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December 14th 2006
Court allows camel appeal

Last Friday Judge Stuart Durward in the Planning and Environment Court allowed an appeal against a Material Change of Use (MCU) approval by TCC for, "outdoor entertainment/ animal husbandry/keeping of camels" which would have led to a camel ride business being established on Magnetic Island's west coast.

The appeal, by Bolger Bay residents and other island residents, was against respondents Townsville City Council (TCC) and the proponent for the facility, Mr Michael Vance.

Mr Vance proposed to keep up to eight camels in three small fenced yards on a block on West Point Rd. They were to be used for camel rides starting at the holding yards in Sunglow Avenue and following the West Point track to West Point. Five camels were to be involved per tour with up to two visitors per camel. A morning and a sunset tour were planned. (read here)

According to Jenny Terrey, the spokesperson for the appellants, the appeal was awarded in their favour as the respondents withdrew. She believes the appellants had a strong case against the decision, and would have won the appeal had it been fully heard.

"We're just really happy that an inappropriate development was stopped which would have had a detrimental effect on the World Heritage values of this part of Magnetic Island." said Jenny Terrey.

A clearly disappointed Mr Vance told, "We've pulled out. We were bogged down with legal technical issues. I received the permits I required but obviously there are people on the Island who aggressively opposed us. We would have had to spend a lot of money and after two and half years jumping through hoops and going to seven different government departments it's all over."

Jenny Terrey, an ecologist who prepared the case without legal representation, told that she was relieved to have won as it had been a very time-consuming and expensive process. She said it was appalling that the city council could override the green zone for the western side of the island, forcing local residents to defend it.

"We worked on the case full-time from July to December and although I'm glad the respondents case fell over at an early stage it's a pity that the hearing didn't continue to reveal how this development was approved by TCC.

"In terms of the Integrated Planning Act (IPA) and the City Plan the feedlot proposal was 'impact assessable' and had to be referred to relevant State Agencies as part of what is called the Integrated Development Assessment System (IDAS). TCC stated in their approval that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was a "concurrence agency" which means it had the right to veto the project, but we discovered that EPA were, in reality, only able to provide advice to TCC.

"We would also have liked our expert witnesses to have shown how detrimental the proposal actually would have been to the environment.

"The land involved adjoins the Bolger Bay Conservation Park and the Great Barrier Reef Coastal Marine Park, and the proposed pens were less than fifty metres from a melaleuca wetland. The land also contains tidal areas so we believe that the Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) should have been involved in the assessment of the project," said Jenny Terrey.

Michael Vance was not sure what he would do next. "I don't know yet," he said. "I think it's a shame because we weren't doing anything wrong. The EPA gave approval and if it was an activity that was going to do damage we wouldn't have been given permits."

One of the appellants' major concerns was the impacts of the camels on the adjacent wetlands. A camel excretes the equivalent nitrogen of at least ten humans. Nutrient is a major problem that would affect the freshwater wetland and the adjacent intertidal areas of the Marine Park. Other concerns included soil erosion, as the land was flooded during heavy wet seasons and the bare soil would be flushed into the wetlands.

"This is the least disturbed part of Magnetic Island and local residents had worked for many years to keep it this way", said Ms Terrey.

Although Michael Vance seemed unlikely to take his case further he was bitter at what he perceived as the attitude of the West coast residents who'd opposed the application. "It's just greedy people out there who want it for themselves. It's OK for people out there to clear house blocks have pets and ride motor bikes through nature reserves but it doesn't make sense to me.

"It's taken a lot out of me and it pisses me off but that's life and we move on," he said.

Story and photo montage of West Point track with camel: George Hirst

To make a comment see below

Court allows camel appeal
December 14th 2006
Jenny et al - congratulations on a job very well done - wonderful news. It's a shame that Mr Vance had spent so much time and effort on attempting to get the project up and running, but if he had listened to the informed concerns raised at an early stage, he would have understood that 'not doing anything wrong' was exactly what was happening. It's a shame that there always has to be a personal snipe - re. reference to the 'greedy lot' - trying to protect the environemnt.
December 14th 2006
Since TCC was the Respondent in this case and was responsible for the poor advice and the fatally flawed decision, Mr Vance should look in that direction for an explanation. But I wouldn't hold my breath.
wendy tubman
December 14th 2006
I have never understood why those who, often at their own time and expense, use our accepted legal system to protect the environment for the commom good from those wishing to expolit it for personal gain, are termed 'greedy'.

A hearty 'well done!' to Jenny and the West Point residents/supporters for saving this special part of Magnetic Island from yet another sell-out by our dismal 'representatives' on TCC.

I'm sure many, like the supporters of the failing Nelly Bay Harbour project who are living to rue their enthusiasm, will breath a sigh of relief that this inappropriate development has been nipped in the bud. They may even say 'thank you'!
Chris C
December 14th 2006
Congatulations to the west coasters. If only we could do something as effetive in other instances where we all have to put up with the unacceptable so that individual businesses can take their profit - I'm thinking of the trashing of nelly bay beach on every full moon party and the bloody noise from that bloody red sea-plane taking off and landing
Jenny Stirling
December 14th 2006
Interesting: a local community group has to go to court to protect the best interests of the environment against the EPA and the local council.

What does this outcome reveal about the EPA's ability, desire, values and discretion in managing these situations?

Perhaps the acronym EPA stands for something other than its official tag. Let me see, Environmental Pisspoor Action.

Congrats Jenny, and I hope the broken toe gets better soon- you will have to take more care where you stick it:) The EPA undoubtably feels the pain of your actions in this matter.

Justin Thyme
December 15th 2006
Common sense prevailed in this case thanks to people who care more about the natural values that continue to be threatend by those who want to profit. Mr Vance admits defeat-albeit a little ungraciously- so why does he not try to start his business way out bush on the mainland where he wont be bothered by lots of greedy people? Perhaps he wont get the hump out there! from sheer profiteering that West Point offers all of usand not the but how long will it be before
Paul Lake.
January 13th 2007
Its such a shame that there are such narrow minded people out there at maggie, how many of you own motor bikes and cats and dogs that harrass and disturb the local wild life and ecology, how many more drive through the bush in their four wheel drives.
Camels are proven to be low impact on the natural enviroment being soft footed and their natural quiteness on many occasion has allowed tourist to see wild life they would not have seen from a motor bike or four wheel drive.
As for their excretment, there are ways to stop camels from dropping their pellets, there is a "bum bag" designed to catch their droppings in sensitive areas. As for those who "care for the natural values" I wonder if they dont already reap the rewards of ripping off tourists, Aussies and Foriegners alike. So go ahead you low lifes, stop another inovative Aussie Battler from doing well!
Bulldoze your new housing blocks and build you septic tanks and pump detergents and solvents into the enviroment.
January 16th 2007
Clearly Paul (above) has never been to Magnetic Island. If he had been he would notice that in the Bolger Bay / West Point area there are no "housing blocks" or "detergents and solvents" being pumped into the 'enviroment'.
If Paul bothered to check even the tiniest detail he would also notice that the question of camels' personal qualities (soft-footedness, quietness) was never in doubt and was never raised. I think he would find that in fact it is the "low-lifes" who are the "innovative Aussie Battlers" in this particular case. When Paul gets down off his high horse he might also notice that those same low-lifes have created the nature refuges and paid for the conservation parks that were at stake in this case. Why would they be interested in driving four wheel drives through them?

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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