News from the Treetops
Jan & Feb 2022 Whitsunday Conservation Council Inc
In this Edition click on the headline to read more
Covid strikes again!
Celebrated former High Court judge, the Hon. Michael Kirby, has very generously offered to join Mackay Conservation Group supporters on Wednesday 2nd March 2022 at 6pm to explore the topic of international human rights law and opportunities for environmental protection.
If you would like to take part in this special event, please fill in your details in the Registration Form and Mackay Conservation Group will contact you. Registration must be completed by 25 February 2022.
Immediately following the Whitsunday Regional Council’s (WRC) decision of 24 November 2021 to give preliminary approval to a non-compliant high-rise tower on the Port of Airlie foreshore, community group Save Our Foreshore Inc (SOF) slammed this decision as out of step with community and visitor’s expectations.
As the applicant, Meridien Airlie Beach P/L (Port of Airlie) is in receivership, Council has effectively given the receiver the ability to on-sell a preliminary approval allowing a developer to build an eyesore tower as high as 47m (or 12 stories plus roof infrastructure) without any further public consultation on adverse impacts, which is a criteria in the town plan.
With a Go Fund Me campaign just started, SOF has started the process to appeal Council’s decision in the Planning and Environment Court. And to confront the Queensland government with their monumental failure to take control of their own processes.
For example; a maximum 5 stories limit was set by the Queensland Coordinator General in his approval for this Port of Airlie site. This hard won decision considered public submissions from business and community on height impacts on the surrounding areas. SOF will also raise with State Government the failure of the WRC to have an open and transparent conversation with the community about building heights.
The opposition to high rise development on Airlie Beach foreshores is still strongly supported by our community. In fact, over 2000 public submissions were made AGAINST this proposed change to Airlie Beach’s historic opposition to high rise in this zone. SOF has spoken to hundreds of locals and visitors at the markets, they tell us if they wanted high rise, they’d be on the Gold Coast, not visiting Airlie Beach.
At WRC’s meeting 25 Jan 2022 Meridien AB P/L (Port of Airlie) applied to have council reduce the car parking spaces from the required 304 to 262 spaces. Council rejected this application. This means that:
1) POA now has until approximately the end of February 2022 to appeal this decision.
2) Public/community appeal against the approval for a preliminary development with a height of 47mtrs (12 storeys) cannot begin until the dispute between WRC and POA over the carparking is resolved.
Council is then obliged to contact all persons who made a submission against this development and advise them when their appeal period of 20 business days will begin. It is only then that SOF’s legal team will act and lodge our appeal with the Planning and Environment court.
Highrise is not future proofing tourism. Particularly in the post-covid era, it’s probable visitors won’t find a high-rise, high density hotel very attractive. Low-rise is the trend for 5 star developments in small nature based tourism areas.
It seems that this council, where the majority of councillors have no tourism experience and are not from Airlie Beach, is just hell bent on destroying a winning tourism and lifestyle “brand” that has taken decades of investment, hard work and community passion to create and maintain.
Taking on Council, developers and the Queensland State Government is nothing new to SOF, but we do need your support.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
DONATE HERE via the GO FUND ME – STOP AIRLIE BEACH HIGHRISE – organised by SOF President Suzette Pelt. Funds raised will help meet legal costs of the SOF appeal to the Planning and Environment Court and other campaign expenses. NB: All SOF Inc. committee members are unpaid volunteers.
REGISTER HERE with SAVE OUR FORESHORE Inc – to receive updates on when and how to assist the campaign to confront the Queensland Government.
“BTW: Our campaign is already underway with the installation of billboards on the Bruce Highway, north and south of the Airlie turn off at Proserpine and on the Shute Harbour Road. Expect to see more signage around town and other actions as we intensify our opposition to this council decision in the coming months.” Suzette Pelt, President – Save Our Foreshore Inc.
For more information please contact: Faye Chapman – Secretary – 0407 207 441
SOF became a founding community member of the Whitsunday Conservation Council in 2020, but SOF itself was formed in 2003 and successfully stopped the first private commercial high-rise proposal on the lagoon carpark public land, which is a reserve zoned for park and recreation.
It took 3.5yrs of SOF led community protest, and a review by a State Government appointed independent assessor for that first high-rise proposal to finally be rejected by an embarrassed Beattie government on the basis that it did not meet uses under the Land Act.
Since then, the public land grabs have continued in one form or another and SOF along with the community has stood up to stop them time and time again. Which does say something about the level of leadership from the Whitsunday Regional Council – the community should not have to do this.
All over Australia there are Conservation Councils working hard to convince decision makers, at all levels of government, to consider sustainable healthy environmental outcomes.
We initiated the Whitsundays Heart of The Reef Discovery Centre and continue to work with others to see the momentum continue. It is massive and will provide information, entertainment, jobs and important research.
We are working with the Regional Council to create a much needed Register of Matters of Local Environmental Significance. It’s a big job but it is needed in order to protect vegetation and habitat for threatened flora and fauna.
Our work on Great Barrier Reef Projects is full time but we are helping to make things happen. Reports and lobbying, side by side with other Conservation Councils, makes politicians commit far more than they otherwise would. The federal government’s recent $1BN funding for the GBR may be an election promise that ignores the issue of Climate Change but it is a welcome start.
There are many other projects, some not yet listed on our website, some concerning the environment and where buildings, roads and traffic, on sea and land, are in conflict with a sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle. People come here to get away from concrete and pollution and to breathe fresh air.
We have helped people to be aware of inappropriate town planning and to voice their concerns. Planning is something that we seem to have abandoned in the Whitsundays. Our councillors clearly side with developers in a way that is disturbing and bad for the future of how we enjoy our greenspace.
Bad planning affects our tourism brand and tourist carrying capacity. This in turn adversely affects jobs and the opportunity to enjoy the unique lifestyle that is Airlie Beach.
Our website and Saturday Airlie Markets stall and Green Room promote the many specialised environmental groups working hard in our community. We need them and they need you to help with everything from animal welfare to rubbish collection and re-cycling.
We offer a pro-active forum for blogs and ideas from our members.
All this has been achieved in just over a year and shows how dedicated to conservation we are and how much our work is needed. So, please look at our website and the projects. Join as a member or renew. We ask for only a dollar but as a financial member you send a clear message that You Care.
Keep an eye on your inbox for the invitation. Don’t forget to whitelist our email@example.com email address or it may get spammed.
Not a member or you forgot to renew? Visit our CONTACT tab where you can join or renew an expired membership.
See you there.
You know that an election is drawing near when politicians start making promises that they can’t keep or, at best, shouldn’t keep.
Moth-balled Collinsville station surrounded by solar panels!
Case in point – the proposal for a new coal-fired power station for Collinsville. A few politicians, including our current Whitsunday mayor, Andrew Wilcox, are touting this project as necessary for regional jobs and cheap energy when, in fact, it will produce very few jobs and actually push energy prices up. As well, it will require tax payer support just to get off the ground because no private investor will touch it.
More to the point, many of these coal-fired power station supporters don’t seem to understand the connection between burning coal, global warming and mass coral bleaching.
The recent IPCC report makes it very clear that unless we reduce our carbon emissions significantly over the next decade, we will exceed 1.5 degrees of global warming perhaps as early as 2035. This will likely result in the loss of virtually all coral reefs across the world.
The writing is on the wall. This is not the time to be promoting a new coal-fired power station. In fact, we must phase out coal over the next decade or we phase out the Great Barrier Reef. This is not rhetoric. This is science and one’s political ideology will not change it.
Our politicians cannot have it both ways. They either support the Reef or they support a doomed industry that will, in time, destroy the Reef. Think about that at the next election.
This is an egregious example of how the powerful fossil fuel lobby uses our politicians to fill their coffers and destroy our world.
It simply does not stack up! Check these links for more information:
On December 21, 2021, the Australian Government released its long awaited and updated Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan 2021-2025. Unfortunately, the plan falls short in many areas, but most glaringly it fails to adequately address the most serious of threat to the Reef; climate change.
The updated Reef 2050 Plan…
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has made it very clear that the greatest threat to the Reef is climate change.
The updated Plan does little to address climate change except to include the Australian and Queensland government’s weak 2030 emissions reduction targets of 26-28% and 30%, respectively. This will do nothing to protect the Reef.
The science clearly shows that we need to hold global warming to 1.5C to give coral reefs a fighting chance to survive into the future. The Reef 2050 Plan should highlight how Australia must do its fair share of limiting warming by committing to a significantly larger emissions reduction target now.
The plan needs to also address the root cause of global warming – burning of fossil fuels. The plan should be calling for no new fossil fuel projects and to phase out coal as soon as possible.
It should be noted that earlier this year, the World Heritage Committee called on the Australian government to commit to accelerate action “at all possible levels” to address the threat of climate change. The climate policy detailed in the updated Reef 2050 Plan would fail to meet this call so an ‘in Danger’ listing was a strong possibility.
Some good news (with caveats) …
Poor water quality has long been a significant problem of the Reef. The updated plan includes some additional measures to address water pollution, outlining how existing investment commitments to improve the quality of water flowing from farms and grazing properties into the Reef will be allocated.
Unfortunately, the amount earmarked is still significantly short of the estimated $4bn needed to meet water quality targets agreed to by the Queensland and Australian governments.
The updated plan also makes some welcome progress on illegal and unsustainable fishing practices, including actions to improve the health of fish stocks, implement independent monitoring of commercial fishing operations and introduce measures to reduce interactions with iconic protected species like dugongs and turtles.
However, many of these actions are already running years behind schedule under the Queensland Sustainable Fisheries Strategy and require immediate attention and funding to ensure they are fast-tracked and delivered
The Federal government recently announced an additional billion dollars over ten years for Reef protection, earmarked for improving water quality, reef management and research. This work will no doubt, help build much needed Reef resilience and that is good news.
More importantly, one can’t ignore that, once again, the government has ignored the greatest threat to the future health of the reef…climate change. And no amount of money earmarked for Reef resilience programs can stave off the brutal impacts of climate change; marine heatwaves, severe storm events, flooding and sea level rise.
Time is not on our side. We are already at 1.2 degrees of global warming. The science has made it very clear that we need to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees, if reefs are to survive into the future. This can only be done by significantly cutting carbon emissions this decade, no new coal or gas projects and phasing out coal as a source of energy. Yet, this government is choosing to invest more public money on expanding the coal and gas industries which will certainly undo any good work done by even the best reef resilience programs.
It is high time that our government did the right thing by the Reef and develop a truly effective climate policy. Let’s all think about that at the upcoming election.
This report from Pekol Traffic and Transport Engineering Brisbane (PTT) was received late December and raised fourteen very crucial questions of the TMR decision making. In light of the questions raised, backed by professional data, RTA wrote to the Minister for Transport and Main Road, Mark Bailey MP 18 January 2022 advising that an urgent project review was required.
To date no response has been received from the Minister.
RTA is also meeting with Member for Whitsunday, Amanda Camm MP, to follow up on her speech made to the Queensland Parliament where she said “I urge the Minister (for Transport) to come and meet with the community and the Whitsunday Regional Council. This fundamentally changes the entrance to the Whitsundays. It fundamentally changes the ambience of what is a tourist destination. It is not acceptable. ….I urge the minister to engage”
19 January 2022 RTA lodged a complaint against TMR’s lack of consultation with the community.
28 January 2022 RTA received the following response from the Queensland Ombudsman.
“Assessment – Issue 1 – lack of community consultation
I have decided to refer issue 1 to our Investigation and Resolution Unit (IRU) for further assessment.
An IRU officer will assess the complaint and let you know the outcome of the assessment”
RTA COMMENT: This is a positive move towards getting TMR to consult with RTA and other interested community members.
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.
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.
WCC wrote again to the TMR on 24-1-22, seeking assurance regarding the protection of the large stand of mature gum trees near the culvert mentioned above. These trees are important as part of the urban food tree network for native wildlife as well as providing cooling in a warming environment for walkers and cyclists on the well-used footpath network.
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.
We’re looking for a keen volunteer to support our digital campaigns. Experience with Facebook and Instagram necessary. Most important is that you share our passion regarding a healthy and sustainable natural environment and environmental justice.
As a Digital Campaigner, you will:
- Develop engagement programs on major campaign pushes to deliver innovative and effective online campaigns
- Identify audiences and audience segments and design effective calls to action, as part of sustained user experiences across campaigns
- Contribute to developing and implementing digital strategies for online campaigning, social media and other communications
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 at 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.