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Wednesday 7 March 2012

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Appetite for destruction outrages expert

Local landscape designer, John Sullivan, has expressed his outrage at Cairns Regional Council's decision to remove more than 50 coconut palms near the foreshore at Four Mile.

Mr Sullivan took aim at Council in an email saying the reasons for the removal provided by Council were deeply flawed.

Here is what he had to say:

I think the accompanying video showing the destruction of 100 year old Iconic pan pacific vegetation (Coconut Palms) from our beaches, is disturbing! It was done yesterday by our revegetation specialists in Cairns Regional Council.

They have stated that the fronds from these 55 coconut palms(!!!!) would not allow the 3000 native plants they are going to plant a chance to grow! This is outrageous..just take a look at the rest of Four Mile beach!!!!!  It has native vegetation growing well under Coconuts for its entire length!

Couldn’t the money be better spent cleaning up the African Oil Palms or simply fencing the area to naturally regenerate at very little cost? Try actually dealing with the area 50m down the beach where erosion is actually occurring? We believe this stand of Palms may date back to the late 1800’s…(checking this).

This project sets a precedent for the rest of the Cairns Region. Will all coconut palms apart from the front three rows be removed from all our beaches? This is an urban interface. The revegetation is great but why destroy 55 mature trees that are as much a part of our coast line as Casuarinas, Beach Almond and Sea Lettuce?

Initially they told the Gazette that they needed to be removed because of beach erosion….wouldn’t that involve the first three rows of beachfront coconuts? The ones they are leaving?

Consultation was not undertaken regarding the removal of coconuts. The last information given to residents was last April stating that revegetation would take place but nothing else!

Did you know about the Council consultation process to remove the coconut palms?  Take part in our home page poll. 

I am horrified by this behavior under the cover of revegetation. I had thought that working with Cairns Regional Council as part of the Urban Design Advisory Board (UDAB) was to provide advice for what is good design to our Councilors for our region.  

I thought this might have delivered tangible benefits to Douglas and the way its future was managed. This act shows a great lack of understanding of the Identity, not only of Douglas Residents but also Cairns.

We will never achieve a great level of design while we fail to understand our history (both good and bad), which defines our present and allows us to create a greater sense of our identity in the future.

This is not the work of Councilors but the lack of control they have over the bureaucracy  below them! I was told that these works are “operational” and the Councilors were not part of the approval process? Tragic.

News just in is that Council have reportedly halted work on the removal of the palms with six of the 55 remaining.

Did you know about the Council consultation process to remove the coconut palms?  Take part in our home page poll.   

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Have your say!

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Mim Hayward, , 11-03-12 23:00:
Does anyone remember when the removal of coconut palms were illegal...Juniper would!! Oh, yes, that's right, that was our DOUGLASHIRE council..ooops, my mistake!!
Bill James, , 11-03-12 20:28:
We stayed at Port Douglas last September. I was actually appalled at the density of the foliage at the South end, That was the only part of the beach we visited. My imagination ran riot at the thought of the numbers of possible reptiles and insects that may inhabit the area. I personally would have thought that culling 50+ coconut trees would have been of some benefit, From what I have read, it would appear that I am wrong. Pity.......
Robert Hanan, , 11-03-12 18:55:
I feel compelled to write to you readership on behalf of the Douglas Shire Sustainability Group (DSSG). Our association is very aware of the need for council to follow the existing coconut management plan that was established under the Douglas Shire Council.

The DSSG supports the existing coconut management plan, which provides for the selective removal of coconut palms to facilitate revegetation of our foreshores, but also acknowledges the visually aesthetic benefits of these palms to locals and tourists alike. Simply put, it is about a sustainable balance and something that could have been so easily achieved, in this instance, with even minimal community consultation.

The DSSG is painfully aware of the lack of community consultation by the Cairns Regional Council (CRC) on this and many other issues.

The DSSG has been seeking a meeting with CRC (and the previous Douglas Shire Council) for over five years in order to facilitate community engagement with the intention of producing a Beach Management Plan. Such a plan is long overdue, as there are ongoing issues of erosion, coconut management, revegetation, illegal clearing and other illegal activities on all the beaches in our area.

The DSSG would like to take this opportunity to ask, once again, that CRC convene a public meeting or initiate community consultation to address a much needed Douglas Beach Management Plan.
Robert Jones, , 11-03-12 13:51:
This would have to be the total act of stupidity & incompetence and vandalism exercised. If any member of the public did this they would have been arrested. How can a local government department get away with this, they need to be held accountable.
Gayle Groos, , 09-03-12 20:12:
That's what amalgamation does for you.
sandra simpson, , 09-03-12 17:56:
Go John! I support you all the way. What a useless bunch of beaurocrats we have representing us in Mossman. Julia Leu appears to be fighting for us with one hand held behind her back. I'm sick and tired of paying exorbitant rates to subsidise the lifestyles of these so called experts who have done nothing to enhance the appearance or improve the amenity of Port Douglas, either for the residents or the tourists. I had expected the amalgamation would give us the lush tropical gardens similar to Palm Cove and the parks of Cairns. What a huge disappointment. What will they destroy next? The palms fronting town beach and Rex Smeal Park have probably been earmarked already! And whilst speaking of vandalism has anyone wondered why the annual burn-off of the beautiful coast road to Cairns and also Snapper Island? Sure the cycads regenerate beautifully but what about the eucalypts and orchids that have been killed; not to mention the anhialation of any wildlife. We are told the burn-offs take place so that nobody else can start a bushfire! These so called "managed burns" can and do get out of control as we have witnessed just recently in Perth with tragic results. There is a place for both native and exotic plants in our environment but as mentioned above; not Singapore Daisy which is spreading like wildfire in Port, strangely almost exclusively on land mowed by council contractors. Why don't they do something about this environmental weed which is suffocating our lawns and native groundcovers? Perhaps if the council didn't recycle our weeds dumped at the tip and sell it as mulch we might have a start. The management generally of our environment as a whole is a disaster and it will take a huge amount of rethinking by all levels of government to arrest the downhill spiral.
Gazza Tee, , 09-03-12 08:33:
From afar it looks as if this is an act of stupidity, incompetence and crass corporate-vandalism exercised by an out-of-touch local government department. Surely the pen-pushers in CRC now know that consultation is the way forward or are they really so blind and deaf? Or are they "just following orders" from faceless bureaucrats or conservation "experts". Once this issue is sorted, please don't sit back? Go on the offensive and go further and demand the officials concerned (who are paid by your local taxes) are held fully accountable. It is not acceptable government in any shape or form for residents like you good people of Port Douglas to be ignored or dismissed by the inept officials of CRC.
jacko , , 09-03-12 07:33:
Look out pretty beach will be next, notice that the council blocked access to the big car park with rocks? probably so the coconut haters can cut them down without being interuptted.....what a joke...what is so bad about have a few coconuts anyway?
Sally McDonald, , 08-03-12 23:23:
To destroy a healthy tree that converts carbon to oxygen and provides shade & bird cover makes no sense. To destroy 49 beautiful palms on a tropical beach is just plain crazy. I am heartsick that the council sanctioned the killing of those healthy century-old trees. I wonder if it was simply to save the cost of de-nutting? If so, perhaps that money needs to be given back to Port Douglas residents. We could use it to deamalgamate!
Lance , , 08-03-12 18:17:
For those interested in checking the scientific evidence that the coconut palm is "native" to Australia, based on scientific research carried out by the Smithsonian Tropical Research institute, regarded widely as one the world's leading biological research organisations - you can start at this link.

Brandi S, , 08-03-12 17:12:
The council can cut down trees, but they can't maintain the beach by picking up fronds and seaweed? Something's just not right.
Lance , , 08-03-12 16:41:
Seems to me the argument by the council is that they are not native. A thorough check of the provenance will reveal something different.
Many authorities suggest an Indo-Pacific origin either around Melanesia and Malesia or the Indian Ocean, while others see the origin in northwestern South America. The oldest fossils known of the modern coconut date from the Eocene period from around 37 to 55 million years ago and were found in Australia and India.

Coconut tree fossils found in Australia 37 million years ago? How old does a tree have to be to be classified "native"?
Bill Murcheson, , 08-03-12 15:17:
I have friends who work in the field of natural areas regeneration. They tell me from their experience on the job that excessive numbers of coconut palms hinder meaningful foreshore revegetation and, by themselves, do not act as erosion control. They also do not consider them to be native. From my own experience and reading on the subject I have no reason to doubt them. I imagine the cost of continuously defronding and denutting 50 coconut palms to allow native vegetation to grow, as John and Michael Gabor have suggested on the radio, would be prohibitive to Council. As a ratepayer I would rather see my money spent more wisely then that. Anyway, has anyone even noticed the revegetation that has already been started by Council in the surrounding area? I think it looks great and creates a wonderful tropical background to the beach. No reason to expect you wouldn't get the same result on this site. Now all we have there is an exposed patch of sand with the instruction that no work continue. So when will the site be revegetated, after it has become infested with weeds and everyman man and his dog in Port Douglas has their say in years of round-about 'public consultation'? What is there to say? Council's intended outcome the site is clear - from what I've heard on the radio interviews with COuncil reps and our local COuncillor the site was required to be revegetated by Douglas SHire Council as conditions of a development approval in the mid-2000's and now CRC is carrying out what the developer should have done years ago. Why is there even a need for public consultation in this case? Did people even know there was 50+ coconut palms there until the matter was raised by Michael Gabor last week on his radio show. I walk my dog regularly from the park next door and along the beach, and I have to admit that I didn't know there was 50+ trees there. There's still plenty of coconuts on the foreshore here to maintain what many people think is the tropical feel of Port Douglas. I say let Council's revegetation crew get on with their job of restoring biodiversity and protecting beachfront homes.
Susan Keen, , 08-03-12 12:46:
Shattered. I had no idea that the palms were not native! As an annual winter visitor I always thought they were a natural hedge against cyclones, admired the way the coconuts wash back in on the tides and sprout. Oh well, you learn something every day!
Gavin Hardy, , 08-03-12 11:39:
So, they remove Palm Trees because they are not native? Can't wait to see these clowns gathering up the Cane Toad population…. oh, and while they are at it…. my land is full of rampant singapore daisy, which I don't believe is native either…. who do I ring to get this removed?
katrina caswell, , 08-03-12 11:01:
Why doesn't the council actually do something in Port Douglas that is useful and helpful to our town. Once again they are destorying what we have left in the place rather than helping us out! I totally agree that the palms coming into Port Douglas need to be maintained, they could have used the money spent on removing these trees (which is not needed or justified) and spent it on making the coconut trees beautiful again. The council has no idea, they are useless!!!! I actually don't think they have done one thing to benefit Port Douglas at all, we pay our rates and get no rewards from them at all!! This place needs help to make it appealing to visit not destroying everything that makes it beautiful!
Hugh Spencer, , 08-03-12 09:02:
Oh dear - here we go again...

At the outset - I like coconuts, they are great to eat - and yes are an amazing source of food and fibre (and timber as well - such a shame they are chipping them - there's a market for exotic timbers which could offset the costs...) but NOT on Australia's beaches!

Why? - because coconuts are not native, not by a long shot - and yes they can completely dominate our coastal fringe in a very short space of time. If you want a very good discussion of the history of coconuts in Australia - go to http://ellabayforever.blogspot.com.au/ - where the whole history of their introduction is laid out very clearly. In some areas - such as the Daintree - there are over 15 varieties of coconuts identified. There are a number of issues with coconuts on beaches (and stream banks

1) they dump lots of large, hard and hard to breakdown fronds that smother native vegetation, along with the equally hard nuts.
2) They actually do a lousy job of holding sand and banks together - the root masses in fact tend to channel water between them and cause erosion (which is why you see coconuts with big root bases - all the sand has been washed away).
3) Most coconut varieties are very 'fecund' - that is a very large percentage of the fallen nuts sprout - mostly near the parent tree - and if there is not a continuous effort at removal of these - then an impenetrable thicket of coconuts starts to develop - and it happens quite quickly (try looking at Cowie beach in the Daintree - or Rocky point -where it's starting). At the moment in PD - I suspect it's tourists who are harvesting the nuts - the white tailed rats haven't a hope of keeping up. De-nutting and getting rid of sprouting juveniles is a lot of work, and is costly.
4) Our beach communities (littoral forests) are the most endangered in the Wet Tropics World Heritage area - by development./...and, you guessed it, by coconut invasion. I commend the Council for taking the bold step of addressing this.
5) Our tourist culture keeps equating ' tropical experience' with coconuts - and tour operators buy that idea. Actually we did a survey of 650 tourists at Cape Tribulation (a proper random survey!) - and found that only 1% had come looking for an 'island' experience - the rest to see the WH values that make this place famous. In fact some were horrified to see coconuts!
6) We have really beautiful native beach vegetation - think of Calophyllum (Beauty-leaf) - those big trees sweeping over the high water mark - one of our iconic trees (and great for hammocks!). native Hibiscus. That natural vegetation also acts as a 'shock adsorber' - taking the force of waves in storms, and reducing beach erosion (good example is Cape Tribulation beach - a good example of natural beach vegetation). (In the Christmas Tsunami in Asia - the areas with native vegetation fared far better than those with coconuts).
7) Coconuts on beaches and creeks drop their nuts in the water - which then end up on beaches to the north - and sprout. Coconuts in areas where the nuts can't be transported by water are fine!
8) If you want coconuts ( a few!) on the beaches - then identify the 'low fecundity' varieties - so that the nuts are unlikely to sprout (they are fine to eat) - and so won't take over.
8) Why don't we learn to love and be proud of our fantastic native beach vegetation - and be proud to promote that as a major attraction - we are not Tahiti - and nor should we be trying to ape that experience.

Not for nothing, was the area declared World Heritage!!!
Mim Hayward, , 08-03-12 00:26:
OH, and one other thing....
Has anyone noticed that the CRC has wasted money on re-doing ALL of our street signs with the CRC logo on it??? WHY???? It's a road, not a member of the council!! Ridiculous...what was wrong with the old ones!!
Mim Hayward, , 08-03-12 00:24:
Another attack from the CRC...they are determined to make Port look as awful as possible so they get all the tourists..the fact that Port is a thousand times more beautiful, has nothing to do with it..they are just determined to neglect it's beautiful trees, and remove the ones that make it a tropical paradise..amongst quite a few other things!! Sorry Cairns, but you just don't compete. PLEASE, get this in your head and stop trying to sabotage our beautiful home.. Can we have OUR money spent on US for a change..in a good way!!
benoctagon@hotmail.com , , 07-03-12 23:54:
While you're at it, replace the cane farms with rainforest. Thanks.
Dianne Harper, , 07-03-12 22:39:
I am totally digusted I suggest we give the Council the big chop tell them to bug off and leave us alone , are they jealous because they dont have a beach ? all they have is a mud flat and that is bare oh there is the lagoon that we as rate payers pay for and can't even get there to use it if you dont have you own transport, but then who would bother .
Shellie Williams, , 07-03-12 21:34:
Everything CRC touches here in Port, goes to ashes and dust...They miss the 'obvious' whilst spending our rate paying dollars on projects that attack and destroy our uniquiness...We object to being made into your Gold Coast cash cow up the road!! CAIRNS OUT !! The twaine will never meet...Bring back Port with Attitude !! We now need it ! What disaster has CRC up their sleeve for the next hit to Port ?? Maybe they'll just be quite for awhile, whilst they rob us for their Prescint white elephant about to go through!! There is nothing for Port Douglas whilst we remain 'hostage' to the CRC...
Phil Bertuch, , 07-03-12 21:20:
I, too, was horrified to hear of the removal of the trees from Port Douglas and may I suggest to you all, tell this present Council how you all feel by voting them ALL out on April 28th. Unity 2012 is a team of people from small business backgrounds, who are passionate about the Region and WILL listen to the voices of the Ratepayers and Do acknowledge the diversity of this very large Region!!! If you care, Vote for Bob Manning and his Unity 2012 team.
steve Turner, , 07-03-12 20:13:
Well I don't agree Phil. Consultation seems to mean "we are telling you" Look at the travesty that is the waterfront "plan" CRC just makes up its own mind and then tells us that we were consulted.
The question about whether coconut palms are native or just turned up in the course of thousands of years of moving round the oceans of the world is by the way - CRC as Cairns Council once wanted to replace everything with so-called native vegetation but given that almost every plant in Port (and Cairns)is non-native (hibiscus, ixora, allamanda and so on) this was shelved. But there are those who would still like to uproot everything. Leave our coconut tree alone please
andy gray, , 07-03-12 19:30:
2 weeks ago we went to Paradise Palms, Palm Cove, as we drove in I looked at all the palms , looking GREAT. I remember coming to Port Douglas 11 years ago & like so many have thought as I drove through the palms 'WOW' this place is just FABULOUS, now I drive in everyday thinking how tired & uncared for they all look. CRC time & money should be spent on them not destuction along Four Mile!!
John Sullivan, , 07-03-12 18:42:
Thank you everyone for making a comment on here. We need to have the discussions both for and against the removal of Iconic Beach Vegetation that Council Operational Officers have denied us!

Just an update for you and I'm afraid it is sad! I have inspected the site with Julia Leu, and the promised three rows have not been left! 7 Palms in the third row have been removed.....more lies fed to us and our Councilors!

Julia leu has been Fantastic during this process, and I suspect been kept in the dark like the rest of us!
Sue Batters, , 07-03-12 18:41:
Phil Porter re your above note...If you believe in 'you may snooze and loose' what a myopic way of looking at the area....we are rate payers in the area and have been for 15 years. I don't recall the council being remiss in advising people who invest in the area about their rates, or other issues. At no time do I recall of ever being notified of this action. And to you they may not be interesting but neither is a bloody big crocodile swimming at Oakbeach...I find them very interesting, in fact more interesting than the shops that are closing, the businesses that are suffering, and the desperate bid for tourism. We can only wish it was as properous as Hawaii.
jeff fleming, , 07-03-12 18:03:
where is our voted representative ,and what have they got to say on this has it been discussed with them at council or by email
Natasha Kollosche, , 07-03-12 17:36:
Not only was I married at this spot 4 years ago but as a Marriage Celebrant I have married hundreds of other couples at the end of Baler and Helmut Streets. Couples (most of whom come from elsewhere to be married in the tropics) choose this spot over any other along 4 Mile Beach because of these beautiful palm trees. CRC are fully aware of this from their permit records. Shame on you CRC - what more can you do to destroy Port Douglas and the tourism industry???
Faye Lilley, , 07-03-12 17:31:
I love my view from the water as I paddle down four mile beach at least 3 times a week in my canoe - these palms are beautiful land marks and when I heard the chain saws and saw the palms crashing on Tuesday I was so enraged and saddened it just made me cry! CRC please leave Port Douglas alone and stop 'uglifying' it and making these ridiculous decisions!
Clive Duffy, , 07-03-12 17:30:
What next? will they sneak in and take away the sand to make 4 mile look like Cairns beach.
Keithea Schaedler, , 07-03-12 17:28:
Just what Port Douglas needs - less coconut palms! Wouldn't want it to look like a tropical beach would we? People might to visit, and even stay. Maybe they'll put some bollards there - another Cairns Regional Council speciality. Is this the Council's contribution to "Revitalise Port Douglas"?
Phil Porter, , 07-03-12 17:26:
I support the removal of these palms. They fall over easily when undermined because of the poor root system, and they're not particularly interesting. This isn't Hawaii, and people who claim it's "our image" are talking thru their hat.

Then there are those who always shout "no consultation" when something happens they don't like. There was plenty of consultation on this issue, which was first mooted in the Douglas Shire Council. If you snooze, you lose.
Sue Batters, , 07-03-12 17:24:
I am totally horrified that the Coconut trees are gone. In case Cairns don't realise that the tourism trade is in a slump...not a little one but a huge one. People's idea of a tropical holiday includes Coconut Trees, it's the dream love it or hate it. It added to the attraction. I have never seen a region more bent on ruining it's appeal, with crocodiles & every other thing that may deter the distant traverller etc. being their main focus,
We have two properties in Port Douglas, and we love the area - and all I can say that chopping down the trees is a travesty to the area. Not native?? we all know that, but how they got there has a story...were they washed up, did they travel....they are beautiful....
What is wrong with the council's in FNQ - you have the most beautiful area in the world and you just can't resist useless wastage of money.
I am speechless. And writing to the Minister for Tourism.
Dianne Harper, , 07-03-12 16:46:
I am totally disgusted with the whole deal after Michael Gabour was told they would be leaving three rows of the trees at the front of the beach they removed those also leaving one front row only. It is time we all spoke up and voiced or disgust in what the council is doing to our town , maybe with a few voices we could get them to replace those they removed in the front with mature coconut trees or maybe if when walking along the foreshore we just happen to drop a few coconuts they grow pretty fast in the wet season.
Barry OBrien, , 07-03-12 16:36:
CRC again acts behind the backs of PD ratepayers. Apparently coconut removal planned by CRC a year ago, with residents only recently informed. Removal still went ahead despite protests at hasty meeting on site with Arborists & Liz Collyer on Monday afternoon. This stand of palms used as film & TV location, featured in tourism ads, etc. CRC destroys an income-producing asset of PD and ignores more important local issues. A sackable offence and another cause for deamalgamation.
anna whitfield, , 07-03-12 15:47:
Thank you John. I agree with your comments and certainly believe that that money should have been spend elsewhere.

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