Introduction

The Gecko Environment Council Campaign Team continues to meet fortnightly and as in past years has achieved much in 2017-2018. Unlike many other environment groups formed to advocate for one particular issue, Gecko, as the peak regional environment group, does its best to respond to a wide range of issues relating to conservation of species, sustainability or transparency and accountability in government.  To this end over 38 submissions were made to government at all three levels either proactively or in response to a discussion paper or an issue that has arisen.

Since the Campaign team is relatively small, though dedicated and enthusiastic, the team has engaged in very proactive networking this year to extend our influence and garner support for action on mutual issues. This has resulted in the consolidation of the Gold Coast Community Alliance and the formation of the SEQ Alliance of representatives around the south-east.  The team has also represented Gecko at the Queensland Conservation Council Round Table with the Department of Environment and Science.

The issues that received most attention this year were:

  • planning and its impact on the environment
  • and species protection and sustainability in the community;
  • reform of local government to increase transparency and accountability in decision making;
  • the Spit Master Plan;
  • koala protection;
  • climate change
  • the Stop Adani campaign;
  • the proposed cruise terminal;
  • protection of public open space;
  • land clearing;
  • ground water extraction;
  • national park protection and increase;
  • the light rail extensions;
  • the cane toad challenge;
  • water quality monitoring with the Clean Creeks program; and
  • PFAS chemical pollution of ground water around the airport.

The team is developing the content for the new Website and contributes daily to the Facebook page.

 

Community Networking – is a major focus of the Gecko campaign team this year and both the Community Alliance and the SEQ Alliance are expressions of the success of this strategy.

The focus on planning reform is aimed at protection of the natural environment and improving the sustainability of the built environment, particularly the protection of public open space.

Gecko also participates wherever possible in community events to network and inform the community of our work.

Community Alliance – The Community Alliance is made up of about 17 groups which meets monthly and is growing in confidence and strength and Gecko acts as the Secretariat for these groups. The main focus is planning and local government reform, however members are assisting each other with specific campaigns.   A Facebook page is being developed.

SEQ Alliance – The SEQ Alliance was established by Gecko this year and meets monthly in Brisbane with representatives from SEQ groups Gecko, EDO, SCEC, OSCAR, Redlands 2030, Brisbane Residents Group, Ipswich Residents, and UNAA.

The focus is on local government reform and planning reform.

Reform of Local Government – Gecko has continued to work with the Community Alliance groups to push for better legislation to improve the accountability, transparency and ethical behaviour of some Gold Coast City Councillors.

A public meeting was held to raise these issues and was attended by over 200 people despite a severe storm.

A public rally held 10th February at Greenmount in support of the court appeal against the Komune Development was very well attended by about 200 people.

Government legislation banning developer and other donations to political candidates was strongly supported and now Gecko and others are seeking:

  • improvements in conflict of interest conduct,
  • transparency in records of Council Minutes,
  • less redacted reports, and
  • changes to powers of mayors has begun.

Save Surfers Paradise Group – The Save Surfers Paradise group has lodged a case with the Supreme Court alleging illegal activities by Mayor Tate and Dale Dixon over the sale of the Bruce Bishop Car Park.

They have also lodged complaints with the Crime and Corruption Commission regarding Council’s alleged failure to provide requested documents or keep correct records.

Planning

Both the Community Alliance and the SEQ Alliance are addressing the ongoing concern by many throughout the city about excessive relaxations of City Plan conditions on development without any community benefit or consideration of the cumulative impact.

There are numerous documented examples of these relaxations.

The SEQ Alliance has put in submissions to the Minister for Planning, had an interview with his Senior Policy Advisor and put up an e-petition on the Government website requesting planning legislation returns to a more prescriptive form which recognises community rather than developer needs, https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/petitions/petition-details?id=2989 This E-Petition closes on 27/2/2019.

Major planning concerns are developments in koala habitat, Komune, Songcheng, Ridong and Environtech as well as Palm Beach and other areas where relaxation in height, density, parking, communal space and set backs occur regularly.

Koalas – There is increasing concern about the rate of clearing in the Coomera and other northern areas and the ineffective methods of protecting the remaining koalas as well as increasing mortality and morbidity from car strikes, dog attacks and disease from stress.

Gecko continues to push for action to redress these issues as well as a good sized reserve (1500ha) to be set aside for koalas, despite Council preference for small fragmented areas, which will continue the decline of the population.

Council appears finally to be willing to commit to reserved areas for the koalas funded by the new levy.

Gecko made a submission to the Expert Panel on Koalas and the Report as well as the Dept. of Environment and Science’s response have been released.  There is a timetable for the recommendations to be implemented starting with changes to the Planning legislation.

Meetings by the Coomera Conservation Group, which is extremely active and effective on these issues, have progressed with the EPBC Unit to improve protection of koalas from development as well as to a lesser extent with Councillors.

At the persistent urging of Coomera Conservation Group the Department of Environment and Science will hold a conference on protecting koala habitat and planning legislation in late October.

Gecko is also advocating for the creation of a wildlife underpass for the M1 extensions to Tugun and this looks promising.

The Spit Master Plan – The Spit Master Plan is organised by a team in the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, infrastructure and Planning and is designed to provide a plan for the protected enhancement of the public open space and rejuvenation of the commercial areas south of SeaWorld.  The Plan began with a series of pop-up consultation sessions to gauge public views about the Spit. This has been followed with two weekend workshops, with another two to follow finishing in April 2019.

The workshops involve extensive community and business representatives in intense discussion and design of possibilities for the enhancement of the public open space and rejuvenation of the commercial area south of SeaWorld.

The contentious off-shore cruise terminal has been foisted on the Master Plan despite ongoing strong objections.

The representatives are divided in to four groups-

  • Community Reference Group,
  • Key Stakeholders (business and professional)
  • Landholders group (those that lease land from State Government) and
  • an Indigenous group.

These groups meet either prior to or after the workshops to discuss some matters in more detail.  Two or three options will be presented to the community for comment in October.

Climate Action Network – Gecko continues to raise climate change impacts in all submissions to Government and raise awareness in the community.  The network is being re-vamped and re-focused at present to ensure our efforts are more effective. This will involve extensive networking with other like-minded groups.

Gecko participated in the Council’s Earth Hour event which was quite successful in raising awareness.

Gecko hosted a live streaming of 350.org. founder Bill McKibben. 

Gecko was involved in the global 350.org Rise for Climate Action event on at Tweed Heads 8th September, which was well attended despite heavy rain.

The ‘recycling of difficult items’ project is going well and e-waste is being delivered to Currumbin Special School for dismantling and transport to Substation 33 where parts are recycled or made into new items.

Members of the network include Stop Adani, AYCC, ACF Gold Coast and individual members.

Adani – Despite the Premier advising that their government will not process any loan provided by NAIF, they have approved extraction of water from the great Artesian Basin.  An additional request for extracting flood water from the Suttor River is a controlled action under EPBC and is yet to be assessed.

The State Government will also prosecute Adani for the coal spill during Cyclone Debbi. 

Adani claim they have Korean funding and a deal with Aurizon to share the rail line.

Stop Adani Gold Coast is supported by Gecko and their door knock campaign is working well in gathering support.

Gecko members have also supported Stop Adani Gold Coast rallies and education nights.

Black Swan Lake – Gecko is actively supporting this Wildlife Queensland GC Branch campaign, which is to object to the virtual gifting of this public open space to the Turf Club to turn into a car park despite its value to the neighbourhood and wildlife there.

The amazing campaign in persistence and commitment continues after 3 years of advocacy with supporters’ still undertaking Lake vigils and attending Council meetings and sending a barrage of letters to both State and Local Government.  

Referrals have been made to the Crime and Corruption Commission which is examining the process of approvals.

The possibility of a compromise of half a lake is being considered.

Off-Shore Cruise Terminal – Council is continuing to spend ratepayer funds on investigations into this proposal, despite strong community opposition to this proposal as well as all previous proposals since 2003.

The resultant reports are heavily redacted especially information regarding financial and physical risk.  The proposal was sent to the Coordinator General who declined to consider it until the Spit Master Plan process is complete in 2019.

Gecko met with the two Council officers involved in this proposal and gained useful background information.

Gecko opposed the Master Plan process including the cruise terminal, but the MOU signed between State Government and Council decreed that it must be considered.

Council is now calling it the ‘Port of Gold Coast’.

Contamination from Gold Coast Airport – PFAS Contamination is happening from GC Airport.  Gecko is supporting the Friends of Currumbin campaign on this issue with submissions.  Testing in Gold Four Drive and Coolangatta Creek has proven there is PFAS present at low levels.

Council has erected a sign on Coolangatta beach advising the public not to swim in the water from the creek as it enters the ocean.  While the levels are low there are no safe levels.

There are ongoing efforts to get a letter drop to residents in affected areas to advise them not to use their spear pumps for vegetables and other human contact activities.  Air Services have refused to do this.

Land Clearing Alliance – Land Clearing Alliance is a collection of conservation groups, including Gecko, which has been successful in getting vegetation management laws reinstated in Queensland.  This is in conjunction with an offer of $500 million by the Labor Government for carbon farming measures including tree planting.

National Parks – Gecko has signed on to the campaign by the major conservation groups to get an increase in national parks in Queensland to 17% in line with some other States and for more adequate funding for existing parks and a return to the primary purpose of conservation of nature.  The national parks are also very important to tourism, but the funding is not commensurate with this, resulting in run down facilities and lack of imagination in what could be provided for tourists in interpretation as well as enjoyment.

Narrowneck Littorial Rainforest – Narrowneck Littoral Rainforest remnant is under threat from a development application for an additional surf club for Surfers Paradise.

The EPBC Unit has stated it is not a controlled action, which is unfortunate as this is critical vegetation and virtually the last on the Gold Coast.

After considerable lobbying the local Councillor has provided funding to rehabilitate a section which appears to have been sprayed with herbicide.

Groundwater Extraction at Springbrook – Concerns have been raised about the largely unregulated extraction of ground water on the biodiversity of the Springbrook Plateau.  There have been several meetings this year about the issue and support gained from experts who have given their opinions on the impact of water extraction on ecosystem dependent species.

Council is finally involved in research with Dept. of Natural Resources, SEQ Water, to determine the flow of streams off the Plateau which may give valuable data.

It has been determined there is virtually no regulation of the extraction by either Council or State Government bodies.

A reply to our letter to Minister for Environment advising that a Groundwater Consultation Group has been formed with reps from City of Gold Coast, DES, Dept. Natural resources and Mines, and SEQ Water.  This will look at the relationship between groundwater and stream discharge.

Only the number of trucks can be regulated.  Another application for a further three bores is awaiting Council assessment.

Some liaison with Tweed Water Alliance has taken place as they have the same problems.

Cane Toad Challenge – Following a presentation by Professor Capon of University of Queensland on a method of trapping thousands of cane toad tadpoles, Gecko has begun the process of becoming affiliates with the University to undertake a program on the southern end of the Gold Coast.

We will work with other Gold Coast groups, but there have been difficulties in accessing the pheromone tablets.  A Gecko coordinator is persisting with this.

Clean Creeks – Gecko is collaborating with Gold Coast Catchment Association (now called Watergum) and Surfrider Foundation in conducting regular water quality and macro-invertebrate testing in Tallebudgera, Currumbin, Flat Rock and Coolangatta Creeks.

Volunteers have been sourced and trained and the program is settling into a routine.

Round Table Discussions – Queensland Conservation Council Round Table meetings with Ministers and officers of the Department of Environment and Science have been attended by Gecko representatives on three occasions this year and have been an opportunity to have direct discussions with officers, share local knowledge,hear reports and make submissions.

Container Deposit Scheme – Gecko is preparing to participate in this scheme as a method of community education on recycling and reducing pollution as well as an opportunity to raise funds.

Conducted by Boomerang Alliance and Container Exchange – it is an impressive scheme, well-thought out and provides opportunities for community groups to be involved, as collectors or simply recipients of cash refund.  Incorporated n-f-p’s can register to receive funds as a donation by members of the public.

It is due to start on November 1st.

Osprey Nest, Palm Beach Spit – The Management Committee has agreed to enter into an agreement with GCWA to manage this structure when built. Further details are to come.

THECA Forum – This year’s forum was on citizen science and provided some useful information to the Gecko representatives who attended.  Interesting information about how to set up a citizen science program and the need to ensure that it is done properly so that the data is useful and valid.  Several examples were given of using data for campaigning e.g koalas- Lockyer Community Assoc; Raptors – Redlands; Coral Watch Great Barrier Reef.

Various links given to site to help set up proper data records:  Atlas of Living Aust. https://australianmuseum.net.au/atlas-of-living-australia?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIw9DSvpTz3AIVRnZgCh0oMAtNEAAYASAAEgKaZPD_BwE

TSS School Excursion and Presentation – The boys, aged 10 years, had a visit to the Currumbin Estuary mangroves followed a by Powerpoint presentation on planning and its relationship to protecting wildlife which was well received.

Saving Trees – The Isle of Capri Bridge is due for extension to cope better with traffic, but there are two 50 year old trees in the way and Gecko has tried to save these with discussions with Council officers and arborists, but were unsuccessful.

A replanting program will include a 5:1 ratio of native trees.

Light Rail Stage 3B – Its a Watching Brief for stage 3b from Burleigh to the Airport, which we oppose because of the high rise that follows.

Impact on koalas unlikely to be more than at present and may improve if we can get an overhead pass put in.

Trackless trains are an alternative that Gecko supports.

Gecko’s New Website – The Campaign team has been working on the new website content throughout the year.

Boral Quarry, West Burleigh – Gecko was heavily involved in this campaign with submissions and advocacy and is delighted that the appeal by Boral to the original P and E Court refusal was refused by the Supreme Court and Boral have decided not to appeal to the High Court.

It is great to see a victory for residents after 7 years of campaigning and Gecko thanks Council for persisting with the two court cases.

Submissions Made during 2018:

Were:

  • 201171124_SUB_Coastal ecosystems position statement consultation
  • 20171201_SUB_GBRMPA_CoastalEcosystems
  • 20171219_SUB_Cadmium_Coomera_Development
  • 20171219_Ltr_Ciobo_Narrowneck_SLSC
  • 20171219_Ltr_Councillors_Narrowneck_SLSC
  • 20180116_SUB_EPBC_Polaris_Coomera
  • 20180127_Email_CEO_GCCC_Offsets
  • 20180127_Email_Councillor O’Neill re Martha’s Vineyard.
  • 20180127_Ltr_Premier_Developer Donations Bill
  • 20180126_Ltr_Minister_SDMIP_SpitMasterPlan
  • 20180216_Subm_Songcheng_AustLegendWorld_MCU
  • 20180227_Sub_Mineral,Water and Other Legislation Amendment Bill
  • 20180225_SUB_Special_Wildlife_Reserves
  • 20180225_ Sub_ Local Government Complaints Bill
  • 20180308_SUB_Mineral and Energy resource (Financial Provisioning) Bill 2018
  • 20180324_ltr_Federal_Donations_bill
  • 20180322_SUB_Implementation_Belcarra_Bill
  • 201803228_Ltr_Economics&Governance_Committee
  • 20180330 Ltr_SUB_Vegetation Management Bill
  • 20180330 _SUB _National Biodiversity Strategy, called ‘Australia’s strategy for nature: 2018 – 2030’
  • 20180618_SUB_Operational Works for Black Swan Lake OPW201800637
  • 20180818_SUB_Solar Farms Guidelines;
  • 20180531_SUB Safer Waterways Amendment Bill
  • 20180629_SUB-Transforming Qlds Recycling Waste Industry.
  • 20180629_SUB_DEE_Product Stewardship Act
  • 20180625 _SUB _EPBC_2018/8191 Adani (North Galilee Water Scheme, Qld).
  • 20180628_SUB_Senior_Policy Advisor_Min_for_Planning_Planning Reform
  • 20180618_SUB_EPBC_Toondah_Harbour_Redlands
  • 20180728 Department of Environment and Science re protection of koalas
  • 20180728 City of Gold Coast re protection of koalas.
  • 20180728 Dept. Environment and Science re extension of southern boundary of Moreton Bay Marine Park
  • 20180910 Submission_Senate Inquiry on Species Extinction
  • 20180912_Email_Councillor O’Neil re Coolgatta-Kirra master plan
  • 20180927_Ltr_Min-DSMIP_Spit Master Plan
  • 201810_SUB National Waste Policy
  • 20181008_ltr_Min.Trabsport_trackless trains
  • 2018108_ltr_Min.Tourism_Casino & Evandale Parklands; and
  • 20181008_Sub_DNRME_Consultation.

Summary for President's Speech

The Gecko Environment Council Campaign Team continues to meet fortnightly and, as in past years, has achieved much in 2017-2018.

Gecko, as the peak regional environment group, does its best to respond to a wide range of issues relating to conservation of species, sustainability or transparency and accountability in government.

To this end over 38 submissions were made to government at all three levels either proactively or in response to a discussion paper or an issue that has arisen.

Since the Campaign team is relatively small (though dedicated and enthusiastic), the team has engaged in very proactive networking this year to extend our influence and garner support for action on mutual issues.

This has resulted in the consolidation of the Gold Coast Community Alliance and the formation of the SEQ Alliance of representatives around the south-east.

The team has also represented Gecko at the Queensland Conservation Council Round Table with the Department of Environment and Science.

The issues that received most attention this year were:

  • planning and its impact on the environment and species protection and sustainability in the community;
  • reform of local government to increase transparency and accountability in decision making;
  • the Spit Master Plan;
  • koala protection;
  • climate change and
  • The Stop Adani campaign;
  • the proposed cruise terminal;
  • protection of public open space;
  • land clearing;
  • ground water extraction;
  • national park protection and increase;
  • the light rail extensions;
  • the cane toad challenge;
  • water quality monitoring with the Clean Creeks program and
  • PFAS chemical pollution of ground water around the airport.

The team is developing the content for the new Website and contributes daily to the Facebook page