Over the last few years ASH has monitored the increasing areas of dead melaleucas, Livistona drudei palms and grass trees in the high-conservation value USL Lot 33. ASH believes that this vegetation death has been caused substantially by activities in Lot 17 (the adjacent development site) that have resulted in local hotspots of acid run-off, hydrology changes and resulting salinisation of larger freshwater wetland areas. For some of this damage the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined the developer a mere $1500, after ASH had personally presented photos to Queensland Environment Minister Dean Wells. As far as ASH is aware, no remediation works were required of the developer. The EPA has also defended the developer's excavation of several huge vertical-sided holes, metres deep, as 'borrow pits' - despite the apparent coincidental matching of the excavated contours with the contours of the not-yet-approved but proposed canals.
In late 2003 Cardwell Properties/Keith Williams (CP/KW) applied to the Commonwealth seeking declaration that the new lake/canal estate proposed was a 'Not Controlled Action' under the new Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act . This proposal, as put to the Commonwealth, included a golf course and a long 'lake' with many side fingers, but without external breakwater walls in the Hinchinbrook Channel. The Commonwealth Environment Minister has since declared the proposals to be a Controlled Action and subject to a Public Environment Review (PER). Recent news stories suggest that the PER may be close to public release.
CP/KW has also applied to the Cardwell Shire Council (CSC) for rezoning and development approval, the Application containing both the canal estate configuration put before the Commonwealth Government and a second configuration extending the proposed canal system all the way south to Mary Creek. The public review period for this Application has not yet begun.
The CSC has now applied to the Commonwealth, as proposed in the Infrastructure Agreement in the CP/KW development proposal put before Council, for approval to build two long breakwater walls out into the Hinchinbrook Channel. These are the walls that in 1995-96 the Commonwealth would not allow Cardwell Properties to build, and which were not included in the CP/KW development Application currently before the Commonwealth. (See p.11 for some fascinating clauses from this Agreement.)
In 2004 ASH formally asked the Commonwealth that the breakwater walls be declared a Controlled Action, and that the Cardwell Shire Council's (CSC) breakwater walls Application be considered in conjunction with the CP/KW STAGE II Application. Notwithstanding the contents of the CP/KW-CSC Infrastructure Agreement (in which it seems clear that the Council is acting on behalf of the developer) the Commonwealth has decided to consider the two Applications separately.
From Phoenix May 2005, the official newsletter of the Alliance to Save Hinchinbrook. Edited by Margaret Moorhouse and Margaret Thorsborne; compiled by Steven Nowakowski. Spokeperson for ASH: M. Moorhouse, PO Box 2457 Townsville Qld 4810; Phone 0427 724 052 May 2005