Tuesday, 30 June 2009

FOSI President’s Report (mid 2009)

In the last year the global economic crisis together with new scientific predictions of the rapid escalation of global warming are factors that have radically altered most people’s world view. I am sure most FOSI members consider the island much more in a global context than we did only a year ago.

The implications for North Stradbroke Island, already suffering environmental harm from inappropriate development, sand mining and water extraction, and very nearly an oil spill, become ever more unpredictable.

Sea level rises, extreme weather events, mining companies ever more fixated on the bottom line and searching for profitable activities, and developers with the same problem, a larger population in Redlands drawing on the aquifer – all these are potential impacts on our poor island.

FOSI’s activities over 2008 included involvement in two legal cases. One involved CRL’s attempts to quarry huge volumes of sand from the island (around 500,000 tonnes per annum) for the construction industry and trucking it through Dunwich. We feel strongly that this is inappropriate as it would extend the life of extractive industries on the island for many decades to come and otherwise conflicts with preserving the island for future generations. The other case was that of a development application for residences in Mooloomba Road that did not comply with the Redlands Planning Scheme for Point Lookout. Both cases have involved a huge commitment of time by our legal team , and in the planning case by our town planning advisors. We thank all of them for their generous contributions.

The sand case
After Redland City Council unanimously rejected mining company CRL’s sand export development application in a dramatic council meeting where many members of the public were able to speak, CRL launched an appeal in the Planning and Environment Court. FOSI, SIMO and others have joined the Council as co- respondents in defending the decision. Just prior to Easter preliminary points, including a Native Title issue, were heard in the court. The points were argued by our legal representatives in the court with a large number of our supporters in the gallery. This matter is ongoing and we may not receive a decision for a couple of months.

During the election campaign FOSI and SIMO wrote to our local member to raise a number of issues surrounding this case such as the State Government’s granting of a permit under the Forestry Act to sell the sand to CRL.

This permit was granted without any public consultation, although dependent on Planning Approval by the RCC. After no response was received from our sitting member, Mr Weightman, FOSI and SIMO and Quandamooka distributed a jointly-signed flyer to members and residents to garner some help in writing to the government. Quite a few members emailed and faxed strong letters to Mr Weightman and Premier Bligh. The permit became a minor election issue and we eventually received responses from both politicians expressing views that were encouraging, although making no definite commitments.

What we want is for the State Government to withdraw the permit and not amend any leases to facilitate storage and loading of the sand onto barges. We are still pursuing this as there would be no need for a court case if this original decision to grant the permit was rescinded, or the government announced that it will not amend the Dunwich leases. 


The Mooloomba Road Appeal
The Mooloomba Road Appeal has been adjourned after an agreement was reached with the developers. They will submit fresh plans, which comply with the Redlands Planning Scheme’s set back and landscaping requirements. Provided that occurs, we will withdraw the appeal. 

CRL
Paul Vekselstein has attended CRL’s EWG (Environmental Working Group) meetings as FOSI’s representative. His technical understanding has been invaluable to FOSI and also to SIMO. The landform criteria continued as an issue this year. Last June a meeting was held where CRL explained the landform criteria on the EPA’s behalf. These criteria are the framework that CRL and the EPA have used to approve re-contouring of the dunes post-mining. FOSI believes these new landforms are inappropriate, as they have little resemblance to the original dunes and cut across natural drainage lines. The criteria may have been poorly explained but reasons why the EPA did approve it were not given. We have continued communication with the EPA on the issue only to receive what we consider unsatisfactory responses. It has been suggested to FOSI that the criteria will be unenforceable by the EPA down the track.

Now some information from the EWG meetings: CRL has completed its perched lakes investigation into the possible effects of mining and related activities on all the lakes that it has mined close to. The results are preliminary and dictate that additional work, such as modelling, needs to be undertaken. More lakes may have been damaged. The repair of the drained Lake Kounpee is currently being tested with the availability of more water and all indications are that it is not leaking. The final test results will be available mid-year.

The Yarraman mine has passed the Yarraman Valley and is heading towards Fisherman’s Road and Point Lookout. Yarraman Valley is still being constructed. CRL is evaluating the Enterprise North resource to determine if it will move the Yarraman rig there after Yarraman is completed in a few years time. According to CRL , Enterprise North is CRL’s last viable resource.

The latest EWG meeting dealt with the Koala Study results. The island Koalas are interestingly genetically different from those found on the mainland. However, their survival is not seen to be under the same dire threat as those on the mainland in the Redlands region. 

Unimin
Unimin’s activities have been under greater scrutiny in the past year. The Commonwealth and the EPA found a number of deficiencies in the company’s draft Environmental Studies Report, which Unimin took most of last year to properly address. This resulted in improved protection, and a much improved monitoring and reporting regime. The first Community Consultative Committee meeting was held in late April and was attended by FOSI representatives. 

Redland City Council
FOSI has attended a number of consultations with the Mayor and council officers on issues such as the Holiday Letting Code, litter and rubbish collection and the Point Lookout Reserve.

FOSI had the reserve listed under the Queensland Heritage Act some years ago. We also commissioned a study on the reserve, which we provided to Council. Little action has come from this. Although Bushcare has greatly improved many areas in its 10 years of hard work, the council has yet to complete a management plan for the reserve as required by the Act. We hope this will be achieved soon.

A Weed Management Study was recently completed. This is a welcome advance as now as well as providing a guide for Bushcare and council workers, it will provide guidance for a team of young people from the indigenous community who will soon begin a training program involving restoration work in the reserve.

Other issues that have been raised with council include the community hall, a new sewage treatment plant and the inconsistent enforcement of the planning scheme.

Cylinder Beach is however back on the council’s agenda and FOSI needs to resume examination of the latest moves to redo the car park there. 

Chamber Music Festival
The Stradbroke Chamber Music Festival was held for the second time last year with FOSI’s sponsorship and the great musical talents and organising abilities of member Rachel Smith. Thank you to Rachel and also Jani Haenke for their contributions towards the success of this wonderful addition to the cultural life of the island. We hope it will be an annual event. 

FOSI newsletter Our last two newsletters have been distributed electronically, which has enabled us to circulate some wonderful colour photographs to members. Thanks to Janita Cunnington for her editorship.

Thank you
Thank you to all the committee for their work in the past year. Particular thanks to Edith McPhee for keeping the organisational cogs turning and for keeping in touch with members. Also thank you to a number of members who made generous donations to help finance our court cases which included the employment of a landscape architect on the planning case. Few community environment groups have the resources of expertise and financial backing that FOSI has been able to call on.