff issues reported by locals, and generally most of this was caused by massive clearing of vegetation and poor site management.

So don't tell me all this is not impacting the GBR, and then, tell me one thing CRC has done in any of these instances, where Council has acted on complaints or taken measures to prevent further damage.

Apart from Foley Road, we currently have the Argentea mob putting in another 4m wide boardwalk running parrallel to Delaney's Creek, and continuint over Delaney's Creek (within 100m of the first boardwalk on the foreshore of Clifton Beach), and if you go down to the beach now, you will see a huge excavator removing foreshore vegetation along the coastal dune right on the beach front.

Inappropriate, Inappropriate and Shame on Council for giving permission in the first place for this unnecessary destruction of wetland and sensitive marine area, right at the front door of the GBR.

The previous Byrne Council, who was ably assisted by Sno Bonneau, made sure that the Argentea developers got everything they wanted, and unfortunately, it is our environment that is paying a heavy toll for this recklessness and incompetence!

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael & Terry,
You should consider submitting some still shots from this video to the CRC & Cairns Post "Our Region, Our Water Photo competition"! These images would comply with with most of their competition criteria:
1. Portray a link between our tropical environment and the role water plays in making our region and lifestyle unique;
2. Are easily recognisable as being taken in far north Qld;
3. Demonstrate the importance of water in our tropical environment.