It is almost a year ago to the day since MyBribieIsland was launched and readership has increased virtually every month with another monthly record achieved in January, 2013. To obtain such increasing support, MBI must be covering stories that are of interest to readers.
So for the first article for 2013, MBI gives some update and comment on the stories that were covered in 2012.
Keep checking back from time to time as we cover stories in 2013 that reflect the major issues here on Bribie.
2012 STORIES – AN UPDATE
February 3 – MBI gives its views on what will be 2012 Election Issues:
MBI outlined the following five issues as the major concerns facing Bribie:
- Decline in real estate values and resulting loss of personal worth. For many residents this could have an impact on pensions and other income
- Difficult business conditions. Many businesses have closed including a number of long-established Bribie businesses
- Cost of living increases as a result of increases in taxes and costs of government services that are well in excess of rate of inflation
- Decline in quality of life for residents. The uniqueness of Bribie Island that has attracted so many residents to come to live here is being consistently compromised by inappropriate government activities
- Lack of consultation. Major change projects are being implemented with little or no consultation with affected residents, and with little or no concern about the overall long-term impact and costs of those projects
MBI suggested that these issues should be among those central issues to be discussed during the upcoming State and Local Government campaigns. Although there was some discussion of these issues during the campaigns, sadly there was very little substance to those discussions. Although there were a few notable exceptions, there were virtually no constructive suggestions put forward on how these issues should be addressed. As is so common on the Australia political landscape these days, in far too many instances, rhetoric, spin doctoring and criticism of opponents took the place of debate and constructive suggestions during these elections. On the anniversary of the elections, MBI will look at what was promised during the elections and compare it to what has been delivered. Readers are encouraged to check back then and follow that evaluation.
March 7 – MBI asks what is happening at the Benny Street Stormwater Discharge and why
In November 2010, Council moved in and cleared a vast amount of frontal vegetation in the Erosion Control Reserve opposite Benny Street in Woorim to undertake repairs and maintenance to the storm water drain that exits in that area. The photos below show the extent of the clearing that was undertaken.
After more than two years since this project started, the project remains incomplete. Fencing remains to be completed and the vegetation that was removed is still to be replaced. A small number of replacement trees have been planted but these have struggled to survive due to lack of attention, lack of watering, and exposure to salt spray now that frontal vegetation has been removed. Some have been ringbarked – probably by personnel using whipper-snippers to mow the grass.
In November 2011, Division 1 Councillor Parsons, moved that the solution to this drainage problem should include the best of engineering standards. Unfortunately, this has not happened. The pipes have been put back the way they were. They exit beneath the Highest Astronomical Tide (HAT) level as they did before. As predicted by MBI last March, these pipes have sanded up as shown above and have become ineffective. As predicted also, the exit area of these pipes has been a focus for progressive erosion. The recent storm cycle has made matters even worse as shown below. The work will now have to be re-engineered and re-done at a future date. A new approach will be required to provide a long-term solution. It is to be hoped that Council will take the opportunity to examine the quality of the engineering advice it received on this project. It is difficult to calculate how much has been wasted on this project so far. Given all the equipment and materials and contractors and employees used, the cost would be in the order of $0.5 to $1m.
The massive removal of vegetation to make way for this project has created ocean views for some owners of real estate along Boyd Street. This is touted by some realtors as shown in the photo. Someone obviously thinks they gained something positive from this project. Taxpayers certainly obtained nothing but more costs.
March 21 – MBI interviews candidates in 2012 State Elections:
The long-serving incumbent for the Pumicestone electorate, Carryn Sullivan (ALP), was challenged by three candidates in the March elections – Lisa France (LNP), Brant King (KAP) and Jenny Fitzgibbon (Greens). To help promote discussion at election time, MBI prepared a list of questions that was sent to all candidates asking them to state their position on various issues. These responses were posted by MBI during the elections. All candidates responded except Ms France.
The election was won comfortably by Ms France – a Bribie Island realtor. Some of the priorities outlined by Ms France during the election included getting Pumicestone back to work, improving healthcare delivery at Caboolture hospital, and pushing for a second bridge to Bribie. Ms France also said that her formal qualifications in environmental science would enable her to better care for the unique and fragile environment of Bribie, and she committed that Bribie’s National Parks would be maintained and that there would be no private development in them on her watch.
As noted above, in March on the anniversary of the elections, MBI will examine the stances taken during the election and the promises made, and will evaluate what progress has been made towards achieving them.
April 17 – MBI interviews candidates in 2012 Local Government Councillor Elections
The incumbent Division 1 Councillor, Gary Parsons, was challenged by two local businessmen in the April elections – Rick Williams and Denis Johnson. To help promote discussion, MBI prepared a list of questions that was sent to all candidates and their responses were posted during the campaign. All candidates responded except Cr Parsons.
The election was won comfortably by Cr Parsons who ran on a platform of… “He’s the one you can trust”. Although he ran on a platform claiming to be “independent”, Cr Parsons received considerable support and endorsement from senior party figures such as the newly elected Member for Pumicestone who handed out his how-to-vote cards on election day at a number of polling stations.
Cr Parsons’ platform included commitments that in the next term he would ensure he would work closely with community groups, he would represent community interests at Council, he would ensure Council and its agencies worked closely and consulted with the community, he would be open and transparent in actions, and he would keep electors up to date with Council’s plans. In April on the anniversary of the elections, MBI will review Cr Parsons performance in these areas.
April 24 – MBI interviews candidates in 2012 Local Government Mayoral Elections
The incumbent Mayor, Councillor Allan Sutherland was challenged by a raft of candidates – Cr Chris Whiting, John Hall, Ian Bell, Greg Chapman and Ivan Hall. To help promote discussion on issues facing Bribie, MBI prepared a list of questions that was sent to all candidates and their responses were posted during the election campaign. All candidates responded except Mayor Sutherland and Ivan hall.
The election was won comfortably by Mayor Sutherland. Although Mayor Sutherland ran on a platform of being “independent”, like Cr Parsons he received considerable support and endorsement from senior party figures such as Premier Campbell Newman.
Mayor Sutherland made few, if any, direct commitments regarding Bribie. He campaigned on more general issues such as implementing the vision MBRC has developed for the region, ensuring good governance, listening to communities, and ensuring the growth that is going to occur in MBRC in coming decades is well planned and executed. In April on the anniversary of the election, MBI will look at performance in these areas.
May 18 – A post mortem on the elections
The elections brought great change to the political landscape in Queensland. The Bligh government was ousted with a swing against it that has not been seen in Australian politics before. Over 40 of the 72 councils in Queensland now have new mayors. Over 30 of those new mayors defeated incumbents. But here in MBRC, the Mayor and all but one of the incumbent councillors were re-elected. MBI, like many other commentators, was at a loss to explain this lack of a desire for change by MBRC electors.
MBI noted that some of the Bribie-specific issues raised during the elections included: the decline in property values; the difficult business conditions; the lack of support for the tourist industry; the negative impact of increased volumes of sewage being brought onto Bribie for treatment and disposal; the massive de-vegetation that has occurred over the last four years; ongoing erosion on both sides of the island and the impact of this on property values, tourism, and quality-of-life; unwillingness of Council to consult with and/or work with community groups; and waste of funds on works of little value. MBI predicted that seeing there was little change in the composition of Council, there will be little done to address these campaign issues.
June 15 – MBI looks at declining real estate values
MBI was approached by a couple who were given the names of Dick and Dora. They had planned to retire on Bribie in the late 2000’s but due to losses in their super as a result of the global financial crisis, those plans had to be put on hold. They had to stay in the workforce a little longer to restore their super schemes back to where they wanted them. During that time they looked closer at what has happened on Bribie in recent years and decided not to retire here. Among other things, they felt that inappropriate actions by Council and the State Government had compromised what they saw as the special lifestyle of Bribie and its environment.
MBI asked… how many other Dick and Dora’s are there out there? Are real estate values declining because people like Dick and Dora are choosing not to come to Bribie to live? MBI has heard nothing further from Dick and Dora since this story was published but in the meantime the actions of Council and the State Government that Dick and Dora were concerned about have continued unabated. Some examples are shown below of the actions that Dick and Dora had concerns about. Real estate values have continued to decline, and in 2012 the Valuer-General reduced the assessed value of Woorim properties by 10%.
July 7 – MBI looks at the success of the FFF fencing system
As the engineering consultants BMT WBM point out in the Woorim Beach Shoreline Erosion Management Plan (WBSEMP) erosion is, and has been, an ongoing issue for the eastern shore of Bribie for ages. Arial photos show that since WWII, some 50 – 80 metres of coastline in the Woorim area has been lost. The WBSEMP recommends some simple activities that can help minimize the erosion impacts including:
- Restricting people access to dune and foredune areas. The consultants note that foot traffic is the greatest destabilizing influence on the dunes and the biggest cause of erosion
- Protecting all dune vegetation
- Encouraging vegetation growth on all dune areas
- Keeping dunes intact and not interfering with dune integrity
In 2009, a number of local community groups obtained funding from the Federal Government Envirofund programme to undertake some dune preservation activities that are consistent with the WBSEMP recommendations. These activities included propagating and planting over 30,000 native plants and shrubs, installing some 2.5km of fencing to restrict people access to dunes, and undertaking public education initiatives. The FFF fencing system was chosen for this project because of its proven track record elsewhere. Fencing was installed from Woorim north to Eighth Avenue. No fencing was installed to the south of Woorim due to severe erosion in 2010 in that area that was a result of inappropriate sand placement in the sand replenishment programme.
To help raise awareness of issues around care and protection of the dune systems, MBI published a paper delivered at the Growing Beaches Symposium in September, 2011. This included features of the FFF system and explains in some detail the erosion cycle seen in this area.
Sadly, the story of the FFF fencing since its installation is not a happy one. There has been ongoing vandalism to the fence system. The fence, and those involved with it, have been endlessly attacked in the press by those who do not understand the intent of the project. Some of the educational signage has been defaced. Many of the plants, particularly any trees, have been quickly removed. MBRC have provided no ongoing maintenance to the fencing even though it signed off to do that for the first 10 years. The maintenance has been left to the volunteers. And the recent storm events have been so severe that they have removed much of the fencing systems. However, the photos below show that the fencing has been successful in promoting healthy foredune areas and this is essential to help reduce some of the erosion impact of storm events such as those that have occurred recently.
August 30 – MBI looks at the proposed Sandstone Point Tavern Development
During the Local Government election campaign there was much discussion about what was going to happen on the land at the corner of Bestman Road and Bribie Island Road. Cr Parsons assured everyone that nothing was going be developed there – no casino, no tavern or whatever. Besides, the State Government would have to remove State restrictions on those lands. Relax, electors were told. That development just couldn’t happen. Those comments are included in the article Gary quashes land rumours in the Caboolture News on March 14, 2012. Yet within a month after the elections, an application was lodged with Council for a tavern development on that site.
To promote discussion on the subject, MBI published the views of one Bribie Island group. That group recommended against the project. Not because of the proposed development per se, but because MBRC has shown itself as being unwilling and perhaps incapable of enforcing any conditions that are placed on developments. This group anticipated that there would be development conditions imposed on this tavern development, and feared these development conditions would not be upheld.
Changes to the various legislative restrictions regarding this development have been fast-tracked and the project has now been approved with councillors voting 13 – 0 to approve it despite advice from Council Planning Department which recommended against approval. Completion is anticipated in 2014.
September 24 – MBI looks at the example of the island of Il de Re in France
Il de Re is an island about the size of Bribie off the Atlantic coast of France. It also has a population similar to that of Bribie. When a bridge connecting it to the mainland was constructed in 1988, the island’s way of life was threatened by an invasion of visitors wanting to experience its uniqueness.
MBI published a story showing what Il de Re has done to preserve its uniqueness yet make it available for visitors to enjoy. A key to this was the banning of cars. MBI asked if there were any ideas there for Bribie to adopt in order to protect its special lifestyle and environment while still welcoming visitors.
The article notes that with its geography, Bribie should be a mecca for cyclists and walkers. But little has been done to encourage this. The focus for transportation expenditure continues to almost exclusively favour cars over all else. MBRC’s expenditure on bicycle-ways remains among the lowest in Australia, according to the Bicycle Network. And the State Government has cancelled the proposed widening of the walkway on the Bribie Bridge which would have encouraged Bribie residents to use the little-used cycleway to Ningi.
October 25 – MBI looks at who has responsibility for maintenance of high-risk areas where developments have been allowed
The cost associated with ongoing maintenance of at-risk properties was in the news after the most recent MBRC budget. In that budget, Council imposed a canal levy on all properties with canal frontages on Bribie. The possibility of that tax being imposed had been kept secret until after the election even though the record shows it had been under discussion within Council perhaps as far back as 2010. There was certainly no prior discussion with affected ratepayers who saw their property taxes rise by around 70% overnight. A number of initiatives by canal owners are currently in progress in reaction to this new levy.
MBI took the initiative to look at the way councils have responded to the costs of maintaining properties that have been allowed to be built in areas of risk. In Byron Bay, for instance, the local council has adopted a “retreat” policy for at-risk beach-front properties which allows any and all erosion to occur regardless of whether it might mean those at-risk properties could be destroyed by erosion. Property owners have won the legal right to protect their properties – but at their own cost. MBI points out that here on Bribie, MBRC has literally spent millions of dollars to protect properties in similar beach-front positions. MBI asks the question why Council should bear the cost of maintaining some properties (like beach-front properties) but it is now asking other property owners to take on their own maintenance costs (like canal owners). MBI understands these questions are under ongoing discussion and no resolution has been reached.