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President's Report

posted Dec 9, 2012, 1:29 AM by Cooloola Coastcare Association Inc.

Welcome to our members, new and old. 2012 has been a year of change for the Cooloola Coast, with a new State government, as well as a return to Divisional representation within our local government area. It is good to see that we once again have a coastal representative on Gympie Regional Council, and even more hopeful is the move by GRC to allocate portfolios to Councillors so that they are more accessible and accountable to the electorate. Cr Wayne Sachs has been given the Health and Environment portfolio, and has already indicated his interest by attending our October meeting.

 Let’s hope that this signals the start of better communication with GRC generally. Our interaction with some members of council staff in recent years has been less than fruitful, and any change at all would be better than none. Our organisations are both working within imposed constraints – of time, budget, experience and organisational objectives, which make it even more important to share knowledge and pool resources. Therefore our strategy for 2013 should focus on building a healthier relationship with local government representatives in order to serve the best interests of our membership, local ratepayers and the State and Federal tax payers who directly fund GRC and indirectly fund our programs.

 The State government change raises a few questions about future direction of govt policies and how we, as a Natural Resource Management group, respond to it. Already we have seen moves to reduce protective measures such repealing as the Wild Rivers legislation. The State government is directing more of its focus on tourism and mining to drive our ‘flagging’ economy and thinks that cutting ‘Green Tape’ will provide the stimulus those industries need to be successful. These sectors both require environmentally sensitive management if they are to survive. For example if disturbance from dredging for coal ports irrevocably damages the Great Barrier Reef, we lose our greatest tourism drawcard. At a time when careful monitoring and management systems are the most critical, the State government is removing the legislative powers that were designed to prevent more damage from being done.

 Last month, the Federal government restored some faith with environmentally aware voters by declaring 40 new marine reserves, combining with the existing reserves to form a network that completely surrounds Australia’s mainland and territories. This is a fantastic achievement  but it received very little publicity. It completes a promise made by the Howard government in 1998, so it is encouraging to see that a bi-partisan objective can be achieved when the public support is there and the long term benefits are so obvious.

 However, governments at all levels come and go, and we just have to keep moving on with our objectives, regardless of the obstacles. Maree will go into more detail about the projects we have completed, progress on current projects and those we will start next year. So I will just comment here on a few things that won’t be in her report.

 The outcome of the Rainbow Shores Stage 2 saga should be known early in 2013. This appeal by the developer against the decision by QLD State govt and GRC to refuse the Development Application for RSS2, has taken 3 years in the Planning & Environment court  in Brisbane. Cooloola Coastcare are also co-respondents in the case, having elected to support the case against the development on environmental and community grounds. Greg Wood represented us, and was nominated by the other community co-respondents including SCEC, FIDO, NPA as well as seven individuals, to present evidence. He has been tirelessly working on this for the entire duration of the court case, engaging expert witnesses, developing reports from evidence and appearing in court, where well-paid barristers were engaged to try to demolish our case. Whatever the end result, we can consider ourselves lucky to have had Greg on our case.

 Secondly, we have been asked recently for our opinion on a jetty for Tin Can Bay. This type of proposal should be discussed amongst members before we give our official position. If and when any details are released, we will make sure that members are provided with them. However, I would stress that Cooloola Coastcare Assoc. Inc does have Aims and Objects as part of our constitution and these may automatically rule out support for any project or proposal that contravenes those objectives. In this case, the management committee would not necessarily have to consult with membership before commenting. In practice, however, prior consultation is preferred. If any members have information or views on this or any other proposal that affects our coastal qualities, please share them with us.

 Finally, we now have a grant and the zoning permission to erect a shed at the Community Complex. Hopefully this is the start of an integrated approach to community services, a one stop shop for local natural resource management where programs and projects will be co-located at the Complex, with Cooloola Coastcare finally having a physical presence on the Coast. At present, our plant & equipment , educational resources and administration documents are stored in the homes of various committee members at Tin Can Bay, Cooloola Cove and Rainbow Beach.  We will all be glad to finally have that space back.

 My thanks once again to our hard-working management Team: Project Co-ordinator Maree, without whom CCAI would grind to a halt. Project Worker Michael Lowe whose expertise in local ecology is highly respected and valued if underpaid. Treasurer Jenny Adamson who keeps us accountable and afloat and hasn’t missed a beat despite experiencing health problems. Our reliable Secretary Sarah Mitchell who has diligently maintained our correspondence despite her busy schedule of exhibitions this year. Vice President Lu Lowe for his interest in training to take over the reins.

 Thanks to all our funding bodies for the faith they show in us, and to all our members for your continuing support. Please take care of yourselves over summer and come to our meetings in 2013.

 Fiona Hawthorne