Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

December 7th 2006
Harbour supporters hate the result

The demonstrators walk the breakwall 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, 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

To make a comment see below

Harbour supporters hate the result
Ron Brennan
December 7th 2006
I suggest coconut palms be planted.
Would thrive in the salty soil, are tolerant to sea breezes, are fast growing, and would provide a genuine tropical look for the harbour.
December 8th 2006
For what it's worth (bugger all really) a quick reference to the construction plans will show that acid sulphate soils were "deep buried" under that beach area - below low tide level so they will never be exposed.
Bruce Williams
December 8th 2006
Thanks for the story George. One small correction: protesters numbered closer to fifty. Perhaps an editor (who can't be seen as a protester) counts for another twenty or so. Actually, we counted about fifty. Still, not a bad attendance for what was only ever to be a small, unpublicised event. The outcome is sure to be bigger than the event. The next event, we hope will be a planting session, attended by everyone who wants a GREEN entrance to our otherwise lovely island. Unless Queensland Transport has a better idea......
Bruce Williams
December 8th 2006
Ron, in the event of a cyclone, the various parts of a coconut tree are thought of as potential missiles. Regrettably, the Nelly Bay Harbour basin is filling with marina berths which may accommodate boats left there by careless or stupid owners who are not aware of cyclone warnings. Most boats moored in off-shore waters are taken to mangrove-fringed creeks in Cleveland Bay as soon as practicable. That has been standard practice in North Queensland since my grandfather was a boy, and I'm sixty. Further, the rock walls of the harbour are of an "over-topping design" which is constructed to allow large waves to break onto the external sheer walls, and run down the sloping interior walls to leave, theoretically, a maximum wave height of half a metre. Maybe, just maybe, coconut trees will not stand tall through this assault. As well, in the event of a cyclone, noone or nothing in any exposed situation is safe. The Magnetic Island Residents and Ratepayers Association is of the view that not all vegetation has to be tree-like. Hence Wednesday's demonstration, with non-tree-like palms etc. Situations similar to Nelly Bay exist all over the world, including in various Pacific islands on which I have lived. If Transport Queensland was really serious about spending money to expiate the obligations of the Queensland Government to the people of Magnetic Island (as opposed to the fly-in-sell-fly-out-rich-believe-me-I'm-your-best-friend-unit-sales staff), MIRRA is firmly of the view that our breakwaters can become green, even though some plant-eating wallabies were attracted there by a local with lots of spare salad some years ago and are now classified as world heritage icons. Let's face it, the Yanks put men on the moon in 1969, and motivated Aussies are at least as good as them. On our island there are more experts on growing plants on our island than there are in Brisbane. Especially in Queensland Transport. All we want is a bit of help and a fair go. And a fair grow. What's all the fuss about? TCC and MIRRA and MICDA and MINCA are trusted with the restoration of Gustav Creek. Why can't we have a lash at the breakwater? Lots of locals want to be involved. But we aren't in the State Public Service in Brisbane where everything is postponed for years. Just like our harbour wall. Would there be, do you think, fifty people or so on Magnetic Island who could do a better job than us? I reckon, Ron, you're probably one we can count on. Let's turn the harbour GREEN.
wendy tubman
December 8th 2006
I suggest the original supporters of the harbour be planted. They can all hold a palm frond if they wish. Happy Xmas!
December 8th 2006
Well! what a laugh. These galoots saw the same awfully predictable plans that we did. They need to take a trip to "Little Beirut" that was the Picnic Bay Mall to really remind them of the damage they have caused. Think about the Mall traders who were accused of having a "vested interest" by these same people whenever they spoke up against so called "Safe Harbour". It was always so obviously a plot by the developers to secure government funding to save a failed canal estate. Mr Williams and his fellow travellers ought to have the decency to apologise to Ms Julia Walkden and others who have had to endure a huge personal and financial cost standing up for their beliefs and principles against what they saw as a blatant grab for public lands and funds.
Bruce Williams
December 9th 2006
What spurred Harveys's "galloots" to action in support of the Nelly Bay Harbour was primarily the ten years of inaction on that disgusting abandoned site where our children and grandchildren used to play. While I personally respected everyone's right to have a say, I and many others found the utterances of the protesting minority to be off-putting, to say the least. "The site should be left as it is forever, as a testimony to human greed." "Pour milk over the quarried cliff of Bright Point. It will turn green and things will grow over it." " We don't want concrete footpaths because it will burn our children's bare feet" (despite there having been two cases on the Island of a dreadful tropical disease caught by bare feet in marshy ground). Many Islanders were turned off by a seeming connection between protesters and illegal drug usage.The harbour site was besmirched by a so-called aboriginal embassy. At about that time, sacks of New Guinea artifacts disappeared from a property beside the harbour site and reappeared in the excavated site, holding up works for weeks while this and other pranks were investigated by scientists.. and rejected. Such pranks contributed in a major way to the bankruptcy of the major developer. Protesters covertly pulled down sections of the safety fence around the site, a contractor's pump barge was sabotaged. The media was flooded with erroneous claims. Pressures on families were intense. Fires were lit illegally on the harbour site, tools stolen, falsehoods proliferated. That was a terrible time for people who really cared for this small community. Many of the current so-called experts did not arrive until much later, drawn like flies to a rotting carcass. "Experts" proliferated. An industry of protest flourished. The "galoots", local people who originally wanted nothing more than a safe ferry landing amounted to over ninety percent of the population of Magnetic Island. Those who remain, wish to see the project finished and the debate finalised. Three levels of government supported the provision of a safe ferry landing on Magnetic Island. Each of those three governments should reenter the fray, and put an end to this unfortunate drama.
k. Mcewan
December 9th 2006
If anyone should be apologising to anyone it should be Julia Walkden who cost us the tax payers a small fortune on her legal aid bill.
December 9th 2006
Bruce Williams looks to have a long memory but it's not flawless. The "New Guinea artifacts" story is only told by Bruce because no one can refute a story with zero evidence. For example who "owned" these things?, who says they came from New Guinea?, who says they were "artifacts"? and what evidence is there that they are the artifacts that were discovered on the Nelly Bay reef flat? Some "expert" I suppose. At the time a number of JCU scientists and archeologists had no doubt of the provenance of the items (they were basalts from Magnetic Island - probably from the numerous dykes visible today on the Geoffrey Bay side of Greystones Corner). The difficulty was explaining how they had got to their exact position. Ultimately it was decided that the stone tools had been manufactured on top of dunes in the bay (there's no argument that there were dunes) but these dunes had been washed around over time and the thousands of stone tools, shards and discards had eventually settled onto the reef top below the dunes - in a 'secondary' position and therefore not 'primary' source material. I believe the collection remains in the care of JCU so anyone who wants to argue the toss should start with the stones themselves not some pubtalk from 1988.
Bruce couldn't possibly know what caused the bankruptcy of Magnetic Keys Ltd but the incompetence of its principals and the criminal conviction of its money supplier in Tricontinental Bank would be a good place to look.
As to the "ninety percent" and the "safe harbour" think 'coalition of the willing' and 'bringing democracy to Iraq'.
Meanwhile, k.Mcewan (above) should know by now (if they cared, which is extremely unlikely) that Legal Aid is a publicly accountable organisation and Julie Walkden was not one of their clients.
Wendy Macdonald
December 10th 2006
I read your article and was so dissappointed to see that you simply cannot let go and deliberatly created a platform for all the past unhappiness to rear its head again. Its over folks, a done deal but I am now so proud of MIRRA and other Islanders, who may well have been in favour of the development as it was purported to be - the 'Artists Impressions' certainly looked good, having the intestinal fortitude to say "This development we have ended up with is nothing like what we believed it would be". They are now trying to get the attention of the Queensland Transport to complete the landscaping which has been on hold for the past three years.

Island Voice is dead and most of them gone to greener pastures. RIP.

Other than an interesting history lesson of Magnetic Island for newcomers who in their wildest dreams could not believe how crazy we all became for several years and how manipulated we were by both the Developers (various) and Island Voice I can see absolutely no point in this opening of old wounds as a result of a very genuine wish that the entrance to our Island be made as beautiful as it deserves to be.

What is done cannot be undone (perhaps a Cat 5 Cyclone would be of some help) however it would be so nice if we all lived in today and worked towards the future together instead of constantly wallowing in the past.

Well done MIRRA and all the concerned Islanders who care enough about Magnetic Island to take a stand.
T Bridges
December 10th 2006

Another bottom of the harbour scheme.
David J
December 10th 2006
Having read the article and views of others in this blog, I think a more appropriate Australian government term to be used for the project is a giant "Cluster *uck". Sorry if I offend anyone with such a term but thats what it is. What had started out as a simple brief to provide a safe ferry harbour was ambushed from the start, by multinationals, greedy developers and with the mention of Tri continetal, criminal elements no less. The fact that this has been such a festering sore since 1984, is at best, a disgrace. Could you imagine such a debarcle in a major city? It borders on environmental act of vandalism. I'm almost in agreement in leaving the site as is a reminder of such acts of greed, arrogance and stupditiy, however I dont think any further action is needed to achieve that particular goal! Its great to see some well intentioned activity by locals to bring about some action and some well articulated views regardless of who they support. Perhaps future developmental plans could perhaps include a social impact statement, the effects the proposal could have on citizens interactions with respect to social harmony in the event of the projects success or failure? Before I sign off I'd like to suggest a novel idea for the site. How about making a mock up of the first lunar landing, complete with lunar module and Neil Armstrong? No further soil or land development is needed, tourists would flock to see it, and politicans would benefit as the module could serve as a refuge for islanders as the island slowly comes to resemble the moon through their lack of action! Regards to all!
Bruce Williams
December 11th 2006
I agree. Let bygones be bygones.However bitter some of us have become, all sincere Magnetic Islanders should come together and try as hard as we are able to extract the best possible outcome. High on that wish list is an attractive and imaginative breakwater.
December 13th 2006
I agree too. So when you let the bygones go at least get some facts straight in the process. Construction started in 1989, not 1984. There were no heroes. Jim Elder did nothing for this community. When the three levels of government come back in to play we will end up with three more storeys of units, no car parking and a harbour that's not safe to enter. Well done MIRRA.
Bruce Williams
December 14th 2006
Charlie (AKA chasmac, another local who doesn't want his name anywhere near the history of this debacle, if accumulated evidence comes out) those comments don't seem like a "bygones be bygones". I want bygones to be bygones. Don't push the issue.
Mal H
December 15th 2006
I opposed the development at Nelly Bay for the simple reason of Magnetic Island's World Heritage listing.It was environmental vandalism pure and simple from the start, a canal estate with no provision for a "safe" ferry landing. Greed, or profit motive if you like a softer word. Now a done deed we all have to live with. Many visitors to the island tell me how aghast they are at the scale and style of construction there. All mudslinging and muckraking aside, the breakwall should be planted with appropiate indigenous vegetation, but to me it will always be a sow's ear gussied up to resemble a silk purse.
george Villaflor
December 28th 2006
kindda depressing reading all above. i wonder if maggie can ever regain the fabled community spirit that island living creates? End results of the safe harbour were predictable but nowhere near absolute. The project could have shone to fulfill all expectations & ease those who wished it had never happened. And it still may shine. The community may have to accept for those willing but unable to have blown the whole project into the sea that whats in front of them is what they and their children have got. Salvage the island community spirit back somehow in what people can live with if the community spirit is worth fighting for. Times are hard out there to make a dollar. Times are hard for those just living to survive. Which way will Australia go to keep energy sustainable? Now thats an issue bigger than all others. Even bigger than the safe harbour. Smile, a refugee would like to have your problems is a slogan I remember from the 60s. I recently walked over the safe harbour area on dawn as the sun was just rising out of the sea. It was a beautiful day coming. I remember what was there before when I came to the island in the early 90's. A very large mud hole or an unworkable white fellow version of an Aboriginal rock fish trap & could only imagine the beauty of what used to be there before that. Buts thats all gone now. The environment is like a puzzle. Take one piece out of it & it never can be replaced. Thats the message of the saga of a safe harbour. Not so much that it happened, because it has, but how to improve the community input that have to live with it to have a better & determining say; & make sure there are better chances of avoiding damage to both the island environment and island community spirit. I wished it never happened. But sometimes wishes are not enough. Good luck Maggie in 2007 & beyond & to all others. george villaflor- barrister, canberra.
Suze Collett
April 28th 2008
In studying Environmental Science and Management the Nelly Bay vandalism is a valuable lesson. The student vote is unanimous in support of the actions of Ms Julia Walkden. HOW DARE any of the supporters of this disaster vilify Julia Walkden, when it is clearly evident she was right!?! All supporters of the disastrous damage to Nelly Bay should apologise and organise financial compensation to Julia Walkden - at the least - this will help heal the social damage and build community spirit and cohesion again. As to vegetating marine mud with underlying acid-sulphate soils...investigate 'charcoal' remediation - prob adding calcium, apply via an injection system. 27 April 2008.

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