Monday 6 October 2008

We told you so

Exactly one month ago, rooftop rebel and False Cape crusader - way smarter that the fictitious and silly Cairns 'Caped Crusader', Terry Spackman and I re-visited the appalling Foley Road development.

I called it our next False Cape, in honour of the environmental disaster that took the local Council and the Federal Government over four years to react. It took action and much pressure from public lobbyists like Save our Slopes, Mark Buttrose, Steven Nowakowski and Terry Spackman to name but three, for anyone to take the issue seriously. In the meantime, a huge amount of damaging sediment run-off has occurred at East Trinity from the False Cape site.

The folk from the Combined Beaches Residents Association, who have pursued the ill-conceived Glen Corp developments at Clifton Beach and Hedley's work at Paradise Palms golf course, alerted me to Phil Hartwig, a rouge developer who is excavating vast amounts of his land at the top of Foley Road, Palm Cove.
When Terry and I visited and filmed the site four weeks ago, it was dry. We predicted, come the wet season, this whole hillside will wash downstream.

Saturday morning, the rains came, and I got a 6am telephone call, and we were off with cameras in hand to capture the evidence. The drive to the once lovely neigbourhood of Palm Cove, is now scarred by what is happening at the top of Foley Road, on the Western side of the Captain Cook Highway. We really know Palm Cove as the community alongside the sea, but developers have a way of stealing names and stretching boundaries for marketing real estate.

When we posted the first lot of footage on CairnsBlog a month ago, only Councillor Paul Gregory and Robert Pyne responded. Gregory, whose Division one encompasses False Cape, knows all to well about poor development controls. He's probably the most experienced Councillor in regards to sediment controls. You would have expected Councillor Sno Bonneau, who used to look after this area, to be at the forefront of this development. But he's no where to be seen. You have to ask why and what part he played in representing the approval for Phil Hartwig.

It's important to note that Councillor Gregory is also chairman of Council's Works and Water committees, and is also the Local Government director of Terrain Natural Resource Management, although the website hasn't been updated. Terrain claims to support the Wet Tropics region to "develop local projects and solutions that make sense not only for our environment but also for our community and economy." Well, they need to be very aware of what this rogue developer Phil Hartwig is getting away with at Foley Road, Palm Cove.

Here's some footage that we filmed over the weekend, after a small amount of rain. The results are shocking.

According to the Cairns Plan, waterways are all protected and have to have minimum setbacks. These are called riparian corridors. The developer behind Foley Road, Phil Hartwig has clearly breached this.
Why aren't Council planning officials enforcing these controls?

If you went into a shop, took something off the shelf and walked out without paying for it, the store security and police would be onto you within minutes. Why is it when you deliberately breach local bylaws, with such devastating effects, no one says a thing? There has to be months and sometimes years of protests from the public before any action takes place.
The ongoing saga at Foley Road, comes just weeks after chief Council Planner, Peter Tabulo said that a majority of building sites failed to meet the minimum industry standard to ensure control on development sites. He and his department have held a series of forums with builders and developers on this very issue in the last eight weeks.
“The implementation and maintenance of these basic environmental protection measures ultimately promotes healthier waterways,” Tabulo says. “Healthy waterways lead to healthier estuaries and a healthier Marine Park which we all like to be able to enjoy whether it’s better fishing, diving or just cleaner beaches.”
Well, what we witnessed over the weekend at Foley Road is in direct contravention to this.

Such activities give us little confidence in our senior public servants to manage our environment and our civic affairs, when these developments go unchecked and un-policed.

A shocking footnote to this sorry saga, is that the Combined Beaches Community Association alerted Drew McLean, at the Federal Environment Ministry a year ago, with a number of letters, and have never had one reply.

Terry Spackman has asked Councillor Diane Forsyth to put forward a motion at the next Environment and Planning meeting to mandate Council officials to uphold and police the conditions of Development Approvals. Sounds bizarre that you'd even have to put up such a motion.

What are you doing about this Cairns Regional Council?

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