Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

June 21st 2008
Letter: Council lops Geoffrey Bay casuarinas

A koala spotted on the casuarinas at Geoffrey Bay Following is a letter, Island resident, Rolf Petherbridge sent to New Townsville City Council with a copy to Magnetic Times yesterday.

I wish to register a formal complaint regarding an activity of Council employees. This activity was initiated, then temporarily suspended in response to our direct complaint, yet remains likely to be recommenced, and has already resulted and would, if continued, further result in the destruction of important and valued native vegetation and the natural aspect of Geoffrey Bay World Heritage Protected Foreshore.

A feature of Geoffrey Bay foreshore is the natural line of Casuarinas ("She Oaks") which grow along the foreshore at the top of the beach. This species is the dominant tree in this littoral niche in the dry tropics. Their natural growth form is spreading with the outer branches pendant and draping right down to the sand. This vegetation, which hangs down even into the water at high tide and provides a delightful dappled shade to the beach, is the predominant contributor to the characteristic appearance of such Queensland dry tropics beaches.

At approximately 08:30 this morning while walking Geoffrey Bay foreshore, my companion and I came across a Council team (the environmental work team we were told) setting up with chainsaws and beginning an attack on these littoral Casuarinas.

When we enquired what they were doing we were told by one (the female member who appeared to be the foreperson) that they had orders to lop the Casuarinas, an order made by their supervisor in response to a resident's complaint.

Just as she finished assurancing us they were only trimming the dead limbs, a large live limb, >3 metres long, of many branches and covered with leaves fell to the beach, sawn off by another team member.

This team member was able to justify his actions by quoting his written instruction which were to "remove the eye danger posed by the limbs". Were he to have carried out his instructions faithfully, all of the beaches Casuarinas would have had their lower limbs lopped to a height of 2 metres above the beach, savaging them and their natural growth form.

As a result of our strident objections the team halted this activity and relocated to another task but we were left with no assurance that it may not be resumed.

Council is responsible for the protection of the Natural Values of the Geoffrey Bay Foreshore.

Council is not responsible for dangers (real or perceived) posed by the natural environment.

It is completely unacceptable and inexcusable that the resources of Council's Environmental Team should be directed to such an activity.

Yours faithfully

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Letter: Council lops Geoffrey Bay casuarinas
Geoff Hansen
June 21st 2008
I and my family fully support the actions of Rolf Petherbridge. While never having met Rolf, we are pleased to see that he was able to halt the vandalism. Let us hope that the stay of destruction of the casuarinas is permanent. The bureaucratic bungling at Nelly Bay(approval of developments that are cluttered, visually ugly, and have caused serious sand loss)should be a lesson for those concerned to think a bit more before acting.
Margaret Sewell
June 22nd 2008
Good on you Rolf. I absolutely support your actions to maintain the Casuarinas in their natural state. Keep up the vigil.
June 22nd 2008
So casuarinas might cause eye damage and must be lopped? Now I have heard everything! It is bad enough that the cocnut palms on the foreshore, well away from any buildings, have to be denutted in case a nut falls on a parked car which shouldn't be parked there in the first place, thus depriving kids holidaying here of the joy of finding fallen coconuts and eating their finds - which my kids did regularly 30 years ago.
Natural Habitats are just that. We have somehow forgotten that we are responsible for taking reasonable care for our own (and our offspring's)safety when enjoying them. We also seem to have forgotten that an accident is just that - something that just happens - and if anyone gets hurt, we immediately look for someone to sue. Hence the Council's paranoid reaction to a line of casuarinas doing what casuarinas have always done, and trailing their branches. For heaven's sake - if you are worried that a casuarina twig might get in your eye, don't go near the casuarinas - or wear sunnies!
June 23rd 2008
Hear hear. While on the subject, I have just been out at the Bolger Bay Conservation Park and noticed that a few days ago some freeloader has reversed a truck off the road (West Point Track) into the Park about twenty metres, chainsawed a bloodwood tree of about 250mm diameter (you can see where the falling tree has damaged nearby trees), cleaned off branches and brush and cleared out with a log. This might be chickenfeed compared with the grotesque mining and excavation being conducted on private land out there at the moment to supply Townsville City Council with "roadbase" for its "upgrade" but in my mind it's all part of the same mindset.
Clearly the decisions are made in Town by people who have no intention of seeing with their own eyes what effects their people have when they implement their instructions. It's just, "we've got the budget so help yourself and we'll work out the details later".
At Geoffrey Bay it's up front and in your face whereas at Duck Creek the rampage (which covers acres and has continued unabated and uncontrolled for 20 years) is screened vaguely behind high guinea grass and a few remnant trees. Council knows full well that the excavations are unlawful because only Council can supply permits and monitoring for such extractive industry. TCC has turned a blind eye since about 1988 and does not intend to change about now.
Pam Barlow
June 23rd 2008
thanks Rolf for your swift action I fully support you and all who act to save these beautiful trees. will keep my eye out as I walk that beach

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