Sunday 31 January 2010

Close encounter of the Freebody kind

Over the weekend I popped into Smithfield Shopping Centre for some groceries.
I actually detest shopping malls. All those people, gathered together in one space, jostling and lining up. It's all a bit claustrophobic for my liking.
However, I bumped into Mark, a Kiwi mate I hadn't seen for ages. We grabbed a drink at Cafe Organics and talked about what we should do for next weekend's Waitangi Day, among other things.
Halfway through my carrot, melon and apple 'battery recharger', who should I spot, none other than waterworld wonder boy, Paul Feeebody. He was ranting on his mobile phone, probably to some lawyer. I think I overheard him say "Lionel Hutz" or similar.
I saw the opportunity to say hello and extend some warm wishes, after all, that morning I'd just finished scribing a few hundred words about Mr Freebody and his wet dream - the wacky Adventure Water Waterworld he's planning to build with his Kato dozer, just South of the Yorkeys roundabout.
However, all hasn't been going well for Paul. On Friday he learnt that the Mulgrave Sugar Mill, one of the objectors to Cairns Regional Council and Freebody's waterpark project, has lodged an appeal against its construction.
"Hi Paul, I hear you've got trouble at mill!" I said.
"No, no, it will all be sorted in a few days. I will be talking to those people this week and it will be all sorted by Tuesday or Wednesday," Paul Freebody defiantly told me.
"By the way, I don't read your Blog, but my kids do, they told me about what you put up today," Paul claimed.
"I wish you would get both sides of the story you know Michael," Paul said in reference to my campaign against the location of the waterpark. "If you want to be taken seriously and have some balance."
I told Paul that I have never objected to the waterpark, merely it's location - planned to be built on a 7ha site, that has tributaries of the Barron River meandering across it. It's a investor's nightmare and the flooding issues that are unavoidable, will be left with subsequent Councils to deal with after Freebody flicks the remnants off to the highest bidder in a few years time.
"We've had Conics out there you know, they've proven that this is the only place for this waterpark. There is no where else you know Michael," Freebody lectured me, who believes the site is higher than elsewhere in the Barron Delta.
"I really don't know what you've got against me or my family. I don't know what the Freebodys have ever done to you. I guess your have had some problems in your personal life that makes you do this to us," Paul said.
Paul started to get a bit upset with me and my writings over his project, so I thought the best thing to do, was to sit down with him, man to... well, man, and hear his story.
"Okay, let's meet soon and talk. What's your mobile Paul?" I asked, and he produced a beautiful glossy laminated business card, complete with sparkling logo. Obviously this guy is loaded, I thought.
The Mulgrave Mill appeal is using Cairns Regional Council's original recommendation to reject the development based on environmental, flooding and planning issues.
“We believe that development would be better off on a different site, especially given that it’s a floodplain,” Peter Flanders told the Cairns Post. “It will set a very bad precedent for the whole Barron Delta area.”
Paul Freebody says he's owned the property for three years and he's never seen a cane train on that section of track, however the cane tracks are used every year, and were in use again just three months ago, following the annual cutting season.
Freebody hopes to open the park in 11 months - which I find amazing. Maybe it's one of those kit set models he ordered on eBay? The wet season still has a few months to go before he could even turn first sod, let alone the appeal, which effectively halts any development whilst it's being dealt with in court. This is a tricky one for Council, after the Development Assessment Manager strongly recommending against the project, then a majority of Councillors voting to support it. The same planning department will have to effectively defend something they don't agree with. I think Council needs to make a decision to not defend the appeal and leave it to the applicant.
I will call Paul this week for that chat in his Trilogy office. I'll keep you posted and let you know if I'll be invited to the grand opening.

Saturday 30 January 2010

Queensland: Beauitiful one day, Cyclone threats the next

A view from the Cairns Esplanade this morning. Book your holiday tickets early.

Photo: Andrew Coldrocks Neaves

Saturday SoapBlog: Denis Walls - Idyllic wetlands park on our doorstep

Following the successful opening of the Cattana Wetlands and CairnsBlog's lovely little video promoting the Northen Beaches bit of natural paradise, there's a call for a Cairns Wetlands Park for East Trinity.
The idea has attracted widespread interest and spokesperson for the park Denis Walls, has been fighting for its protection for ten years. He argues the case for the eco-friendly and sustainable development in this weekend's SoapBlog.

Looking across Trinity Inlet from the Pier, or eastwards from the deck of a tour boat, is an awe-inspiring sight with a curtain of water fringing mangroves in the foreground and the Murray Prior Range beyond.

And yet, ask locals what they know about the land that lies behind the mangroves and you will mostly draw a blank expression.

The State government bought nearly 1000 hectares of land at East Trinity, as this area is known, in 2000 following years of community pressure, after failed sugar cane and then urban development projects. Their promise was to protect this precious green backdrop to Cairns for future generations.
Since then, the land, which was heavily polluted by acid sulfate soils as a result of the original clearing, has been closed to the public while it is rehabilitated. Fish and birdlife are now returning in large numbers.

The proposed Eco-centre is marked in blue.

The Cairns Wetlands Park committee, comprising a cross section of the Cairns community, was set up at the time of the purchase to lobby for the establishment of a Wetlands Park at East Trinity. Our suggestion was for an informative visitor centre with boardwalks adjacent to the bund wall at Hills Creek and only 10 minutes boat ride from the CBD.

For the last nine years the Wetlands committee has given numerous presentations to various groups outlining the many benefits to Cairns of a wetlands experience so close to the city. It is often stated that Cairns has many excellent full day excursions to the Reef, Tableland, Daintree and so on but very few half-day outings. The Wetlands Park would fill that gap.

Over the last few years the State government has begun to recognise the potential of a Wetlands Park to the region and a report on East Trinity tourism options is soon to be released with recommendations. The CWP committee has long emphasised the need to supplement tourism with wetlands education and research.

Acid sulfate rehabilitation and research will be ongoing and James Cook University is well placed to play an active role as a centre of excellence in this field as these toxic soils are the bane of many countries in our region where serious degradation of mangrove ecosystems has occurred. In addition, nearly all Cairns schools have, or have had, East Trinity study as part of their curriculum. Thus, users would be a mix of educational groups, researchers, tourists and locals.

Concepts like this are not new. Wetland parks have been established elsewhere in Australia and overseas with success as people have come to see the merits of protecting and promoting wetland habitats. But few places can boast, like Cairns, outstanding tropical wetlands with a magnificent forest backdrop in such proximity to a fully serviced city.

By contrast, there is a real sense of isolation and remoteness across the Inlet. It is also a first class fish nursery. Crocs, usually small ones, can be seen and it is rapidly becoming a bird watcher’s paradise with jabiru, magpie geese, spoonbills, egrets and regular sightings of the rare great-billed heron.

The CWP committee has proposed to government that the park be managed by a not-for-profit trust made up of representatives from environmental education, traditional owners, non-government conservation, recreational fishing, eco-tourism, research, Cairns CBD visitor services and the East Trinity community. This sort of structure is how successful wetlands like the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in the UK have been operating for decades.

The main benefit of a community trust is in building a sense of local ownership and cooperation. It would be responsible for raising funds from all appropriate sources, including government and the corporate sector. It would also raise revenue from visitors on a user pays basis. Initially, an amount of about $8 million is suggested to provide the most important infrastructure.

This may seem like a lot to kick-start such a project but is very little considering the long term benefits the park would bring to the region. Many, like me, succumb to East Trinity’s jaw-dropping beauty.

A Cairns Wetlands Park would secure its long-term future as a prized environmental asset, making it a major visitor draw card and generator of wealth and employment.

  • Register your support for a Cairns Wetlands Park by contacting our local Cairns State MP Desley Boyle on 4051 2868 or email and Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt on 1800 815 743, or email.

Waterpark appeal chaos for Cairns Council's backflip decision

The Mulgrave Sugar Mill representing cane farmers on the Barron River Delta, has filed an appeal against Cairns Regional Council and Felhope Pty Ltd, Paul and Kim Freebody's company behind the controversial waterpark, planned for the Dillon Road site.

"[They] filed an appeal against Council and Felhope Pty Ltd on Monday, against our decision to approve the waterpark," Peter Tabulo, Cairns Regional Council's planning and environment manager told all Councillors on Wednesday.

Tabulo also advised Council's communications chick, Sonja Anderson, who alerted the media, but didn't inform CairnsBlog, because I was a vocal critic of the waterpark's proposed location on the Barron River Delta.

In September, Council's development assessment manager Simon Clarke, in a 70-page report, recommended that Council refuse development approval for the adventure waterpark, planned for the low-lying Barron River Delta. The refusal met with angry rants from Paul Freebody who good Christian image was put aside as he called all the female Councillors who voted for a temporary deferral for three weeks, "witches and bitches."

Along with former Mulgrave Councillor, Ross Parisi, I called for a moratorium on development in the Barron River and Thomatis Delta.

However, Northern Beaches Councillor and Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane rallied in behind Freebody's Underwaterworld, as did former Councillor Kathy Plath, who was said to be a partner in the business venture.

An 11th-hour deal was done and the same planning officer had to draft a report in favour of the waterpark development, with 60+ amendments. The hurried 17-page revised recommendation that was prepared and distributed the night before the Wednesday 23rd September Council meeting, agreed to grant the development approval, subject to a substantial string of new pre-conditions.

It was a dog's breakfast and a mad situation - the same Council planner and his department who fiercely argued against the plan to change a long-standing precedent to not commercially develop on the Barron River Delta, were asking to recommend the construction of a large tourism venture.

It's likely that the Mulgrave Mill, as one of the original objectors, along with adjoining property owners that farm sugar on the delta, will present a compelling case to throw this project down a big water slide.

Development Assessment Manager Simon Clarke said in he rejection recommendation:

  • In accordance with the Flood Management Code the majority of the water park itself (excluding car parking, landscaped areas and area for road resumption) can be designed through raising and/or bunding to achieve immunity to the Q100 event.

    However, due to the site’s proximity to the Barron River and location on the flood plain such raising or bunding results in significant upstream effects.

    While the most significant effects of the upstream increases would predominantly affect similarly zoned Rural 1 sugar cane land, the implications in approving this development are nevertheless significant. The Barron River Delta is known for flooding events and is set within the Rural 1 Planning Area due to this in order to avoid the establishment of such uses which are incompatible with flood events.

    The Description and Intent of the Barron-Smithfield District specifically states that the “Barron Delta should continue to be utilised as productive agricultural land because of susceptibility to flooding.

    The subject site is located within the Barron-Smithfield District and Rural 1 Planning Area. The site is further affected by Overlays including the Flood Management Overlay as being within the defined Q100 flood event.

    In summary the development does not comply with the Desired Environmental Outcomes of CairnsPlan. The Development does not achieve the Performance Criteria and Acceptable Measures set out in the Flood Management Overlay Code and Rural 1 Planning Area Code.
Council's Q100 flood mapping proves the extent of predicted floods.

A Federal Government Geological Survey reported in 1999 that Cairns has a rather peculiar flood hydrology:
  • The delta on which the bulk of the city stands has not been fed by a river for perhaps many tens of thousands of years. It does not, therefore, have the level of threat from major riverine flooding experienced in other coastal Queensland cities, such as Brisbane,
    Bundaberg, Mackay, Rockhampton or Townsville, which grew around their river ports.

    The only river that poses a significant flood threat within the study area is the Barron River, which separates the city from its northern beachside suburbs, though smaller catchments can cause serious localised flooding throughout the area. The trauma of major flooding of the Barron River in the early days of the Trinity Inlet settlements has probably minimised the risk to the present-day Cairns community - the lessons of its flood potential were learned at an early stage.

    Floods in successive years in 1877, 1878 and 1879 sped the abandoning of the original Smithfield settlement on the Barron (sited in the area of present-day Stewart Road, Barron), reinforcing the choice of the shores of Trinity Inlet as the preferred site for the port and settlement.

    The Barron River catchment covers about 2 300 square kilometres. The river rises on the Atherton Tableland near Atherton and flows north through Mareeba before turning east to enter the lowland delta through the spectacular Barron Gorge below Kuranda. It is fed by several major tributaries on the Tableland, the largest of which are Granite Creek and the Clohesy River, whilst Freshwater Creek, joins the Barron below the Gorge. The delta covers about 45 sq km with Thomatis Creek - Richards Creek providing a distributary channel at the mouth.

Here's the Barron River Delta with Paul Freebody's proposed waterpark site marked by a red circle. The blue fill is the flood scope over successive years. Wonder what any investor in this hair-brain scheme is thinking about now?

The Bureau of Meteorology's Peter Baddiley said in an October 2003 "Flood Risk in Cairns" report said that the Cairns region, on the north tropical coast of Queensland, forms part of the wettest area in Australia.

"With mean annual rainfalls of 2,000 to 4,000 mm, during the summer and early autumn months, intense rainfalls associated with cyclones and other tropical weather influences persist for several days, and can produce severe flooding in the Barron, Mulgrave and Russell Rivers and smaller drainage systems," Baddiley said:-

  • "The major river system in the region, the Barron River, drains an area of 2,000 km2 on the elevated Atherton Tableland to the west of the coastal ranges. From the Tablelands, the river flows eastwards through a steep and narrow gorge to a coastal plain delta covering about 50 km2, a few kilometres to the north of the Cairns central business district.

    Major floods in the lower Barron River inundate a large proportion of the delta. Small drainage systems around Cairns, including the various streams and creeks with their headwaters in the coastal ranges immediately to the west of the Cairns City and the local drainage system for the Cairns urbanised areas, are also susceptible to flooding during intense rain periods."

A Facebook group set up to support the waterpark, quickly gained over 9,000 members, mainly children from around Australia and overseas. A subsequent group was set up for Adventure Waters, Freebody's company behind the project. It sports 102 members.

"We did it! The people were heard and now Cairns will be getting a water park thanks to Mr. Paul Freebody. Adventure Waters will be the first big theme park Cairns has ever had and will rival the water parks found on the Gold Coast," Freebody wrote on his own homepage.

After the final approval was given by a 4-7 majority, Paul Freebody tried to butter up those that didn't support his wet dream.

"It made the difference and showed the seven business-minded councillors what the public wishes were," Paul Freebody said. "The other four councillors could not be convinced and should not be condemned for voting against the approval as they have that right and we need to respect their right to vote the way they did and just move on."

"I must say a special thanks to the water parks local councillor and Deputy Mayor Margie Cochrane who went with the community wishes and desires and fought tooth and nail to get this approved," Freebody said. "All need to remember the odds she was up against and showed the qualities of a great leader. Well done Cr Cochrane!"

This was in stark contrast to his vile outburst when he went on radio just three weeks earlier, slamming a number of female Councillors with vile language. Listen to Paul get all moist and wet with John Mackenzie on 846am 4CA...

Paul's wife, Kim Freebody, was later embroiled in a debate following her support of an online hate campaign against Cairns Mayor Val Schier.

CairnsBlog even commissioned it's own Official Under Waterworld Unfeasibility Study.

Bfore Council gave the go-ahead, Freebody himself was seen on the excavator, digging up the river course on the property, flouting local EPA laws, a sign of things to come.

Friday 29 January 2010

Electrical Trades Union lays charge against Cook MP Jason O'Brien

Just two weeks after the very public airing of dirty union laundry between Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall and the Electrical Trades Union, neighbouring Cook MP, Jason O'Brien has been asked to face up to a hearing before the same union before he is striped of his membership.
"A charge has been laid against you under Section 86 of the Unions’ rules by a financial rank and file ETU member," Peter Simpson, state secretary of the Electrical Trades Union said in a letter to Cook MP Jason O'Brien.

"You are invited to attend the Unions’ State Executive meeting on the 15th February 2010 at the Unions’ South Brisbane offices, 41 Peel St South Brisbane to respond. You are entitled to bring with you a representative if you should desire."

Jason O'Brien is an ETU member, and the union says he is working in direct opposition to the position on the Union's stance to oppose the sale of Queensland-owned assets.

O'Brien has recently called the Union campaign against local MPs to get them to oppose the State Government asset sale programme as "playing silly games."

The complainant stated that O'Brien is an elected Member of Parliament and voted to support the sale of assets "despite the harm this will cause to our members and their families."

"Jason clearly knows the Union's position on this matter and should be supporting his union to appose the sale of these assets. This Union has expended enormous amounts of money on advertisements opposing the assets sale, including a mobile billboard driving around Cairns."

"There were also extensive articles in the last journal on the decision taken by this Union to oppose the asset sale and to campaign against it," the complainant said. "I have struggled to accept a member of this Union can actively work against this and his decision to support the sale of assets in Queensland is reckless and he is not worthy of being a member of this Union," the complainant said.

"In accordance with the rules, I have enclosed a cheque for $100, and I want charges laid against Jason O'Brien for failing to comply with the following rules:

  • - Rule 86 (a)(i) (A) Failing to observe any or all of these rules;
    - Clause 84 (b) Duty to observe and act in accordance with all decisions and resolutions of the Union.

"I urge the State Executive to expel Jason O'Brien from our Union," the complainant wrote to the ETU secretary.

The termination call comes just days after O'Brien called for access to a report that he says was kept secret by the Cairns Regional Council. However CEO Lyn Russell said the report, a summery of her first 30-days in the job, was simply a internal PowerPoint presentation for staff and Councillors, and the real report was published following a recent Council meeting.

There's an interesting message at the bottom of ETU Peter Simpson's email correspondence to Jason O'Brien. It says "Sometimes you have to burn the village to save the village."
How interesting.

The World According to the Yanks

Hat Tip: The BBQ Man!

Bellview on Abbott becomes Bellspew in Gutter

The Bellview on the Cairns Esplanade has been outed for some dirty smelly business.

The owners also manage the old Fettas restaurant building on Abbott Street, that adjoins the rear of their hotel.

Fettas, once a popular Greek eatery, is now a dormant vacant block, and a temporary smoker's rest stop for workers of the neighbouring Virgina House where a bunch of radio folk reside. The balcony has come a massive rubbish bin for anything and everything.
The former dining patio has been littered with all sorts of trash, empty coffee cups, chip packets, soft drink cans, and those bloody cigarette butts.
"I was pleased to see them cleaning the trash ridden area up," inner-city worker Brad told CairnsBlog.
"My satisfaction turned to horror as I watched this person continue to sweep all of this rubbish right into the gutter!"
On Wednesday afternoon, around 2pm, Rodney from Bellview (we know this piece of intelligence due to a secretly displayed name badge on his Bellview uniform), was giving the now Souvlakia-free balcony a much-needed spruce up.
"I'm sure it can't be legal to take rubbish from private property and dispose of it on the street this way," Brad said who was disgusted that a representative from tourism-dependent organisation had such blatant disregard for the appearance of the city.

"What chance does the Cairns Regional Council have to keep the city clean and presentable, when people treat it with such disrespect."
Both Mayor Schier and CBD Councillor Alan-the-street-is-my-office-Blake was advised of the incident.
"I can understand your concern and will pass this on to the the Bellview, and request that the management ensure that such activities do not continue," Mayor Val Schier said. "Thanks for taking the time out to alert us to an activity which is having an adverse impact on the look of our city."
"A big thumbs-down to Bellview," Brad says. "Totally appalling behaviour."
Oh, and Councillor Blake responded...
  • From: Alan Blake
    Date: 28th January, 2010

    Thanks Brad, I will talk to the Bellview mgr tomorrow.
    Cheers AB

The Bellview didn't respond.

Thursday 28 January 2010

Ronan Keating pic leaked

Irish boy band singer Ronan Keating performed at the Cairns Convention Centre tonight.

A CairnsBlog loyalist, MMS'ed this kinda dodgy pic to me soon after he hit the stage.

"Crappy phone camera, not looking good," the message said. He or she signed the message: "Tina Turn her." Yeah, right.

Fines and taxes...

"A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well."
Hat Tip: Sam Powers

Apple's iPad launched today, in Australia by April - maybe

Apple's next craze after the iPhone revolution, is a laptop consisting of only a screen called the iPad.
In the US, it will sell for between $500 - 16 GB, $700 - 32 GB, and $850 - 64 GB for the 3G and WiFi models.
It will give Amazon's Kindle, a monochrome book reader, a serious kick up the butt, as dedicated digital text readers are becoming popular.
There’s no Australian pricing or release date here, however Apple flew some Australian journalists to the US for the launch yesterday. Chances are that it will cost more than than a straight conversion of the US price tag. American customers can’t buy the iPad until March.
Here's the review in The Australian today.


My second email to Lyn Russell, CEO Cairns Council

In mid-December I wrote about the Cairns Regional Council's Community Annual Report, that was printed and distributed right across the region.

Councillor Robert Pyne, who voted along with Julia Leu, not to print the report at a cost of thousands, said that more than half of them would probably go straight in the bin.

Prior to publishing the story, I emailed the CEO Lyn Russell, and Kerie Still, the Acting Communications Manager...

I received no response, not even an acknowledgement. I have again written to the CEO, for what should be a very easy answer...

  • From Michael Moore,
    CC:,, Diane Forsyth, Kirsten Lesina
    Date: 24 January 2010 14:21
    Subject Re: Cost of Council's Community Annual Report


    I still have not had any response to my question of 11th December. I received no response, nor even an acknowledgement.

    Can this please be emailed to me this week? I suspect it would be very easy to locate this information.

    Michael P Moore

As I said last time, I'll keep you posted about how our money is being spent.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Community radio president terminates more members, threatens another

The troubled Cairns community radio, 4CCR 89.1 FM, that is staring down the barrel of it's second ACMA investigation in under a month, has been caught out again terminating memberships.

Both ACMA investigations have called into question the station's complainant and dispute resolution procedures and also open membership from the Cairns community, practices widely flouted by the former Arona-controlled committee.

Last Tuesday the ACMA announced that it has launched a second investigation, following receipt of damming video evidence from CairnsBlog where president Rodney Coutts and vice president Pieter Blaauw were shown to refuse up to 15 new membership applications at one meeting.

Federal MP Jim Turnour also met with Rod Coutts a week ago, demanding that they stop blocking access to membership, however Coutts can't understand basic English and has continued on his path to destory and divide the community radio for his own means.

On Friday, Coutts fired off two more angry letters, to people that have questioned his belligerent actions over the last three months, since he was elected on 28th September 2009.

Michael Hyams [right] reading the meeting cancelled notice last Wednesday, the second meeting block out in two weeks.

The current ACMA investigation will also investigate claims that the committee has been operating illegally since early October, when six of the nine committee members resigned in disgust at Coutts' autocratic leadership.

"I've got to get this committee under control," Rod Coutts told then vice president and Cairns Forensic policeman Greg Dwyer, who resigned after a series of arrogant comments by Mr Coutts and other concerns about the direction of events, a couple of weeks after the AGM.

Coutts also told then station technician, Shane Wilson, his need to get rid of the elected secretary Donn Corcoran, and his wife, Judi.

"I need to get rid of fucking Donn and Judi, and that bloody Dwyer," Coutts told Shane Wilson in the station's control room. Wilson challenged Coutts about his motives, which lead Wilson to withdraw his contracted services. "Well, I might leave as well," Wilson said.

"You can fuck off as well then," Coutts screamed.

Coutts has since terminated the membership of Shane Wilson, Donn Corcoran, Helen Jarroe, and Judi Corcoran.

On Monday this week [25th January], Coutts sent a letter to Michael Hyams, threatened to terminate his membership of Cairns Community Radio:
  • "On Wednesday January 6, 2010, at approximately 5.50pm you did enter the Management office, walked up to Management Committee member Pieter Blauuw, and physically threatened him with the words. “You. I’m going to thump you.”

    These words were clearly heard by others in the room and they will come forward to testify if asked to do so."
In fact, no such words were ever said that evening. Here is the audio recorded by CairnsBlog on Wednesday 6th January, from 5:58pm - 6:16pm:-

Michael Hyams walks into the office area, and introduces his guest who is attending the meeting with him, but gets told that the meeting is now going to be a closed session until 6:30pm, even though it was advertised in the newsletter for a 6pm start and that "all members and guests were welcome to attend."

"Under with authority do you close the meeting?" Hyams asked Couttss who was sitting at his desk, avoiding eye contacts with the group of members and two Cairns Councillors in the office.

"Mind your own business," Coutts retorted.

He then asked Pieter Blaauw, who was obstructing access to the adjoining meeting room door, that he intended to ask the meeting about the conditions imposed by the ACMA on the station.

"It's none of your business," vice president Blaauw said. "Don't be so facetious," Hyams said.

"We're a group of interested people, with members, who want to be members," Di Forsyth said.

Councillor Linda Cooper is my guest," Hyams announced, "and Councillor Di Forsyth is David Rentz' guest."

Immediate past president John Fielder enetered the corridor, and announced he "had been co-opted by Mr Coutts."

There are a few shocking revelations on this recording...

  • 1:03 Vice president Pieter Blaauw throws membership forms and cash out on the corridor floor. "Excuse me, you can't do that," Councillor Diane Forsyth says. They then knock on the locked meeting room door.

    "We'll let the ACMA know that you won't take new members," Linda Cooper says through the locked door.
    "Can you please accept these membership forms as stated in your constitution?" Forsyth says.

  • 2:45 DOOR IS OPENED blocked by Blaauw and Coutts
  • 2:58 "We'll be letting the ACMA know about you refusing these memberships"

  • 3:03: Membership forms thrown on floor at Councillor Cooper
  • 3:16 "Mr Coutts, there is no reason why you can't accept these [memberships]," Cooper says.

    Linda Cooper pushes through and enters the meeting room.
    Door slammed against Diane Forsyth by Pieter Blaauw, and pushes her with his right arm.
  • 3:45: Councillor Diane Forsyth screams "Get off me. Leave me alone!" as she is slammed between the door by Pieter Blaauw.

    Meeting door is locked.

The audio recording, along with photographs taken that evening, have been provided to the ACMA and Cairns Police. It also proves unequivocally that no such words were said by Mr Hyams. It is yet another lie from Mr Coutts, who has shown a pattern of fabrication over the last three months. His biggest porky was to Sunday Mail journalist Gavin King, when he declared that there were no minutes or records from the former Arona committee.

Councillor Linda Cooper, who was standing right alongside Michael Hyams, with Councillor Diane Forsyth and station member David Rentz, recalls the events on January 6th:

"He [Coutts] didn't acknowlegde us when we entered the office area," Linda Cooper says. "There was agressive convesation, Michael didn't say those words, I can honestly say I didn't hear that at all," she said in response to Coutts' allegation three weeks after the incident.

Hyams says that he was very concerned for the two female Councillors, as Blaauw approached him.

Cooper says is surprised that Rod Coutts waited three weeks to raise any concern about that evening.

He hasn't got any abiliy to deal with this in any other way," Linda Cooper says. "What is of real concern to me is that they are wanting to terminate membership, when Pieter Blaauw's membership is being ignored. If he being told that he will be terminated because of his actions? There's far more cause for that to happen. That's a big question," Cooper told CairnsBlog.

"I can't believe that he is accusing me of alledged brutality when his own vioce president is under the eyes of the police for assualting Di Forsyth," Michael Hyams said.

In the latest expulsion threat, Coutts asked Michael Hyams to attend a "hearing" on Wednesday 10 February...
  • "We request that you provide a written response to the allegation detailed above.

    Please note that, in addition to the written response, you will be afforded the opportunity to provide your verbal comments in relation to the allegation either by yourself or with the assistance of a representative if required.

    We wish to afford you available time to prepare any written response you may wish to provide. Therefore, your opportunity to respond will occur in closed session at 6.00pm on Wednesday February 10, 2010, at a Special Management Committee meeting in the meeting room of Cairns FM89.1.

    In accordance with the Rules, the meeting will be held only before the members of the Management Committee.

    You will appreciate the importance of dealing with these issues confidentially and we advise you not to discuss this allegation, or the process, with any other employees, or members.

You can download Coutts' letter to Hyams here.

The allegation is an entire fabrication.

It was invented and concocted by Coutts and his vice president Pieter Blaauw, three weeks after the alleged incident.

In a bizzare ironic twist, showing how confused Coutts is, three hours before sending the termination threat, he emails the following...
  • From: Rodney Coutts
    To: Michael Hyams
    Sent: Monday, January 25, 2010 12:24 PM
    Subject: Re: Membership

    In reply to your e-mail an amendment was put forward at a Management Committee meeting held 13 January that you had not resigned as stated in the Minutes dated 16 November. It was proposed and seconded and this motion was carried forward.
Blaauw is being investigated by the Cairns Police for a physical assault on Cairns Regional Councillor Diane Forsyth on the same evening. A formal complaint about the assualt was lodged with the Federal MP and the Police within 24 hours.

Three formal complaints have been made to the station about Blaauw's actions towards Forsyth that evening, but the president and secretary have flagrantly ignored all correspondence.

"I'm very disgusted that way this has been handled," Councillor Diane Forsyth told CairnsBlog. "The fact that Blaauw is still on the radio on air and that the president has not even acknowledged letters to address that incident, is awful."

The violence dished out that evening from Pieter Blaauw, was condoned by Coutts, who was standing right next to Blaauw when he slammed the door against Councillor Forsyth's arm and body. He never intervened. Coutts has since rejected Forsyth's membership application.

On Monday, Rod Coutts also sent a letter to former committee member Helen Jarroe, terminating her membership. Jarroe emailed some of the members raising serious concerns about Coutts, after which she resigned from the committee in October.

Coutts cites the Association rules, in his termination letter to Jarroe...
  • "You failed to attend the meeting on December 3, 2009 to provide your verbal comments in relation to the allegation as highlighted in our letter dated November 19, 2009.

    The Rules of Cairns Community Broadcasters Inc., relevantly provide in Clause 8 (3) that if a member “conducts themselves in a manner considered to be injurious or prejudicial to the character or interests of the Association, the Management Committee shall consider whether their membership shall be terminated”.

    "The rules state... Not to bring into disrepute the operations, management, staff or other volunteers of CCBI. Contribute to the achievement of a safe, tolerant and equitable working environment by avoiding, and assisting in preventing, behaviour which is discriminatory.

    At a Management Committee meeting held on January 13, 2010, the Management Committee addressed your membership once again. Having considered all aspects of the allegation made against you the Committee unanimously voted to terminate your membership, which took effect from 13 January, 2010. "

You can download Coutts' letter to Jarroe here.

"I don’t know what meeting he is talking about. I think he must just invent them to suit himself," Helen Jarroe said. "As to 'the complaint' against me, it is a complaint from him and maybe Blaauw only, and spurious to say the least. He is just getting rid of anyone who is likely to vote against him in the future – that is all."

On Christmas Eve, Coutts instructed the station's solictior to write Jarroe a threatening letter, saying that she had probably defamed him in her email.

Over the last three months, Coutts has sent out dozens of letters to anyone who has challenged him or emailed another member talking about his leadership. It's likely that Cairns Community Radio has expended several thousand dollars in legal advice and letter-drafting by Tom Stevens, of O'Reilly Stevens Bovey, the station's solicitor, since the first week of October.

Meanwhile, 30 people will attend the third meeting of the Friends of 4CCR this evening. The group, which includes presenters, members, councillors, a past president and station manager, along with representives from the ethnic communities, will adopt a plan to move the station forward.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Email trail enrages Jason O'Brien MP about a secret society

"The public comments by the new Cairns Regional Council CEO Lyn Russell, calls into question her honesty," Cook MP Jason O’Brien says.

O’Brien is seeking what he says is a report that new Cairns Regional Council CEO Lyn Russell presented to Councillors after her first month in the job, however the CEO says there is no such document.

In an email to Russell on December 21st last year, O'Brien referred to a "30-day report" and requested to see a copy...The reply from the CEO's personal assistant said that it was an "internal document that hasn't even been released to the Councillors."

O'Brien replied, saying that he would file an FOI request for the "document."

"Whether the Councillors have seen the document or not, is of no interest to me really," O'Brien responded. "You have conceded that the document exists and have not provided a good reason on why it should not be released to me."

"I made requests to see the document with both Mayor Val Schier and Ms Russell but was turned down. It was disturbing," Jason O'Brien says.

Lyn Russell has said the "report" in question was posted on the Council's website after last week’s meeting. Russell says the document related to a workshop she held with all Councillors soon after taking over the role in November last year and was designed to identify major issues within the region.

According to Russell, when Jason O’Brien requested the "report" last year, there was no report because the workshop was "mostly verbal".

"It has now been published on the Internet and was the first in what would become regular reports from the CEO," Lyn Russell says.

"I wanted to see the report to make sure the needs of amalgamated residents in Mossman and Port Douglas were being addressed," Jason O’Brien says. "There are ongoing issues following the Council amalgamation, and I want to know whether Council recognises those issues. I also want to know how the new CEO is planning to deal with those issues in an effective and timely manner."

"I'm concerned the decision to deny access to the report came so early in Ms Russell’s tenure," O'Brien said. "It is particularly alarming given that the mayor was elected on a platform of openness and accountability following the Byrne Council’s increasing use of closed sessions and its failure to release information that should, as a matter of course, be available to the public."

"Ms Russell said publicly today that she had posted a report he was seeking on the council web site. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” O'Brien said.

He says what is published on the Council website is not the report.

"That is not the report I am after, and Ms Russell knows it," O'Brien says. “My prior comments to her and to the Mayor and in a Right to Information request I have filed, clearly indicate what report I am after."

“Her comments are designed to deceive the media and the public, and are dishonest and unacceptable from a person in such a position. Ratepayers need to be able to trust Council officers. Ms Russell, in her comments, has abused the trust of ratepayers as well as her position.”

Jason O'Brien says he has had two telephone conversations on the issue, one with Lyn Russell on 24th December 2009, and one with the Mayor on Friday 15th January.

"In both conversations, I asked for a copy of the report. “I have always been a proponent of openness and accountability. My experience is that well-informed public discourse leads to good solutions.”

O’Brien says he is very disappointed that he will be forced to go through a right to information application to get access to the report.

"The report was produced using taxpayer funds and was recently presented to councillors at a private session. The report that O'Brien is so keen to obtain is in the form of a Powerpoint presentation.

“It was presented to councillors and I have been informed by two sources of the contents of the report. I know the report to be different from the information supplied by Ms Russell on the council website,” Jason O'Brien says.

In a final communication on the subject, Lyn Russell says that no such report exists.

"The information you are seeking is in relation to a confidential, interactive workshop discussion held with the Councillors and senior staff," see wrote on the 13th January. "I have therefore instructed that your application be closed under section 52 (1)(a) of the Right to Information Act 2009."

An Australia Day message from Prime Minister Edmund Barton

Here's a message from our very first Prime Miniter, Sir Edmund Barton.

This is his idea about immigrants and being an Australian in 1907.

My, how times have changed.

  • "In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an Australian and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin.

    But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an Australian, and nothing but an Australian...

    There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an Australian, but something else also, isn't an Australian at all.

    We have room for but one flag, the Australian flag....

    We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the Australian people.'

  • Edmund Barton 1907

Hat Tip: Anne Jackson

Google’s doodle Oz Day boo boo

Don Arthur, writing on Club Troppo, says that Google has removed the Aboriginal flag from the winning Doodle 4 Google competition (see right)...
  • Last year 11-year-old Jessie Du won Google’s Doodle 4 Google competition with her entry ‘Australia Forever’. It was displayed on Google’s homepage for Australia Day, the doodle features Australian animals formed into the letters g-o-o-g-l-e.

    Attentive Google visitors soon noticed that something was missing. Jessie’s original entry included the Aboriginal flag but this has been removed from the image on Google’s homepage. But before readers start throwing around the ‘R’ word, here’s Google’s explanation: ...

    You may have noticed that the Google Doodle on the homepage today is slightly different to Jessie’s original entry, because that one contained copyright imagery that we weren’t able to publish on the homepage today. However, I think you’ll agree it’s still absolutely beautiful, and inspires lots of wonderful ideas about the Australia of our future.

    The Aboriginal flag is protected by copyright. In 1997 the Federal Court of Australia recognised Harold Thomas as the flag’s author. The flag may only be reproduced in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 or with the permission of Mr Harold Thomas.

    Update: Asher Moses at the Sydney Morning Herald has the story including an interview with Thomas:

    Thomas, who lives in Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory, said he refused only because Google did not approach him in a respectful way and had demanded to reproduce the flag without charge.

    "I said well you can use it but there’s a fee component and the [Google] person said: ‘Oh we can’t do that, we can’t pay for it, we’ll have to ask the girl to change it [the logo] if we have to pay for it,’ " Thomas said.

    "So ever since that time we’ve been argy bargying over how we should go about it and in the end it was a pittance offer so I decided why bother?"

Another update from Crikey: Dogs like to dig holes.

Here's the original deisgn, with additional helpful notations!

Australia Day Award recipients 2010

Nine locals were recognised today for their contributions to our community at the Australia Day celebrations.

Cairns Regional Council also welcomed 100 new Australian citizens at today's ceremony.

Those attending the ceremony were greeted Gimuy Walabara Ydiniji, Seith Fourmile.

Cairns Regional Council CEO Lyn Russell PSM, was the master of the ceremony. The national anthem was sung by local tenor Bernie Mackenzie, and Jim Turnour MP for Leichardt, delivered the Prime Minister’s message.

The Australia Day Awards were presented by Mayor Val Schier. The panel comprised of the Mayor and Councillors selected the winners, nominated by the community.

Citizen of the Year
Mr Stan Jensen – Edmonton
34 years with Queensland Ambulance Service as Officer in Charge at Gordonvale and Edmonton Ambulance stations
Received the Mulgrave Shire Council Community Service Award 1995 and the National Medal from the Mulgrave Shire for Public Service
Foundation member Hambledon House Community Centre Advisory Committee
Member of the Mount Peter Master Planning Community Reference Group

Junior Citizen
Tahlia Burchill - Mossman
School Captain and recipient of the Caltex All Rounder and School Service Award for Mossman State High School 2009
Winner of the Mossman and District Lions Youth of the Year Quest
Mentor to entrants of the 2009 Indigenous Leader of Tomorrow Program

Special Commendation Junior Citizen
Georgia Smith - Cairns
Rotary Youth Ambassador nationally and internationally
Member of the Cairns Youth Orchestra
Duke of Edinburgh Award recipient
Order of Australia Student Citizenship Award

Cultural Citizens
Jimmy and Lori Barton - Cairns
Choral Society life members
Cairns Little Theatre life members
Mary Webb Award for Acting recipients
Involved in recent production of Miss Saigon

Volunteer Citizen
Majorie Lrae Norris – Mossman
District Commissioner for Girl Guides Queensland
Councillor for the former Douglas Shire (2000 -2004)
Mother of five and teacher
Member of Mossman District Red Cross
Secretary and President Mossman District Nursing Home Committee

Senior Sportsperson
Wayne Mawer – Cairns
Achieved two World Wateski Racing Championships 12 years apart
Won the 2009 IWSF World Championship in Belgium
The only athlete in history to win this title twice

Junior Sportspersons
Robert Johnston – Cairns
National All schools Track and Field champion
Member Cairns Marlins basketball team
Member of the Australian team at Sydney Youth Olympics 2009
Ranked No 1 Australian Weightlifting 16yrs super weight category 2009

Aislynn Weber – Cairns
BMX World Title Champion 11 yrs girls 2009
Queensland State Title BMX Champion 2009
Second place Australian BMX Titles Perth 2009

Sunday 24 January 2010

Cooktown fine, Cape Tribulation gets the brunt of Olga

Cooktown has missed any sign of a cyclone says owner of the town's main hostel and motel.

"It's not even raining up here," Scott Orchard told CairnsBlog. "The cyclone's not even coming this way.

Cyclone Olga made a South Easterly change late morning, and tracked south towards Cape Tribulation. At 2pm this afternoon, it was around 15 kms off the coast, and had been downgraded to a category 1 system.

"It's only been a bit of drizzling rain and no wind at all," said Scott Orchard, who spent the last 24 hours with the help of his 25 international guests, moving furniture and tying things down, in preparation.

"It was coming direct towards Cooktown, but it's now heading south of us," Orchard says. ""In a straight line, Port Douglas is only 90 kilometers from Cooktown."

"I was sitting down listening to the radio this afternoon on Rebel FM and they were saying that it was crossing the coast at Cooktown now," Orchard said. "I don't know where they get there information from. I was sitting outside lighting a cigarette."

"I got the camera ready, and was hoping for a category 5," Scott Orchard said, who has lived thorough a number of sever weather events in the historic coastal town. "I wish it would have come though and blown a few of the 'for sale' signs away."

Orchard says that there is still a lot of properties on the market in Cooktown.

The BOM update at 1:55pm is...

  • GALES are expected about the coast between Cooktown and Cairns and adjacent inland areas during the afternoon.

    Very heavy rainfall with localised flooding is expected to develop about the North Tropical Coast.

    Abnormally high tides are expected between Cooktown and Cairns, but the sea level should not exceed the highest tide of the year. Large waves are likely along the beachfront.

    People between Cooktown and Cairns should remain inside until the cyclone has passed and listen to the next advice at 5pm.

Arona's community radio cash cow exposed in Sunday Mail

Love or loathe Gavin King (I'm not in either camp), but you have to thank him for exposing to a State-wide print audience, the corruption of Arona and the influence they had on Cairns community radio over the last decade.
Last week the Sunday Mail entered the debate about the besieged community radio drama that I've been pursuing since September, and focused on the the Arona-controlled committee, that dominated and manipulated access to a valuable community asset.
In part 1 of my expose I showed the connection between the Kuranda rainforest commune with our local community radio station.
Today in the Sunday Mail, Gavin continues the story, largely about what I wrote in Part 2, published on January 2nd, where I outlined the money train that weaved its way up the hill to Arona - thousands upon thousands was not being used for the community where it was intended. It's hard to determine just how much, but could be in excess on $70,000 per year - potentially over a half a million dollars.
I also disclosed that the then ‘Administration Officer’ Niels Briët of Arona, was taking an hourly rate for book-keeping, even though there was already an appointed treasurer, and another hourly rate for computer work, on top of another 10% from every grant application. There is also anomalies for other payments to Briët, one for a cheque of over $8,000 in July last year. As King writes in today Mail, Gillian McKenzie was getting around $20,000 as secretary, and if you get your hands on any of the minutes and see how vague they are, you're see the value for money we were getting. Briët was also recipient of $20,000, however this was coded in the accounts to 'repairs and maintenance.'
I also find it rather odd, that the current president of the station, Rodney Coutts, who closes more meetings than he opens, changed his story from a week ago. Last Sunday when interviewed by the Sunday Mail, Coutts told that newspaper "the Arona-dominated committee left the station in disarray, and he [Coutts] was not aware of the existence of any minutes of meetings or financial records for the 10-year period the Arona sect ran the station."
That's rather odd.
Today Rod Coutts, in discussions with Gavin King, talks about the minutes and financial records that exist from the last ten years. He says that undertaking a forensic audit would "solve the mystery of assets and financial data."
Coutts must be extremely nervous with all this attention and scrutiny. Just three weeks ago, he co-opted John Fielder onto his dysfunctional committee. Fielder is the immediate past president of the Arona-dominated committee that will be investigated, thanks to the pressure being kept up from the mainstream media, and Leichhardt MP Jim Turnour.
Coutts appointing Fielder to the new committee, would be like Val Schier, after being elected in March 2008, asking Kevin Byrne to be her personal assistant. Not that I'm suggesting that Kevin runs around naked in the rainforest, hugs trees and runs dodgy committees, but you get the general idea.
Coutts has deliberately ignored two vital things following the AGM in September late last year. The committee agreed to advertise for a station manager, reputed to be as much as $55,000 annual salary, but he refused to carry out the wishes of that October 5th committee meeting, as he wanted the paid-job for himself, as well as retaining his volunteer committee role.
In discussion with radio member Michael Hyams just before Christmas, Coutts, and his violent side-kick Pieter Blaauw, refused to honor the committee's decision.
"Is the manager’s position being advertised, as it was agreed?" Hyams asked. "No. Why should it be?" Blaauw said.
"No you listen for a change. There was never a manager here, and there is not a manager here now. There will not be a manager. Why should there be? Tell me that Michael. What have these other people be telling you? Are you being advised by other people?," Blaauw said with the support of Coutts.
The committee also agreed to pursue the forensic audit together, gather quotations etc for approval. Coutts ignored that also, and then told the Sunday Mail last week that he knew of no records that existed of the last ten years.
When Cairns Regional Councillor Linda Cooper was in the office with Rodney Coutts just two weeks ago, Coutts showed her boxes of records over that period.
Prior to my November 23, 2009 story, if you did a search on "Arona", or "Arona + Cairns" you wouldn't have found anything. Zilch. Zip. Now a Google search catches numerous CairnsBlog mentions and also Gavin King's writing.
Nice to see the can of dirty worms exposed and hopefully some action happening. Sad to see that the latest issue of the free community newspaper Cairns Bulletin that is out today, has no mention of this important evolving story.
As a side note, I'm in discussions with ABC's Media Watch, who are keen to expose the corruption and the numerous breaches following two ACMA investigations, including the wonderful secret videos from last week. I bet the folk at the boring regulatory ACMA office dropped their Latte when those vids arrived in their inbox last Tuesday morning.
One day soon we may even retrieve all the CDs and no doubt other equipment purchased for Cairns Community Radio, put it on the back of a truck from a Kuranda hideaway and return it to the people of Cairns.

Nude Day at the beauitiful Cairns' Cattana Wetlands

On Friday afternoon I received a stupid "community announcement" from Cairns Regional Council...
  • "Due to wet weather conditions Cattana Wetlands is closed to the public until further notice. For further information please call Customer Service 4044 3044."
How silly are the folk who make these decisions, especially closing it over an entire weekend?

The best time to view a wetland is when it's wet, for God's sake. Sure, the car park area probably had a few extra inches of Dihydrogen Monoxide on Friday morning, but the panic to close down the place for the weekend is nothing short than brain-dead.

The biodiversity in a wetland, especially in the natural hothouse on the tropics, is simply stunning. It isn't a place to lock up after a little bit of rain.

So, I thought, what a better time to visit when its wet and when there's no one there. Off I went for a visit. I wasn't the only one that had the idea, it seemed. There were a couple of other cars parked outside the two-meter high locked gate.

As I walked along the entrance path, a beautiful colourful snake came out of the bush to greet me. I'm not that good at identifying these creatures, but I'm sure there's some herpetologist out there to tell us all if this one could carry Azaria Chamberlain away or just live in a high-rise apartment in Lake Street. I suspect Paul from Reptipost blog could easily identify this reptile. [It's a Yellow-Faced whip snake.]

In around 30 minutes I spotted flying stick insects, snakes, various water birds, storks, spiders, frogs, creek fish and even a pair of Tawny Frogmouth. Don't forget to wander along the stunning forest boardwalk, one of the highlights of Cattana Wetlands. It's where some of Kevin Byne's bodies are buried, or so the story goes.

I took along my Canon Legria FS200 to capture the magic and serenity of our very own wetlands. As I've only recently picked up this camera, which is not as discreet as the 007 model we used last week to expose the mad captain at Cairns Community Radio, I don't think I'll get an AFI nomination for cinematography.

The music is "Between two worlds" from Terry Oldfield's Spirit of the Rainforest.

I hope you'll get off your TV popcorn butt, grab your kids, or someone else's, (better still, leave the kids behind) and experience something unique right on our doorstep. One final bit of advice, you'll need to be quiet, have patience and be very observant, so there's a high chance you won't run into any politicians.


    You can locate Cattana Wetlands either on the Captian Cook Highway heading north of Cairns via either the Yorkeys Knob roundabout (turn left into Dunne Road), or from the JCU roundabout at Smithfield ( McGregor then into Dunne Road).
  • Right Click on the map to enlarge.

Cyclone Olga weather system from Mt Yarrabah, South of Cairns

Ships heading towards Cairns coastline in Cyclone Olga

Cyclone Olga rain bands approaching

Looking North Cyclone Olga from Mt Yarrabah

Fitzroy Island ~ Cyclone Olga approaching at dusk

Olga approaching ~ 23rd Jan 2010

Cyclone Olga upgraded to Cat 2, to cross near Cooktown

BOM 4:55am report...

  • Tropical Cyclone Olga, category 2, is currently located over the northwest Coral Sea and is continuing to move steadily towards the coast.

    GALES are expected to develop about the coast between Coen and Innisfail this morning.

    DESTRUCTIVE WINDS are likely to develop about the coast between Cape Flattery and Port Douglas by late morning.

    Very heavy rainfall with localised flooding is expected to develop about the North Tropical Coast during the day.

    As the cyclone crosses the coast, abnormally high tides are expected between Cape Flattery and Cairns, but the sea level should not exceed the highest tide of the year. Large waves are likely along the beachfront.

    People between Coen and Innisfail should complete preparations quickly and be prepared to shelter in a safe place. Boats and outside property should be secured as quickly as possible.