Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

December 3rd 2012
Do you know what Julia Gillard is up to on Friday?

Golden Bell Frog Few Australians would not feel proud today that the Franklin River was saved, that oil rigs on the Great Barrier Reef were stopped, that the Daintree and Wet Tropics World heritage Area was established to protect priceless natural treasures. But this Friday the Prime Minister is sitting down with state leaders to sign away most of the Australian government's power to stop damaging development and leave decisions up to, in Queensland's case, the Campbell Newman government. Following is an article by Jo Bragg from the Environmental Defenders Office putting the case on what this decision could lead to and what can be done to help reverse it.

Greentape, Environmental Regulation &
protecting the places we love


Would you like the pristine waters of Shoalwater Bay to be home to a large coal port? Like me, probably not. Luckily the Federal government said no to that proposal. But the Queensland government is moving to cut, restructure and weaken environmental regulations, and the Federal government plans to delegate its long held environmental powers to the Queensland government.

The Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, (“EPBC Act”), provides that certain “actions” (projects or developments) require Federal approval. The Traveston Dam required Federal approval because it significantly impacted on species like the Queensland Lungfish, the Mary River Cod and the Mary River Turtle as well as RAMSAR Wetlands and World Heritage.

In 2009, after a major campaign lead by the Save the Mary River Coordinating Group, Federal Environment Minister Garrett refused to approve the project. Historically the Federal government has protected other key environmental areas when States would allow their destruction.

Think Franklin River, think Shoalwater Bay and the Alpine National Park. It is vital that the Federal government continues to have a decision-making role on projects where matters of national environment significance such as vulnerable species are at risk.

Yet the Gillard government, prompted by the COAG (Council of Australian Governments) agreement and the Business Council of Australia, has decided to make a fresh agreement with the Queensland government and delegate most decision-making power on referrals under the EPBC Act to the Queensland government.

Premier Newman slams
Federal listing of the koala as 'vulnerable'
as “mindless green tape”...


This is despite strong criticism of the Queensland environmental assessment of the Alpha mine and rail project by current Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke in July 2012, and despite Premier Newman slamming Federal listing of the koala as vulnerable under the EPBC Act as “mindless green tape” in May 2012.

The State government assumes slashing environmental regulation at a rapid speed is a high priority task, and to date has done so with very limited consultation with experienced stakeholders outside government and probably within government before planning instruments are changed or Bills go to Parliament.

For example the State Coastal Plan and sections of several regional plans concerning the coast were suspended and replaced with a Coastal Protection State Planning Regulatory Provision on 8 October 2012 without prior consultation with our office or community stakeholders on a written draft.



This might help developers who can convince the Planning Minister to let them destroy high ecological significant areas (he gets a new discretion under the changes) but it might in fact damage the tourism industry, one of the government’s “four pillars” which relies on natural beauty to attract visitors.

The law about planning and development assessment affects who can develop where, so massively impacts on the environment and needs close scrutiny in the public interest.

One change proposed in the Sustainable Planning and other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 is to make the Chief Executive of the Department of Sustainability Development Infrastructure and Planning (DSDIP) the “single state assessment manager and referral agency” in certain circumstances.

We must protect the places we love, like Shoalwater Bay, and stop the 1132 species on the vulnerable list under the Nature Conservation Regulation 2006 from going extinct.

What you can do
You might ask, given the government’s rush to reduce regulation in Queensland, how can we protect environmental regulation? One way is to make public submissions on the Bill's introduced to Queensland Parliament,(click here)

At a Federal level the situation is at a critical level with the next Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) meeting on 7 December 2012 looking to progress the Business Advisory Forum’s “green tape reduction” agenda. The Prime Minister needs to hear from the community that handing over environmental approval powers to the Queensland government is a very bad idea.

Visit (
here) and the Places You Love Facebook page (here) to see the various actions you can take right now to save the wildlife and the places we love!

Places you love
The Places You Love campaign is looking to increase its pre-COAG activity in Queensland which is critical for a number of reasons. The massive unravelling of environmental laws and protections built up over the past 20 years is happening at a frightening pace under the Newman LNP government since it came to office in March 2012.

Meanwhile Queensland is home to a number of high profile members of the Gillard Federal government including the Treasurer and Deputy Premier Wayne Swan, Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Asian Century Craig Emerson and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

All three have strong associations with the Goss Labor state government which began the path toward environmental reforms following the end of the Bjelke-Petersen era in 1989.

We need to make sure they get the message that handing over federal responsibilities to the Newman government is not on. Hard copy postcards need to be distributed and signed; as well, there is an e-petition online (click here) you can sign.

If you can help support the campaign over the next few months please contact Karen Robinson on 0403 017184 or email her c/- campaigns@qccqld.org.au.

Article by Jo Bragg, Principal Solicitor EDO Qld.
Photo of Golden Bell Frog by Lance Jurd


Do you know what Julia Gillard is up to on Friday?
 
4 comments
 
chasmac
December 3rd 2012
The Gillard government had a golden opportunity in the last month to indicate that it had even a vague interest in the outstanding universal values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and Magnetic Island's unique terrestrial contribution to those values. The issue? The proposed transfer station and its location on undisturbed woodland and recognised wetland at the Cockle Bay turnoff, just outside Picnic Bay.
Townsville City Council referred its proposal to the Commonwealth for assessment under the EPBC Act and in recent days the federal environment minister has indicated he is not interested and will take no further action - the Council is free to do whatever it likes, subject to the usual approvals by the Queensland government.
So, one has to ask what is the point of national EPBC legislation if the Commonwealth is not actually interested in acting to protect and present outstanding assets which it has gone to great lengths to identify? Is our national economy so dysfunctional that in order to hand out $250 electricity rebates, baby bonuses or business subsidies we have to tar and cement another piece of the national estate?
If that is the case then we are all responsible. We can't hide behind the skirts of the Council or the State or the Commonwealth when it is our demands for more roads (to Radical Bay for instance), more infrastructure (Nelly Bay terminal car park parkland for instance) and more government protection (body corporate home insurance for instance) that drives cost cutting at all levels of government. Apparently we can't afford the natural environment we have inherited so we will have to let some of it go. Horseshoe Bay is now excised from the GBR Marine Park (thanks Canberra), the half-completed conversion of Magnetic Island State Land to National Park is on hold indefinitely (thanks Brisbane) and the 40 acre woodland next to the golf club is on the way to becoming the Island's next industrial zone (thanks Townsville City Council), all because we aren't the smart state we think we are.
Of course there is an alternative and it won't be found in Canberra, Brisbane or Townsville city. Unity of purpose starts here on Magnetic Island but the more we demand from outside the more they need to take from the Island to 'pay' for it.
 
Wendy Tubman
December 5th 2012
Great news just in ... THE business lobby's big victory in eradicating ''green tape'' has collapsed as the Gillard government shelves controversial plans to hand over environmental decision-making to the states.

Well done to all the many, many people who have fought this crazy suggestion - let's keep up the pressure and make sure the Federal government does not shirk its responsibility to protect our environment. The thought of a Newman/Seeney term in charge curdles the blood.

 
chasmac
December 5th 2012
Unfortunately Wendy, the Commonwealth's powers under their EPBC Act have, in the particular case of the transfer station development, been devolved completely to Townsville City Council - or perhaps even as far as the Deputy Mayor, Vern Veitch. A story in this weeks MCN says in part:

"Cr Veitch was, in part, referring to a petition gathered and presented to TCC by MIRRA fronted by local businessman, Paul Wightman, who claimed to have 90% of Picnic Bay residents supporting the closure of the Picnic Bay landfill and the development of the transfer station site at Cockle Bay.
Paul greeted the news that the EPBC hurdle had been averted by saying he was “happy we're moving forward on the Cockle Bay solution”.
He said of proceeding with this: “The sooner the better because the Picnic Bay dump's starting to become a mountain and it's seeping black stuff into the creek and needs to be rehabilitated.”
Cr Veitch disputed this claim, saying he'd walked along the creek a fortnight ago when on the island for the Save the Rec Camp protest and had seen no evidence of leaching into the creek."

I'm sure 90% of Picnic Bay residents are happy to have an unelected spokesman representing them to Council (and indirectly to the Commonwealth) and furthermore expertly outlining the current status and future rehabilitation needs of Butler Creek - especially now that there is no budget for rehabilitation because all the $8.5 million will be spent on the transfer station and the rebuilding of roads through Picnic Bay to carry the new traffic out to the site.
But even better that Council and our budget-conscious State government can make decisions about the dump site rehabilitation and the status of Butler Creek by having the Deputy Mayor take a walk up the creek and cast his expert eye over it at the end of the dry season and discover that there's nothing seeping into the watercourse. Brilliant! Kill two birds with one stone. So nothing need be done. Residents can take heart in all this because Townsville City Council has such a great record of rehabilitating old dump sites next to watercourses. How many millions and years are required to fix the dump site now leaching crap into Ross River?
Vern Veitch picks and chooses which bits of unauthenticated, unevidenced gossip and rumour he uses, he can dismiss years of Council studies and plans about a Picnic Bay-located transfer station and without demonstrated justification opt for a more expensive, more invasive and more distant greenfield site leaving no budget to rehabilitate Butler Creek.
And 90% of Picnic Bay residents support this? That's the 90% you can count on one hand? Whatever.
 
Wendy Tubman
December 7th 2012
I agree Charlie that the Federal EPBC Act is nothing like strong enough and that its use and enforcement is way too 'sporadic', but the thought of this piece of legislation in the hands of Newman and Seeney, who appear to know nothing other than economic growth at all and any cost to the environment, is positively blood-curdling.

We need to keep up the pressure to make sure that the legislation is not handed over to the states (what next - trade? defence? immigration?) and that the legislation is strengthened.

I know, big ask - but I'm up for the challenge - and I'm sure there are lots of others who will join me.

And as to where the new transfer station will go - the fat lady hasn't sung yet.


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