Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Council negligent over canal dredging fiasco

Deputy Mayor and Division 8 Cairns Regional Councillor Margaret Corchrane, may be in some doubt as to who is responsible the Yorkeys Knob Half Moon Bay boating mishap recently, when some boaties were left high and dry, due to ignorance and neglect of maintaining the boating canal.

It was due to sedimentation of the waterway.

"It's the total unfairness of all this," John O'Grady, a Riverside Drive, Trinity Park resident, who has been levyed to pay for the dredging of the neighbouring Bluewater canal.

Marina berth owners at Yorkeys are likey to be billed for the work that is being undertaken in Moon Bay.

Neighbouring residents alongside the new man-made Bluewater canal, have been lumbered with a special additional rate levy, to pay for dredging of their new waterway.

An extra Council 'dredging levy' is being passed onto Bluewater Riverside Drive residents. Council has a 'statutory obligation' under the Canal's Act, to maintain and keep clear waterways to the sea. Yorkeys Knob and Bluewater are public waterways, and 90% who access access boat ramps, are the general public, not just local residents.


Under Section 971 of the Local Government Act, Councils can levy ratepayers an extra fee whom they deem to receive a special benefit. For instance, if your property backs onto a creek or park, Council can determine that you receive a special benefit for this location.

This is how Cairns Regional Council have levied all those residents along Riverside Drive, Trinity Park, who over the last 3 years have had the Bluewater canal be constructed in front of their property. Many have refused to pay this extra cost on their quarterly rate bill over the last year, and are taking their case to the Ombudsman.

They have a compelling and strong case, not without precedent. On the Gold Coast, a class action has contested a similar Council levy. The Supreme Court ruled that the respondent’s resolution which it resolved to levy the Hope Island Canal infrastructure special charge was invalid and of no effect. Every rate notice levying the special charge, was set aside. You can read and download the full judgement here.

Cairns Regional Council will have little chance to legally claim such levys, when the developer has walked away from the project and dumped ongoing maintenance costs on local residents, many whom had properties at Trinity Park for many years, prior to the Bluewater canal development.

Interestingly, the dredging levy has appeared on ratepayers accounts for over two years, yet Council's contractor, who was to undertake the work, has not done any work there for the last 18 months.

Following the dizzying days of the Kevin Byrne 'development at any cost' regime, the Bluewater marina developers got to sell their land, and Cairns Regional Council got all the development fees, along with new rates being dumped on local residents. They were effectively left with the maintenance bill forever.

Council is charging immediate property and marina berth owners, huge money for a service they have not been providing in a public waterway, arguably for the primary use of the general public. They are simply taking money under false pretences.

Residents have obtained documents showing that at the conception of the Marina development, Cairns Council was advised by professionals, the likelihood of hundreds of cubic meters of sediment flowing downstream, which is now contributing to the problems in the waterway.

James Cook University's Professor Jon Nott collaborated this finding. He has inspected the canal and surveyed the problem of upstream sediment. Nott agrees that upper reaches and old river banks are now seeing the effects of sedimentation.

Over the two years, more than 40 letters have been written to the Council, supplying documents and photographic evidence of what is now eventuating.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also advised that Council, as the 'approving authority' of the upper Bluewater development, holds the responsibility for ensuring sediment trapping was adequate. However, photographs show mud flowing over inadequate sediment traps and directly into the river system. This is all too common on so many Council-development sites, where control are sloppy and are rarely policed.

Successive Cairns Councils, have a 'wait until it breaks' attitude, and in this case, they are acting negligently and irresponsibly as the principal contractor that has contracted the dredge operator. Council should be properly overseeing any dredging operations in the river.

Council's Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane says the Yorkeys incident may be investigated.

"As to who is responsible for insurance, that will have to be determined," Cochrane told the Cairns Post. A dredging plan for Yorkeys Knob Moon River is in place. "If residents were not happy then there could be talks to alter the program. Dredging was underway and would continue until the channel was cleared."

Regardless, the ongoing maintenance of canals and who pays, will be settled in Court.

22 comments:

Bulareo said...

It was Beattie state government who changed the environmental laws and allowed this disaster. The whole project should never have gone ahead in the first place. This current issue was being debated even before the mangroves and the creek were vandalised by the developer. Why should Cairns ratepayers now have to foot the bill?

Quickie said...

Yep ... Peter Beattie himself flew up here to Cairns to "sort out" Lesley Clarke and the EPA.

And now it's all Cairns Regional Council's fault !!!

No wonder you're banned from Council's media releases Mike ... you have great difficulty being fair and objective.

Cate Ting said...

A nonny mouse said "Cairns should not be able to dodge the law or target just a few ratepayers to foot the bill for what the whole community gets to use.!"
Funny - the whole community was able to use the area for fishing and recreation BEFORE the developers and state government trashed it - and it didn't cost anywhere near the amount needed now to benefit a few.

John O'Grady said...

I agree with Cate. seems like anything government gets involved with comes at a cost.
When Beatie came to Cairns to approve this development, it was due to Greenie pressure from an acid sulfate problem in the canal due to a number of half baked attempts to develope the area.
Just like with the present state government, Beatie horse traded for preferences and all this happened at election time!

Cairns Resident said...

Canal maintenance & dredging of public waterways in all other areas of the state are done by Councils.
Cairns Council seems to think it is the exception to this which it is not.
State laws and Government Act's means rogue Council's like Cairns should not be able to dodge the law or target just a few ratepayers to foot the bill for what the whole community gets to use.!

Sam, Cairns said...

Council had stamp the project and did not support its people against this canal development.
Now Council must deal with the problem under the Act.

Cate Ting said...

'Anonymous' was removed and has been reposted as 'Cairns Resident' so I'll repeat what I wrote:

Cairns Resident said "Cairns should not be able to dodge the law or target just a few ratepayers to foot the bill for what the whole community gets to use.!"
Funny - the whole community was able to use the area for fishing and recreation BEFORE the developers and state government trashed it - and it didn't cost anywhere near the amount needed now to benefit a few.

Quickie said...

Cate ... this is just another example of how the moderators of this blog want to trash free expression.

Yet, (free expression), is the principle they espouse.
What a bunch of funking hypocrites they are !!!

And they expect Council to invite them to whatever.

When they get a real journalistic job, they will be invited.

That's fair enough ...

Michael P Moore said...

Cate, the Posting Policy is very clear: I don't allow "anon" comments on this Blog. They will be removed and replaced with a name. Simple.

And Quickie, this has nothing to do with "trashing free expression."

Did you not have your WeetBix this morning my dear boy?

John O'Grady said...

It's hard to believe that anyone such as Cate could honestly believe that the whole community was able to enjoy recreational fishing by walking through sandfly infested mud, knee deep to put your boat in this creek before development happened was better.
It does not matter too much which side of the fence you sit on with this argument.
The facts are the facts and that is that Council has failed in its responsibility to 'maintain and keep clear' under the law which in this case is a Statutory obligation under the Canal's Act!!!
Sam.......

Hating Bluewater Everyday said...

John O'Grady has been the continual whinger about paying for dredging, despite the fact that his little shithole house is now worth five times what it was before Bluewater showed up.

You people keep voting for these Labor creeps, the Greenies keep making deals with them, and they you all complain when they give it to you up the bum. Again.

Cate said...

Ironically, I remember seeing a sign at the once pristine Half Moon Bay stating the area was protected habitat. This of course was back in the late 70s and Half Moon Bay and most of the mangroves are no more.
Yes it was once more than sandfly infested mud - the importance of which is obviously not a part of your world Mr O'Grady/Sam...

I repeat, as a rate payer I resent my taxes(rates) being used to prop up a white elephant scheme which we will continue to be burdened with that was forced upon us by a state government.

John O'Grady said...

Cate, I don't understand your beef!
I agree, it should be a habitat, I agree taxes should not prop up what was forced upon us and that is exactly my/our point.
This whole thing was forced on people some of which have lived along there more than 20 years peacefully without all the politics and Council intervention we now see.
In now having to live with the reality of it all, it is not a private creek, it's public.
Therefore if it is mostly used by the public (which it is) why should just a few have to pay it all?
It's called 'being fair'!
Cate...

Fiona Tulip said...

from someone who lives outside the area, did the CCC not undertake at the time to do the dredging.

Whent the rock wall at Clifton was built, Sno gave a committment to a small group of beach front residents at an exclusive meeting that it would be maintained by Council as long as he was re-elected.

Did you guys not get such a committment and where does Sno stand on this issue as he was Councillor then and still is for your area?

John O'Grady said...

Fiona, Sno has not stood up for or backed any of the locals over this issue. We presented him with a petition and he did nothing! Sno continues to say the locals are behind everything he puts forward, but this is not true.
How can he say he speaks for the people when he will not ask the people what they think.
Maybe he's just getting too tired to bother these days.

Quickie said...

John, (forever moaning) O'Grady, who incidently resides in Noosa, knows that 95% of the public use "tinnies" on this waterway.

The dredging is only of benefit to the "yacht and motor boat owners" who have their craft moored at the end of their private jetties.

So how about it ratepayers of Cairns ... subsidise these wealthy sods or would you like better footpaths, drainage etc?

The money cake is only so big.

Michael ... there are more deserving topics than O'Grady's self interested personal gripes.

Alexander Gordon said...

So where is the developer who created this mess called Bluewater? Residnets of Bluewater knew they would be up for costs when they bought there, lets not change the rules now. The developer or the owners of land there are the only people responsible for this mess and they as land owners need to meet their obligations and pay for the dredging they gain the benifet from. Dredging is a huge expense and should not be passed on to the council rate payers. If you onw land there, wake up to your responsiblity and start paying what you should and stop trying to et others to pay your debts.

Unda said...

Trust Liberal National Party flunkeys to resort to personal denigration. They do it every time they haven't got an argument. The Bluewater fiasco began many many years ago, long before Peter Beattie, with the usual white-shoe deals involving the usual LNP players including the Borbidge Goverment, which granted approval for the development by gazettal. Like all other LNP deals for mates, successive state governments and local councils are left to clean up the stinking mess.

Cate said...

Unda - cut and paste the URL and have a read of this.

http://www.cafnec.org.au/election/Media_Release_Condemning_Our_Coasts.pdf

By the way I have never voted Liberal or Nationals in my voting life.

John, Kuranda said...

There seems to be quite a bit of negativity from both bloggers obviously on both sides of the political divide. It's pointless playing the blame game - is a bad decision by Beattie worth more than a bad decision by Borbidge.

Ten plus years ago I and many others of my generation were cynical of the whole idea of global warming; a changing environment seemed low on our personal agendas. But since 2002 we have seen the worst drought in our nations history rock all of our existing perceptions to the core. I was in Adelaide visiting my parents during their recent heat wave; watching 80 year olds peering out of their windows watching their garden die, with none of us able to do anything about it (water restriction etc), is something I never ever expected to experience. It was not a good feeling and has left a lasting impression.

Yesterday I read the April 2009National Geographic magazine. There is, on page 63, a graphic that shows our nations peril. 10-30% less rain for most of the southern continent and a 30-50% increase for us here in TFNQ over the next two generations.

Which makes to me all the more relevant issues such as Clifton Beach, hillside developments and of course the low level flooding that occurs in parts of the City. I think that passing something off as a 1-in-100 event is not only flippant but ill-advised.

We have issues for which we need to find solutions - no one person has all the solutions; no one political party has all the answers. We need to pool our collective knowledge, information and resources to develop a society that is able to adapt to a changing scenario. Playing the blame game may be fun, but does it solve any issue? I think not. Let's be constructive instead.

Unda, many of us whom are active members locally of the LNP, are pushing strongly for a far far greater emphasis on environmental issues in the policies of the party. Admittedly that is hard for us to do at a time of global down turn when the loss of jobs, loss of export earnings, loss of tourists etc, seem to be the headlines on a daily basis. But we intend to keep on trying. And we are not alone. Other LNP members (including MP's) are doing the same.

Cate, in my ideal world, I would like for the LNP to be in a position to cause you to really think about where you place your vote at the next election.

Perhaps a face-to-face rational round table discussion (respecting everyones differences and points of view)on some of the issues highlighted on this blog may be in order. Hell if we all met, we may even like each other. Perhaps we have far more in common than we think.

Frightening isn't it!

Arthur Festerbestertester said...

it's not only the bluewater liberal national party scam that current councils and state governments are having to rectify: look at the daintree as the best (worst) example. people have memories that are longer than those of quickie and his mum and soon to be censored. people know what a white-shoe bunch of parvenu money-grubbers they are, and that's why they were resoundingly rejected at the last state election.

John O'Grady said...

Re; Quickie and others that do not understand the truth here.
1 I do not live in Noosa
2 I do not pay this rediculous special rate
3 The people complaining do not live in Bluewater, they live in the old part some 25 years old.
4 The people complainig never wanted this development, it was thrust onto their door step.
5 The people complaining do not get dredging done infront of their properties like Bluewater people do.
6 The people complaining still have to pay the special levy despite little or no benefit.
7 The people complaining are truck drivers, fishermen, builders, just normal people (not rich)
8 Council made money from all the development fees and extra rates, The developer made money doing Bluewater and the people on the otherside of the river (old part) got the bill for maintenance forever after. Is that fair?
9 Safe passage in waterways to the sea should be the responsibility of Marine safety QLD. & Dept. Transport, not individuals.
10 Council has a Statutory Obligation under law to 'maintain & keep clear' under the Canal's Act.
These are the facts!