Saturday 16 May 2009

Councillor Bonneau caught colluding with developers

The Cable Ski park at Smithfield, will have a wall of apartments built, surrounding the man-man lake.

In what Deputy Margaret Cochrane calls 'an Australian first resort of its kind', the application by Canopy's Edge developer was approved this week by Cairns Regional Council's Environment and Planning meeting.

Councillor Sno Bonneau moved the motion, which was seconded by Alan Blake. Schier, Leu, Forsyth, Cooper and Lesina voted against.

In what is likelly to be part of the Bonneau's downfall, he told the meeting that he had “been working very hard with the developers, Councillors, planners and the community.”

I know this is the CEO's job, but I'll step in and remind the Councillor that it is not his job to be working with developers, or for developers. This is a very serious breach of the Code of Coduct as a Councillor. He is supposed to be working for the residents, not developers. Ratepayers are not paying him to get controversial developments across the line.

This is not the first time that Councillor Bonneau been caught out with such devious and inappropriate behaviour. Just last month he supported a gaming licence application for the new Trinity Park tavern, which was refused by the full Council. Bonneau was in cahoots with the applicant, and even told the Council that he had the support of the community. Councillor Lesina reminded Sno, that the community were in fact against the gaming licence.

The apartment complex around the Cable Ski water park, aims to build 180 units in 16 blocks, around the north, west and south sides of the ski lake.

“The lake front units will have an interesting and practical design, as the cantilevered balconies will shade walkways for skiers who fall and have to walk back to the take off point,” Margaret Cochrane said.

However, in an email from Councillor Bonneau, written at 7:49 pm, the night before Wednesday's [May 13th] meeting, he writes to all Councillors about the change to conditions for development.

If you read the letter from the Canopy's Edge developer (on the right), you will see that the recommendation proposed by Bonneau, is exactly the same as the amended condition proposed by the developer. In fact, his reasoning is word for word.

Many residents in Councillor Bonneau's Division have expressed concern how close he is to developers, and this email and letter confirm this.
  • From: Sno Bonneau
    Sent: Tuesday, 12 May 2009 7:49 PM
    To: Councillors; Briggs Noel; Tabulo Peter; Clarke Simon; Warner Gary
    Subject: ITEM 4

    Apologies for the lateness of this notification.

    Re: Item 4: Combined Application – Multi-Unit Housing & Reconfiguration of a Lot – captain Cook Highway 5L Captain Cook Highway Smithfield

    I wish to amend conditions q. and r. in Recommendation A, as follows - and include a new point 5:

    (Copied from the developer's letter)
    q. Lake Edge boardwalks or other forms pathways along the lake edge are to be located clear of any part of the residential units. (including balcony overhangs) Remove - (including balcony overhangs)

    (Copied from the developer's letter)
    r. The minimum set back from the lake edge to the outer edge of unit balconies is to be subject to the final constraints of the geotechnical report.
    Remove r The minimum set back from the lake edge to the outer edge of unit balconies is to be 4m unless a greater set back is recommended in the geotechnical report.

    (NEW) 5. That Council generally supports the broad concept of the Amphitheatre style of the proposed design subject to the applicant successfully obtaining a Material Change of Use over the southern parcel of land and fulfilling all requirements relating to flooding and geotechnical requirements.

    It is preferred that the units be positioned at the waters-edge with pedestrian access/walk-way areas under the unit balconies. The particular design was chosen as it allows shelter from the weather and also allows physical and visual separation from the living areas of the units. The overall aesthetic appeal of this unique development will be greatly enhanced by being closer to the water's edge.

    The 4 metre set-back is excessive and unnecessary and will destroy the original intent of the design. The Applicant is open to adopting the findings of a Geotechnical Investigation.

    For these reasons, I altered this condition to satisfy the issues raised by Council engineers; without providing a limiting set-back.

    Cr Sno Bonneau

This pattern of behaviour is disturbingly similar to another collusion with a developer.

Last year, when Conics, a planning consultant situated in Hedley's building, was involved in an application for Paradise Palms Golf Club, a gaming licence was requested, and Councillor Bonneau was asked to support it at Council. Locals objected and the Combined Beaches Residents' Association wrote to all Councillors, laying out 10 points where they found the application should not be supported.

Within three hours, the developer responded to the residents' concerned, via email, to all Councillors, point by point. How did the developer see the residents' letter of objection that was addressed to the Council meeting? Simple, Councillor Sno Bonneau emailed the resident's letter to Conex, requesting that they 'respond'.

This licence was not granted.

An online CairnsBlog poll last month (unlike the Cairns Post polls, I publish the number of those that vote), showed out of 97 votes, the least favourite politician was Sno Bonneau, who collected 40%. Mayor Val Schier received 15%.

"As a full time councillor I am always available to assist residents with any problems at Local, State or Federal government levels," Sno writes on his website.

However, many locals tell a different story about this Councillor, first elected 14 years ago.

"We don't trust him," Sandra, a Clifton Beach resident told CairnsBlog. "He doesn't listen, nor does he engage with the residents. We've asked him to meetings many times, and he doesn't come along to hear our concerns."

John O'Grady of Trinity Park says that Bonneau has falsely represented the locals for years. "He told Council last month that the community supported the [gaming] licence at Trinity, yet I have 12 letters that were set to him from residents, and he chose to not present them to his fellow Councillors before the vote."

Sno's obsession to support gambling on the Northern Beaches, is in contradiction to the many locals who strongly object to this socially disruptive pastime in their neighbourhood. The office of Liquor, Gambling and Racing reports that in August 2008, the beach communities north of Cairns hit an all time high, spending $557,317 per month, in an area from Ellis Beach to south of Smithfield. Poker machine numbers have increased to 177 across five venues on the Northern Beach. The linear trend shows a consistent increase over time.

Pokies are located at the Surf Life Saving and the Tavern at Palm Cove, Centrals AFL and the Tavern at Trinity Beach, and also Smithfield Tavern.

Soon after the Beaches Residents Association was set up in 2005, Councillor Bonneau slammed it for being a 'Labor party set up.' The Australian Communications and Media Authority found that Bonneau mislead the public on John Mackenzie's radio show, and was ordered retract his statement, and apologise.

When the Residents' Association held it's first public meeting, signs were put on local roads advising the public to come along. However, Bonneau didn't like this. Organisers mysteriously received telephone calls from Council Works staff to remove them. Calls were made to their workplace, telling them to remove the signs immediately. Councillor Bonneau not only instructed staff to ring the community organisers, but provided them with their personal numbers. One person received three calls on the same day, and told the Council staffer that she was working and would not be home until the end of the day. It's obvious that he was being primed by a certain Councillor behind the scenes.

Following the incident, Council acknowledged the wrong-doing, and provided a written apology.

This all paints a picture of a dangerous Councillor, who once valued community input and advocated on behalf of those without a voice. In 1995, Bonneau challenged high-rise developments at Clifton Beach, in response to community pressure.

However, the Councillor we have today is not that same freshman elected all those years ago. His actions are verging on corruption and he appears guided by those other than who elect him to represent the community. The CEO flagrantly ignores this Councillor's wandering from the truth, and allows him to blur the information he presents around the Council table.

Mind you, when we have a CEO who deliberately tampers and changes externally-commissioned reports, then regulating what others do, would almost seem hypocritical.

The fundamental of open, accountable government, is trust and respect of those elected to serve the people. The actions of Councillor Sno Bonneau show little transparency.

Such a pattern of behaviour brings the entire Cairns Regional Council into disrepute. The case is compelling for an investigation by the Crime and Misconduct Commission.


John, Kuranda said...

I think that we are all aware of the flooding that occurs around the ski lake on a regular basis. Who has not had a quite chuckle at cars stranded or submerged in the car park. With most experts and commentators suggesting global warming will bring an increase in rainfall expected in the next few decades in tropical far north Queensland, I am increasingly cynical about the ability of any development to deal with these expected rainfall flows.

I am not an expert in any way, but it seems incredible to me, that despite all the predictions, planning laws still have a head in the sand approach to issues such as run-off. Given the demonstrated issue with the Clifton Beach development, given the changes there to the Creek and riparian corridors, is another disaster in the making happening at Canopy’s Edge?

I only trust that the Geotechnical report as requested by CRC is a genuine report addressing the many questions raised and not just a whitewash document. Plus I would like to see reports such as that which has been requested examined by genuine experts in the field, not just by the plodders and timeservers that appear to make up the majority of the planning department. Sorry guys, you may be across the issues, but a diversity of opinion in developments such as this, is really warranted.

Knowing the location, knowing the climate predictions, knowing what has happened at Clifton Beach, this is one development that I personally would steer clear of.

Not an investment to be recommended me thinks.

Jan from Kewarra said...

We know at least one resident at Canopy;s Edge, who has never heard of this developement, so I am wondering just how extensive and widespread was their community consultation, and indeed was there any.

It would be good if other residents from Canopy's Edge could let us know what they really think and have they been consulted?

Smithfield Ratbag (in sympathy with those in Clifton) said...

I am aware of a complaint that was filed about the Ski Park development where Sno Bonneau has used his access to the complaint to engage in harassment of the citizen involved.

Almost immediately after lodging the complaint with Peter Tabulo, personal details about the complainant were forwarded to the developer, who contacted the complainant directly. This citizen lodged a Code of Conduct complaint with council, which the CEO very quickly rejected.

What kind of "Code of Conduct" allows the dissemination of privacy-protected information?

Our understanding is that Bonneau has used this tactic repeatedly. It's disgusting. It's repulsive. It's illegal. The CEO is so quick to investigate "bumper stickers" he doesn't like - what about this sleazy tactic by council's sleaziest councillor?

Someone should also make inquiries about what Bonneau has been doing with his Indian connections. . .

I point out again, Bonneau is a failed newsagent. Who ever heard of a newsagency, with their markets protected by the government, FAILING!

Whats in a name said said...

Perhaps his failure in business is the reason he changed his name from his given name of Max Brown.

Jude Johnston said...

John, I agree with you entirely. Jan, you and I both know that probably the first that the residents of Canopy's Edge knew about this development was when it appeared on the Council Agenda, or when they read about it in the paper. Community Consultation - ha!
Unfortunately, those in Div 9 will now be learning that their choice of Councillor may not have been the one who had their best interests at heart.

hieronymus bosch said...

Am I correct in assuming the wall of units will be for tourists? If so, I feel for residents whose body corp will rise to pay for the constant clean up of mess, as do the Lakes people.

I'm sure skyrail riders will also enjoy having to look at this oddity.

So Max has taken Blakey's mantle as council's sleaziest councillor?

Jan from Kewarra said...

Personally, I think it would be a toss up as to who is the "sleaziest councillor", but the important thing is that Councillor Blake is not alone!!

As for the Resort, I was under the impression that they only had Res 2 zoning, not Residential/Tourism, but like so many DAs, they parade as one thing, and morph into something else, once they are constructed.

hieronymus bosch said...

hmmm, yeah, who would want to live on the big water hole's edge is what i am thinking...

me thinks it would be better for rate payers if blake, max and cochrane flew around together in a dc10 more often (without a pilot)...

Jude Johnston said...

Yep Jan, it is a Res2 Zoning and in the CP this morning Deputy Mayor Cochrane says the venue will be great for Sports Tourism. As the Ski park is already functioning, one can only assume that the real intention is for it to be upgraded to Res/Tourism. Oh yes, thats right, the Council can only go on what the Application asks for today, they cannot "second guess" what a Developer might do in the future. However, past experiences show that sooner or later this will go for a Material Change of Use, for it to be Res 3, Res/Tourism and the developer can sell the Units off for accomodation for sports events. Who knows, the Cronulla Sharks or some AFL Teams might be interested in purchasing a Unit or two for their Players to have a bit of R and R.

Jan from Kewarra said...

Or with Jetstar, at least that way it would be deemed an accident if the wheels fell off.

Jan from Kewarra said...

Jude, you and I have never met, but we both think along the same lines.....

This is exactly what happened with the Paradise Palms Resort only in reverse. They had the tourism zoning (only because Council did a slight of pen or should that be computer key) without community consultation, they changed the Cairns Plan, at the whim of the developer, Hedley and the Vison Group, for a resort. They built the 4 star resort, then low and behold, and MCU went in, and the whole thing changes to who knows what. Sometimes its a resort, and sometimes its units for sale to unit investors who then want to rent back to the resort.

This Council, as we have daily proof, is a law unto them selves. They do not follow our own city's planning scheme when it comes to developers, but if you and I try to put up a garage shed without permission, or have a pool without a fence, or even an unpaid parking ticket, they are quick to quote the relevant legislation,, their own local law policies and treat us residents with utter contempt in the process.

Constance Lloyd said...


Your last paragraph (above) sums up oh so nicely what the majority of Cairns residents feel about their council.

We get to decide on State and Federal representatives every three years, but Council only every four.

Given a lot of the apathy towards local government, methinks it easy to turf out the national government than a bunch of incompetents that call them selves collectively the Cairns Regional Council.

And I apologise in advance for placing those (all too few) councillors who place the welfare of the all rather than the benfits for the few, in with the rabble.

"Just us" in Council said...

These revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. This sort of behaviour has been going on for years. Planning dispensations, negotiated decisions, delegate authority approvals, breaches of planning law and legislation, breaches of development approval conditions, unapproved structures being approved after the fact, white washing of community concerns and issues and of complaints particularly code of conduct complaints. Conflict of interest issues with consultancy firms carrying out planning work for council while at the same time representing developers. The list goes on. The Smithfield Town Centre is a classic example. Two land owners/developers Trinity Park Investments and LHL Investments approached Council via a planning consultant to consider a proposal for a Town Centre at Smithfield. An Enquiry by Design [EBD] workshop was to be held in July 07 to enable community involvement in the policy direction of proposed amendments to the planning scheme. The only problem – there was no community involvement in the EBD developer sponsored workshop because the community didn’t have a clue about the proposal. In fact the proposal had already been dealt with by Council and endorsed in Council minutes in May 07 but not a word to the community least of all by the councillor responsible for the Smithfield division. Here was a graphic illustration of a huge “conflict of interest,” but it didn’t seem to worry Council, until of course, the whole fiasco was exposed and Council had to back track. It appears the process of proper community consultation has had little impact on the final outcome. The controversy didn’t end in relation to this LHL development site for lo and behold up popped our former Mayor’s massive electoral sign [illegal I might add] during the last council elections. Later Mr Byrne went on to become the Executive Director of Capital Globe the property development and investment group that took over LHL. Funny that.

Councillors would do well to heed the words of the investigator appointed to undertake an investigation into allegations of corruption within the NSW Tweed Shire Council which ultimately, was sacked.

The statutory role of an individual Councillor, as an elected person, is to represent the interests of the residents and ratepayers .It is generally accepted that this means all residents and ratepayers, and not just those of a particular section of the community or particular persons or companies, such as the proponent of “major” development projects that might be seen to be bringing jobs and so on into the area.

Matt Heirink said...

Anyone who sends email correspondence to a Councillor should make it clear (if they choose) in that message that the email is for their information only. You can put in a line to the effect that they are not authorised to pass it on to third parties, including Council officers, developers and their consultants without written permission.

Probably won't stop the practise of Councillors tipping developers off, but if it comes down to a complaint, you may be in a stronger position.

Unknown said...

people, stop whingeing. if you have any evidence against the councillor, get together, put it in writing and send it off as a formal complaint to tghe council, with a copy to the CMC.

J James, Trinity Park said...

Unda, your first contribution was great.... however when you say that we should "stop whingeing and send a complaint to Council" is llaughable!

CEO Briggs has dismissed numerous complaints against Bonneau for exactly this stuff that Michael has written above.

It's like writing to Hitler and telling him that there a funny building down the end of the street gassing people!

Unknown said...

JJ, I am sorry but Northern Beaches residents are achieving nothing by these posts. I am sure that CairnsBlog, if not the ComPost, would publicise a legitimate complaint and any response by council and/or the CEO. If the CEO is part of the problem - and I agree that he is - then he needs to be put under pressure formally, as does the councillor. The big problem is the coucnil system and processes themselves, and that is certainly not going to be solved by posts either.

nocturnal congress said...

Just a thought, I wonder if this complex is being built with a view to selling it to Kellogg Brown and Root?

Scintilla said...

I remember the consternation that was expressed on this medium before and during the Council election 2008 campaign about the lack of accountability and proper representation to/ of the Marlin Coast residents by Councillor Sno Bonneau.

The people spoke and via the ballot box delivered a 15% swing against him. Unfortunately the swing against him was somewhat muted as the residents of Smithfield Heights, Caravonica and Lake Placid were not represented by him in the previous Cairns City Council.

They were unfamiliar with his style of representation and gave him the benefit of the doubt.

A politically sensitive person would understand that such a profound movement in the popular vote would include the message to adjust their style and political demeanor but alas nothing seems to have changed with Councillor Sno Bonneau.

Residents in the Smithfield Heights, Caravonica, and Lake Placid are now subject to his style of ill balanced representation, a representation which was inflicted on the residents of Trinity Beach, Trinity Park, Palm Cove and Clifton Beach.

No proper public consultation has taken place about the subject development application like there was not in relation to the Smithfield Town Center and other developments.

It is unfortunate that these communities have no formal structure that can deliver a united focused message. Individual objections do not carry the needed weight to counter the Developers push for insensitive development.

As usual the solution to this imbalance rests with the people aggrieved.

hieronymus bosch said...

"Just us" in Council, nice post.

Surely it's the planning department who are at the heart of the problem, as nearly all Cllrs seem defer to their 'wisdom'??

For example, I recall an insensitive development that was approved recently at Yorkey's Knob, and Tabuleau (how do you spell it?) kept repeating, "it's zoned res 3 under the Cairns Plan".

Yet the same fella will spout "I must remind you that we have a performance based planning scheme", whenever they recommend approving a res 3 development in a res 1 area.

If I was going to entertain any thoughts of corruption, I would be looking at CRC planners!

Let's face it, Sno's just a buffoon, albiet evil.

Constance Lloyd said...

I go back to what John, Kuranda wrote in earlier comments on this blog.

Council can ask for whatever reports they want – in this case for instance a geotechnical report.

I personally think that as the planning department set the conditions they are also the ones who assess the responses and make recommendations to the councillors. It does seem rather incestuous and as hieronymus bosch alludes, there is a real chance that impropriety may occur.

Surely there needs to be a trigger (such as the $$ value of a development) for specialists outside of the planning department of council to review both the conditions imposed, the content of the reports requested, and of course the responses given.

I realise that this would be an added expense and a potential time delay; but look at the alternatives. Ratepayers who do not trust their councillors to act on their behalf, developments that have ongoing issues (remember Clifton Beach), or planners who it is being speculated are also part of the problem.

Who has confidence in the current system?

There is also comment that councillors are not reporting negative responses to development applications. Perhaps what is needed is for all concerned residents to ensure that they not only contact their local councillor but also log or register the communication in some way – there is almost the need for a council employee to have a quasi independent CRC ombudsman role. Continuing this line of thought, all councillors would then know that all responses, both positive and negative would be tabled and be open to scrutiny. Just an idea!

At the end of the day, the outcome that we all want is a transparent and equitable planning system. What Mike has highlighted is that this is not the case at the moment.

And that is bad for Cairns.

Northern Beaches Warrior said...

Northern Beach residents as of Wednesday last, now in the Planning and Environment court on two separate matters, and there is probably another two that could also be considered.

This is where we are now at......
having to take legal action to clean up the mess that Council and Councillors have created in the first place by approving controversial developemnets that later as predicted, plague residents and completely destroy our natural environment such as the Clifton Views development. Unfortanately, that one was a Code Assessable (res 3) so we never got the chance to even put in a submission. There are at least 10 others like that where the wrong thing has been done (Foley Road, Argentea, Clifton Cottages and Paradise Palms just to name a few, but how do you get these bastards to be accountable??????

And lets not forget the role that these Planning consultants play in these controversial developments.
They act on behalf of the developer and they try every dirty trick in the book, to get their developments approved, as that is what they are paid to do. They wine and dine our planners and give them Co. logo things such as caps, pens etc which is a gross conflict of interst, something our Councillors and planners have yet to grasp.

One councillor nearly wore a Co, logo hat on an onsite inspection recently where the community were involved. Another Councillor stepped in and told him to take the cap off before he got out of the car!
He was in the gang of 4. Here is a tip as to the identity.....Blake was not present that day.

Jude Johnston said...

Unda – The first step in any Code of Conduct process is a letter must be sent first to the Council CEO. If you are not happy with the response then you may send a letter to the CMC.
Some of us find “whinging” to the Blog as therapeutic – it allows us to be “not alone” in our frustration and despair.
Scintilla – Yes the formation of a Community Group is a good idea, however it involves a lot of work and commitment to get up and running. I think we should have a Community Association “Users Group” so that we can share resource and not have new Community Associations reinventing the wheel.
Unfortunately, only those Residents who have put in a Properly Made Submission regarding any of the Developments will be able to take the matter further into the Planning & Environment Court. If they haven’t then there is no other recourse for them but to dare I say it, complain bitterly on the Cairns Blog.
“Just Us” – What you say is so true.
Also from the Tweed Heads Investigator comes the following:

“ If a Councillor wishes to play the role of lobbyer and spokesperson for a particular developer or group of developers, that Councillor must be very careful to ensure that he or she does not find him or herself in a situation where he or she has an actual or perceived conflict of interest, and therefore in potential breach of Council’s Code of Conduct. A Councillor who is too close, or perceived to be too close, to a particular development project or developer may well need to declare a conflict of interest when a matter relating to that project or developer comes before Council or a Committee of Council, and withdraw from the Chamber and not participate in the discussion of or voting on the matter. This may be needed in order to ensure that there is an openness and transparency and perceived probity in Council decision making. See Under Careful Consideration at pp. 3-4. At page 8 of that document certain guidelines are given as to the sorts of questions that a Councillor needs to ask him or herself in order to identify potential conflicts of interest. One of these is:
Have I made any promises or commitments in relation to the matter?
Others are:
Have I received a benefit or hospitality from someone who stands to gain or lose from
council’s decision or action?

Is the person an election campaign donor or someone who helped during my election

If you attend a Council Meeting you are able to work out who the Developers are very easily. They are the ones who some Councilors greet with a firm handshake and the demeanor of one greeting a long lost friend or relative. Constituents or ex Constituents usually get the frosty non committal look. Councilor Bonneau appears on the Advertising Blurb for BlueWater and cites his greatest achievement to date as being Argentea, where the Public Road was pulled up and wooden paths from the “Exclusive Beachfront” blocks were put down to ensure those pesky locals don’t get too close, and bulldozers were allowed to carve through endangered eco systems.

Then we get to the fraternizing of Senior Council Management with Town Planning Consultants. What rules are in place to prevent a real or “perceived” conflict of interest?

Clifton Observer said...

No rules, policies,legislation or prior knowledge whatsoever is the CCC/CRC Motto - not when it comes to developers Jude!

Peter Tablet (very hard to swallow without a glass of water), said in the last P & E meeting when asked by Cllr Lesina, where was the drainage study for the Clifton Beach Shopping Centre, and by the way Kirsten, you were right on the money there!!

Peter Tablet's comment was that he "did not know about that"

The Clifton Beach Shopping Centre is one of the most controversial developments on the Northern Beaches, it has already been the subject of legal action. One signifiant issue from day one has been the continual flooding of nearby residen'ts homes. Somehow, the Centre was allowed to be built without the drainage study and hey presto, we have an ongoing issue causing adverse impacts to others. But the CRC City Assessement manager doesn't know about the lack of a drainage study?

The man is a liar!

Jude Johnston said...

As Clifton Observer, observes, drainage has been one of the issues from day one at Clifton Village Shopping Centre. During the last lot of heavy rain we had, we took a video of the water pouring down the road from the Shopping Centre - in fact I am creating a "bow wave" with my legs (and they aren't that wide) from the water surging out of the centre. I could write a book on the long standing issues of the inappropriatenes, size and bulk, of ths Centre, the noise, flooding, Residents have had to endure. However, this will have to wait until after the legal avenues have been exhausted.

Thomas Cobley said...

Essential reading for Councillor Sno: