December 7th 2006
Harbour supporters hate the result
It looked as if Palm Sunday had arrived early when, yesterday evening, about thirty palm frond waving protestors marched along the stark and arid landscape which makes up the Breakwater to Nelly Bay Harbour. The group were out to highlight what they see as inaction by Queensland Transport (who control the land) to complete the planting of suitable vegetation and beautification of the breakwall area. Not without some irony, the group were comprised almost entirely of Islanders who had been the biggest supporters of the harbour's construction.
The instigator of the demonstration, Bruce Williams, told magnetictimes.com, when asked what he thought of the harbour, "I think it's a heap of s**t!"
Bruce Williams has been a long time and very vocal advocate for the harbour which he says, "Is not what we wanted!"
The protestors line up
The protest was addressed by Bruce Williams who read a poem he'd penned for the occasion. The poem squarely lays the blame at the door of Queensland Transport (QT). One grammatically playful verse, taking the voice of the bureaucracy, reads:
Don't tell us youse locals are smart or anythink
You've been conned by developers, look at the other side of the drink!
And as to your inner beach, your public open space,
That's why we left it, so it's there, in your face.
Bruce Williams reads his poem
Amongst the demonstrators were media identities, Mary and Rick Vernon as well as lawyer Cameron Turnbull who was, interestingly, also involved in Nelly Bay Harbour Pty Ltd the company headed by Sir Mick Curtain which was contracted to develop the project.
According to Bruce Williams the group has waited patiently for three years to see the completion of the vegetation process and one of the group's members, Ian Turner, had been informed in a letter from the department in March this year that, "Works are planned for the latter half of this year. The department has been researching what types of vegetation to use (especially as ground covers)." It goes on, "The poor nature of the current soil material and the fact that a lot of the current vegetation is being eaten by rock wallabies before it can establish itself are complicating factors. The Environmental Protection Agency has provided advice to QT discouraging some groundcover grasses that we have nominated are able to grow in that site (as they may have potential to become pests on Magnetic Island)."
According to correspondence in October this year Queensland Transport had awarded Townsville City Council's Citiworks with the contract for the work, "earlier this year and have advised that they are currently programming this item into their works schedule."
When asked if he thought he had been naive in expecting the developers to produce what the group wished for Mr Williams said, "Construction started in 1984 for Magnetic Quays in 1984 and I was against it - most were against it. When it fell over and the contractors pulled out we were left with a large smelly bomb crater and it seemed that that was the final outcome."
Bruce Williams sees Sir Mick Curtain as a hero of the period and the only person willing to back the completion of the project.
He is also appreciative of the former Minister for State Development Minister and Deputy Premier Jim Elder who resigned in 2000 over electoral rorting allegations. During the construction process State Development was the lead agency for the development. Bruce Williams claimed, "When it (the project) was still under the control of Jim Elder it was something for the community. Afterwards it became an unwanted chore to be completed as fast and as cheap as possible without reference to local people."
The reality of the site's greening may be harder than it seems. Like most of the Nelly Bay Harbour development the soil has been dredged from beneath the harbour. Some locals consider the soil to be too salty to allow anything more than the most salt tolerent vegetation to survive.
Promotions for the harbour often display a sandy beach on the inner side of the breakwall but this area has remained a bare and eroding intertidal mudflat which is thought by some to be incapable of having sand added as it would quickly end up in the bottom of the nearby ferry swing basin.
Story & photos: George Hirst
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