November 12th 2010
Cockle waste site will threaten rare plants and animals
Last Saturday a petition, reported to have contained about 300 signatures, was presented to Cr Trevor Roberts at a meeting of the Magnetic Island Residents and Ratepayers Association (MIRRA). While Magnetic Times was, unfortunately, unable to attend, the message seemed clear enough, that Picnic Bay residents in particular, are not in favour of the proposed location of the new waste transfer station at the current green waste dump in Picnic Bay and were pushing to have it relocated to a council-owned bush block at Cockle Bay.
The petitioners were apparently keen to show Cr Roberts that he would do well to take heed of their protest and indeed Cr Roberts is now proposing a motion to council which would:
* Provide a report that assesses potential locations for the proposed Magnetic Island Waste Transfer Station;
*Develop a community consultation plan to engage the community on the outcomes of the assessment report, and;
*Defer any recommendation from staff on the proposed location of the Magnetic Island Transfer station until such time that community consultation has been completed.
For some the move to Cockle may seem a simple solution. But, on closer inspection, a very different story emerges. This particular block is an important refuge for animals and plants which are officially listed as either rare, vulnerable, critically endangered and in some cases found only on Magnetic Island.
A view across the Cockle land
Few of us would be personally familiar with a single striped delma (legless lizard) or the bare rumped sheathtailed bat or Sadliers skink for example. They are not cuddly as the koala this writer spotted fast asleep in a poplar gum at that block this week. But itís increasingly the case that the only real future these animals and plants have lies with us humans and how we manage the Island we all claim to love.
And, inconvenient or not, Magnetic Islandís unique World heritage values are protected by the Commonwealth. In a document Magnetic Times reviewed recently (click here) the Commonwealth Government has identified a range of the animals, plants, vegetation types and other attributes which make Magnetic World Heritage and worth protection under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC). Unsurprisingly, the Cockle block is home or habitat to many like those mentioned above.
For Council to seriously attempt to develop the Cockle block would, no doubt, require Commonwealth approval under the EPBC Act and, with the very species which Commonwealth law is there to protect occurring at Cockle, the hoops will be many, high and narrow for Council to jump through.
The only other option: Nelly Bayís old sewerage irrigation area on Kelly Street, which has many more houses nearby, seems unlikely to garner support even though it is far more central and closer to the barge.
We might instead all do better to thoroughly investigate just how well transfer stations can be managed these days. Perceptions of them as smelly and unhygienic are hard to overcome but it is useful to know that the proposed new transfer station will be equipped with, among other things, automatic odor suppressant sprays which will activate regularly throughout the day. As it is simply a transfer station and not a dump, rubbish will be removed, three times per week to the mainland. Even Cr Hill, we hear, commented to the effect (and backed by an ex Victorian member of the community) that transfer stations do not smell and are not obtrusive, and can be well camouflaged.
A potentially more annoying problem for Picnic is the noise generated by the green waste mulching machine. Councilís waste managers maintain that the mulch piles themselves can be used effectively as a sound barrier and if relocated onto the hill created by the present tip and the machinery set well into a bowl created by the mulch itself, the sound should be significantly reduced.
It also seems puzzling that the call for a move to the Cockle Bay site would lead to much more truck movements as well as the whole of Magneticís weekend procession of cars heading for the dump now driving through a number of Picnicís quiet residential streets.
The call for a relocation of the transfer station, while understandable, seems, more than anything, a futile exercise. Council cannot expect the Commonwealth to cave in over an important habitat for vulnerable and endangered species and nor should it. The extra cost of this exercise would surely be better spent at the present sites and focussing on the very best means of minimising the impacts of these necessary facilities, such as maximising noise abatement measures and removing any likelihood of pollution leaching from the old tip site.
For an historical insight into the political manoeuvrings over this land and for detailed information about the plants and animals at risk if the Cockle Bay land were to be developed, we recommend our story: "Bush valley rezoned for industry" (click here)
Striped delma photograph courtesy Eric Vanderduys
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