Campaign Team Annual Report 2019-2020
Sincere thanks to all the volunteers involved in the team’s work over the past year.
Submissions made are listed at the end of this report:
This year began with the horrific fires along the eastern seaboard and we were all very distressed not only with the human loss of life and property, but also the loss and injury of an estimated 3 billion native animals. The impact of this are still with us and are compounded by the inadequate Federal and State environment laws to protect wildlife and native plants remaining.
The year continued with the advent of the Covid 19 pandemic in March, which resulted in the closing of the Gecko House office for several months, but the work of the campaigns team continued during the lockdown. The Campaign team works in 4 main areas – Biodiversity, Climate Change, Protection of Public Open Space and a Liveable Green City. The issues worked on during this year were as follows:-
Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) Review. The final report of this review is due in November 2020, but the Interim report has already stated that the Act is not fit for purpose in protecting native plants and animals. Despite this the Federal Government is going ahead with plans to change the Act so that the various State Governments assess development applications under the Act using standards that are not yet developed. Gecko opposes this move as the current system with assessments by both State and Federal Governments provides an opportunity for greater scrutiny. https://epbcactreview.environment.gov.au/.
Koalas: The Koala Conservation Strategy has been released. It includes $2 million for restoration work and a donation of $50,000 to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. The situation for koalas is dire with the increased destruction of habitat from the many fires burning around Queensland and NSW as well as ongoing subdivision development. The implementation of the strategy is continuing slowly and the maps are being updated.
Koalas on the Green a group in the northern part of the city is auspiced by Gecko and is doing a great job planting koala trees in the area and the new project of possum pantry to support Wildcare carers with food for possums and other wildlife.
Black Swan Lake, Bundall – Gecko has continued to support Wildlife Queensland GC branch’s effort to protect this lake over the past 4 years. The 20 % left of the lake has had a reprieve when Council unexpectedly decided to retain the lake and revise the lease arrangements with the GC Turf Club. Council will rehabilitate the lake and ensure it is a viable body of water. Gecko has written seeking details of this, but the response was not very informative and needs further follow up. The community remains highly engaged with the future of this lake.
National Parks –Nerang National Park: Gecko has received information that Nerang National Park is being used inappropriately by the GC Mountain Bike club and an excursion was organised to inspect the damage. The club has cut new tracks through the threatened ecosystem in the centre of the national park without permission. Gecko has raised this issue with the Dept. of Environment on several occasions and are awaiting the results of a community consultation exercise. It appears there will be a compromise with the GC Mountain Bike club being allowed to continue in zones 1 and 2 whilst the remainder of the trails will be rehabilitated. A sum of $200,000 may be provided for this work. Watergum organisation has been given the task of organising a Friends of Nerang National Park and hopes to launch this after the State election.
Increase in national parks: The State Government has released the Protected Areas Strategy 2020- 2030 which meets a number of the objectives of the Queensland Conservation Council (Gecko is a member) campaign seeking a commitment from all political parties to increase the National Park estate to 17% over the next 4 years. Included in the protected areas are Nature Refuges and Special Wildlife Conservation Reserves on private land. The full strategy can be accessed here https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/212524/qld-protected-area-strategy-2020-30.pdf
The commercialisation of national parks was the topic of several briefs to the Environment Round Table with the Minister for Environment. Regrettably it appears that the Dept. of Innovation and Tourism Industry headed by retiring Minister Kate Jones has more sway in cabinet than Minister for Environment, Leanne Enoch. Follow up submissions will continue to be made. National Parks only constitute 7 % of land area of Queensland (unlike 50% in Tasmania) and should not be taken over by commercial development within the Park.Gecko has asked National Parks Assoc of Queensland to run their forum on commercial exploitation of national parks on the Gold Coast and they have confirmed this for February 2021
Ground Water Extraction at Springbrook (GWE). City of Gold Coast Council has rejected the application for several new bores at 263 Repeater Station Rd. The applicant has appealed to the Planning and Environment Court. The grounds for rejection were complex, but basically the applicant was unable to demonstrate that the bore would not impact negatively on the adjoining World Heritage Area national park and he was not permitted to remove protect vegetation along the road to increase safety. Gecko was successful in achieving a Ministerial moratorium on new water mines until mid-2020. Gecko has further requested an examination of existing water mines compliance and legislation to make Springbrook Plateau a groundwater management area under DNRME. There are also other applications for more water mines in Council awaiting the public objection period.
Cableway to Springbrook A media release announced that Tate intends to spend ratepayer money on undertaking an Environmental Impact Assessment on a cableway to Springbrook or Mt Tamborine. Gecko has responded in GCB and social media questioning the right of the mayor to spend ratepayer funds on this especially during the economic crisis of Covid 19. Council can spend money on planning, but an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is far beyond planning and would cost millions of dollars. It appears the Mayor may want ratepayers to pay for this expensive exercise and if approved then a developer could just take on the construction. A report by Destination Gold Coast tourism is supporting this and claims it is viable subject to the approval via an EIA at both state and federal levels. The previous EIA on the Naturelink proposal in 1998-2000 was 9 volumes and it was rejected due to issues with environmental aspects, safety from bushfires and lack of town water and sewage. Nothing has changed since then except that forests are drying out more due to climate change.
Oxenford Quarry –Nucon at Oxenford have applied to expand the quarry, which was to cease in 2017, into essential koala and Glossy Black Cockatoo habitat. There are also issues with dust with silica, noise from blasting and truck movements. It has been referred to Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Unit (Ref2018/8356) and submissions have closed. It is still awaiting assessment and a decision However it appears the Koala Conservation Strategy exempts Key Resource Areas! Gecko suggested to the community group opposing this to request the Federal Dept of Environment (EPBC) to ask for all correspondence between proponent and the Department as well as for the documentation in the information request. FOIContact_officer@environment.gov.au statement of reasons why it was deemed controlled action.
Toondah Harbour: This is a proposal for 3,600 units to be built on top of the wetlands in Moreton Bay at Cleveland and is vehemently opposed by local residents and many others throughout Queensland. The wetland area is a listed Ramsar site under an agreement which is designed to protect migratory birds habitat after their journeys of up to 12,000 kilometres from Asia. Ramsar is an international agreement to which Australia is a signatory. In addition the State Government designated the development a Priority Development Area (PDA) which does not allow any pubic objection rights. It has been referred to the EPBC Unit for assessment. Terms of Reference for the Environment Impact Assessment are now on the EPBC website (http://epbcnotices.environment.gov.au/_entity/annotation/f4225aa8-9b56-e911-b854-005056842ad1/a71d58ad-4cba-48b6-8dab-f3091fc31cd5?t=1557102803634
Gecko Climate Action Network: and Gold Coast Climate Action Network (GCCAN) – The networks have continued to meet monthly throughout the year either in person or online and collaborate on actions. Gecko now has a climate action Instagram account @ geckoclimateaction which is working well, thanks to the efforts of Alaire Davis and Kylie Ross. Gecko’s social work intern Kylie Ross provided a report on the impact of heat stress and health and welfare responses, which demonstrated inadequate systems of notification of heat waves and then response. Gecko representatives attended a climate change conference in Melbourne in February and it was inspiring to see how many people are working on this existential threat throughout Australia. GCCAN hosted a webinar with Griffith University Beacon Project on sustainability within the University and follow up actions relating to the Gold Coast Community are pending. The online School Strike was supported by GCCAN members. The network is again promoting the petition for the Climate Action Bill https://climateactnow.com.au/?r=climateforchange, which has been submitted to Parliament, but delayed due to Covid 19. There are 79,000 signatories.
Liveable, Green City
Planning. The City Plan Amendments package 2 and 3 went out for public consultation during late 2019 and early 2020.Gecko collaborated with the Community Alliance in holding several public meetings designed to explain the Amendments and their impact on respective communities. There are several improvements for community amenity in the Amendments as well as reducing the number of excessive relaxations of the planning guidelines being granted. There were over 2000 submissions made, but most changes requested were ignored by Council. In July Council suddenly announced that they had commissioned a review of the Amendments by Ethos Urban and PSA Consulting. This review was apparently the result of lobbying by the Property Council of Australia which considers that Amendments 1-17 which are designed to protect community amenity threatened the financial profitability of the development industry. As result of this the Amendments have been delayed in going to State Government until after the State Election on 31st October. Gecko is awaiting the result of this review.
Gecko has accompanied Community Alliance president John Hicks to meetings with three of the new Councillors and they appear sympathetic to the issues of excessive relaxations of development approvals.
The totally inappropriate Ridong development proposal for Tallebudgera Valley was refused by Council following determined lobbying by the local community. There has been no further information following this decision.
Gecko has made several other submission objections to other planning applications which do not comply with the City Plan requirements.
Transport and Roads
Coomera Connector: This is a proposed 4-6 lane road roughly parallel to the M1 which is purported to remove 60,000 vehicles from the M1 and reduce congestion on the M1. There have been several opportunities for public consultation for Stage 1 from Nerang to Pimpama and the establishment of a community reference group. Gecko has made several substantial submissions citing issues with greenhouse gas emissions, noise and air pollution, destruction of habitat including koala habitat, severing of communities etc and the failure of TMR to promote and provide public transport as an alternative. Requests for a copy of the alternatives examined has been refused. It is only now that communities, through which the road will be built, are realizing the impact, however as both Labor and the LNP support the road it is likely to go ahead in some form. Gecko is working with Coomera Conservation Group and others in trying to get the best outcome for wildlife through offsets, relocation and wildlife movement systems. The Koala Management Plan for the road will be released prior to Christmas. The campaign is ongoing. Stage 2 from Pimpama to Eagleby is even more damaging to koala habitat and the wetlands and there is a very active group in Eagleby opposing this.
M1 Expansion: The M1 and side road will be expanded to 11 lanes in some places and includes a cycle way made of Portland cement, along a substantial portion. A wildlife underpass is planned for the Burleigh to Springbrook corridor. Oyster Creek will be rehabilitated with some ponds for fish. Gecko is liaising with Council Parks and Gardens about the western exit of the fauna underpass and the lack of connecting bushland for animals exiting the underpass. The thousands of trees are being lost without compensation except for the koala food trees, which are being planted in Eddie Kornhauser Park. https://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Projects/Name/P/Pacific-Motorway-M1-Varsity-Lakes-Exit-85-to-Tugun-Exit-95-upgrade
Light Rail Stages 3 and 4 Funding for the next section from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads is secured and there have been a number of development applications along the route that do not comply with the City Plan on density, height and set back conditions. The route of the Light rail Stage 4 is down the Gold Coast Highway from Burleigh heads to the airport. There is a lot of community disquiet about this because of the overdevelopment that has pre-empted this and will follow it as well as fears that this will extend in to Currumbin and Tugun. Alternative routes via the passenger rail adjacent to the M1 have been put forward. Further consultation is due in 2021 and Gecko will focus on the environmental issues of the impact of the light rail on Burleigh Heads National Park and Conservation reserve, Tallebudgera Creek and beach, Tarrabora reserve, Currumbin Conservation reserves and the built environment amenity of the Gold Coast Highway. The Oceanway is also proposed for Palm Beach despite much of the state land being eroded away.
Protection of Public Open Space
The Spit Master Plan:
Protection of the public open space on The Spit has been a decades long campaign for Gecko and other groups so it is with relief that legal protection has been implemented, with the exception of Philip Park where an Oceanside cruise terminal is still mooted. A Spit Master Plan Implementation Bill was passed by Parliament in March. Gecko made a submission requesting the following:- additional legal protection of the parklands and reserves; for one of the new Board members to have qualifications in design and sustainability; for compensation of loss of parkland and protection of seagrass beds in the superyacht plans for Jack Gordon Park; on the new heliport built by SeaWorld and the noise pollution. We continue for ask for a bus service north of SeaWorld. The community consultation process won several awards for excellence. The work on improving the public parklands has begun and is managed by the Gold Coast Waterways Authority. Several blocks of land in the commercial zones are currently offered for development by the State Government. The outcome is unknown.
Curlew Island in the Broadwater is an important site for migratory birds and now has some protection. The parliamentary Committee report was released and they have recommended that Curlew Island, known as land parcel SP299989, be surveyed to be recognised as an environmental reserve for the benefit of the migratory birds that rest and feed there annually.
Helicopters on The Spit have been a major noise and air pollution problem prior to the Covid lockdown with 4 helicopters taking off and landing every few minutes and flying in a figure of eight course over residential areas of Main Beach and Southport as well as The Spit. Gecko joined with other groups in objecting to this to all relevant Government Departments and Council. Council has finally requested a ‘show cause’ of the operators as the helipad is not compliant with the City Plan. The final outcome of this is not known yet.
The Oceanside cruise terminal has remained on the Council agenda despite the severe decline of the cruise industry as a result of Covid 19. According to the mayor it is on ‘pause’, but there is little support within the other Councillors. The LNP continues to support it so the outcome may depend on the State election result. Gecko had applied to Council for the public release of the un-redacted PwC Business case report and was refused. Gecko has now applied to the Office of the Information Commissioner for the report’s release on the grounds that the data from 2017 and under Covid is no longer relevant. We await the decision.
Beach Bars – A report by Destination Gold Coast tourism has suggested that Council should allow commercial beach bars on 5 Gold Coast beaches to serve food and alcohol. Recently there was a further ‘suggestion’ by an entrepreneur to build a “temporary” beach bar on the sand dune north of Kurrawa SLSC for 3 years which will also be opposed. Gecko is totally opposed to this alienation of public open space and it has been confirmed by the Dept. of Environment that it is contrary to the Coastal Management Plan. Further Council local law does not permit this type of development on beaches.
Second casino or Global Tourism Hub (GTH) – The public consultation results have been released and there was almost unanimous opposition to the alienation of public open space for such a project. This has resulted in the Government decision that public open space cannot be used for the GTH. The Government refused Star Entertainment request for a monopoly by them for 30 years on the casino in return for the expansion of the Convention Centre and upgrade of their own property the Sheraton hotel on The Spit. The whole concept appears to have been abandoned due to Covid 19 impact.
Reform of Local Government: The second Local Government Reform Bill has been passed in Parliament. Gecko supports all of its provisions though we are disappointed that expenditure caps on council candidates did not operate in time for the 2020 elections. A submission was made to the Electoral and other Legislation (Accountability, integrity and other matters) Bill which includes matters relating to closed council meetings, redacted reports signage at polling booths and other improvements of transparency.
The Community Alliance –CA which has a membership of 16 community groups throughout the city continues to push for reform of the city plan and is awaiting the result of the review into the Amendment 2 and 3 package that has yet to be approved by State Government. Gecko is an active member of the Alliance.
SEQ Alliance -This group of representatives of community organisations around SEQ is now incorporated and have held an AGM and elected an executive – President – Sunshine Coast; Vice President- Redlands; Secretary – Gold Coast and Treasurer- Brisbane. The focus remains on reform of planning legislation and increased accountability of local government. Most meetings during 2020 have been via Zoom.
Submissions Made 2019-2020
20191106/ 20191108 Two Gecko submissions to the City Plan Amendments
20191214 Spit Master Plan Implementation Bill
20191222 Ltr- Min SDMIP re Superyacht s and Heliport The Spit.
20200131_Sub_Koalas Conservation Strategy
20200108_Sub_City Plan Amendments Round 2
20200109 Sub _ Electoral and other Legislation (Accountability, integrity and other matters) Bill
20200207 SUB_Integrity_Local Govt_reforms
20200805_email_ AngusSutherland_DES_list of NNP stakeholders
20200820 Email_Council_re answer to Bars on Beaches
October 24th 2020