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 magnetictimes.com, "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 magnetictimes.com 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
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