Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

January 18th 2007
Some unanswered rocky questions

While drivers may at times be getting a little tetchy waiting for the lollipop man to allow them their turn getting past the roadworks for the installation of the utilities corridor over Bright Point between Arcadia and Nelly Bay, residents have drawn our attention to other impacts of this work - namely on the World Heritage landscape. But getting answers from those responsible is another matter.

Given that a trench is being literally blasted through solid rock beneath the road it isn't surprising that a mess will be made on the Arcadia Nelly Hill. In many situations such as this it would be considered quite unremarkable that the rubble created would be pushed to the road's edge and left there. But when the road's edge is a World Heritage headland on an island which relies so heavily on its appearance to draw visitors, is this good enough?

An analogy could be to a somebody building a path through their garden. Anybody with a feel for landscape gardens knows that nature is the best teacher and that the face of a recently broken rock is a world away from a gently rounded natural stone surface. Likewise, most people would surely do their utmost to tidy up after the pick and shovel work so that the path can highlight the garden's best features.

To find out if the same applied to the magnificent rocky slopes beneath this road we contacted the Water Matters Alliance (WMA) with the following questions.

1. Following the construction of the utilities corridor over the Arcadia to Nelly headland we have seen large amounts of rock and other material dropped down the steep slopes of the headland. Quite a lot appears to be unstable and rocks are cracked and broken. Is this material to remain on the slope?

If not, what plans are there to improve the safety and appearance of the area?

Blue metal discarded

2. Large amounts of stabilising concrete have been poured over the steep surfaces - the appearance is quite different to the surrounds. The concrete is plugged or stabilised with steel bolts and plates which are also highly visible and likely to cause rust stains down the slope. Will there be anything done to mask or integrate these surfaces with the surrounds?

3. Eventually the whole route is expected to be again disturbed by the construction of a walkway. Given the enormous costs wouldn't it have been a better use of ratepayers' money to either bring forward the construction of the walkway and attach the utilities pipes/ducts etc beneath or wait until the whole job could be completed in one effort?

It should be noted that these questions were originally emailed to Townsville City Council's Public Relations, Mr Tony Wode. They were later sent to WMA Media contact, Mr David Donahue, who had recently sent us a press release claiming and we thought with good reason, "Queensland Corporate Communications Network (for which Mr Donahue is Managing Director Ed.) has been recognized for creating the best Public Sector Communication project at the recent Asia Pacific Public Relations Awards.

"'Water Matters on Magnetic Island', developed by QCCN for Townsville City Council's Water Matters Alliance, received the Gold Award for best public sector communication program for its work in improving the relationship between residents of Magnetic Island and Council." read the press release.

Will the steel stabiliser bolts leave rust marks down the hill?

We can understand the reasons for the award as Mr Donahue had provided plenty of helpful information to us about the project and was the source of numerous press releases and photos. The Water Matters Alliance, comprised of AbiGroup, Aquatec-Maxcon, GHD and United Group Infrastructure and TCC has been well serviced by Mr Donahue. But, when it came to what may be more difficult questions with references to Council decision making, clearly Mr Donahue had to refer the matter to TCC. Sadly, one member of the team is scoring home goals. After more than a month we are yet to receive any reply and an apologetic Mr Donahue doesn't expect we will.

It is unfortunate that TCC continues to remain uncommunicative to its constituents through As many readers know, this has been the case since 2002 when comment from Council over questions we have raised was curtailed in any newsworthy sense. Press releases are also denied us despite repeated requests. In the same fashion our ward Councillor Jenny Hill is yet to respond to any phone messages or emailed enquiries since she was elected to represent Magnetic Island in 2004.

In one communication from the Director of TCC's Corporate Services we were told it was due to our "content and style" - which we thought was a telling insight into Council's control mentality - an issue since discovered by the Townsville Bulletin "Masters of spin are at it again" (TB 9/01/07).

In fairness we believe there may well be perfectly acceptable answers to our questions. The bigger pity is that TCC besmirch their own reputation as well as, in this case its partners in the WMA, by not putting their case openly.

So if you are, as a reader, curious to know Council's position why not take up citizen journalism and put the same or similar questions to TCC. The email address for Mr Wode is or you may wish to ask Councillor Hill

As an open news source we would be delighted to reprint the answers you can extract. You will also be doing so in the knowledge that you are helping support freedom of the press at the same time. Over to you readers!

George Hirst Ed
Photos: George Hirst

To make a comment see below

Some unanswered rocky questions
Bruce Williams
January 18th 2007
Has it occurred to Mr Ed that his cyberspace editorials would produce better community outcomes by occasionally supporting the local authority, rather than by jumping into cyberprint with any old rubbish that seems controversial and, "with it"? The TCC is not some reactionary Southern Metropolitan bully boy out of its depth. The TCC has demonstrated to Magnetic Island Ratepayers and Residents for decades it is, from time to time prepared to listen to, and to act upon reasonable proposals for a better Magnetic Island. If that were not so, the improvements to the headlands' roads and walkways would never have happened. Magnetic Island is one suburb of one division among nine other divisions, all competing for scarce funds after previous neglect, and all within a smallish regional metropolis. This isn't Melbourne, Mr Ed. These improvements are the results of constructive communication between the TCC and the Magnetic Island community. Put your prejudices aside, Mr Ed, and try a positive approach. You never know: maybe at some far distant point of time in the future, the TCC might answer your belly-aching bullshit.
Tanina Connolly
January 19th 2007
One of the problems I think is that things are thought of after the event and it's sometimes difficult to spot at the time as with this issue together with say Flinders Street East etc. I don't think it's for lack of trying but things aren't jelling for some reason with the stated intentions of the Council and what is actually happening.

In hindsight there should have been a tunnel made under the road as this is such a sensitive issue.

The main problem however is getting the Council to commit to the fact that this is a World Heritage island - all of it - there were no exclusions like roadways, residential areas etc - SO IF IT'S ALL of world heritage status then treat it as such. We all aren't that stupid to think that we can turn back the clock and remove everything off (although the harbour would be a good start) here and we have to live with we have got HOWEVER we don't need anymore crap happening.

By the way Brucie, if anyone feels like bellyaching to the Council then that is their right - The elected representatives however do not have the right and that is why they are called Public Servants responsible to the people. WE ARE THE PEOPLE, WE PAY OUR RATES (the highest in the country) WE VOTE and it is our RIGHT and DUTY to stand up to bully boys like you - it takes one to know one doesn't it?

AND, I am sick to death to death of decent people being told "go back to where you came from" etc just because they have a different opinion. GROW UP and get yourself out of the school yard you bully boy.

Ken Dun
January 19th 2007
I constantly read complaints about unanswered telephone messages and email. Do community members ever write letters (I mean "snail mail") to council, councillors or to relevant government departments? It would be highly unusual for written correspondence to go unacknowledged, and if it did, I am certain the Queensland Ombudsman would investigate.

Mal H
January 19th 2007
Mr Williams condemns himself with his vitriolic language. It is usually the first resort of those who have no legitimate response to attack and villify those who dare to question or disagree with them. We who live here on World Heritage listed Magnetic Island are naturally concerned about what happens here. It is a shame, even criminal, to stand by and allow this beautiful and unique place to be despoiled to the point where visitors are no longer attracted.
January 19th 2007
Dear Mr Ed - what a nice antiquated ring that has - keep up the good work and thanks for keeping us informed.
George Hirst - Editor
January 19th 2007
Bruce, Having done this gig for nearly a decade my skin has grown thick like a horse's so I'm not going to cry when you refer to me as Mr Ed. After all that old TV star was the witty and wise character.

And, yes, we are often critical of TCC but this is the problem I was trying to address in the editorial. When, as a reporter, you come across negative story material that may have wider interest, you try to put the issue before the readers and, hopefully, the other side or sides' of the story too. But if the other side always refuse to speak or even tell us what good work they are doing how can we publish much at all let alone the positives?

I added your letter without alteration because it will again show that we are prepared to be open to all opinions and points of view even though I would have cut it as too offensive had been referring to somebody else but myself. I am also happy to use it demonstrate that we will go a very long way to include all viewpoints including TCC's if they wished to make it.

If you think we should shut up and just be thankful for the services and ignore the rubble tossed down our Island's magnificent headlands or you cannot see that, perhaps, we might have saved a bomb if TCC had combined this work with the eventual walkway, then good for you Bruce but I think Magnetic Island is worth more than that - not because you or I live here but because it is so exceptionally beautiful and a World Heritage asset. As the person who organised a rally to beautify the harbour I am amazed that you wouldn't want to help fix another mess in the making.

And, if you feel you need to stand in for TCC in absentia, the ma-ates must be relieved they have such a convincing spokesperson who knows the old tactics of playing the man and not the ball.

David J
January 20th 2007
It would seem that this project has all the same environmental hallmarks of Coober Pedy venture with the aim to 'Dig a hole and place the rubbish here'. Sadly it appears strikingly similar and little different to the other acts of vandalism carried out by those intent on applying 'solutions' to island problems. Contrary to Ken Duns view, it is in fact the increasing use of the internet and email that has had the best results in obtaining swift action in getting those responsible off their behinds. It is economical, reaches a varied audience and importantly is instantaneous in its transmission of information. Letters on the otherhand are limited in circulation, can be lost, convieniently ignored or are just too slow to obtain change. Email is treated no differently by governments with respect to its validity as a tool of communication, however its superiority lay in such aspects as instant read receipts, blind copies and wide circulation so that all are informed of the same information at the same time. Excuses such as lost mail, tardiness with repsonses etc are less likely with greater chance of getting things fixed while the workers are still on the ground. Left to their own processes government departments and businesses will always follow the path of the best solution, that is to say the 'least cost' solution, not necessarily the best. Unless it is pointed out mid course such developments as this will only result in an additional problem only to be solved at a later date through the expenditure of more funds and the ever popular time delaying community consultation process. History like mistakes has a way of repeating itself. What would be really usefull is a web site that contains island specific issues, the solution and just exactly what was achieved. Such a tool would give the community ample skills to specify solutions that dont have repeating obvious problems such as this. Otherwise the risk is that in the future the community would be sold a solution that such damage could only be repaired through a government and private partnership of a environmentally friendly headland development of low rise apartments, together with a marina and safe ferry terminal! Regards to all David J
January 23rd 2007
To respond to Ken Dun's question, yes I have used snail mail to ask that the Council complete the 40 metre section of footpath that is missing on Horseshoe Bay Road at the point where the road narrows and crosses the tidal creek near Henry Lawson Street. I write those letters because I am concerned that a pedestrian is going to be mangled by the fast moving traffic. For over 2 years I have been assured that yes it is the next work's budget; no, another Authority is having to make a decision, etc. I do get answers to my snail mail but they are not the answers in the interests of the many children, families and tourist users in that bottleneck that have produced the promised action.
January 23rd 2007
"...a web site that contains island specific issues, the solution and just exactly what was achieved."
That's a big call David J. It sounds like governance on line. Which would depend pretty much entirely on the inclinations of the web master - who would be a sort of self appointed digital crypto mayor without so much as a sidekick let alone an oversight committee (No Mr Ed, not you!).
Issues would get run together (as above), debates would run off at a tangent (as above), irrelevant side issues would take over (as above), the man and not the ball (as above twice or thrice) and what started as a reasonable observation about superficial collateral damage to the World Heritage vistas along the Arcadia - Nelly Bay road ends in a shitfight over the safe harbour (as above). No thanks. Three levels of disconnected government is more than enough.
Rod Arnold
February 1st 2007
Could someone please confirm if Magnetic Island is Heritage listed or does it merely sit within a Heritage listed marine park?
February 5th 2007
Google it Rod. Otherwise you'll be told a bunch of crap.

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