Julatten Trees in Danger Again

To: "" <>
Subject: Julatten Trees in Danger Again
From: Lloyd Nielsen <>
Date: Sun, 11 Oct 1998 11:34:04 -0700

I had hoped I never had the need to bring this subject up again BUT - the Mareeba Shire Council has suddenly changed its mind and intends to LOP the six old growth trees in Geraghty Park, Julatten.  I apologise for the length of this message and the verbosity but I think it all has to be said.

Background (for those who missed Act I)
A few months ago, Mareeba Shire Council, following a singularcomplaint from local Councillor Gray decided to remove six  old growth trees (Eucalyptus tereticornis) from Geraghty Park, a public park at Julatten, in North Queensland, adjoining Kingfisher Park, on the grounds that they were dangerous.  These are the last remnants of a Blue Gum forest.  At least 17 species of birds including Lesser Sooty Owl (a Wet Tropics endemic), Barking and Barn Owls, Metallic Starlings, Brahminy Kite and Pacific Baza use the trees for breeding.  As such, the trees are of extremely high conservation value.  The trees stand in an area on the northern boundary of the park in an area little used by the public.  (There are only nine old growth trees - including these 6 - left in this area).  Because of the Lesser Sooty Owl and others, the area has become internationally famous amongst the birding community).

To support its intentions, the Council produced an utterly shonky report from their own unqualified environmental officer.  This quite wrongly stated that the trees were old, dying and dangerous.  We obtained an independent report from an ex CSIRO, internationally respected scientist who specialised in this field, which completely de-bunked Council's report.  He found the trees to be in a normal, healthy, mature condition and stated 'There is no evidence that any large limbs or entire trees are likely to fall in the near future'.  However, Council chose to ignore it.  No environmental impact assessment has ever been done on the removing or lopping of the trees.

After intense pressure from the general community for the retention of the trees the Council promised to form a management committee with three council representatives and several members from the local community.  Management of the trees would be the responsibility of this committee.  Council passed a motion to this effect at a council meeting and stated publicly that a public meeting would be convened to form the committee.

We were happy at that and took the Council at their word and waited for the advice - which never came.

Now a Complete Turnaround by Council
Since the decision to form a committee was made, Councillor Gray has been lobbying councillors and some Council officers behind the scenes to go ahead with the removal of the trees regardless (despite  total opposition by his own community).  He instigated advice from a law firm specialising in local government matters which advised that the trees should be removed because of Council's legal obligation to public safety and duty of care.  This advice can be seen as very biased. No advice was sought from environmental lawyers.

(Council blatantly displays double standards for it actively encourages camping and caravaners in a park, nine km away in an area with far greater risk from falling branches.  There are many more eucalypt trees in this park with some species more prone to dropping branches than Blue Gums.  there are many more similar parks in the Shire about which Council has shown no concern).

At a Council meeting on 6 October,  the issue was again raised.  Removal was strongly supported by the Chief Executive Officer and several councillors.  Finally after some heated debate (one lone councillor strongly supported our case) a motion was passed to lop the trees instead of removing them  The lopping was to be done 'as soon as possible' without expert advice or a wildlife consultant present.  Astonishingly and apparently, Councillor Gray was to oversee the lopping.

The Council announced this decision at a Julatten community meeting on 8 October.  The meeting was attended y the Mayor and four councillors (including the councillor who has been strongly supporting our case).  The meeting was very fiery to say the least.  The overwhelming community's wish was that the trees be left as they are with an exclusion zone created about them.  A vote of 'no confidence' in the Council (to exclude our supporting councillor) was moved, passed and carried unanimously but for one vote.

After much hard badgering, the Mayor finally agreed that the services of a reputable wildlife consultant would be employed when the trees were to be lopped, accepting a name put forward from the body of the meeting.  (This person will not be available for two weeks)  Next morning, ABC radio interviewed the Mayor about the issue and he stated that the Council would in fact have this fellow present as a wildlife consultant when the trees were to be lopped.

However, the very next day, barriers were erected around the trees in preparation for the lopping.  The word from council workers is that the lopping is planned for Tuesday 13 October or Thursday 15 October (before the consultant is available).  It seems highly likely that Council is following its usual devious form.

Effect on Breeding Birds:
At presentr, a large colony of Metallic Starlings are busy building nests in the top of one of the trees to be lopped.  Some seem to be brooding.  Another tree holds a Brahminy Kite nest with eggs and small young.  Other trees have active nests of Sulphi\ur-crested Cockatoos and others.  We think there are probably still young Lesser Sooty Owls in one hollow.  ALL ARE PROTECTED UNDER THE NATURE CONSERVATION ACT but under current law, Council is able to sidetrack that because of the perceived concern for duty of care to the public.

Lopping will have an extremely disruptive effect on the breeding birds, and with no doubt whatsoever, nests are going to be destroyed.  With such unnatural activity, other nests are going to be deserted, with birds reluctant to return to nests while the activity takes place.  Council has been advised that this is the WORST possible time to lop the trees.  (Even their own environmental officer originally recommended (when it was intended to remove the trees) that it be done at a time when it least effected wildlife.

The Julatten Community is an average rural-urban community with good , normal families with kids at the local school - without a radical element - but one which appreciates the value of the trees both environmentally and for environmental tourism.  (The community strongly believes Councillor Gray has his own agenda for the park, perhaps concerning some commercialism and providing a part time management position when he retires).

Some Points Of Great Concern:
Council's complete disregard for the democratic process and the local community's wishes
Council's complete disregard and lack of understanding for environmental issues and assets
Council's complete lack of concern for the wildlife and the laws that protect them
Councils failure to observe the fact that they are only managers of this public land
Council's double standards and complete dishonesty
Council's complete disregard for the livlihood of people earning a living from eco-tourism
The high probability that Council will not be satisfied with just lopping of the trees
AND of course extreme concern for the breeding birds

A Sobering Fact? - In the recent Queensland State election (June), the seat of Tablelands which takes in Mareeba Shire fell to One Nation.  Tablelands was regarded as one of the safest National Party seats in Queensland being held by the Minister for Mines and Energy in the previous government.  Mareeba Shire is One Nation heartland!  This fact and the extremist way in which this Council operates leaves room for concern.


Taking the issue to the Minister for Environment and Heritage/ Natural Resources.

We are asking the Minister to intervene with a Conservation Order on the trees, at least until an environmental assessment study can be implemented.  However, time is running out.

If you would fax -                                Hon Rod Welford MLA
                                                                Minister for Environment and Heritage and
                                                                Minister for Natural Resources
                                                                PO Box 456
                                                                Brisbane Albert Street  Qld  4002  Australia
                                                                Facsimile (07) 3210 6214  (International + 61 7 3210 621)

and ask him to intervene to protect the trees, or act within his area of responsibility, we would be very grateful.  If you wish to send a copy to me at (fax +61 7 4094 1372 or to Ron Stannard at (fax+ 61 7 4094 1466) that would be fine but probably not necessary.

Points which could be used:
- the extremely important conservation value of these trees
- the international recognition of this area for its birds and its birdwatching
- the commercial value to the community in tourism dollars
- the immediate threat to nesting birds which will result in nests deserted and destroyed
- the lack of concern and  the interference with protected  fauna, their nests and breeding places
- trees of such important conservation value should be completely protected and have an exclusion zone
    declared around them
- Council's arrogant disregard for community wishes, the national and international concern displayed and
    faxed to them last time,  its irresponsibility and dishonesty and its disgraceful regard for environmental issues.

It is obvious that only threat of litigation or an order from State Government will stop this extremist Council.  They have demonstrated they will not listen to the people.

Lloyd Nielsen



<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • Julatten Trees in Danger Again, Lloyd Nielsen <=

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU