Sunday, August 26, 2012


 The question was asked: ‘What is your vision for Springbrook?’ This was raised after a discussion on various matters that one had concerns about on the plateau. There was a pause. This question presented a difficulty. What words should one use? It seemed a reasonable question, so why was there a pause? Why was there any difficulty in responding, especially after having worked for so long to ensure Springbrook’s future?

While for many years there has been a committed struggle to keep undesirable developments at bay at Springbrook, the question that sought some clarification on how precisely, concisely, one saw Springbrook’s future - in a few words, what should this be? - had never been asked. Indeed, now it seemed that the question had never been contemplated in such black and white terms. Where were the words? What should they be? The problem with the ‘ummm’ and the ‘ahhh’ stumbling response was that it gave the impression of being shifty, and this was commented upon. Why the pause? Surely one so engrossed in Springbrook’s issues should be able to spruik with some commanding, convincing confidence? The point made in summary later in the discussion was that one was perceived as not telling the truth. This was a concern. So just what was the problem? Did any vision exist?

Why could one not make a crisp and clear remark? Years had been spent articulating responses on many subjects to do with Springbrook. Years had been spent trying to prevent inappropriate outcomes. It was made clear that others had responded to this question vociferously, in brief and without hesitation: unequivocally. Why was it so hard now to describe one’s expectations for Springbrook off the cuff, as it were? It seemed as though it should be second nature. Surely one must have some ambition for the place? Ummm! Ahhh!

 On reflection the problem was that descriptions establish limits. They define outcomes - create limits, borders, begging the next question: what is one to do when these have been reached, achieved? If only! Experience has shown how new and different challenges just keep on arising with time. How unexpected issues, different matters, new aspects of the same concerns, all transform the context and require new approaches; new energies; new thoughts. Defining a vision for Springbrook would only describe a particular position that can then become something for others to manipulate when greater flexibility was required. The problematical legal complication strides into the picture: but you said . . but! Words determine ends.

The essential issue is that Springbrook is a World Heritage area. It is a significant part of an area that has been so declared because of its unique and rich biodiversity. This is the core matter, not any particular or personal vision, ambition, fancy, whim or dream. These all hold the same set of limitations as those of developers. They have a conclusion that is sought, an outcome that is desired and fought for. They establish a ‘dead end’ future.

Springbrook needs the space to be what it needs to be. It does and should not have futures defined by personalities, individuals or zealots. One needs the flexibility to manage the outcomes as they arise, to allow World Heritage values to blossom. Anything else creates a problem. Trying to anticipate just what this value management might be today for tomorrow, is merely placing today's possibilities on the future, limiting them rather than leaving issues open to be more appropriately addressed in their time, not ours, as needs be.

This is why it was a problem to clearly respond to the initial question. This is why there was pause when asked to respond to the request to specifically declare one’s vision for Springbrook. The vision is simple. It is the maintenance and enhancement of World Heritage values: that is all, even if these words fail to be considered useful. This has to be the singular and primary aim for the region, not any range of specific varieties of other outcomes that can form a list to be adapted or adopted at another’s whim or convenience. Springbrook’s future is not a popularity contest; and it should never be political.
 One might say that what has been given international recognition with a World Heritage listing declaring its significance, will look after itself. Well, no. One only has to look at how world wonders have been treated over time to see the problem. How many are no longer there? The Buddhas at Bamiyan in Afghanistan of the sixth to early seventh century, is the latest World Heritage wonder to be destroyed - by the Taliban - in spite of a world outcry: perhaps because of it. Indeed, it was destruction carried out for the sheer spite of it. (see
World Heritage needs careful protection and supervision. Our new Neuman government has shown every indication of acting spitefully too. Is this the politics of revenge? Wild and pristine river regions are being opened for mining; literature awards are being cancelled; jobs are being thrown away, as if to prove the point of wasteful spending - to drive the political point home through personal hardship, as if this were a price being paid. All this when words have said otherwise: words, those things that one stumbled on when asked to spell out a vision. Politicians use words for their advantage. They spin words. It may be considered a skill, but this is not wise. It shows a carelessness and a disregard for qualities that are rich and subtle, just as their actions do.
Springbrook is a rich and subtle region. Instead of defining a list that might satisfy as an explanation of one’s activities, one has to stay vigilant. Such an approach is indeed critical in order to maintain and enhance World Heritage values. What is incidental is one's particular description of just what this might mean as a set of outcomes. It might be interesting and become a basis for endless debate and assessment, but such will always be less. It will always require constant updating to remain effective and useful beyond the linguistic dramas. Springbrook needs its own space to be and to remain what is so special.
Questions about ‘what is . . . ’ are pointless. They do not give anything but an immediate blurb about one's own limitations, preferences and prejudices. They also allow an analysis of both quantitative and qualitative judgments, where hesitation can be used to cast one as shifty, a liar - not at all honest - all when things are really otherwise. We do not need arbitrary limits when dealing with such important matters as these World Heritage concerns. We do not need parameters drawn up by Tom, Dick or Harry to suit one’s immediate preferences. It is only with the vision that is structured broadly without specific limitations and defined outcomes, that these values can be given the care and attention they require - to let Springbrook be what it wants too be; what it has been listed for: a place with a unique and rich biodiversity. Anything less is only less, even if the descriptive words might reassure or seem more efficiently expressive of intent. Subtle feeling and care are involved here, not personal stamina, preference or prestige.

One needs to be cautiously watchful. To maintain everything in accordance with preferred lists lessens opportunities and possibilities. It closes doors, instead of allowing the best options and opportunities to be.

Desired or structured, articulate visions create limits, as noted in the adage: ‘If you find the Buddha on the way, kill him.’ Seeking outcomes ignores the ever-present reality of being, of being aware that one has to be forever vigilant about the present. Specific outcomes can be achieved, opening up the next puzzle - what now? - or demanding effort to ensure outcomes are maintained, in spite of . .  Aiming for futures and claiming them remains the vision of the extremists, of fundamentalists. Springbrook needs to kept free from these dangers.

This is why the question, ‘What is your vision for Springbrook?’ is not a useful question, even if it can assist in averaging attitudes as if in a poll, to allow for a comfortable political existence. World Heritage has its own demands and needs to be the gauge against which all activity is assessed and all decisions are made.

For details on Springbrook see

16th October 2012
How things change so very quickly for the worst! On re-reading this piece, I was surprised by the words: 'The Buddhas at Bamiyan in Afghanistan of the sixth to early seventh century, is the latest World Heritage wonder to be destroyed.' Events have already made this statement incorrect. The medieval souk at Aleppo has since been destroyed by the fighting in Syria - see  It is a very sad event for the world and its heritage, let alone for the people of Aleppo.

Recent news reports have also told of how half of the coral of Australia's World Heritage Great Barrier Reef has died, noting that if nothing is done to stop this process, then another half of the remaining coral can be expected to disappear in the next ten years. The Crown of Thorns starfish is being blamed. Its young apparently thrives on fertilizer runoff.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


then                          now

Places in the world that have been listed as being of World Heritage importance have an iconic presence in our experience and become anchors for quality, ideals and significance that seem so elusive today whem minds are turned to making profits and reputations. This international status confers an importance that is recognised by many as being necessary for the maintenance of the character and relevance for which these listings have been made. Such categorisation of places not only identifies their meaning, but also adds some protection to them by way of international supervision. After all, these listings are made for the world, not for any local tourist trade, even though this may benefit. So surely it appears silly to express some alarm at the possibility that a World Heritage area might be at risk?

Other countries manage their World Heritage places with much pride and care, but Australia seems unconcerned about the rigour and commitment that is necessary to maintain such places, as it delights in their tourist potential. Has this carelessness something to do with the 'she'll be right mate' attitude that is promoted as being 'Aussie' with the same brash and pushy ceretainty that the cry 'un-Australian ' is made when things appear unfair or oddly different?

The following article in The Courier Mail makes one very worried about things World Heritage as well as all of those other special areas that have been put aside as our National Parks, as places of national importance:

Newman Government Minister Steve Dickson claims previous government should go to jail for state of Qld's finances

A NEWMAN Government minister has declared the previous government should go to jail for the mess it made of Queensland's finances.
National Parks, Sport and Racing Minister Steve Dickson said he was looking for as many savings as he could make ahead of next month's Budget, and seeking submissions from private enterprise to run commercial activities in parkland.
"I come from private enterprise, and if I did in private enterprise what the last government did, I'd be in jail,'' Mr Dickson said.
"That's the truth. You can't do what they've done to the business of Queensland and think it's all going to be okay.''
He said part of his vision for national parks was developing an income stream from private enterprise.
"We're open to all ideas and suggestions be they crazy to some people,'' Mr Dickson said.
"We won't accept them all but out of 100 ideas we might get 20 or 30 that might work extremely well and I'm yet to see them all.
"We're not environmental destroyers, we've got to do what the community will accept.''
Of the 12.5 million hectares of land managed by his department, Mr Dickson said just 17 per cent was covered by management plans.
"Eighty-three per cent of that land, they have no idea what they're doing with.  It could be utilised for grazing, some will be utilised for logging, some of it's going to be utilised for many, many different purposes,'' he said.
The parameters for development in National Parks would be decided firstly by local councils, and then ultimately by the State Government.
"I don't know whether or not we want to be building chairlifts at Mount Coolum but we have Skywalk up in Cairns that goes through national park,'' said Mr Dickson.
"There are some really really good ideas, but it is a matter of delivering a good idea that is financially viable.''
The Minister was visiting the National Parks and Wildlife stand at the Ekka and talking to rangers who present the "creature features'' show.

our World Heritage - biodiversity, not the picturesque

The alarming thing is that the only guage for outcomes that this Minister seems to think is revelvant is commercial profit. Why should a National Park or a World Heritage-listed place have such guidelines to measure any effectiveness of outcome? The real worry is that there appears to be a complete lack of underdstanding of what these places are, and why they have been indentified as being unique. So should one be worried about Springbrook in particular? Surely it is well protected being both National Park and part of a World Heritage-listed region - a double significance that must make its special attributes obvious to even a fool? Why worry?

There is a history to the desecration of important places in our world. Wars take no speciual action to protect significant places. These may get some relief when individuals sensitive to these qualities are in control, through their personal concerns, but generally other ambitions take over with a blind arrogance and determintion. The most recent desecration of a World Heritage site is the blasting of the Bamiyan buddhas by the Taliban. These ancient wodners were fired at for days until they remained merely voids in the rock face. It was a sad time, a loss that even the begging cry of the world could not stop. There was a detemrination to spitefully show the world what the Taliban could do. The actions seemed to want to highlight the determination of these people; the superiority of their beliefs. The Buddhas that stood for centuries have now gone.

There are paralells here with the Neuman government that seems determined to show how it is right and will right matters that its' visions claim to be wrong. In spite of the cry of many, the actions continue, almost spitefully, as if to prove a point beyond the obvious - to rub others' faces in the mess that this government believes has been made. Will it leave merely a void in the substance of our importance, our significance?

This is the concern with World Heritage. It has been and can be again anhilated by those who have other beliefs and undertsandings, as if only these are right. The problem of right being arrogantly right remains the threat. An undertsanding of the subtleties of substance needs a responsive, questioning mind that thinks, questions and cares. All we are seeing from the Neuman government is the demand of 'me and my might,' and the claim that all others who think differently are wrong.: 'don't you worry about that!' The threat to our World Heritage is real. Remember the Buddhas.

The  void that once held the Buddha

Will the Neuman government be the Taliban of Queensland? Maybe the gathering of National Parks into the same ministry as Sports and Racing shows the governmet's undertsanding of the issues. Or does this show the Government's contempt for them? Is it gambling with our heritage in front of those who care, like a spiteful bully in a playground breaking the thing most loved by the weeping onlooker. Who should be jailed?

Springbrook weeping?

It is not just one Minister who is exhibiting this blind arrogance. In formal correpsondence from the Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, (does this scheduling say somethnig about art?), Ros Bates, State member for Mudgeeraba notes awkwardly:
'Being that this year we have seen a change in representation at both State government level for Queensland and at a local council level for Springbrook, we have an opportunity to develop a plan for the area without the constraints that have previously held us back.'

This communication was forwarded to a select group of people - the 'us' that seems to have a certain agenda - inviting them to attend a meeting to discuss Springbrook's future:
'I am looking forward to working with you on the day and into the future in the best interests of Springbrook.' - to implement the agenda that has been kept a secret until now?

This communication seems to illustrate the conceited spite that this government is declaring so blatantly, first by noting that it now holds power to do whatever it might want to do; and secondly by choosing to ignore those who have worked, and still work, so hard for Springbrook's future as a place of World Heritage importance, with a continuing World Heritage significance for other generations to come. If one did care for the future of this World Heritage area, then the whole community should become engaged in this enterprise, not just the selected few who might be favoured by the local member and are preapred to help her achieve her personal ambitions that seem to seek revenge rather than any real regional improvement. This strategy of aligning the support of the chosen few to co-operate with an elected member's scheming has been tried before. It does nothing useful for any future. it merely creates problems, enhances differences and generates strife.

Poor Springbrook. Is this World Heritage at threat? Will we be left only with a void to let  the future know what once was?

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Recent media reports indicate that the proposed pulp mill in Tasmania may not go ahead – August 2012. This piece was written when media reports were more positive, and talked about a possible Ministerial approval with ‘strict conditions.’ The piece is still relevant, as the conditional approval remains a strategy promoted by Federal, State and Local Governments to achieve their ambitions irrespective of the failings and inherent problems in the proposals being approved. The Association’s experience shows this to be far for reassuring in spite of the gloss  governments place on these outcomes – see also

Our Association has had over thirty years of experience with local authorities approving developments of all shapes and sizes in spite of the number and rigour of objections, by using conditions to overcome contentious issues and obvious problems.

This process allows these bodies to argue that all matters have been addressed and to give assurances to all and sundry that every action has been and will be taken to ensure that not one of the predicted problems (whatever these might be) will or can arise – that all concerns can be calmed.

This process includes strategies where appointed experts are given the role to supervise processes and approve subsequent matters in more detail as these developments progress after they have been approved. The pattern is now very familiar to us and continues in spite of our explicit complaints about this tactic that clouds concerns and smothers objections.

Our experience has shown just how easy it is with the passage of time for conditions to fade away, be ignored or simply to be forgotten. Even worse than this neglect, we have seen how easy it is for conditions to be renegotiated once any failure with compliance has been exposed. This alarming and apparently legal process is able to take place in private discussions, between the approving body and the developers, completely away from the public scrutiny that the original development application had to be subjected to. It is a serious and concerning loophole.

Given this repeated experience, one can only be alarmed and worried with such a major development as the proposed pulp mill in Tasmania obtaining approval ‘with conditions’ – no matter how many there might be. Indeed, it seems that more conditions only create the possibility of more loopholes. If this mill does get built and problems arise with achieving ‘world class’ or ‘world first’ outcomes now apparently defined in approval conditions determined by ‘science,’ it will be very easy to have ‘new science’ define ‘new’ outcomes by proving, perhaps, that some conditions are ‘scientifically’ impossible or undesirable, or that the ‘old science’ was wrong. ‘Science’ is merely a word that can promote both the good and the bad, and ensures very little. It is not infallible or fixed in time. Indeed, it prizes itself on constantly reviewing and testing its hypotheses, with failure being seen to be more significant than any confirmation.

Then there is the ‘real’ world. Our experience has shown just how reluctant approving bodies are to enforce promised, predetermined outcomes. The cry is that a court may not see it in the same way, so discussions begin. Just try imaging how any government could close down a multi-billion dollar development once it starts pouring out its substances of any qualities or in any quantities. We can be told anything now just to get the mill up and running, but will those who have approved it still be there to ensure that all of the conditions will be met – ‘unconditionally,’ in full accord with all of the ‘conditions’?

We have seen that ‘conditions,’ like ‘science,’ are relative, and can be used to play a confusing role where their own inherent ambivalence and uncertainty can be ‘spun’ to suit ambitions in a phoney ‘win-win’ outcome. It all becomes more than bewildering when the two, with all of their vagaries, come together as ‘scientific conditions’ that aim to place a veil of certainty and predictability over what we have repeatedly seen to be something that is fully flexible and negotiable, capable of achieving any possibility with complete indifference to the implied rigour and commitment.

It is interesting to hear Gunn’s spokesperson speak about ‘trying to’ achieve a mill that can meet all conditions. The real challenge is to understand what any failure to achieve this might mean, especially with billions at stake. ‘Conditional, scientific’ approvals are not what they appear to be. Our Association has seen how they can so easily be manipulated to shut people up and out.