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 magnetictimes.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or you may wish to ask Councillor Hill email@example.com
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