World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 

World Heritage "Gem" On The Chopping Block

The Time Bomb in the Heart of the Daintree World Heritage Lowland Rainforest About to Explode.

Today 0830 (Eastern Australian time) at the local Douglas Shire council meeting it is "Crunch Time"

PLEASE READ ON!!........

Australian World Heritage Biodiversity "Gem" on the chopping block.

We have ONE day to halt this process...

Your immediate help is essential, and would be most appreciated

Remember - this is just as much YOUR issue as OUR issue!!!!!

In the Daintree, Far North Queensland, Australia, a "Temporary Local Planning Instrument" was put in place by the local Douglas Shire Council "to protect the high biological and environmental values of the area north of the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation". The area affected by this TLPI is either located in, or adjacent to, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, some of which is still in private ownership.

The idea of this TLPI is to allow time for consultation with the residents and landowners in the area, including offers to buy back their land and incorporate it into a public conservation scheme, within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

Background....

The Daintree Lowlands are part of the spectacular IUCN World Heritage listed Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, which is considered to be a biodiversity hot-spot for Gondwanan flora, and has the highest number of endemic primitive plants in the world, and is arguably the oldest rainforest in the world. It is where "the rainforest meets the reef", where the complex wet tropical rainforests flow uninterrupted from the coastal uplands to the Great Barrier Reef. Thrust into the limelight in the mid 80's with the protests against the construction of the Cape Tribulation to Bloomfield Road, this area has also become a tourism mecca, and indirectly, a major dollar earner for the regional economy.

They were subject to a Government-authorised freehold rural subdivision in the early 80's (during the reign of the infamous Joe Bjelke-Petersen) which divided the old leasehold lands into 1200 subdivisional blocks and foisted them onto the local Council which did not have the resources to manage them. These subdivisional blocks, covering a wide variety of endangered forest types, have become the "time bomb in the heart of the Daintree" and this bomb is about to go off.

When the area was World Heritage Listed, they were excluded from the listing (regardless of their conservation value) as they were private freehold land.

In the mid 90's some money was made available for buyback of major blocks (Daintree Rescue Program), but since then the Australian Federal Government has staunchly opposed the purchase of private lands, despite its enormous value locally and internationally. Many studies have been undertaken with the aim of deflecting the issue, the latest being the Daintree Futures Study (2000). There are no services other than telephone and a sealed road from the Daintree Ferry to Cape Tribulation. About 40% of the properties have some form of development, but further development will cause massive dislocations in the protection of the environment (which is, after all, of World Heritage value - thus of International importance).

Hence the Council's move, which has long been in the wind, of stopping the development of freehold blocks that have not had development applications . Unfortunately, the history of Government agency involvement in the area, has not been a happy one, so that the community is suspicious, hostile and in general has little "big-picture" understanding of the importance of World Heritage status. Coupled with the unwillingness of the State and Federal Governments to fund buyback for conservation (voluntary buyback being a solution favoured by most residents), and unfilled promises for the provision of services such as power, the level of settler frustration has become very high, as expressed in a meeting this Saturday, where the Mayor (a green) attempted to explain the Council policies, to a hostile audience.

What has happened....

At the meeting this (Saturday) morning in Cow Bay, it became evident that there are a majority of conservative Councillors (4 of a total of 7) who are seriously considering jettisoning the Temporary Local Planning Instrument,in response to the pressures being put upon them by a vociferous, concerned but probably unrepresentative group in the area. That such a critical local government planning process (with repercussions for the rest of the world) can be jettisoned without due process, is extraordinary.

Senator Harris of the One Nation Party has been fuelling the fires with talk of legal statutes concerning freehold land and that the Council acted illegally to impose the moratorium, and that the Councillors will go to jail if they don't recind it. To our best legal understanding this is rubbish.

Should this recission occur, then the less demonstrative remainder of the community will have been effectively sidelined, and worse, open slather on development will be immediately allowed to proceed. It will also prevent the community from developing and implementing a sustainable tourism policy.

The conservation efforts of the past 20 years will be all have been for naught.

Should this happen, there is NO WAY in which the Council can impose further controls on development in the area, should this Planning Instrument be defeated.

It is in fact an "end-game", and the fate of this critical World Heritage Environment will be sealed.

It is essential that the Local Planning process be allowed to proceed, if only in the interest of fairness to all members of the community (settlers and absentees as well), and to buy essential time (nominally 1 year) to lobby the State and Federal Governments for funding for buyback.

What you can do.......

Email:

Councillor Mike Berwick (Mayor)

mayor@ledanet.com.au

Councillor David Egan

degan@ledanet.com.au

Councillor George Pitt

gpitt@ledanet.com.au

Councillor Melinda Cox

mcox@ledanet.com.au

Councillor Rod Davis

rdavis@ledanet.com.au

Councillor Bill Bellero

billbellero@ledanet.com.au

Councillor Joe Sciacca

jsciacca@ledanet.com.au

or fax them at

DSC Fax 4098 2902 (61 7 4098 2902) "Attention all Councillors":

requesting that they permit due process to be followed with the Temporary Local Planning Instrument. Remind them of the INTERNATIONAL importance of the Daintree Lowlands, as a biodiversity hot spot, of major World Heritage significance.

Also contact, expressing your concern as many of the following as you can:-

Mr Peter Beattie

Premier of Queensland

ThePremier@premiers.qld.gov.au

fax (61 7 3221 3631)

Mr John Mickell

Queensland Minister for the Environment

logan@parliament.qld.gov.au

Electorate Fax: (61 7) 3806 8467

Australian Government

The Hon Dr David Kemp

Federal Minister for the Environment

Fax: (61 2) 6273 6101

Kelvin Thompson

Opposition Shadow Environment Minister

(61 2) 6277 8409

Email: Kelvin.Thomson.MP@aph.gov.au

Australian Greens

Senator Kerry Nettle

Fax: (61 2) 6277 5716

Email: senator.nettle@aph.gov.au

Fax: (02) 6277 3185

Senator Bob Brown

Email: senator.brown@aph.gov.au

Electorate Office:

Tel: (61 3) 6234 1633

Fax: (61 3) 6234 1577

Australian Democrats

Senator Andrew Bartlett

Electorate Office:

Tel: 61 7 3252 7101

Fax: 61 7 3252 8957

Email: Senator.Bartlett@democrats.org.au

Senator Lyn Allison

Tel: 61 3 9416 1880

Fax:61 3 9417 1690

Email: Senator.Allison@democrats.org.au

The issue has become a One-Nation pushed "freeholder's rights" issue versus the long term survival of one of the most spectacular and biodiverse areas in the world, the Daintree lowlands. It is likely that if this measure is lost, Mike Berwick the green 3x Mayor of the Douglas Shire will resign - and after that it will become open slather with all environmental constraints thrown out. There is a very big conservative backlash here - and this is one of the greenest shires in Queensland. The impact on Australia's world standing with regards to conservation issues will be massive.

Hugh Spencer

here is some detailed background information for the Daintree issue.

I've already received threatening e-mails over this!

Contacts Hugh Spencer (Australian Tropical Research Foundation - Cape Tribulation 4098 0063

Douglas Shire Councillors (see list at end)

Lawrence Mason (Cape tribulation) 4098 0070

Alison Gotts (Cape Tribulation) 4098 0057

Nicky Hungerford (qcc) 0419 768 676

others to come

*************

BackGrounder

From Douglas Shire Council to all landholders north of Daintree River

DRAFT DOUGLAS SHIRE PLANNING SCHEME - CHANGES FOR PROPERTIES NORTH OF THE DAINTREE RIVER

Draft Planning Scheme

You may be well aware that the Douglas Shire Council has released its Draft Planning Scheme for public comment, in association with the adoption of a Temporary Local Planning Instrument (TLPI). In many ways the Draft Planning Scheme is similar to the existing Planning Scheme. It does however differ significantly for residential development north of the Alexandra Range.

For all areas north of the Alexandra Range, the Draft Planning Scheme proposes that owners of most vacant land will lose their right to build a house on their properties - a right they have had under the existing Planning Scheme.

Given the impact of this decision, the Council considered it important to communicate directly with you to provide you with relevant details of the Draft Planning Scheme, the reasons behind Council's decision, an explanation of the Temporary Local Planning Instrument and an outline of some preliminary options that are open to you.

Temporary Local Planning Instrument

In order to protect the conservation values of the area, simultaneous to the release of the Draft Planning Scheme for public comment, Council introduced a Temporary Local Planning Instrument (TLPI).

The release of the draft Planning Scheme for public comment (for 90 days) means the proposed changes become public knowledge and this could potentially trigger a landslide of applications for houses by landowners of unsettled lots. The TLPI has been introduced in attempt to prevent this consequence from happening.

Its full title is Temporary Local Planning Instrument, Protection of Conservation Values - North of the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation.

A TLPI is a mechanism rarely used in Queensland. It contains provisions similar to the draft Planning Scheme provisions. However, the TLPI takes immediate effect and will stay in place until the new Scheme takes effect or twelve months have elapsed (which ever occurs sooner).

Reasons for Council's decision to adopt the TLPI (with a view to ultimately including the provisions of the TLPI in the Draft Planning Scheme provisions) include -

1. Preservation of the Daintree Rainforest, an international conservation icon whose natural values are being rapidly eroded.

2. The high cost of supporting the infrastructure and service provision for the ultimate urban population that could reside in the area, should all residential blocks in the area be developed.

3. The value of the Daintree to the Local, State and National tourism industry.

In the late 1970s when over one thousand hectares of land was proposed for subdivision into 950 lots, the Shire Council of the day opposed the rezoning and subdivision of the land for permanent residential development. The Council raised valid concerns regarding a future increase in demand for community services, water supply, waste treatment, upgraded roads and increased ferry capacity eventually leading to pressure for a bridge across the Daintree River. However, the State Government of the day approved the rezoning and subdivision under a Ministerial Rezoning and against the express wishes of the Council.

The then Shire Council's concerns have proven to be correct. The current Council has weighed up the options of "doing nothing" or resolving the issue, fully aware in making this decision, some landowners will be affected.

In recognition of this, the State Government has committed $5 million towards environmental outcomes in the Daintree, and Council is presently in negotiations with the Federal Government seeking a similar contribution. Co-operation involving all three spheres of government will make it possible to implement the Scheme and fund fair compensation to affected landowners.

In conjunction with this, Council is actively seeking resolutions from both State and Federal Governments to remove the impediments to the provision of power north of the Daintree River and to fund the provision of reticulated electricity supply from Forest Creek to Cape Tribulation.

What does this mean for you?

Attached to this letter is a map showing the affected area. How the TLPI will affect you will depend on the location and in some circumstances condition of your land.

If you own land that has been lawfully developed you have what is commonly referred to as existing use rights, therefore the TLPI and draft Planning Scheme will not affect your property.

If you have a current development approval or a properly made application lodged with Council prior to 4 June 2004, the draft Planning Scheme will not affect you. Further, in relation to applications lodged but not yet decided as at 4 June 2004, Council will not have regard to the TLPI when deciding such applications.

If you own land to the south of the Alexandra Range (dotted line), the TLPI and draft Planning Scheme do apply but, generally speaking, not in a way that will result in applications for use as a house being refused, as long as you comply with the relevant Coded under the TLPI.

If you own land to the north of Rykers Creek, the TLPI will not affect you, however, the provisions of the draft Planning Scheme will affect you.

If you own vacant land without a current development approval or application before Council (for use as a house or caretaker's residence) to the north of the Alexandra Range (dotted line) your land will be affected by the TLPI and the draft Planning Scheme. This means that you can still lodge a development application, however the level of assessment has changed and your application will now be impact assessable and require public notification. Applications are likely to be recommended for refusal unless a detailed on-site environmental investigation reveals the land has little or no environmental value and the development does not compromise the existing infrastructure and service provision in the area or the vehicular capacity of the Cape Tribulation Road.

Options for Land Owners

To further assist in understanding the implications of the draft Planning Scheme and the TLPI, the first information session will be held on Saturday the 19th of June from 09.30 am- 11.30 am at the Diwan Centre.

At this session, the draft Planning Scheme and TLPI will be explained, there will be an opportunity for questions, and some preliminary options available to land owners will be presented.

Submissions on the Draft Planning Scheme may be put forward to Douglas Shire Council - up to and including Friday the 3rd of September, 2004. There may be land owners who wish to sell their land now, rather than wait the 9 - 10 months for the outcome of the Planning Scheme to be determined (and even longer for compensation appeals to be processed). Douglas Shire Council may consider acquiring your allotment, at a price equal to the unimproved value of the land (UCV), plus 10 percent (UCV will be independently assessed and based on UCV prior to the adoption of the TLPI).

If you are interested in selling your land now, please submit an expression of interest to:

The Chief Executive Officer

Douglas Shire Council

P.O. Box 357

Mossman Qld 4873

It should be noted that the Council has no intentions for compulsory acquisition.

The Temporary Local Planning Instrument and Maps may be viewed on the Douglas Shire Council website at www.dsc.qld.gov.au

.........................................................

Planning Scheme Resolution - 2nd June 2004.

Moved: Cr Mike Berwick Seconded: Cr Rod Davis

That Council resolves to:-

1. Adopt the Temporary Local Planning Instrument, Protection of Conservation Values - North of the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation, and give public notice of its adoption and send a copy of the notice and 5 certified copies of the Temporary Local Planning Instrument to the Minister in accordance with the specific requirements of Schedule 2 of the Integrated Planning Act 1997;

2. Publicly notify the draft Planning Scheme in accordance with the specific requirements of Schedule 1 of the Integrated Planning Act 1997 and at then same time to publicly notify the draft Planning Scheme Policies in accordance with the specific requirements of Schedule 3 of the Integrated Planning Act 1997;

3. Support the Daintree Futures Study and use its best endeavours to implement the recommendations contained in the Study;

4. Seek a Commonwealth Government commitment of $5 million to assist in achieving the recommendations of the Daintree Futures Study;

5. Support the reticulation of electricity in accordance with the Daintree Futures Study (ie. Cooper Creek/Thorntons Beach) and a local reticulated supply for the Cape Tribulation area, once the conservation targets outlined in the Daintree Futures Study have been reached;

6. Inform the State and Commonwealth Governments that Council's adoption of the Temporary Local Planning Instrument and the public notification of the draft Planning Scheme and draft Planning Scheme Policies are based, in good faith, on the understanding both State and Commonwealth will work together and agree to use their best endeavours to supply reticulated electricity as described in Clause 5 above and that this be achieved by:-

A) Inclusion of the area North of the Daintree River in the Distribution Authority Area once the conservation targets of the Daintree Futures Study are met;

B) The State Government contributing the cost of overhead and reticulated electricity in line with Ergon's standard supply agreements; and

C) The Commonwealth Government contributing the additional cost of undergrounding the reticulated electricity.

7. Reserves its rights under Section 2.1.15 (1)(a) of the Integrated Planning Act 1997 to repeal the Temporary Local Planning Instrument if the State and Commonwealth Governments do not deliver on a monetary commitment and the provision of reticulated electricity as outlined above in Clauses 4 and 6

FOR: Crs Berwick, Cox, Davis, Egan, Pitt

AGAINST:Crs Bellero, Sciacca

Carried

Sent to Daintree and Cape Tribulation Tourism Association members.

At the meeting this morning at Diwan Centre, it became evident that there are Councillors (Egan, Pitt Bellero and Sciacca) who are seriously considering jettisoning the Temporary Local Planning Instrument, in response to the pressures being put upon them by a vociferous, concerned but probably unrepresentative group in the area.

Should this occur, then the less demonstrative remainder of the community will have been effectively sidelined, and worse, the open slather on development will be immediately allowed to proceed. It will also prevent us from developing and implementing a sustainable tourism policy. It will be all for naught.

There is NO WAY in which the Council can impose further controls on development in the area, should this instrument be defeated.

It is in fact an "end-game".

Whether you are for or against the cessation of development in the area, it is essential that the process be allowed to proceed, if only in the interest of fairness to all members of the community (settlers and absentees as well).

The issue of the protection of the region is one of INTERNATIONAL importance, IT IS NOT A LOCAL ISSUE. Yes it has been horribly mishandled in the past, but we have to set our anger and frustrations aside, if this place is to have a chance to survive into the future for all the world to treasure, and particularly for we residents, to savour and become its custodians.

It is ESSENTIAL that all of us send an e-mail and/or, preferably, a fax to EACH councillor BEFORE Tuesday next (22nd) - the Council meeting that will probably be considering the recession motion.

The fax should request the Councillors to not dump the Planning Instrument in the interests of fairness to all members of the community.

There will also be a quiet demonstration outside the Council Chambers in Mossman on Tuesday as well, and residents concerned that the plan will be "dumped" are encouraged to attend (9 am on).

Council Information below.


Cr Mike Berwick
C/- Douglas Shire Council
Mossman QLD 4873

Phone: (07)4099 9450
Mobile:0419022629
Email: mayor@ledanet.com.au

Cr David Egan
43 Mossman Street
Mossman QLD 4873

Phone: (07)40981141
Fax: (07)40981141
Mobile: 0438981141
Email: degan@ledanet.com.au

Councillor George Pitt

Cr George Pitt
PO Box 1265
Mossman QLD 4873

Phone : (07)40982798
Fax : (07)40982798
Mobile: 0400778463
Email : gpitt@ledanet.com.au


Councillor Melinda Cox

Cr Melinda Cox
PO Box 1231
Mossman QLD 4873

Mobile: 0417713521
Email: mcox@ledanet.com.au

Councillor Rod Davis

Cr Rod Davis
PO Box 714
Port Douglas QLD 4877

Fax : (07)40994071
Mobile: 0418235561
Email : rdavis@ledanet.com.au

Councillor Bill Billero

Cr Bill Bellero
PO Box 226
Mossman QLD 4873

Phone : (07)40988233
FAX : (07)40988088
Mobile: 0417714022
Email : billbellero@ledanet.com.au

Councillor Joe Sciacca

Cr Joe Sciacca
PO Box 2
Mossman QLD 4873

Phone : 40988153
Email : jsciacca@ledanet.com.au

Cr Mike Berwick C/- Douglas Shire Council Mossman QLD 4873

Phone: (07)4099 9450 Mobile:0419022629 Email: mayor@ledanet.com.au

Cr David Egan 43 Mossman Street Mossman QLD 4873

Phone: (07)40981141 Fax: (07)40981141 Mobile: 0438981141 Email: degan@ledanet.com.au

Councillor George Pitt

Cr George Pitt PO Box 1265 Mossman QLD 4873

Phone : (07)40982798 Fax : (07)40982798 Mobile: 0400778463 Email : gpitt@ledanet.com.au

Councillor Melinda Cox

Cr Melinda Cox PO Box 1231 Mossman QLD 4873

Mobile: 0417713521 Email: mcox@ledanet.com.au

Councillor Rod Davis

Cr Rod Davis PO Box 714 Port Douglas QLD 4877

Fax : (07)40994071 Mobile: 0418235561 Email : rdavis@ledanet.com.au

Councillor Bill Billero

Cr Bill Bellero PO Box 226 Mossman QLD 4873

Phone : (07)40988233 FAX : (07)40988088 Mobile: 0417714022 Email : billbellero@ledanet.com.au

Councillor Joe Sciacca

Cr Joe Sciacca PO Box 2 Mossman QLD 4873

Phone : 40988153 Email : jsciacca@ledanet.com.au

DSC Fax 4098 2902

Thanks

Hugh Spencer

One of the critical issues concerning the residents, is "where is the money for compensation coming from"?

Due to the strenuous opposition by the Federal Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, to the voluntary buyback of freehold land, through his involvement with the Wet Tropics World Heritage Ministerial Council, there have been no funds forthcoming from the Howard Government to resolve this issue.

The Douglas Shire Council instituted a ferry levy to generate buyback money - which was a very controversial measure, particularly as it was highly unlikely to generate an adequate income and was seen as a deterrent to visitors (in the event, it appears to have had no effect on visitor numbers).

Unfortunately, for, I suspect, reasons of Council acceptability, the Mayor Mike Berwick, has stuck to a figure of 15 million dollars to acheive settlement reduction - whereas the real figure is at least 30 million dollars. So there is a very real shortfall in funds for compensation. The State Government has offered 5 million, the DSC itself. has offered 5 million - and the Feds are shilly shallying about 5 million. Someone is going to have to provide the remainder, and I suspect that Mike B hopes that the penny will drop with the Federal and State Governments.

Given that the region raises an estimated 400 million dollars gross for the regional economy, real economic rationalist behaviour, would dictate that a one-time payment of the GST (est 40 million) dedicated to buyback/compensation, would solve the problem, keep nearly everybody happy, and maintain the internationally recognised environmental values and the nature based tourism that depends on them. And avoid costs (estimated in the vicinity of 350 million dollars), to provide rural urban infrastructure and the bridge accross the Daintree River. a win-win-win situation.

**************

Dr. Hugh Spencer Director of Research | Cape Tribulation Tropical Research Station | Phone/Fax (61)07 4098 0063

Australian Tropical Research Foundation | http://www.austrop.org.au/

"The Bat-House", Environment Centre. | PMB 5 Cape Tribulation via Mossman | Hugh@austrop.org.au

Queensland 4873 Australia |


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

North Korea: NZ Denounces Missile Test

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has denounced North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test. The test, which took place this morning, is North Korea’s third test flight of an inter-continental ballistic missile. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: Zimbabwe - Meet The New Bosses

At 75, Mnangagwa is not exactly what you’d call a new broom. As many observers have pointed out, his track record has been one of unswerving dedication to Mugabe ever since the days of anti-colonial insurgency... To these guys, things had to change in Zimbabwe, so that things could remain the same. More>>

ALSO: