A Win for the Julaten Trees, the Lesser Sooty Owls and other Birds

To: "" <>
Subject: A Win for the Julaten Trees, the Lesser Sooty Owls and other Birds
From: Lloyd Nielsen <>
Date: Fri, 21 Aug 1998 18:43:57 -0700
To all our good friends out there.

I am finally on line at last - something I could have done with last week when we were battling the Mareeba Shire Council.  A large number have been enquiring about the outcome of last Tuesday's Council meeting.  I think Chris (Dahlberg) gave an interim report on Wednesday.  Anyhow, the latest follows.  I apologise if it goes on a bit, but many people have asked for more details on this issue. It has created a huge amount of interest.

At Tuesday's meeting, Council finally decided to form a committee composed of residents and two council representatives to oversee the future management of Geraghty Park.  This is to happen in the next few weeks.  (It is also a face saving move for Council).  We are happy with that desision and are reasonably happy with the Council representatives who have been appointed.  (The local bloke will not be on the committee it seems).  It means the trees have been given a reprieve and are probably fairly safe from here on.  Tuesday's meeting was pretty fiery with Councillor Gray continuing his defiance right to the end.  Enough councillors opted for comon sense to get the motion through.

We are quite sure it was a close call.  We think Council had the contractors lined up to cut the trees immediately, probably the day after the Thursday meeting.  Indeed they had already accepted a quote (before they announced the decision officially to the community).  It was odd that the Mayor tried desperately not to give ground at the public meeting, re-iterating time and again   that the decision had been made and that it could not be reversed.  The Julatten community is now convinced there was indeed a hidden agenda - a swimming pool.  Council has recently made funds available for a pool in the Julatten-Mt Molloy area.  Councillor Gray seemeds to make a slip at the Tuesday Council meeting (when the swimming pool was being discussed as a seperate issue) when he said he would 'love to have the pool in front of his place' (read Geraghty Park).  (whoops!)

We had a few lucky breaks during the fight.  Dr Roger Farrow, senior scientis and entomologist formerly with CSIRO and with high credentials, and now living part time on the Daintree, contacted us and offered his services after reading one of our first media releases.  He had worked for many years on the same species (E. tereticornis) and others in NSW farmland.  He was able to give us an unbiased highly credible report which we kept under wraps until Thursday night's public meeting.  Firstly, the Mayor spoke on the report from the Council's own Environmental Officer who found the trees were - close to the end of their lifespan, dangerous, defoliating from old age, suffered from termite attack and root-rot, were hollow, could well fall over and so on.  When he had finished, I read Roger's report to the meeting (and his credentials) which stated the trees were presently in excellent health with much new growth, no apparent sign of termites, root-rot etc, that defoliation earlier in the year when Council's report was made was due to an annual attack by Scarab Beetles, and that when this species dies, it rots away rather than falls over and so on.

Roger's report effectively demolished that from the Council's Environmental Officer and the body of the meeting quickly took up the issue.  Questions on the Environmental Officer's credibility, legalities (e.g. council's duty to public safety on which Council were supposedly basing their case) and others came thick and fast.  The Mayor stumbled over each and admitted publicly that the Environmental Officer was an ex Parks Ranger with no formal qualifications in this field, that the Council had not taken recent legal advice on such matters and that it was also unaware of latest, important cases dealing with public liability and public bodies which had passed through the courts, sometimes in the public body's favour.

Finally, after some stubborn defiance during more than 2 hours debate, the Mayor reluctantly agreed to take the issue back to the next Council meeting on Tuesday.  In the meantime, we maintained pressure through newspaper and radio, especially on Monday and Tuesday before the meeting, on the issues of the shonky report from the Environmental Officer, the possibility of owlets in the hollows, Council's inconsistency - and the overall harm the destruction of the trees would do to a relatively new birdwatching industry the Shire is experiencing.  This was supported by a mountain of faxes and email messages which kept coming in over those few days and which seemed to have left Council stunned.  (Such things just do not happen in Mareeba!)

Again, we are grateful for your support which played a large part in obtaining an eventual common sense decision.  It has become very obvious that modern communication provides a very powerful tool when fighting such idiotic decisions as the one which confronted us. (Even a week after the event. we are still getting support via faxes and email).

Lloyd Nielsen.

PS  Some people asked about the fallen limb which Councillor Gray quoted in his phone calls.  It was revealed at the meeting that it did not come from any of the 6 trees which Council had planned to remove.  Interestingly, his claim that the kids at the school bus stop were in danger from the trees (100 metres away) was not supported by any of the many parents at the meeting.  And I am told that it was he who was responsible for the original siting of the bus stop some years ago.


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