Monday, November 23, 2015


Facade detail of development?


It would be funny if it were not so serious. The Gold Coast Bulletin recently reported on a development proposal for what it describes as 'the famous Merrimac Cow paddock': see below. Apparently Council has already approved a scheme on these flood plains subject to the development providing: 'two boat skippers, warning lights, [and] flood rations for three days to ensure residents' safety on the flood plains.' Is this really true? What happens after three days if the flood waters have not subsided?

The skippers?

Proposed apartment block?

One has to ask: why allow any construction on a flood plain? The Gold Coast should have learned about the problems of approving development on low land from the Brisbane floods. What on earth is happening here? Has the Gold Coast forgotten about the 1974 floods that inundated the region; and the regular regional problems with heavy downpours? The report sounds like a joke; but no, it seems to be real. Apparently Council is now being asked to approve a larger development on the same site; and, as if to confirm that it was serious with its previous outrageously unusual conditions, a spokesperson has apparently said that these conditions would remain in place. Maybe they might be modified? The report mentions lifeboats! What might insurance companies think of the circumstance?

Typical apartment block for flood plain?

How can anything like this be enforced? Who will check? Will there have to be lifeboat practice once a year in the same way that offices have their fire evacuation rehearsals? How can a flood evacuation drill be held in dry conditions? How will the food be kept? Where? By whom? Who will distribute it? Will this be rehearsed too? How? Who gets what: when? 1500 units are being proposed. One is reminded of the requirements for post-disaster cyclone occupation. One project completed some years ago in Townsville had to have fuel and drinking water supplies available to ensure that it could remain operational. Tanks were installed and filled, but one suspects that neither tank has ever been looked at again. Both fuel and drinking water need regular refreshing. What surprise might the next disaster reveal? How might the flood plain residents cope? In the last Brisbane floods, the upper units in the high-rise apartment blocks on the Brisbane River survived untouched by the rising waters, but the basements and lower floors were flooded, cutting off all access and services to the apartments above. The whole place was uninhabitable. Boats and food might not have improved things, even with trained skippers.

Floor plan of development?

The whole circumstance borders on farce. Surely the only responsible thing to do is to prohibit the development of the flood plains on the Gold Coast? These areas are a critical part of the natural variation of water flows over land. One has to ask: why might anyone choose to live in a flood plain and tolerate the disruption that floods cause, with boats and food or not?

Apartment block in flood?

It has to be remembered that this is the Gold Coast, a place that shows a remarkable tolerance for the whims of smart developers out to make the cliché 'quick quid.' One Council CEO in the past was bold enough to suggest that the flood plains in a particular area should never be developed. He was threatened with legal action by the land-owner developer, and he eventually 'left Council.' This area is now up for sale or lease, as if it was ready to be developed.
Training drill?

It seems that the Gold Coast is determined to approve anything, anywhere. A recent report told how a super tower had been approved without going through the formal channels. No Councillor knew about it: see -  Past experience has shown how Council can be inventive in overcoming any and every objection to a development proposal with an array of special conditions that allow anything/everything to occur. The conditions for the Merrimac Cow paddock flood plain development only appear to confirm Council's willingness and determination to indulge any developer without cynicism or humour, when both are needed if the reality is to be recognised.

Detail of typical elevation of apartment block?

To some who read the report, the whole situation appears to be irrational, just plain silly; and, one might ask: irresponsible too? Others, it seems, see no folly. Will Council approve a larger development, or change its mind on the first approval? One has to wonder what hold developers might have over Council that seems scared to say 'NO' to them. Is it just open slather for mates? To continue the puns in the report, like 'moooove,' one might hope that the reported situation was just a lot of bull: if only!

Food boat?


Developer plans 1500-unit development for famous Carrara cow paddock despite flooding fear
NOVEMBER 23, 2015 12:00AM

It looks like the cows in the famous Merrimac Cow paddock might be on the moooove soon. Plans have been given to the council for a city-like development with high-rises. Picture Glenn Hampson
A RESIDENTIAL development needing lifeboats and food rations for three days for fear of flooding is before council bigger than originally thought.
Owners of the famous cow paddock at Carrara want to turn the 25ha site into 1500 dwellings.
Orient Central Development Corporation has planned up to 10 buildings as high as 19 storeys on the corner of Gooding Drive and Robina Parkway, up from the 970-unit project that gained preliminary approval from the Gold Coast City Council in mid-2013.

Back then, councillors told the developer to include two boat skippers, warning lights, food rations for three days to ensure residents’ safety on the floodplain — and the Gold Coast Bulletin was last night told those conditions would remain.
It looks like the cows in the famous Merrimac Cow paddock might be on the moooove soon. Plans have been given to the council for a city-like development with high-rises. Picture Glenn Hampson
Cr Bob La Castra, whose division is also home to two other planned high-density city-style developments, said he was concerned about flooding on the site.
“I was against plans to develop that site from day one and I still am,” he said.
“This proposal is just beyond comprehension.”
The new application was filed this year and public comment opened last month.
No submissions or objections have been received and community consultation ends on December 1.
According to plans filed with city hall, the project includes a 19-storey and two 17-floor towers and other medium-rise buildings ranging from four to 10 levels.
Artist's impressions of the Carrara development proposal.
At least three four-storey townhouses are also included and a two-storey residential club.
A cafe, convenience store, medical office, tennis courts and other sporting facilities are part of the plans.
A bridge is also mentioned as a possibility in council documents.
City planning boss Cameron Caldwell said all emergency requirements put in place during the 2013 approval remained current and that major flooding issues would be assessed by the council.
He said the proposal was one of a growing number of large sites under single ownership being developed in the area.
Artist's impressions of the Carrara development proposal.
“Any approval on this site will require significant steps to mitigate any flood impacts,” he said.
“The previous approval catered for flood-free access in the event of a significant incident and I expect similar provisions will be put in place with a future decision.
“The council welcomes the new approach for the development of this site and we will make our assessment in due course.”
Attempts to contact Orient Central Development Corporation for comment were unsuccessful.

Saturday, October 31, 2015



The report needs some comments:

The critical matter is that Springbrook is World Heritage listed. It is mentioned (WHS), but this matter seems to slip away as an aside in the recommendations to become almost irrelevant. WH is so important that it must be recognised everywhere and be the core reason for doing everything at Springbrook. Australia has a history of seeing bush as a place to clean up, to clear, remove, to tame or use as a dump for everything trash, or anyone murdered. This is perhaps why it is so difficult to get the WH listing taken seriously. It does not seem to be made clear that the listing is for diversity, not prettiness for the adulation and gasps of crowds of tourists. Diversity needs special attention and care or else it will be diminished. This is the core matter for Springbrook in its WH recognition.

The 'agreed' recommendations - 'some degree of community consensus':

Conservation Programs
This should always be part of WH areas and adjacent precincts. It should not be a 'special' issue. It is sad that it has to be a 'recommendation' for tourist development.

Interpretive Centre
If there is to be one, this centre needs to be out of the WH area, not because of lack of infrastructure but because the numbers and the infrastructure that the visitors could attract would begin destroying the very place that has to be protected: its diversity. Therefore any centre needs to be on the tourist route, say, at Nerang, a location on the highway between Dreamworld, Movieworld , and the Gold Coast beaches. Nerang is one pathway to Springbrook that could also promote Natural Arch and offer direct access to this portion of the National Park.# It seems to be forgotten that Springbrook National Park is very diverse and fragmented. This is one reason why it needs special care – indeed, an increase in listed area to protect it. From Nerang, those committed and interested in the diversity of this WH region can then make the effort to travel to the WH areas and respect them. It is not a place for the amusement of crowds. Diversity is critically sensitive. It needs to be constantly reinforced just what it is and why. Springbrook is not a place for a centre to attract crowds of tourists interested in souvenirs, entertainment, coffee and a snack, and 'interesting' distractions like extreme views, weather and nature.

Open Air Digital Walk
This gimmick should be a part of the gadgetry in the interpretive centre – away from the WH diversity. Technology like this turns anything/everything into a game; so keep it a good game – in the centre, perhaps complete with forest holograms. Do not turn WH nature into a gadget game of QR codes. “Hey Mum! It works! Look at this!” Everything concentrates on the gadget, never the subject. There is enough 'gadget staring' now without encouraging more. Springbrook does not need hordes of excited, gadget-loving wanderers.

It seems that it is difficult for folk today to understand that doing nothing is sometimes the best outcome. Is the urge to do something a hangover from our perception of bush as being useless space that needs development; or is it the desire for constant entertainment that makes some insist on change, on doing anything different, 'interesting'?

The core question is:
what will this do for the biological diversity of World Heritage Springbrook?

# It is somewhat ironic to note that, on the very day that Ared Woskanian arrived at Springbrook to speak to the group at the hall, a few Asian tourists stopped in the car park to ask where they might find Natural Arch. They had to be redirected off the mountain into Numinbah Valley. An interpretive centre at Springbrook will likewise upset visitors who arrive to see Natural Arch, only to be told that it is not here.






What is this booklet about?
This booklet provides a short summary of the results from an Honours research project conducted by an undergraduate student – Ared Woskanian – from Griffith University as part of his Bachelor of Urban and Environmental Planning degree. Paul Burton – Professor of Urban Management and Planning – supervised the project.
The results from this research project may be of interest to the Springbrook community, proponents, local planning practitioners, decision-makers, the general public or other local stakeholders.

What was the research about?
In light of the strong local community opposition towards a Cableway proposal for tourism development in Springbrook National Park (SNP), the research project sought to address two research questions:
1) How can planners try to achieve community consensus when there are conflicting views about tourism development in a World Heritage Site (WHS)?
2) What is a plausible set of tourism development options – as indicated by the community – for Springbrook?
NOTE: This information booklet focuses mainly on the second of these research questions, while both are addressed in the full report of the Honours project, currently under examination at Griffith University.

About Springbrook National Park (SNP)
 SNP is located in the mountainous Gold Coast hinterland in South-East Queensland, Australia. 
 Approximately 2,480 hectares, out of the total 6,500 hectares of SNP, are currently listed as a WHS (UNESCO 2015). 
 Springbrook hosts a small, semi-rural community with a population of approximately 620 residents (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011) within the buffer zone of the WHS.

How was the research conducted?
A list of 20 possible tourism options was developed and then conceptually evaluated through focus groups with three locally-based, community NonGovernment Organisations (NGOs). The three NGOs were:
 Springbrook Chamber of Commerce (SCC); 
 Springbrook Wildlife Appreciation Group (SWAG); and the, 
 Springbrook Mountain Community Association (SMCA).
The SCC, SWAG and SMCA, represent respectively the business, environment, and general community sectors of Springbrook.
The initial list of options was derived from a systematic review of the academic and policy literature on tourism developments in ecologically sensitive areas such as WHSs; and, from face-to-face interviews with local stakeholders.
The feelings and perceptions of the focus group participants were recorded, thematically analysed, and explored in the light of:
 data collected from local stakeholder interviews; 
 data collected from a recent Visitor Exit Survey in Springbrook.

Some degree of community consensus, albeit to varying extents, was achieved among the three focus groups towards three tourism concepts (see below) – all of which are educational and interpretive based.
1. Conservation Programs – involves visitors participating in activities such as land care, weeding, restoration, rubbish clean-ups or wildlife monitoring. 
 This concept generated positive comments such as “I think it is wonderful”, “we all agree with this one” and “good idea” in the respective focus groups. 
 However, there was also a strong view that operators must be well informed about Springbrook and its landscape; and, the program must be well managed.

2. Interpretive Centre – is a centre which contains interactive and vibrant information exhibits about the ecosystems, wildlife and history of Springbrook. 
 This concept generated positive comments such as “it would be terrific”, “yes, if located in Nerang” and “yes please” in the respective focus groups. 
 However, there were conflicting views about location. The SMCA and SCC share the view that it must be built in Springbrook – to ensure visitors come to Springbrook. Alternatively, the SWAG believes that Springbrook does not have the infrastructure capacity to support an interpretive centre.

3. Open Air Digital Walk – is a walking track with sculptures or signage which link to a Mobile App that contains interactive and educational content about Springbrook. 
 This concept generated positive comments such as “I like this idea best”, “absolutely delightful” and “great idea – but only on existing tracks” in the respective focus groups. 
 There was a strong view held by the SWAG that this must only be done on an existing walking track – as they oppose any additional walking tracks.

How can the research results be used?
It is hoped that the findings from this research can provide useful information and direction to local stakeholders and decision-makers about plausible tourism development concepts for Springbrook – should they wish to pursue tourism development in the future.
A possible next step might be to conduct a wider-ranging public consultation exercise e.g. a questionnaire, to evaluate these three concepts (and any other options) among all residents of Springbrook.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011, 2011 Census of Population and Housing: Basic Community Profile: Springbrook (SSC31519), Cat. no. 2001.0, ABS, Canberra. UNESCO 2015, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia: Maps (online), Available: <> (19 May 2015).

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Capability Brown landscapes

Springbrook's 'scientific' burn

The area was burned, the aftermath was photographed, and the complaint was lodged with the Minister. Sometimes one wonders why time is wasted writing to Ministers and large corporations to raise issues of concern. One already knows the response that will be given: and so it was. The burn off was all very 'scientific' and necessary. Didn't you understand this, (you silly boy!)?: see - . Apparently National Parks has a programme for burning as science demands: but how can science control a burn? The recent serious fires in Victoria all started with a 'controlled' burn. Locals just keep complaining as year after year as they suffer the disastrous impacts of 'controlled' burns. No one is interested in listening to them: 'science' reigns supreme, unchallenged, as some always like it to be. Folk forget that the core issue in real science is the question; doubt.

Occasionally one gets so frustrated with these irresponsibly 'deaf' replies that one actually writes the response and sends it off with the letter of complaint, just to highlight the rude nonsense involved; such is the predictability of government and big business. They are never wrong; ever. The response usually starts with thanking one for bringing this matter to their attention, with exuberant apologies that one had such a problem getting in touch, or about having been so wrongly concerned; etc., etc. It continues with endless justifications and detailed explanations on why one has been so badly misguided, how one has misunderstood, indeed, been so foolish, but never in such clear terms as these. The correspondence usually finishes with comments that offer help in the future, or anything else that might sound reasonable, for it seems that folk who seek to complain require such things as 'understanding' support. Sometimes booklets on policies are included with the return correspondence to enlighten the one who has been ignorant enough to complain - (the ABC does this): and so it was yet again. The letter - no policy document in this one - was eventually followed up by a telephone call asking if the National Parks could be of any further assistance. Cripes! Assistance!! “Would you like a meeting?” “What for; to argue about your fire policy that you do not intend to change?” It was a pointless question; and finally it was agreed that we would only, at best, agree to disagree. So there will not be a meeting; but we did agree to 'keep in touch.' There is sure to be another burn! This was not denied.

This is Springbrook, World Heritage place. Why is it treated in such an off-handed manner? If one looks at the Sydney Opera House web site, one will see a proud statement on it being listed as a World Heritage place: what a privilege! - see:
The gratifying declaration even parallels the listing with 'other universally treasured places' like Uluru, the Pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall of China and the Great Barrier Reef. Springbrook is not mentioned, but it could be; it is a part of a World Heritage place too. Why is it not 'universally treasured'? Why is it neglected, just seen as a bit of bush to burn off and clean up from time to time? What is being burned? Does anyone know? The National Park's representative seemed bemused when I suggested this question. “Mmmm, yes; it might have been better to have studied the place prior to burning it off,” was the core of the response! The thought occurred: 'A bit late!' National Parks now smugly says that it is going to undertake 'plot regrowth studies' in the area using the services of a volunteer. It is possible nothing might have happened if Mr. MacDonald, previously of the Herbarium, had not offered his expertise and time free of charge. How will anyone know if a rare or undiscovered species did not recover? Gosh! Just think of that!

Why did the National Parks not do studies prior to the burn? Would anyone seriously consider sandblasting Uluru to 'clean it up,' without undertaking any research to check on unknown markings or artwork before such an activity? Would anyone think of 'scientifically' coating the Sydney Opera House with a unique synthetic bitumen to protect it, to make it more durable and waterproof – future-proof? Why is National Parks happy to 'scientifically' turn Springbrook World Heritage place into a burnt out blackened landscape, almost the equivalent of sandblasting it and painting it with bitumen? It simply beggars belief: see - and

Sadly Australia has always seen natural areas as just 'bush,' a rough, scrappy place available for the dumping of rubbish and bodies – animals, people and cars; to clear for 'useful' purposes; to remove in order to get rid of the 'vermin;' to 'redesign' in order to recreate the visions of the 'homeland.' The urge to make Capability Brown /Humphry Repton vistas across Australian hills and valleys has never been lost; neither has the ambition to create the cottage garden, the English Garden. Now we are getting a bit close to home. Springbrook has its 'English Gardens' cafe complete with the English garden for all to enjoy at the iconic terminus of Springbrook Road: well, it did have. Just what is happening to this business now remains unclear.

Capability Brown landscape

Typical English garden

Springbrook's Manor House

Typical bush track

But it is not alone, not in its apparent demise, but in its ambition to recreate an image of the 'old country.' Australia was originally colonised with convict stock and free settlers from Britain. In spite of either being forced to leave, or voluntarily choosing to farewell a home and loved ones, neither group wanted to forget its place of origin. So it is that, instead of eulogising the bush flora and the rude hut that accommodated the early settlers like those in the Springbrook region, we have not only English gardens being propagated, but also have a Manor House constructed, and have had a Tulip Farm planted to promote the grand European vision in cool, mountain Springbrook; a different place that could be envisaged as being like 'home,' a little like the New England tableland region. This was no unique whim in only a few of the population. The latter 'attraction,' the Tulip Farm, in its heyday drew such crowds when the tulips were in flower, that police were needed to manage the visitors. Few dare speak about the 'management' of native wildlife to protect the tulips! A great number of Australians still hark after things British in their homes, gardens and countryside, dreaming of quaint, thatched cottages, colourful arrays of blossoms with herbaceous borders, and open rolling green hills with copses of trees and one or two pavilions scattered around lakes reflecting a twee bridge. So it seems that, with preferences like these, the bush can be so easily disregarded, burned as trash. What else does one do with it but exercise the 'science' of fire? - that is all that it is good for.

'Ye olde' English cottage interior with its 'cosy' fireplace

But Springbrook is a part of a World Heritage listed region. Why is it so carelessly promoted, so ruthlessly, heedlessly managed? It seems that the only thing government and council want to do with the plateau is to develop it. Some still apparently drool at the thought of a cableway even though it has been rejected time and time again. Many push constantly for more business opportunities. Few fight for the benefit of sustaining the qualities of World Heritage areas, their diversity. Sadly, some who do fight for the maintenance of the World Heriatage qualities are mocked viciously, ridiculed, pilloried. This response is a serious indictment on our colonial, 'she's right, mate' culture. We have to be able to do better than this? We must!

Other countries look after their World Heritage places. They promote them, care for them, manage them with a knowing understanding. In Australia it seems that we are constantly on the knife's edge with World Heritage issues being strained by the pressures brought on by other interests. Look at the Great Barrier Reef: it is bordering on being de-listed because of its neglect. Gosh, Springbrook is much more carelessly managed. Will it be de-listed too? World Heritage listing gives governments obligations, but governments seem to not give a hoot about these. These obligations are treated as sundry items; mere asides – ha, ha. 'Who cares? What are you going to do about it?' seems to sum up the approach. Governments and councils just keep going on with everything as though Springbrook was just a sundry area of bushland scrub, like anywhere: there to burn; to clear; to trim; to develop. 'What use is bush if one cannot make money out of it?' seems to be the basis of their strategy.

It must always be remembered that the World Heritage listing of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia is for its unique diversity! Diversity needs special care and attention if it is to be maintained. Diversity is too easily disrupted and lost. One bulldozer can get rid of it all very quickly. We have many metaphoric bulldozers ripping Springbrook apart. No one seems to care. Some persons once did, enough to have this special region declared as a National Park; and subsequently as a World Heritage area. Why do we ignore this legacy?

There used to be a time when water quality in the streams, the springs and brooks of Springbrook, was monitored because folk were concerned about pollution. This seems to have been forgotten. The only thing that gets discussed, approved and implemented is the extraction of water from the mountain, from bores, to be flogged as 'spring' water with an 'olde worlde,' natural-sounding name: and no one knows where this water comes from, or if it will be/can be replenished, or when. Who cares? Why do we not worry about the health of this beautiful place? This is the core, its diversity, its health, its future. It is one of the most diverse places in the world with its astonishing flora and fauna. World Heritage listings are not flicked around lightly – but no one cares, not even it seems, our National Parks. Why should 'science' not be used to concentrate efforts on World Heritage characteristics, their maintenance and endurance? Why should National Parks continue to promote the 'burn and destroy bush' attitude that pervades our country, that appears to run in our veins? A justification is often raised using the 'aboriginal' card: they did it; they burned the country. Does this justify anything other than expose some cultural cringe?

We need to start protecting World Heritage 'bush,' by learning to love it, by expanding National Park areas so that World Heritage futures are ensured, enhanced. To do otherwise is just unthinkable, like sandblasting Uluru and painting the Sydney Opera House. Why is it that this cannot be seen? One needs to read the list of places on the World Heritage schedule in order to see how important Springbrook truly is. We need to treasure this place universally. This needs to become ingrained in opinions and attitudes and actions, so that the mystical visions of Brown/Repton's open 'green and pleasant' landscapes scattered with clumps of oaks, and English gardens filled with English flowers are erased in favour of things purely Australian. We need to start today, for it is nearly too late. It is National Parks' responsibility; every government's responsibility; every council's responsibility; every individual's responsibility too. We do not need the clever, smart retorts of our seemingly lazy, self-interested representatives who appear to prefer the belittling nuance of spin in favour of any true understanding of qualitative matters, or of responding sensibly, meaningfully to them.

Springbrook National Park

This understanding response must be achieved. Dumb justifications for supporting the early settlers' whimsically dreamed perceptions of home have to be seen for what they are, and get discarded in favour of listening, feeling and thinking, free from spin and the harking for elsewhere. This is Australia, not that Ozzie land of the football fan or the silly, hyped-up tourist, but a unique and special place in which Springbrook has been identified as being more so, by the whole world. We have to look after it. It is our responsibility to the world. This must never be ignored. World Heritage matters must remain the core of every action; every plan.

The dream of an English garden

Dear Minister,
Thank you for your considered response to my correspondence. One knows how busy you . . . etc', etc.

No this is much more serious than silly, cynical word games. The world knows this. Can Australia ever understand it? It is unbelievable how Australians hanker for things 'world class,' when they have it on their doorstep and ignore it.