Is There A Lax Attitude To Law Enforcement On Bribe? Why Are So Many Laws Not Enforced?

In the late 2000’s, SEQWater (the provider of bulk water in SEQld) advised that the predicted increase in water demand caused by the population growth in the Sunshine Coast area and north would exceed supply by around 2030. SEQWater concluded that there were no options for new dams in the area and therefore this increased demand would have to be met by options that do not rely on rainfall. SEQWater chose a new desalination plant as its favoured supply option and outlined some possible locations. These possible locations included Bribie Island.

In the 2008 State Election, the location of this proposed desalination plant became quite an election issue. Right from the start of the campaign, the Greens candidate (Ian Bell) came out strongly against any suggestion that such a plant be on Bribie. The LNP candidate (Shane Moon) supported the Bribie location suggesting it might be able to be powered by renewables. The Bribie location was aggressively supported by a vocal Woorim group that counted Cr Gary Parsons as one of its strong supporters. Late in the election campaign, the ALP candidate (Carryn Sullivan) came out against the Bribie location and some of her election signs are attached. For some odd reason, those signs were in green and not the normal ALP red.

In the middle of this debate, the then Shadow Minister for Environment said Bribie was the obvious place for such a plant because…… “nobody lives on Bribie”. People do live on Bribie, so that was clearly incorrect. Did she mean…. “Do what you like. Its OK. Its Bribie. Nobody that matters lives on Bribie”?

Does that attitude exist today in the various law enforcement agencies? Why do we see such a reluctance to enforce the law? Consider these examples:

ILLEGAL FISHING AT KAKADU BIRD SANCTUARY:

A multitude of signs at the Kakadu Bird Sanctuary clearly show fishing is prohibited and severe penalties apply. See the attached photos of some of that signage. But residents in that area comment that people regularly trespass into that area and fish illegally as shown in the attached photo. They further claim that there is no point reporting these offences to MBRC Bylaws. If MBRC Bylaws respond, residents say, offenders are just given warnings. Even repeat offenders. Is MBRC Bylaws saying to these offenders …….. “Do what you like. Its OK. Its Bribie. Nobody that matters lives on Bribie”

4WD’ing ON BRIBIE’S BEACHES ABOVE HIGH TIDE:

Bribie’s beaches were declared a “highway” around 2008 without any environmental impact assessment which should have been undertaken for such a major change in usage. As a result of these changes, the Transport Operations (Road Use Management – Road Rules) Regulation now allows beach driving on Bribie’s beaches. That change allowed campers to lawfully access the beach camp sites that had been established at the northern end of Bribie at that time.

Prior to 2008, the traffic volumes on Bribie’s beaches were extremely small. It was almost entirely restricted to local fishermen working in that area during the season, and local 4WD owners. But 2008 changed all that. Rangers from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services (QPWS) estimate that +65,000 vehicles travelled onto the beaches in 2018. There is no cap on the number of permits issued for beach travel, and access is allowed onto the beaches 24/7. None of the other eastern States allows such unrestricted access. Beach driving is banned altogether in Victoria and severely restricted in other Staes.

There is quite a deal of confusion where 4WD’ers can legally drive. Various senior QPWS staff have advised MBI that 4WD’ers must stay below Highest Astronomical Tide (HAT). The “Driving on Sand Safety Guide” on the QPWS website advises drivers to …. “travel at low tide or two hours either side of low tide”…and…”stay on the harder sand between the waterline and the high tide mark”. A Department of Environment spokesperson on the attached newspaper article says …. “All vehicles are to stay on formed tracks and drive along the beach below the high tide line”. But all of these interpretations are just guidelines. They are not the law.

MBI understands the law says….. “stay off vegetated areas”… and this is enforced by QPWS as … “stay off the dunes”. It means that 4WD’s can drive on the fore-dune areas at any time. In the natural cycle, vegetation would grow out from the main dunes and stabilise the sand in that foredune during the winter dune-building period. The fore-dune then acts as a “reservoir” of sand to protect the main dunes during the summer erosion period. But with 4WD’s driving over that area winter and summer, the fore-dune area is left very compromised and prone to erosion. This is one of the major contributors to the erosion in that area that we see today.

The Minister for Environment insists there will be no change to the current 24/7 unrestricted access. This decision ignores the mountain of research (some of it from the State Government’s own scientists) that says that all 4WD’ing will result in permanent downgrading of the beach areas. An example is the research or Sargent and others that was presented at the Coast to Coast Conference her in Brisbane. That work can be seen at https://bit.ly/2FRXb35 . The Minister also chooses to ignore the significant community resistance to the practise. This decision also ignores the knowledge of her own key staff that the law, as it is currently enforced, gives little or no protection to the beach area or threatened fauna in it. But is the Minister receiving the correct advice from those around her who are supposed to give advice? As Alan Macsporran QC (from the Crime and Conduct Commission) says in his report into the recent Jackie Trad fiasco…… “Bureaucrats are employed … to give fearless and frank advice about things… their advice should be given objectively, independently, and on its merits”… Is this advice being given to the Minister by those knowledgable individuals who are employed to give that advice? Or are they ignoring their responsibility for fear of being dismissed for disagreeing? Or are they giving advice and it is just being ignored by the Minister and her senior staff?

Or are they all saying ….. “Do what you like. Its OK. Its Bribie. Nobody that matters lives on Bribie”

NOISE FROM CONCERTS AT SANDSTONE POINT TAVERN:

The public was first made aware of plans for this Tavern when details were lodged in May 2012 just after the 2012 local government elections. In evidence some years later to the Crime and Conduct Commission, Tavern owners commented that they had been working on the project for many years before it was formally submitted. The original submission can be viewed from the link https://bit.ly/3gY7hwb There had been some considerable debate during that 2012 election about rumours of a proposed Tavern. Given that it had been in the planning stage for many years, it is difficult to understand how then-councillor Gary Parsons could say that such a tavern could never be built on that site and his opponent was just mischief-making. Cr Parsons comments to the press can be seen at https://bit.ly/2WmQYRH

The Tavern, like all businesses in Queensland that serve alcohol and/or have gambling on the premises, operates under the laws and guidelines set out by the State Government’s Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR). These laws and guidelines give a framework under which businesses and can carry out their operations in an understandable and orderly and safe manner. These laws and guidelines are also intended to protect the public from undue negative impacts of those businesses. One of the guidelines set out by OLGR is the permitted noise levels.

Some years ago, Sandstone Point Tavern submitted to OLGR that the OLGR’s permitted noise levels were really intended for indoor entertainment and not for the outdoor concerts that the Tavern was starting to organise. The Tavern submitted that if its stage area were to be removed from the permitted licensed area, then the OLGR noise guidelines would not apply. OLGR agreed to this tenuous argument and agreed that noise levels under those circumstances would be a matter for MBRC to establish and enforce. In agreeing to this submission, OLGR effectively walked away from its responsibilities to protect the public from excessive noise.

Following this agreement by OLGR, the Tavern submitted a revised Development Application to MBRC to cover the staging of outdoor concerts. A copy of the assessment of this DA can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2FTcTId. The key section of this DA (as far as noises is concerned) is Section 8(a) which states that noise must not exceed ……….. “70 dB(A) (measured as LAeq adj where T is no greater than 5 mins)”. Translated, this means that over any measured period up to five minutes (maximum), noise levels cannot exceed 70 decibels.

MBRC interprets this to mean that the AVERAGE noise level over any five minute measurement period cannot exceed 70 decibels. Not true, says the noise consultant to one of the local community groups opposing any increase in the number of concerts at the Tavern. Their noise consultant says it is quite clear that noise levels cannot exceed 70 decibels over ANY chosen time period up to five minutes. If the chosen time period is 0.1 seconds (the time period for the very heavy base guitar noise) then the allowable noise is still 70 decibels. Seeing these very heavy base noises are in excess of 70 decibels over that short time period, the consultant argues, they are in violation of Section 8(a) of the DA. MBRC refuses to accept that position and claims that Section 8(a) allows for an averaging of the noise levels. Does Section 8(a) allow for any averaging as claimed by MBRC? Or is MBRC, like OLGR, walking away from its responsibilities to protect the public?

Adding to the confusion on allowable noise levels, the Pumicestone Passage area adjacent to the Tavern is a Marine Park and comes under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment and Science (DES). Pumicestone Passage is also protected under the Federal Government’s Ramsar Agreement and the Ramsar legislation such as the EPBC Act. This protective legislation has its own noise guidelines that DES is responsible for monitoring and enforcing. But MBI has been unable to determine if DES has made any effort to monitor and/or enforce the noise guidelines it is responsible for.

Are DES and MBRC and OLGR all saying….. “Do what you like. Its OK. Its Bribie. Nobody that matters lives on Bribie”

What do MBI readers think? Are these law enforcement agencies, that are supposed to be protecting the public and our environment, all saying…. “Do what you like. Its OK. Its Bribie. Nobody that matters lives on Bribie” ? Do readers have any other examples of lax enforcement they wish to share? Or are readers satisfied with the current level of law enforcement ?

Editor
MyBribieIsland

ATTACHMENTS

Photo #1:   Election signs in 2008 of Carryn Sullivan – the then Pumicestone MP. Note that the “No De-Sal” signs are in green  ( https://bit.ly/33pZnaX )

Photo #2:  Illegal fishing at Kakadu Bird Sanctuary at Banksia Beach. To get to this point, anglers would have had to walk past multiple signs warning this was a “No Fishing” area and that fines apply  (https://bit.ly/2Gfduau)
Photo #3:  One of the signs that anglers would have to walk past to get to their illegal fishing spots at Kakadu  (https://bit.ly/3cRYZoV)
Photo #4:  Another sign advising that penalties apply for illegal entry  (https://bit.ly/36tW0S8)

Photo #5:  Another sign that anglers have to pass to get to their illegal fishing spots. Local residents say there is no point reporting illegal fishing  (https://bit.ly/33pxHmq)

Photo #6:  The Minister says she is not going to change the current laws regarding 4WD’ing on Bribie’s beaches. She ignores the overwhelming evidence that such driving causes irrevocable downgrading. Queensland is the only State allowing 24/7 beach driving with no control on numbers  (https://bit.ly/3illd3C)

Photo #7:  2019 Australia Day but it could be any day during the summer holidays. Residents say these out-of-control numbers have made the beaches quite unsafe. How on earth can this be legal?  And how on earth can supposedly knowledgeable individuals say this is not causing any downgrading of the beaches?  Staff at the nearby Fisheries research facility say that during the summer months, 4WD’ers can be heard all night long on the beach  (https://bit.ly/3lceX06)

Photo #8:  Signage on the access trail to the beach. MBI is advised this sign is not enforced. So why is it there?  (https://bit.ly/30vD4Pk)

Photo #9:  Illegal overnight campers on the beach packing up. These campers know they can ignore the “No Camping” signs as they are not enforced  (https://bit.ly/3nfpPMs)

Photo #10:  4WD’ers along the toe of the dune. QPWS advise this is totally legal as they are not driving on “vegetated” areas. During the winter months, this part of the dune should be stabilised by vegetation growing out from the main dune. That sand then helps protect the main dune during the summer erosion period.  This part of the dune is also turtle nesting habitat. Any nests that might be laid there will be quickly destroyed.  (https://bit.ly/34itP64)

Photo #11:  Showing some of the clearing undertaken by QPWS to widen the beach access road. This is National Park. MBI was under the impression that part of QPWS’s role was to protect National Parks. Not knock them down.  (https://bit.ly/30v7nFF)

Photo #12:  Local residents showing their frustration.  (https://bit.ly/30tRKhE)

Photo #13:  Concert at Sandstone Point Tavern.  Various estimates put this crowd between 10,000 and 15,000.  MBRC approved these concerts even though the Tavern did not submit a traffic management plan with the Development Application for more concerts.  Photo is taken from SPT website  (https://bit.ly/2SoPvIk)

 

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