Magnetic Island North Queensland
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August 1st 2011
Waste Transfer Station: Let's think together

Residents attend the waste transfer meeting The call is out for Magnetic Islanders and people with an interest and concern for the way in which our waste, our community and our environmental needs are managed, to look, discuss and think hard over the thorny future location of the Magnetic Island Waste Transfer station and the green waste dump.

The call was the take-home message from a meeting of about 100 Islanders yesterday at the golf club, conducted by Queensland Corporate Communication Network’s (QCCN) David Donohue, who has been conducting a community consultation process on these issues on behalf of Townsville City Council.

There is much to learn about the options and how the present sites have been assessed by the council’s consultants and this material is accessible via a banner link (HERE)

David Donahue commented that while the Townsville Bulletin was describing the meeting as a “battle” and the “last chance” to influence Council, “If you’re looking for a battle, I’m not prepared for it. It’s not the last chance but the start of a process.”

David Donahue with Stephanie Carter
who made notes of the proceedings

The details of the project, explained by Townsville City Council Utility Services’, Gary Ewert, provided a very useful insight. A waste transfer station is entirely different to a landfill and the waste transfer station planned for Magnetic would be built to the highest environmental standards and be much more sophisticated than the present, four, mainland facilities which were “simple” bin loading facilities.

TCC's Utilities Services Executive Manager, Gary Ewert

Apart form being an entirely enclosed within a $1M building, the transfer station would include three main 40m cubed containers and a built-in odour suppression system. Instead of them simply being filled with our rubbish, the waste would be spread over a wide, flat, concrete, “surge” area in which items could be sorted and removed for recycling or other waste streams before being compressed into the completely sealable container for shipping back to the mainland. The plan is to enable a possible “salvage shop and metal recovery area” as well as storage for car bodies to run alongside. “We want to be able to pull off anything recoverable or salvageable” said Mr Ewert. These efforts were not just for good environmental practice but to minimise, wherever possible, the amount of waste to be transferred on the barge; expected to cost $900,000 per annum with 16 truck movements to or from the transfer station per week.

Noting also that the building would be set within a landscaped site, “It will be built, contained, managed and designed to be clean attractive and safe” said Mr Ewert.

The discussion then moved on to what seems to be the most difficult issue: the future siting of the green waste dump. The current plan would see it move from its present location off the end of Hurst Street to be placed on top of the current dump which would be “progressively capped”. Picnic Bay locals are however irritated by the noise of the regular chipping machine operations - not least of which has been exacerbated by Cyclone Yasi’s massive extra load this year - and one questioner asked if there had been any sound tests conducted for this. There had not. But with much to recommend the plan for transfer station, the importance of the green waste noise issue alone may be the key to resolving much of the problem.

The relative merits and disadvantages of each site: Nelly Bay, Picnic Bay or Cockle were revisited (see story) and, as has been reported, the Picnic Bay site was found by the consultants to have the most merit. This was clearly not the view of perhaps 90 percent of those who attended with many fired-up Picnic Bay locals eager to say, as one did, “We just don’t want it here!”

The comments and contributions of the meeting, are, we understand, to be displayed tomorrow on the consultant’s website set up for the consultation.

But while the meeting showed a very strong support for moving the waste transfer station and green waste to the council-owned bushland block near Cockle Bay, the meeting only represented about 4.5% of the Island’s population. And, as human nature always seems to be far more motivated by discontent rather than its opposite, the meeting’s, informal, hands-up vote was hardly surprising.

A magpie goose and resident of one site
where the transfer station is proposed

These sentiments, while quite understandable, overlook the major environmental costs and near impossible state and federal environmental approvals which would be required if Council were to seriously take up the Cockle option. With a considerable list of animals and plants listed in a range from vulnerable to rare or threatened, approval by the state Environment Protection Agency would likely be up to two uncertain years in the making and that’s before the Commonwealth’s role to protect World Heritage habitats under the Environment Biodiversity Conservation Protection Act (EPBC) would be tested. Such matters will surely require very extensive flora and fauna surveying of the site which also sits right beside an important semi-permanent wetland and home to many species of birds including magpie geese, heron, loads of ducks and visiting jabarus to name just some. The mangrove-lined wetland is also an important fish nursery. Somehow it just doesn’t seem sensible for a Council with an urgent task to wait it out and run the high risk of the Cockle block failing on State or federal environmental approvals

One contributor queried that if the waste transfer station was built to the highest environmental standards surly then it would have little impact on the environmental at Cockle Bay. But, while the plant may well be designed to very high environmental standards, it’s footprint will require the destruction of ever diminishing lowland habitat.

Cr Trevor Roberts believes it would be better to locate a whole range of light industrial operations together in the area, and once the road infrastructure is built for the transfer station the expensive access standards would be in place. Industrialisation would be inevitable - making the whole block, which forms almost all of the natural linkage to the bushland on Nobby Head, eventually succumb to the bulldozer.

Cr Trevor Roberts

Cr Roberts told the meeting that he had listened to lots of people over here and wanted to take care of the environment. “But the environment that people live in and how it affects people needs to be considered. I appreciate where you’re coming from,” he said to the heavily pro Cockle Bay-option audience.

But if Islanders are to be realistic about the options it seems imperative that we look for a smarter approach than the simple but flawed solution at Cockle Bay.

Such a sentiment was raised by some attending; that Magnetic Island has a world leading waste water infrastructure and that perhaps we can find a world leading path in waste transferring and green waste processing too. Calls for a wider investigation of high tech approaches were mooted as was an approach which may see a separation of the transfer station and the green waste sites.

The conclusion by David Donahue calling for the intelligence, local knowledge and ideas of this community to be harnessed to find the right solution during this period of public consultation, which lasts through until August 30, was timely.

To help, Magnetic Times invites readers to both use our comments section below to further this important discussion and or use this link to the online feedback form (HERE) and again, for a listing of the public briefing outcomes (HERE)

Story and photos: George Hirst

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

Waste Transfer Station: Let's think together
Rose Gordon
August 1st 2011
To all the consumers who don't want a waste transfer station and green waste in their back yard........have you thought of making less rubbish?
Carol Pemberton
August 1st 2011
Let’s forget for the moment which proposed site is more suitable. And let’s think SAFETY. My comments at the meeting on Saturday raised little or no response from residents. But do we really want large trucks traversing our roads from Cockle Bay to the barge site at Nelly Bay permanently?
Consider your children, your partner, yourself, and your friends travelling from Picnic Bay to Nelly Bay daily? Have you encountered the odd car/bus/truck slightly over the white line? Well, get used to it. These large trucks used to convey our waste to the barge area will be an extra hazard. This is reality. Visualise our tourists and cyclists playing Russian roulette with them.
The only site suitable to enhance the safety of our residents is the Nelly Bay site. Less mileage, no hills to manoeuvre, less traffic to offend, less diesel cost, less maintenance of trucks, less maintenance of roads. Perhaps if the pre-approved permits for Picnic Bay landfill are an advantage, the pre-approved permits for the decommissioned sewerage treatment plant in Nelly Bay may be also.
I know that the major expense has been pinpointed at barge costs, but surely these local transport issues must be considered. Let us think of the cost of lives before the cost of waste.
August 2nd 2011
In Wikipedia I found census results for 2006:
1 Horseshoe Bay 484
2 Arcadia Bay 257
3 Nelly Bay 973
4 Picnic Bay 359
5 West Point 35 (probably includes whole west coast?)
Magnetic Island 2107

Any guesses about what will happen in this year's census? Sure as shooting Horseshoe Bay is growing fastest. On this data alone and forgetting "...for the moment which proposed site is more suitable....", I'd have to agree with Carol Pemberton that we should try to keep heavy transport operations centred in Nelly Bay. If only.....
If only the closed landfill dump would remediate itself and the adjoining Butler Creek channel and banks - all the way to the mangrove estuary beyond Picnic Street. Unfortunately, Council must budget hundreds of thousands to carry this out regardless of the location of the transfer station.
If only green waste could be turned to mulch silently, without dust or odour - then it could accompany the transfer station wherever it was located - including Nelly Bay.
If only we had some certainty and advocacy about the planned location of expanded industrial facilities like transport storage, garaging and maintenance, warehousing, construction and fabrication etc. - all of which are called for now, yesterday, not in a decade or so.
If only we could think of pulling together rather than pulling legs or pulling teeth. It could be a constructive exercise but it will be painful joke if we get it wrong.
August 2nd 2011
I said it before on Magnetic Times when this was first raised but I need to say it again as I'm OS and can't speak at these meetings. The idea of taking rubbish over the hill to Picnic, then to be taking it back, is simply a no-brainer. The transfer site should be in Nelly.
August 2nd 2011
Further to my previous, how is it that as discussion has whirled around each of the locations, Nelly Bay has been dropped off the radar, more or less completely? The Picnic Bay Push including Cr Roberts, wants to co-locate everything, including new industrial expansion, in Cockle Bay. Presumably, defenders of Cockle Bay would rather nothing was put there. There is a deathly silence (apart from a couple here) about Nelly Bay and yet the conceptual site on the decommissioned sewerage plant there could fulfill most of the demands that have surfaced in this debate:
1. There is ample space to place industrial-type activities and ample space to screen and buffer surrounding residential areas.
2. Direct access from Kelly Street which already caters for limited 'industrial' uses.
3. The complicated access roads for a transfer station could be re-organised to double as access for an expanded industrial area co-located alongside the transfer station.

One thing missing from such a formula would be green waste processing which is noisy and dusty and not compatible with close urban settlement. This may be where Cockle Bay can play a role. We know that the water recycling plant at Cockle Bay (sewerage treatment by another name) will need to expand onto new ground in the foreseeable future. The little maps on the Waste Transfer Station feedback forms show, on the Cockle Bay site, an oblong-shaped shaded area right next to the existing plant onto which that expansion is proposed to fit. Why could not this discreet area be set up with access and stormwater drainage, fencing etc. now and become the green waste processing site for the next few years until either the expansion of the water plant becomes necessary or Council develops a new approach to green waste processing?
August 2nd 2011
Really I meant 'discrete' when writing about that set-aside area for future expansion - not necessarily judicious, prudent and unobtrusive (discreet) but more separate, individually distinct and discontinuous (discrete) - so that it would not be allowed to become ever-expanding. I'm thinking that the balance of the 40 acre block between the water treatment plant and the golf club could remain in the natural state, undeveloped. Over time the disturbed, excavated, dumped-upon and otherwise abused and neglected areas within the 40 acres could be repaired, inappropriate man-made drainage and access lines erased and new walking and management trails established in appropriate places so the whole mangrove estuary, tidal wetland and eucalypt woodland site could be opened for public enjoyment as a recreation and conservation park. Butler Creek, which is actually in the adjoining catchment, could be connected to the same system of trails.
Patrick Collins
August 3rd 2011
The existing site at Picnic Bay is ideal for the Wast transfer station,

To site it at Nelly bay in an area of urban housing would be a major problem . The Site should be the one that effects the least number of Magnetic Island residents this I consider to be existing tip st Picnic Bay
August 6th 2011
Patrick Collins, what's the "major problem"? It seems you don't accept that containing the operations more or less inside an enclosed building and screening the whole site with a vegetated buffer zone would considerably reduce the visual, noise, dust and odour issues that otherwise might potentially arise from a transfer station?
If so, and that is your only criterion, then you should be campaigning for the whole thing to be moved to Cockle Bay where more or less nobody lives. What is the actual issue you have with the transfer station that causes you to completely ignore the available evidence about the benign nature of the beast? An ugly shed? Sure, but look at the monstrosities in the Kelly Street industrial area - or on Bright Point for that matter. Look at the Citiwater shed and yard built right there on the Nelly Bay site a few years ago. These are site specific, practical, utilitarian structures. That's what infrastructure is. We don't have to be ashamed of it.
David Donohue
August 22nd 2011
Some people have reported problems accessing the web-based feedback mechanism for this consultation. While we can't fault the system and continue to receive input (thanks to all) - the correct link is:

The link published in the Bully in Mary Vernon's column is wrong and does not work - not sure where it came from.

If you need help or advice, please call us on 1800 818 717.


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