Thursday, September 12, 2013


The following letter was sent to the editor of The Courier-Mail. It relates to an opinion article by Des Houghton reproduced below. It seems that no letters to the editor on this matter have so far been published. Sadly, it looks as though there is a determination to enforce political decisions to open up the region for development, seemingly irrespective of its World Heritage listing. One can only hope that the world can make our politicians see sense if they refuse to listen to anyone else.

The Editor,

The Courier-Mail



The Des Houghton article OPINION: Green deal upsets Springbrook community, (September 06, 2013), is a real worry with its apparent unquestioning support for brash claims based on broad assumptions. That ex-Minister Bates might be taken seriously is a concern. It shows how short memories are. Let me confirm that Ms Bates does not speak for many at Springbrook. Her local nickname highlights this fact and suggests that her actions could be somewhat snide and toxic. But what might one expect when Queensland appears to have a minister for National Parks who, according to reports, sees Springbrook's prime value in property with coastal views and a potential for tourist income? Has he not read the World Heritage statement? Does he know that the region is World Heritage listed as part of The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia? It shares its listing with other world wonders: Chartres cathedral; Uluru; the Taj Mahal, and many more uniquely special places.

The situation appears to highlight how negligent our state is on matters of World Heritage. In our seemingly insecure and uncertain country that is constantly seeking the praise of others from overseas so as to be confirmed as 'world class,' (“What do you think of us?”), it cannot be believed that our World Heritage area at Springbrook that is ‘world class’ is simply ignored, treated as a tourist destination like all others on the Gold Coast. The words ‘World Heritage’ become just another piece of promotional jargon, a mere commercial lure. Understanding the reasons for the rest of the world thinking that this place is so important, (for its biodiversity, not its picturesque landscape), leaves one flabbergasted that it can be so demeaned by politicians and journalists, and treated in such a sceptical and careless manner. We need to learn how other countries take pride in their World Heritage listings, how they look after their World Heritage listed places. The obligations imposed on the Federal and State government with such listings are regularly forgotten. This, of course, assumes that they were once known and understood. The Courier-Mail rarely mentions this serious failure; only opportunities for ‘eco’-commerce and ‘eco’-profit seem to loom large and are promoted in a confused way.

That Springbrook businesses are used to support the position put in the Houghton article is absurd. The history of businesses on Springbrook needs to be carefully reviewed if one wants to correctly understand matters. That some businesses might not flourish as envisaged, or have been found to be difficult to sell has nothing to do with any buy-back scheme. The buy-back is adding value to World Heritage place. How can it be seen as an impediment if ‘World Heritage’ place is such a desirable attraction? The buy-back is one of the best steps taken by a government to ensure that the State’s obligations in World Heritage matters can be fulfilled. That Ms Bates might mock others’ efforts to identify and protect threatened species is more than sad. It highlights not only a lack of knowledge, but also, it seems, spite. That her position might be seen as reasonable or acceptable is worse still. That The Courier-Mail can publish what looks like its supporting article shows just how far things have become muddied by political intents. If we want to maintain our World Heritage places, then these areas need dedication and effort to ensure their futures. The inspired decision to make a commitment to this special place by the previous government should only be praised and encouraged, not ridiculed or sniggered at, questioned or belittled. It needs support.

Strangely Queensland seems happy to keep blundering on while its World Heritage places fritter away into oblivion with the increasing emphasis on tourism and development. Even the iconic Great Barrier Reef apparently represents nothing worthwhile that might make it worthy of becoming a priority for protection. No, we naively tinker on the edge of the threat of an ‘endangered’ listing as if it might never happen, almost as a dare, and think nothing more of it. We should be humbled and embarrassed by the neglect. Our politicians and press need to understand matters with rigour and honesty rather than play their games. World Heritage means too much to be toyed with. To put it simply, there are many at Springbrook who support the buy-back and all that it stands for, as the whole of Australia should too. World Heritage involves more than parochial interest and political point scoring. The rest of the world understands and cares. Why is it nearly impossible for Queenslanders, Australians, to see its marvellous natural places - in this case enriched with a unique biodiversity - as anything other than something to be exploited for financial profit?

Our World Heritage needs care and protection. This will make us ‘world class.’ The buy-back was one great step towards ensuring that the highly fragmented Springbrook National Park might have a future by growing again in the same manner as it has done little by little over the years since it was first declared. At last, one thought, these unique regions might be buffered from the impacts of the cliché greed and ignorance of rapacious development that have impacts that are just too real; but alas, in spite of the rest of the world, Springbrook still seems to be at risk. Will it join the Great Barrier Reef on the endangered list? One should only have praise for what the previous government and the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society and others have done and are doing for this very special World Heritage place. The rest of the world is watching us. We must start taking our obligations much more seriously and stop making a mockery of our special places as an excuse to neglect them, for by holding them in such disregard we only make fools of ourselves.

Spence Jamieson

Springbrook/Wunburra Progress Association Incorporated

Sent 12-09-2013  11:09pm

Letter to the Editor
Your Letter was sent successfully and will be reviewed soon.
But will it be published?



OPINION: Green deal upsets Springbrook community
Des Houghton
September 06, 2013 9:00PM

THERE is something terribly wrong when a government doles out money and favours and keeps the details hidden.
It's even worse when it "misplaces" $1 million along the way, and nobody seems to notice. That's what happened when the Beattie Government spent $40.15 million buying back 45 properties at Springbrook in Gold Coast hinterland as part of a plan to add the land to the local national park, before handing control of many of them to the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society.
National Parks Minister Steve Dickson is considering his options after an independent legal report that said the government deal breached state procurement and probity requirements.
The report also found society president Aila Keto had a conflict of interest because she played a role advising the state and was on the government steering committee.
Member for Mudgeeraba Ros Bates, claimed Keto was using a house on one of the properties.
"We all know that Aila Keto from Australian Rainforest Conservation Society lives there rent-free, off the fat of the land of the taxpayers of Queensland," Bates told Parliament.
Keto admitted staying at Springbrook often, while she worked up to 100 hours a week on the project for no pay, but said her home was in Brisbane.

Dr Aila Keto is part of a world first study into conserving the environment by internetting trees. Picture: Adam Head Source: News Limited
Bates told Parliament the previous government's buyback scheme was a "grubby deal" she believed was an attempt to secure Green preferences for the ALP.
I might be wrong but I can't remember Beattie ever singing the praises of Springbrook's elusive lyrebird or the vulnerable spotted-tailed quoll.
o for now I'll cautiously accept claims that the buyback had little to do with the environment and a lot to do with securing Green preferences.
The noble aim of the buyback was to repair the ecosystem, restoring critical habitats to world heritage status. So far Keto's organisation has spent about $4 million on the Springbrook properties to bring them up to national park standards. Twenty-eight of them have already been absorbed into the national park and a further 11 are in recovery status under the control of the society.
Springbrook National Park, it has to be said, is one of the most glorious plateaus on the planet.
The buyback began in 2005 and was completed during Anna Bligh's term as premier.
Now it seems to have gone awry.
Bates and Springbrook residents say there appears to be very little improvement to the national park for such a large expenditure of public funds.
Locals are infuriated with revelations the society pays just $1 for 10 years' rent on two properties (with the option of another 10 years for another dollar!) which are used by members, caretakers and volunteers working on the project.
The controversy widened yesterday with the discovery of a confidential ministerial briefing paper saying that
$1 million of spending could not be accounted for between government departments..
The report said the expenditure of $40.15 million was made up of $38.4 million in acquisition costs with the rest spent on legal fees, consultants' fees, fencing and locks, cash grants to the rainforest society and costs for the demolition of buildings.
The necessary paperwork was passed back and forth between so many departments some costs were not properly accounted for.
"This leaves the amount of approximately $1 million expended by other (government) agencies prior to the transfer of the project to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service that is unable to be verified," it said.
"A professional and financial audit may be required to examine the totality of the expenditure."

Ros Bates with ribbons that represent extinct spiecies. Picture: Luke Marsden Source: News Limited
Bates told Parliament the community has suffered since many businesses were bought and closed.
"Springbrook may be a small village - and getting smaller all of the time and threatened with extinction - but its 650 residents have big hearts and they are fighting back," she told Parliament.
Around $40 million of taxpayers' money was supposedly spent on adding more rainforest land to the national park, she said.
"But it has not been used to buy rainforest land but to buy out land used for homes, farms and businesses," Bates said.
"To illustrate this madness, houses bought by the state, including historical homesteads, have since been demolished or left to slowly rot, waiting to be reclaimed by the rainforest."
Bates told the House of the struggle to restore forests and said Keto herself had said in an interview with the Gold Coast Bulletin: "It is impossible to know if complete restoration is possible.'' Bates added: "So why has all of this taxpayer money been spent when there is little chance of restoration? Why has this tiny community been singled out and sold out when it is not going to make much difference to the environment?"
Bates mocked a society display of metal posts with pink ribbons attached, each to represent an endangered species.
She says public land was now padlocked to keep people put and the removal of businesses had cost jobs.

Wayne Randall past president of Chamber of Commerce. Pic by Luke Marsden. Source: News Limited
Wayne Randall agrees. The owner of The Mouses House chalets was "shocked and disgusted" when he heard about the buyback.
"There was no consultation. No one asked the community if they were in favour of it,'' he says
He says he didn't know about the $1 rent deal until he read about it in The Courier-Mail.
"How can I compete with that?'' he says.
Nevertheless the community was sick of the "sad and sorry saga".
"It's a wonderful place for people to enjoy.
"We just want to tell the world about it, and move on,'' he says.


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