Whitsunday Conservation Council

News from the Treetops

  Mar & Apr 2022                                                                                                              Whitsunday Conservation Council Inc

In this Edition                                                                        click on the > toggle headline to read more

What do La Nina and Coral Bleaching have in common? Nothing! … until this year.

The Reef is currently experiencing a mass bleaching event in the middle of a cooler, La Nina cycle.  This has never happened before and is likely to lead to an “in danger” listing when UNESCO meets in June. 

Please enjoy our Treetops newsletter and read more about this critical event below

To date, 2022 has been a pretty tough year for the Great Barrier Reef. There are three significant events to consider that will play an important role in the future of the Reef.

  1. La Nina
  2. Coral bleaching (read more about coral bleaching here)
  3. Reef In danger

Divers holding a sign underwater on the Great Barrier Reef, near bleached coral [photo Greenpeace]

Coral bleaching – The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has just confirmed the Reef has been hit with a sixth mass coral bleaching event, with recent aerial surveys showing almost no reefs across a 1,200km stretch escaping the heat. That’s 4 major bleaching events in the past 6 years. The Reef needs 10-15 years to recover from a serious bleaching event.

La Nina – We are in the midst of a La Niña weather pattern, which usually brings cooler temperatures, as well as cloud and rain, and protects the reef from bleaching. But not this year because global warming, fuelled by the burning of fossil fuels, has caught up with us. Now, even a cool year is too hot for the Reef.

The most recent IPCC report makes it very clear, that if we don’t significantly bring down carbon emissions by 2030, we will be seeing annual bleaching events by 2044.

Reef in danger – the UNESCO reactive monitoring team has recently visited the Reef to gauge its health and determine whether it should be listed in danger. Probably an unnecessary trip. The Reef is in danger. No amount of government spin can change that.

But the government continues to push back against an in danger listing as it will expose their total lack of effective climate policy.

Given that the greatest threat to the future health of the Reef is climate change, declaring the Reef in danger is the best way to protect it. Climate change requires a collaborative, worldwide effort to combat it. The “in danger” listing will bring the focus of Australia and the world onto the Reef and together we can protect it.

We have only a decade to get our house in order by rapidly transitioning from coal and gas to clean energy like wind and solar in order to bring carbon emissions down. If we truly care about the future of the Great Barrier Reef, we must hold our government accountable and insist that Australia develops an effective climate policy.

Scott Morrison arrives at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in 2021.  Initially he couldn’t be bothered attending and Australia was the only major developed country that failed to pledge stronger emissions reductions by 2030 in the lead-up to or during COP26.

The Climate Council has assessed the Federal Government’s climate performance over the past eight years in detail and finds there’s been a complete and catastrophic failure to act on the climate crisis.

A lack of climate action at the national level is a defining leadership failure of the past eight years. Australians are living with the everyday consequences of this and we must work quickly to prevent catastrophe.

The Federal Government has covered up poor performance with misleading claims, dubious accounting and censorship.

Australia’s next government must adopt credible climate policies as a matter of extreme urgency. This includes transparent and accurate reporting of Australia’s climate performance.

Read the Report here

What is the Whitsunday Climate Change Innovation Hub?

The Whitsunday Climate Change Innovation Hub is an initiative of Whitsunday Regional Council and is the only one of its kind in the country. The Climate Hub’s main focus is to develop innovative, practical solutions to help the Whitsunday region manage the impacts of climate change, both present and future. In doing so, the Hub acts as a think tank to gather and share knowledge with the community to build resilience in our region, and throughout Australia and across the globe.

The goals of the Climate Hub include:

  • Be valuable to the Whitsunday and global community for the services the Hub Provides  
  • Enable our community to be a leader in climate change mitigation 
  • Aid the Whitsunday community to proactively prepare for Climate Change
  • Deliver innovative solutions that are practical, feasible, affordable and can be implemented by our community today
  • Attract the world’s leading climate change practitioners, researchers and solution providers to work within our community  
  • Share the Hub’s research and findings often, to build momentum for climate change mitigation and adaptation world-wide

The Climate Hub works with Councils, State and Federal Government agencies, research organisations and the community to identify projects that will facilitate change or provide knowledge. 

Your WCC sits on the Whitsunday Regional Council appointed advisory board for this project.

Climate Hub Projects

The Climate Hub focuses on a variety of projects that provide the greatest benefit to the Whitsunday community. A key project designed to mitigate climate change and protect the Reef is the Whitsunday Healthy Heart Project.

This project was developed to decarbonise the local tourism sector, whilst achieving Sustainable Destination accreditation for the region. 

The aims of this collaborative four-year project are to:

  • Improve collaboration on climate change mitigation in the region 
  • Build resilience to climate change
  • Recruit a minimum of 80 tourism operators / related businesses to actively measure and reduce their carbon footprint
  • Make the Whitsundays a certified Sustainable Destination
  • Define barriers to decarbonisation and identify real-life solutions
  • Create green marketing opportunities 
  • Enhance recovery from COVID-19

Climate Hub Events

The Climate Hub organises and runs regular public events (free) that support the community’s efforts to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change. The most recent event, billed the Green Electricity Event, presented the latest local renewable energy options available to reduce your environmental footprint. 

The event included speakers from:

Edify – Whitsunday Solar Farm and power-purchase-agreements (PPA)

Ergon – Clean energy program for home and business

Green Energy Technologies – The business case for solar in the home and business

There is plenty of opportunity for individuals to get involved in the Climate Hub.

For more information on the Climate Hub, visit their website at: Homepage – Whitsunday Climate Change Innovation Hub (whitsundayrc.qld.gov.au)

At our regular monthly stall at the Airlie Beach markets, 25 March 22, Whitsunday Conservation Council (WCC) found that hardly anyone knew that Whitsunday Regional Council (WRC) had a consultation in place or had any idea that they had an option to change how Whitsunday regional councillors were elected.

WRC added an “Electoral Arrangements Consultation” to their “Have Your Say” webpage where, reportedly, the time-consuming registration process has deterred many would be responders.  However, it was your WCC that had to remind the WRC to actually put the submission up on their website, allowing only 12 days before expiry!

This happened shortly after councils meeting 9 March 22 when a recommendation NOT to consult with the community on Electoral matters was presented. One reason given: “Lack of interest from the community in the subject matter.” (Agenda Item 13.2.3 Risk Assessment)

Fortunately, due to pressure from people who had been waiting for this consultation to take place since a Council vote 12th May 2021, the recommendation to delay consultation for two more years was not voted through.

But other than the information included on the “Have Your Say” webpage, inclusion in the Council’s usual Public Notices p25 Whitsunday News 23 March 22 and a WRC Facebook post, it seems there was little effort made by Council to make the public aware of this important matter. 

So it was left it to your WCC and local community groups to alert the Whitsunday community that change is possible.

If 70% of Queensland councils, including Mackay, are undivided, why isn’t Whitsunday?

At present, a Whitsunday resident can only vote for one councillor in their own council division. Whitsunday has six separate council divisions.  We can’t vote for the other five councillors.  But they can, and do, vote on serious matters affecting divisions other than their own.

With change, all six councillors will be answerable to the whole community and not just their own local support group. All candidates will need to make themselves known to the entire community and convince us that they should be one of the six who become councillors by gaining the most votes across the whole Whitsunday region.

Your WCC considers the change to an undivided region would result in better outcomes for our natural environment and community enjoyment.  We provided our website to support this consultation as a community project.

The consultation period ended 30 March 22 and results are expected to be reported to the WRC at their next meeting 13 April 2022. 

We will update this page as soon as results are to hand.

“The balance between the right to peaceful protest and allowing reckless behaviour that causes harm to many people is important in any democracy. This bill does not get the balance right.  Many charities are concerned that their capacity to call out governments doing the wrong thing will be impeded if they cannot protest, or if any assembly of people can be prosecuted and incur severe penalties including jail time because they are blocking a road.  We urge the government to reconsider this legislation to ensure peaceful protests can still take place.”  Rev Tim Costello AO

The federal and state governments’ continued encroachment into our rights governing free speech and peaceful protest are in line with other countries that are trying to stifle the voice of the people and replace it with state sanction propaganda.

The Whitsunday Conservation Council strives to be apolitical but cannot see any benefit from just sitting on our hands.  The federal government is clearly skewed towards the continued use of fossil fuels and we are against that in our work on climate change awareness and the urgent need for action. 

We see the thin end of the wedge and are concerned for our future as a charitable association and your future as individuals to speak out against those that support the continued use of fossil fuels and the death and destruction that they cause. 

Here is a link to a media release from the Human Rights Law Centre and and another to an open letter from 39 charities, including your Whitsunday Conservation Council.

See more about this man and his control over our news and views on our Treetops page

WHITSUNDAY COMMUNITY SAYS NO TO HIGH RISE ON THEIR FORESHORE

The controversial 47mtr building approval given by the Whitsunday Regional Council 24 Nov21 to Meridien AB Pty Ltd (Port of Airlie) has seen the community rally together as never before.  

Despite 2451 submissions made against the proposal, none in favour,  5 councillors, none from Airlie Beach,  approved the 12 story (47mtr) tower in a 3-5 story zone, massively outvoting the single Airlie Beach councillor objecting to the proposal.  

The second councillor from the Airlie Beach/Cannonvale region was not able to vote as Council declared he had a conflict of interest after a family member submitted an objection to the development.  Both councillors opposed to the high rise have decades of experience in the tourism industry, whereas none of the other 5 councillors have any 

As soon as legally advised, and having no other options, WCC member and long running community group Save Our Foreshore Inc (SOF) launched the community action against the Council in the Planning and Environment (P&E) Court.  SOF has successfully defended Airlie Beach and the wider region against 2 previous Airlie Beach public foreshore landgrabs and stopped a dangerous and polluting open cut shale oil mine on the Whitsunday coast and Goorganga Wetlands.

BACKGROUND: This 47mtr development is part of the Port of Airlie project; a State Significant development from the 1980’s-2000’s that since 2011 has been in receivership. 

During the long approval process for this project, which would see the loss of an environmentally significant marine habitat replaced with a dredged marina and filled in bay for a commercial and housing suburb on the seabed, the community was widely consulted. 

Acknowledging there would be negative impacts on visual amenity – in other words the views from properties on the slopes and surrounds of the bay –   the Queensland Government finally approved the development with a maximum of 3-5 stories in that foreshore area.  Not 12 stories that Whitsunday Council has approved and now subject to an appeal process from SOF in the P&E Court.

This developer, in receivership, also laid claim to a parcel of public parkland to create a wide access road to this high-rise tower, instead of the pedestrian walkway originally approved by the Qld Co-ordinator General. This will become a public road to nowhere, funded by ratepayers, only providing access to the high-rise and any other subsequent developments on this Port of Airlie site.

Something is Very Wrong!

How can a Council’s planning department support a development that attracted 2451 objections; is so far outside the town plan’s guidelines, and at odds with Airlie Beach’s renowned low-rise, village atmosphere tourism image?   And all with apparently with no tourist industry consultation. 

The region’s planning documents do recommend that a ‘premium’ hotel in Airlie Beach is needed for the future. But as widely known and appreciated by the tourist industry and anyone else, except it seems the majority of Whitsunday councillors, current expectations for premium hotels, especially in a world renown picturesque location like Airlie Beach, are hardly compatible with, nor dependent on such a “premium” hotel being built as a high-rise tower block!

People can’t miss the large highway and Shute Harbour signs showing what we were promised and what Council has approved.  

There are also banners on buildings around Airlie Beach.

These billboard signs and banners are made possible by the massive community and business support SOF has received.

The appeal to the Planning and Environment Court vs Whitsunday Regional Council will be an expensive process but like our billboards SOF is confident of continuing community and business support.

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.  Or direct deposits can be made to National Australia Bank BSB 084501  Account 575807657  Name Save Our Foreshore IncAll SOF Inc. committee members are unpaid volunteers.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to date.  Updates can be found on the FaceBook page and Members & Supporters newsletters.   Please contact SOF on saveourforeshore@whitsunday.net.au if you would like to join or support in any way.          Save Our Foreshore Inc, President Suzette Pelt

SOF BACKGROUND and why we should be proud of their work

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. 

The community should not have to repeatedly remind our mayor and councillors to listen to the community.  It questions their honesty with the community and their much touted transparency.  It says a lot about the level of leadership and diligence of the Whitsunday Regional Council.

The terms of reference of this inquiry appear to be framed around the assumption that the resorts would be thriving if it weren’t for Government regulation. The Whitsunday Conservation Council respectfully submits that the reasons for failure are due to a complex mix of other factors. Government support for development and refurbishment of resorts cannot make them survive if the markets, climate change and logistical difficulties dictate otherwise.

Read our submission here.

The AGM on March 21st was a success with six committee members back in harness and new member Bronwyn Calder replacing Eric Oliver, who will be interstate for much of this year.  About twenty members had a get together afterwards and felt enthused for the year ahead.

Covid caused a lot of apologies and hopefully we will see less concern next year.

If you would like to read our President’s Report you can download it here.

If you haven’t asked that question, then it is time that you did because the answer is frightening.
 
At Whitsunday Conservation we try not to get involved with politics – unless it impacts on our environmental work and here it certainly does.  The Great Barrier Reef is in danger because the fossil fuel lobby has a stranglehold over our energy future.  Federal grants for water quality are good news but of limited effect if we continue to pollute and heat up the planet.  We need to get the horse before the cart.
 
Read more on our project page.  You can also search for ABC programmes covering this threat to democracy and our environment.
 

RESIDENTS TRAFFIC ACTION     5 April 2022

Finally, after two months RTA received a reply on 16 March 2022 from Neil Scales Director-General Department of Transport and Main Roads via an automated NoReply address!!

The letter was basically another brush off of our community, with no effort to meet or consult with us, only offering for our traffic consultants to obtain “further information” from the TMR in Mackay.

None of the fourteen questions put to TMR by our traffic consultants PTT Brisbane, have been answered or even addressed.   And no offer to meet and consult with our community.

This professional report was financed by community contributions, and it is appalling that the TMR DG Neil Scales should be so dismissive of our concerns.

It is also appalling that a community should have to go to such lengths in an attempt to have TMR consult with them.

DG Scales also made mention of the complaint made several months ago to the Queensland Ombudsman.

Fortunately, the Ombudsman’s office has been more responsive, and we have been contacted by them on a couple of occasions. 

Previously Edyta Tramell, Senior Investigator, Investigation and Resolution Unit contacted us to advise that the Ombudsman’s office were going to close our initial complaint because we had, in fact, presented new documents (PTT Traffic report) to TMR at the same time as our complaint and, at the time of our conservation, that TMR had not had sufficient time to respond.

On receipt of the letter from TMR 16 March we immediately forwarded a copy of this letter from DG Neil Scales to Ms Tramell expressing our very strong objection to the dismissive way our request for consultation had been answered. 

Ms Tramell telephoned a few days later to say that following our further information she was handing this matter over to another senior investigator for further consideration and that we would hear from them in the coming weeks.

Presently, there doesn’t appear to be any work being done on site by the Dept of Transport, only that being done on the public walking and bike paths by Whitsunday Council and Amanda Camm’s office has told us that she’s unable do anything about this issue until the matter is finalised with the Queensland Ombudsman.

RTA received an email on Tuesday 5 April advising, that after further consideration, the Qld Ombudsman has decided to again forward our complaint to their Investigation and Resolution Department. So there is still a possibility that the Ombudsman will be able to get TMR to consult with RTA.

Footnote: WCC re PROTECTION MATURE TREES:

20 August 21 WCC wrote to Simon Nash Project Manager TMR requesting confirmation that a mature stand of trees, adjacent to the Big 4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort and apparently in the path of the Shute Harbour Road duplication project were not threatened.

24 Jan 22 After receiving no response the previous letter WCC wrote again.  Still no response.

28 March 22 Whitsunday Conservation Council President Jacquie Sheils wrote to Amanda Camm MP Member for Whitsunday protesting TMR’s lack of response.

To date WCC has not received a response from Ms Camm.

This photo shows that recently, leading up to the Paluma/SHR intersection, TMR has made provision to take cyclists off Shute Harbour Road and onto the adjacent footpath!

Yes, the observer did stand out in the green lane to get this photo, but she was very careful.
The turnoff is just round the Galbraith corner outside Burnups.

This footpath continues all the way beside Shute Harbour Road to past Bunnings and along to the Cannonvale hill into Airlie Beach where it stops abruptly at the top, dangerously forcing pedestrian traffic onto the road.

From Paluma to Tropic Rds, the path will be widened to 3mtrs; one section is already completed outside the Big 4 Adventure Resort.

This completely discredits TMR’s claim that a roundabout can’t be installed at Macarthur Drive because a roundabout couldn’t be built large enough to accommodate, as TMR claims, the required cycle lane.

If TMR are moving cyclists off Shute Harbour Road as far back as the Galbraith intersection and this pathway continues on alongside Shute Harbour Road all the way down past Bunnings, what’s their problem?

During discussion, several cycling members of our community told RTA that they use this path already. So why then are TMR insisting that provision is required for cyclists on Shute Harbour Road itself from Galbraith Drive to at least Stewart Drive?  This will have implications for the William Murray Drive intersection as well.

RTA will be putting this question to the Project Manager Simon Nash and in writing ccd to the Minister TMR and et al.

Apart from collecting plastic and other rubbish that we humans carelessly leave everywhere, there is a tremendous Camaraderie in Clean Up.

The two titans that we have to thank for removing thousands of tonnes of waste material are our local Eco Barge Clean Seas and Australia wide Tangaroa Blue Foundation.  Both of these wonderful organisations are featured on our We Care page.

  Please check these logo links now for news and clean up dates in your area

Digital Campaigner

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

                                                                              READ MORE

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.

RENEW HERE