Wednesday, 8 April 2009

At the edge of the cliff, a tonne of water

Wednesday's decision by Cairns Regional Council to allow a developer to hand over maintenance and management of a Clifton waterway to the body corporate of an apartment block, is probably this Council's most stupid decision ever, in their short one-year history.

This action at Clifton Views apartment complex, which is in the final stages of construction, will desecrate the local environ.

I wrote yesterday about the compelling reasons why the local community wanted the natural waterway of Deadman's Creek left to nature. However, by a slim majority, Council ignored the will of the people and approved to hand over the ownership of an area of the river, to the new owners, Glencorp and the Body Corporate to manage. It's an outrageous act of environmental vandalism, endorsed by Cairns Council.

This decision will create a precedent, and permit other constructions alongside and near waterways to be altered, interfered with, widened to suit, and accommodate poorly and illegally-built structures.

Allowing the developer of Clifton Views the right to interfere with Deadman’s Creek, with a very few minor amendments to the conditions, is probably the most ill-conceived decision this Council has allowed.

Councillors Bonneau, Blake, Gregory, Lanksey, Cochrane, and Cooper voted to allow the reconfiguration of a recognised waterway, whilst Councillors Lesina, Pyne, Forsyth, Schier and Leu voted against. It's interesting to note that Sno Bonneau's was the first hand to go up in support of the approval.

Linda Cooper revealed to CairnsBlog this evening that she only begrudgingly supported the developer's wishes. "I didn't really want to support this, but I did vote for the outcome," she said.

Councillor Kirsten Lesina was against the interference in the waterway. "Yes, this is something that I see we should not allow, however I could see both sides of the proposal," Lesina said.

Other options on the table were to divert the creek system upstream, a solution that should have been explored and trialled before taking such damaging action.

What is interesting about Deadman's Creek - where many developer's tricks and bodies are buried - is that the Department of Natural Resources were called to the site a few years ago by the then land owner and then developer, to ask for the waterway to be re-categorised. This is a practice in the industry often used to allow such restrictions like minimum Riparian corridors to be weakened and activities around and with river systems to be breached.

In the case of Deadmans, a waterway which is not in flow every year, it was then treated as a 'drainage easement', so that developer conditions for be slackened and eventually totally disregarded, resultant in today's decision.

This extensive creek system comes all the way down the McAlastair Range on the Western side of the Captain Cook road, under the highway and right through the middle of the Clifton Views apartment complex, and along Clifton Road, existing on the coastline.

Voting in support of human interference in a natural watercourse, has very serious consequences. This will be weight to any other developers wanting to maximise the built environment on a subject land.

Council Engineer, Rudd Rankin, informed today's Planning and Environment meeting not to attack the developer. "Developers should not be held responsible for existing flooding issues," he said.

However, this a huge mis-truth, and a statement that this senior engineer knows is simply not true.

No existing flooding issues that impacted on residents. The land was not developed upon, and as a flood plain, it soaked up any excess water naturally.

"In 35 years of living in Clifton Beach, we have never had this serious flooding from Deadmans," a resident told CairnsBlog. "Since all these buildings have gone up, the flooding has been awful. It has to go somewhere."

The floods in 2008 and 2009 both extensively engulfed Clifton Views, and flooded Yule Ave and neighbouring Clifton Road.

Rudd Rankin claims that Deadmans is only a drainage channel, not a river. "The DNR call it this," he said after today's meeting.

Giving approval to dig up this creek, implant a mass of concrete in it, will come home to haunt all those Councillors that supported this action. Although a larger bond of $300,000 was requested, to be held for two years, it will be little solace to the on-going issues that will undoubtedly occur with known wet season torrents that are becoming more regular in this water system.

No Council cannot abdicate their responsibility when it comes to waterways. They do so at their peril.


Jude Johnston said...

Not unexpectedly, Councillors went with the Officers recomendations.Councillor Bonneau's arm was first up.

This council is perpetuating the last councils lack of duty of care to other landholders and ratepayers. The Councillors and Officers are well aware that they have given the approval to go ahead and dig up the Natural Waterway in full knowledge of the potential for flooding in the future.

Be it on their heads, the responsibility squarely rests on them. Glencorp can now go into the waterway, dig away to its hearts content, fill the creek up with concrete and too bad about those downstream.

Council have handed over the creek for Glencorp Bodycorp to manage. What a farce this is. Glencorp have shown that they don't give a rats arse about conditions placed on them and I wouldn't be surprised if the bulldozers aren't in the waterway within days. I am sorry for those who live downstream of the Glencorp Crap and along side of Deadmans Gully, we did our best to persuade this Council to be proactive, but in the end all they wanted to do is "pass the buck".

As for those State Entities like DNR - the sooner the Bligh Govt goes through them like a dose of salts the better.

Jan from Kewarra said...

Unfortunately, Jude your last comment re Anna Bligh going thru her depart with a dose of salts, will not happen.

DNR is now managed by Minister Stephen Robertson, and he mismanaged health, so it is not looking good. Health is now managed by Premier Lucas and from what I have heard, is making his presence felt, he is getting across issues fast and seems to be listening to the issues, and Queensland Health employees.

It is interesting that at the same time, DNR de-classified this creek / for another developer's proposal, it was classified in the CairnsPlan as a Category 3 waterway and has remained so since.

The development should never have been allowed on this site for many reasons:

1. the 1998 Kinhill Kramer report clearly identified this land as a flood plain, and they also predicted large flooding events on this site as land in the catchments areas above was cleared for residential housing. They were correct!
2. This is a natural creek system, and under the Water Act and the Cairns Plan, it is so identified.
3. In the Cairnsplan, this area was also identified as a wildlife corridor and habitat area.

It beggars belief, that Council employees and DNR employees don't seem to understand their own policies, or State Governement legislation, or do they?

I think as residents, having travelled along this road, of continual mismanagement and incompetence that results in developer's getting everything they want and developers continually destroying our natural environment, we as residents, should be entitled to think that serious misconduct/collusion is going on here!! And I do.

Stinky Pete said...

I think it should also be noted that Val voted against the proposal, so it was a 6-5 vote in the end.