Whitsunday Conservation Council

News from the Treetops

  Nov & Dec 2021                                                                                                              Whitsunday Conservation Council Inc

Wishing You All a Wonderful Festive Season and a Great Year ahead

In this Edition   

Keep an eye on your inbox for the invitation.  Don’t forget to whitelist our admin@whitsundayconservation.org.au email address or it may get spammed.

Not a member?  Visit our CONTACT tab where you can join or renew an expired membership.

Bring your bathers.  See you there.

The 24-11-21 council meeting, to decide on Port of Airlie’s 47 metre monstrosity, was marred by a technical “conflict of interest” preventing Cannonvale Cr Grundy from even being in the room which left a block vote, lead by Bowen based Cr Brunker to overwhelm Airlie Beach Cr Clifford’s lone voice of opposition to the recommendation to approve this development.  It could be called a farce.

The agenda for the meeting came to notice with little warning so that concerned people were not aware that this item was even going to be decided at this meeting. Also it was held in Bowen so there wasn’t enough time for protestors from southern divisions, i.e. Airlie Beach and surrounds, the most affected and concerned by this proposal, to organise attendance at the meeting.  Questions from the Public Gallery are taken on notice by the CEO in writing and may or may not be responded to at the Meeting.

Cr Brunker was seen to be determined to dominate any discussion, speaking up several times with spurious arguments and dismissive of over 2200 submissions that he claimed were from people against change.  He added that he was going to vote yes only because the building would have a convention centre, even though, as Clr Clifford pointed out,  there was no guarantee that a conference centre would be included in any future development application received for this land. She also pointed out that now Port of Airlie receivers have this preliminary approval they can sell this property to whoever they like and that the purchaser can build whatever they like, if it conforms to the conditions of these approvals.  

With this decision our council has effectively allowed the Receiver of Port of Airlie to rewrite the Airlie Beach planning scheme to suit his own agenda and allow any future developer purchasing this land, with approvals attached, to rebrand and reinvent our beautiful Airlie Beach by introducing a high-rise tower at Port of Airlie and by precedence, it would seem likely that more high-rise applications will be received for other sections of our hard won, low rise foreshore.  

Councillors were unable to sort out the insufficient number of on-site parking spots. This has been left to discussion by councils planning director and Port of Airlie.  Nothing was said about the many other problems attributed to the project.  Even the applicant admits this 12 storey box (visual equivalent of 47m) included with their application was ugly and needs disguising.  

So without any proper public debate on the biggest challenge to Airlie’s future, our publicly recorded, hell-bent on high rise Bowen Cr Bunker and neighbouring councillors trashed corporate diligence and voted “yes” to a development application which thousands of our community, visitors and, we understand, both local councillors consider an overwhelmingly awful and damaging development on our Airlie Beach foreshore.

What has happened to the transparency and honesty that our councillors promise us in order to get elected?

The Whitsunday Conservation Council is launching a new Reef campaign and we want you to join us.  Here’s the background to our campaign.

The health of the Reef is at a crossroad. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority tells us that the greatest threat to the Reef is Climate Change. Over the past 5 years, the Reef has suffered through 3 mass bleaching events. These bleaching events are driven by climate change which is fueled by the burning of fossil fuels, especially coal.

The science is sobering. The recent IPCC report makes it crystal clear that if global temperatures exceed 1.5°C, it’s game over for the Great Barrier Reef. Right now, Australia and the rest of the world are on a course that will probably exceed 2.0°C

If we can reduce our carbon emissions by at least 75% by 2030 and reach net zero carbon emissions by 2035, then we might be able to hold global warming to 1.5°C, giving the Reef a fighting chance.

But our Federal Government has no serious climate policy. Their performance at the recent COP26 was an embarrassment. They refused to transition away from coal, refused to reduce methane emissions and refused to set an effective carbon emissions reduction target for 2030.

We need to push the government to step up with an effective climate policy that will limit warming to 1.5°. Hence our campaign …                               

1.5 Keeps Reefs Alive

Here’s how it works.

To kick off, we have a simple ask. Email us a picture of your favourite reef (above or below water) to Photos@whitsundayconservation.org.au  Caption the picture with: “1.5 Keeps My Favourite Reef Alive” and include your name.

We will collect all the pictures we receive and create a 1.5 Keeps My Favourite Reef Alive digital scrapbook. The scrapbook can then be used to show politicians at all levels how people feel about the Reef and the policies we expect to see in order to protect the Reef.

To make this campaign really rock, we would ask you also do the following:

Here’s the first one in.  Hope to see your reef pictures rolling in ASAP!

This is just the start. Standby for updates on the campaign and other actions you can take to protect the health of the Reef.

1.5 Keeps My Favourite Reef Alive, Elizabeth Reef

A huge win for democracy as the Senate has voted in support of Rex Patrick’s motion to disallow the charity changes — Government regulations which could silence Australian charities such as us and other Australian conservation groups.

Peter McCallum from the Mackay Conservation Group circulated this important message.

Charity isn’t just about helping those in need – it’s about working for systemic change. This win ensures the long tradition of charitable advocacy continues.

Thanks to you — and thousands of other people like you — those regulations were defeated. Emails like yours were crucial to this win.

We can’t rest yet given the Political Campaigner Bill is still before the Senate, but we can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that this senseless regulation has been binned. Also, there is simply not enough time for the Minister to push similar regulations through before the next election.

We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the collective efforts of over a hundred charities and their allies – including a lot of people who’ve worked on this behind the scenes. A huge thanks to all of you. Special mention goes to Alice Drury (Human Rights Law Centre) and Jolene Elberth (Aust Conservation Foundation) who’ve put in countless hours on this campaign alongside all their other responsibilities.

BUT Disgracefully, on Dec 1st in the Senate, Labor did a deal with the Liberals and passed the Political Campaigner Bill. 

As if this wasn’t enough of an attack on our democracy, the Bill was rammed through without debate and without going to inquiry. 

Instead of supporting the good work of our charities in this time of great need, Labor has sided with the Liberals to silence and stymie them. 

The new laws will mean that more nonprofits will now be classified as “significant third parties”, increasing their disclosure requirements and administrative burdens.  More charities will spend more time on paperwork and less time advocating for public interest policy reforms. Many will be discouraged from advocacy work altogether.  

This is a kick in the teeth to a sector that needs more support, not more roadblocks. 

Over 80 charities joined together to call on the government to scrap this bill, noting that they are already subject to strict reporting and transparency obligations under the ACNC. There is no justification for the additional reporting that a lower threshold would impose on the many organisations already struggling to make ends meet.

Since 20 August 21 the Transport and Main Roads Department (TMR) from Ministerial to District office have refused several requests to consult with our community about their decision to install traffic lights at both William Murray and Macarthur Drive intersections with Shute Harbour Road (SHR), or to allow an independent professional peer review of their traffic modelling and demographic forecasts for these intersections.
 
This is totally unacceptable.  TMR had a moral contract with our community to consult, see BACKGROUND, and plans for roundabouts at these intersections were in place until 2019.  Two years to consult and TMR did nothing.
 
As a result local community group Residents Traffic Action (RTA) has commissioned an independent professional assessment.  The cost of this report is being met from donations from concerned residents and community organisations.
 
If you’d like to help off set this cost, please contact Founding member of Residents Traffic Action, Faye Chapman at:
 

Beside the efficiency and safety of roundabouts vs traffic lights, there are also environmental reasons why traffic lights are not the answer in an environmental sense.  RTA does not dispute the need for regulation at these intersections but alternative, innovative planning could provide control without the visual, light and air pollution caused by traffic lights.

Queues of vehicles at traffic lights cause excessive emissions which impact on our air quality; platooning of these queues once the lights change prevent side traffic entering quickly, again causing unnecessary emissions.  Also, whether they are required or not, traffic lights use power to operate 24/7 .  Think 4am entering from Macarthur Drive onto SHR waiting for the lights to change.  With any power failure,caused by accidents, brown outs, cyclones, storms or just a supply breakdown,  traffic lights are useless causing dangerous conditions at unregulated intersections.
 
Unlike roundabouts which once installed, are functional at all times,  and can be landscaped to be green, attractive and cooling.
 
BACKGROUND:
In 2005 when the shopping centre was being built close to the Paluma and Shute Harbour Roads intersection, traffic lights were demanded by Transport and Main Roads and despite intense community opposition, headed by Residents Traffic Action, traffic lights were installed in 2007.
 
But this community opposition did cause the TMR and our local council to contribute $50K & $20K respectively to establish a Project Advisory Committee (PAC) to oversee and allow consultation between themselves and interested parties on all future intersection treatments along Shute Harbour Rd.  Residents Traffic Action was an active member of PAC.
 

After functioning successfully 2007 – 2010 with only roundabouts being built along Shute Harbour Road in the ensuing years, it was felt that our community and councils preference for roundabouts was well established and accepted by TMR. In fact, to this day, we don’t believe Whitsunday council’s policy (05/07/2000 at right) opposing traffic lights has ever been rescinded or deleted.

 
PRESENT DAY:
20 August 2021: Residents adjacent to Shute Harbour Rd were letterboxed by TMR to tell them that the road was being widened to 4 lanes and that traffic lights would be installed at William Murray and Macarthur Drive intersections with Shute Harbour Road.  This is not consultation.  And to date, TMR still refuse to consult with our community.

UPDATE 14-12-21 following application by SOF to Council:  Council will provide Save Our Foreshore and the community a one month extension from Tuesday 14 December 2021 to Friday 14 January 2022 to make a submission on either the Draft GABA Masterplan 2021, the Draft Airlie Beach Foreshore Land Management Plan 2021 or both.

Please note that the Whitsunday Planning Scheme Major Amendment went before Council at the Ordinary Meeting held on 8 December 2021 and was tabled to the next Ordinary Meeting to be held on 25 January 2022. The Amendment, although publicly available, will not enter the statutory Public Consultation Period until it has been endorsed by Council and approved by the Minister for public consultation, which is not likely to occur until late February 2022 at the earliest.

Would you like to have your say on planning for the future of Airlie Beach and surrounds?

Whitsunday Council has prepared a draft Airlie Beach Land Management Plan and draft Greater Airlie Beach Area Masterplan, which are both important strategic tools for Council.

Download the draft plans and find out more below.

Council are asking for your feedback on both of these documents and seeking your ideas for Airlie Beach.

What are your main priorities for your town? Do you have an idea for Airlie Beach and surrounds?

FAUNA RESCUE WHITSUNDAY has a range of nesting boxes for birds, possums, microbats and gliders.   Our wildlife’s homes and habitats are being lost to tree clearing on a bigger scale than ever. It takes a tree nearly 100 years to develop the hollows that parrots and other animals need to live and raise babies in.  

PLEASE CONTACT the FAUNA RESCUE WHITSUNDAY HOTLINE: 07 49473389  if you’d like to purchase one and install it on your property. 

 

Alternatively why not try building one? These photos are from Junior Landcare and the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland have some instructions here.

Don’t forget to set up bird baths and use appropriate bird seed in feeders. 

It’s fascinating and fun.  Great for the whole family to see these families grow and survive.

Twice a day, an armada of noisy jetskis crashes through the sensitive sea grass feeding area west of Pigeon Island and scares off the dugongs and turtles that come to feed.

Whitsunday Conservation Council continues to push for better protection for our endangered turtles and dugongs through the implementation of a go-slow zone over the sea grass meadows Pioneer Bay.

There is not much to report on the official side as at the end of November.  The issue was discussed at the last GBRMPA meeting and staff told us it was being looked into.  The Whitsunday LMAC is yet to have its first meeting in March 2022 and this is the forum where we are hoping to progress this proposal.

In the meantime, Johnny Gaskell has provided some fantastic images that show why we need to create a ‘go-slow’ zone over the seagrass meadow at Pigeon Island. These drone images, taken over the shallow intertidal area near Pigeon Island, show just how much marine wildlife activity there is over just one weekend. Unfortunately there was also quite a lot of ‘too close, too fast’ motorised traffic in the same area. Many thanks to Johnny for these images.

 

Clockwise from top: turtles feeding, spring – when a dugong’s mind turns to … , dugong mother & calf, 2 dugongs & calf,  dolphin mother & calf, 24 turtles circled .

The Whitsunday Regional Council has strongly supported our proposal for a Whitsundays Heart of the Reef Discovery Centre (WHRDC) by including the project in their Economic Development Draft Strategy paper. This draft document was put out for public comment last month on the Councils Your Say website and is now closed for comment.

This Draft Strategy paper was available in some local shopping centres from a pop up store as well, so we hope you were able to have “Your Say”.

Presentations of a Strategic Outline for our WHRDC proposal – a state of the art facility interpretation centre for the Great Barrier Reef to be based right here in the Whitsundays – have met with resounding success following a dozen or more presentations to the community over the past few months including schools, Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association, Coral Sea Marina, Whitsunday Coast Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Whitsunday Board.

WCC has also presented the proposal at their monthly market stalls in Airlie Beach and to date have collected 254 signatures from locals and tourists registering their strong support for the concept.  You can view details of this presentation HERE.

The centre will provide a strong edu-tourism focus for the Whitsundays attracting school age through to tertiary students. It will also be a citizen science hub for the region where volunteers can become involved in multiple projects aimed at conserving the Great Barrier Reef.  

WCC Vice President Dr Lindsay Simpson, with WCC Secretary Faye Chapman and WCC member Jonathan Peter, form the WCC sub-committee promoting this project.

“There are so many great contributions from volunteers – citizen scientists – already in our community contributing to important research on all sorts of topics such as seagrass; marine debris; turtle health and coral restoration. The idea is to showcase their projects – as well as helping to enlist more support for the contribution they make to the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef,” Dr Simpson said.  “The Centre does not aim to replicate Reef HQ Townsville, which is the world’s largest living coral aquarium but instead focus on the reef from its inception to now and the important role of Traditional Owners, the sea-going Ngaro people. The centre will highlight all the challenges the Great Barrier Reef faces including climate change and encourage everyone to jump on board to help confront these challenges.’’

If you are like most people, you probably put renewal notices in the “do later” folder and hope that it takes care of itself. 

The subscription is either too much so you decide not to renew, or too little so you feel you can’t be bothered and that it won’t make any difference anyway.

Have a look our Treetops webpage and go to the bottom of the list to find Charlie Pickering takes on Alan (cash for comments) Jones over his famous “grain of rice” Australia is too small to make a difference on climate change.

Each subscription to WCC is like that grain of rice, not just in monetary terms but in terms of building an effective force that will get your voice heard by governments at all levels.  We ask only for a $1 but having you as a member makes us a million dollar force for environmental awareness.

But there is more to it.  The federal government makes it hard for charitable environmental organisations to exist in Australia.  We are bogged down in red tape and membership numbers is one of them.

So please, make your membership worth a million dollars and renew as soon as you get the renewal notice.

Many thanks