We’re pleased to say that the FRRR (Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal) has approved a JAMARR funding application to help improve the amenity of the walk between the Rifle Creek Campground and the village.
The idea is to improve the walking track and plant out layers of food and forage plants along the way. Our region has layers and layers of cultures on it, starting with the Muluridji people who have been living here for thousands of years.
Then came the explorers, miners, pastoralists, and settlers…each bringing along their favourite plants as part of their own cultural heritage.
The new trail project, called Grow Your Roots, will be a celebration of all those cultures as well as being a pleasant and informative way to get some exercise!
OpalBar propietors Melissa and Ben Bloore have welcomed the project as they often hear visitors comment on how nice it is to have a well-formed walk to link up the area’s attractions.
The project will deliver a master plan for the walk, with subsequent work subject to additional funding and volunteer efforts.
Food Forest specialist Dr Wendy Seabrook will lead the public planning process on late April(2017) and the final Plan should be launched by the community in July.
A lively crowd of locals turned up for the 21st JAMARR AGM on Thurs night in Molloy. Despite a few flu-based apologies and conflicted schedules we enjoyed surpassing our quorum and carrying on with business as expected.
The serving officers stood down and were thanked for their service. Of special note our beloved and long-serving Treasurer, Theresa Brown, has decided to step off the Committee this year and will focus her formidable energies and skills on other activities in the community as well as continuing to be a force for good in the JAMARR membership.
Nominations were called and we weclome the following members to serve on the 2016 Executive Committee:
President: Ken Brown
Vice President: Rupert Russell
Secretary: John Brisbin
Treasurer: Jim McAlister
We’re particularly chuffed to have Jim taking over from Theresa in the Treasurer’s role. Thanks Jim!
With the AGM settled, we opened a Regular Meeting and conducted business as usual til closing at 2100 and commencement of tsaty nibbles, bad jokes, fabulous visions, and questionable facts.
Feral pigs can be a big problem, and we have more than our share of the beasts in this region.
If you’d like to learn more about how to control them and who to talk to for help, please join us for a half-day workshop on Saturday 15 Nov
Venue is Peter and Heather Brown’s property, Anabranch, which is on the old Smelter site in Mount Molloy.
Go to the western end of Santowski Crescent (turn up the hill opposite the Top Shop at the old sawmill boiler). Go up the hill towards the water storage tank. About 400m off the Mulligan Hwy total.
Thanks to the generous support of Mareeba Shire Council and our local Landcare Facilitator programme we will have a new mobile trap available for sharing around the district. For more information on how to run the trap, come on down to the workshop and sign up.
Speakers include the legendary Sid Clayton, Peter Alden, Andrew Taylor and a very experienced fellow from Queensland Biosecurity called Scott Middleton.
JAMARR commissioned an independent Road Safety Study (RSA) to assess public safety conditions on a portion of the cane hauling route approved for use by Mackay Sugar’s fleet of contracted B-Doubles (via QUBE Logistics).
The RSA is a formal document that is intended to audit the safety characteristics of a given stretch of road. Our RSA covers from Mt Molloy (Bakers Rd) to the foot of the range at Cassowary.
The RSA was undertaken in June-July 2014 by a Registered Senior Road Safety Auditor (Level 2), assisted by interviews with Queensland Police Service officers Greg Matthews (Mt Molloy), OIC Sgt Matt Smith (Mossman), and OIC Sgt Damien Meadows (Port Douglas).
The RSA found 2 critical safety deficiencies (the road is too narrow, and road markings are obscured by rubbish from the trucks), 11 high priority deficiencies, and 2 important deficiencies. Essentially, the RSA shows that the road does not meet the safety standards required for the volume of heavy vehicle traffic that the State has approved.
You can read the entire report, and the accompanying media statement by following the download links following:
At the Feb 2014 meeting meeting members voted to send a query letter to Hon Scott Emerson, Minister for Transport and Main Roads to follow up on a matter that had been troubling the community since Quinton Hildebrandt (Mackay Sugar CEO) addressed us in May of 2013.
When pressed about the impacts that having a heavy vehicle rolling through our communites every 6 minutes, 24 x 7 for half of the year, Quniton calmly noted that Mackay’s proposal represented “a 10% increase in traffic.” Gasps of disbelief followed, as anyone who is the least familiar with this area knows that even in high tourist season the roads are quiet for long periods, especially at night. The landscape, the people, and the creatures all get a welcome break and chance to rest up before traffic resumes.
Mackay however continued with this line for months. Mossman boss Hadyn Slattery quoted the same figures in prviate meeting with Council and police representatives. Clearly the intent is to give the impression that Mackay’s trucks are just a marginal increase over existing traffic.
When pressed for the source of their information, Mackay referred vaguely to “these are the figures we received from the State”.
JAMARR wrote to the local DTMR office (c/o Tony Potter) back in Oct of 2013, but did not receive the courtesy of a reply. Thus we pressed onward to the Minister.
In mid March the Minister replied with some figures. They give AADT (Annual Average Daily Traffic) figurers for Byrnes St, Mulligan Hwy to Molloy, and either end of the Mossman-Molloy road which includes the Rex Range. They provide figures for both total traffic and heavy vehicles.
Clearly the community is concerned about heavy vehicles. So any honest assessment of Mackay Sugar’s impact ought to start with that in mind. Apparerntly Quinton thought we were not capable of doing maths? While it may be true that some of us struggle with numeracy, anyone with a shred of decency would acknowledge that quoting a “10% increase” is an attempt to hide the facts.
The State reckons that significantly less than 220 heavy vehicles would be transiting the Rex Range on an average day. Mackay will add *240* new heavy vehicle movements, so that’s at least a 100% increase.
And keep in mind that the State’s figures are given as “Annual Average Daily Traffic”. This is the standard means for discussing road usage, apparently. However, an annual average gives a poor picture of the real situation. Anyone with the slightest familiarity with the area knows that traffic increases 5-10 times during the dry season. This peak season is exactly when Mackay is proposing to contribute their 42,000 additional heavy vehicle movements. Suggesting that the annual average gives an accurate picture is like someone putting your head in an oven and your feet in the freezer, and then declaring you must be comfortable because the *average temperature* is quite pleasant.
Although heavy vehicle traffic may only increase by a factor of 2 during the dry season, the roads are loaded with tourists and slower drivers, making the “hazard density” much higher than the annualised traffic figures suggest.
Clearly the public would benefit from a proper road safety audit, something that should have been done as a condition of permitting Mackay’s industrial expansion in the first place. And it’s time Mackay came clean. Their spin on the numbers seems to be nothing less than a deliberate attempt to hide the dangers that they are responsible for.
At the Feb 2014 JAMARR meeting astute members brought it to the group’s attention that the feredal agency charged with protecting the environment had rubber-stamped Mackay Sugar’s application to run ~42,000 trucks through the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics without objection.
Robyn Rose found the approval had been granted on 19 Nov 2013 by the Australian Government Department of the Environment. Mackay’s application was assessed under the EPBC Act (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Protection). The entire documentation is attached here for your reference (thanks to the work of Robyn).
Di Abiad agreed to study the documents further and provides this report:
Having read this document its hard not to get depressed, it is a whitewash. There are a number of inaccuracies however I think it best that others more informed than I provide referenced comments particularly in relation to the Working Group and Public Consultation.
Rupert will be able to provide comments in relation to 1.9 Alternatives (negotiating with Arriga) (Referral document)
Socio-economic impact on humans is the shortest entry (see p 41) acknowledging light, noise and air pollution as issues and
2.7 Social Values requires Mackay to ensure that social amenity and community values are not significantly impacted. (p11, Attachments (1)).
(It appears) this is part of a government initiative to fast track industry through less gov control. I do think it is worth responding to the document, but the response needs to be accurately referenced (times, dates, meeting , attendees etc) which is impossible if no minutes were kept from the Working Group.
However the bottom line is that nothing is likely to change. The only way we are going to make anybody listen is by documenting all “incidents” (road kill, noise, lighting, near misses etc) and bombarding the relevant authorities on a daily basis with complaints. Mackay is obligated under this agreement to compile and deal with complaints so I think our best strategy is to get together a list of contacts for residents to forward complaints to, as well as JAMARR so we can keep a register of ALL incidents.
The documents are useful insight into both Mackay’s perspective on the issue and on the workings of our governmental processes.
Mackay goes out of their way to bring the matter up in the first place…but then they have taken a number of liberties as the “spin the story” so that it ends up sounding quite benign.
The Environment Department, operating on squeezed budgets and marginalised mandates, is hardly able to make sure the local community is even informed about the decision process, much less undertake a thorough assessment that is able to get underneath Mackay’s smooth presentation of the matter and obtain a more balanced perspective on the facts.
One of the concerns residents have concerning cane haulage relates to the use of “backroads” for heavy trucks.
Why are heavy trucks used on small backroads?
Cane properties are staked out across the Tablelands, and cane farmers use the same minor access roads that residents and other primary producers use.
Cane is harvested into large cage “bins” which are moved by tractor up to a transfer point at the edge of a farm property. From here the roughly-chopped cane “bats” will be taken to a mill for crushing.
To reduce handling costs, processors want to get the cane to the mill with as few transfer operations as possible. So if a B-Double will be used for the main portion of the haulage, it would save money to simply load cane into the B-Double right at the farm gate and take it straight to the mill.
But is it appropriate for a B-Double or other heavy truck to use the backroads? Or should smaller, lighter vehicles be used? If smaller vehicles are used there will be extra costs to unload the cane from the smaller trucks and transfer it to a larger one.
How big is big?
There are two classes of trucks that are discussed in the permits that cane hauling operators use: “multi-lift trailers” and “B-Doubles”.
The two types of regulated vehicle have different requirements for road size, cornering, and intersection design. These factors are included in the concept of “road geometry” which planners and regulators consider when deciding about permission to use the roads.
Who decides usage of the backroads?
Most of the secondary network is managed by the relevant Council. For now this would be Tablelands Regional Council (TRC). Starting in Jan of 2014 this will also be a matter for the new Mareeba Shire Council. The permit itself is issued by thte State govenrment, however, local Council approval must be sought and is likely to be the determining factor in permit approval.
What roads can be used?
A permit is issued to operators allowing them to use specific types of vehicle on named roads. On 1 Aug 2013, TRC officers reported to the Council on the current state of permits:
(referring to) correspondence from Heavy Vehicles Road Operations (Program Office) within Department of Transport and Main Roads to Mackay Sugar (Mossman Mill) advising details of the renewal of their B-Double Additional Route Approval Permit BD1386 effective for the period 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014. These routes have been previously approved by Council and include the following Council-controlled roads:
Multi-lift Trailer Roads
It should also be noted, that the current Guideline for Multi-combination Vehicles as issued by Department of Transport and Main Roads states (in part) that:
“Operations on local authority roads in shaded areas is not restricted unless signs prohibit use or the route is marked for no road train or B-Double operations in the guidelines.”
This means that any vehicle which is authorised to use a particular State-controlled road, for example a B-Double configured truck, can access and use a Council-controlled road provided that particular road is not sign-posted so as to prohibit its use by that type of vehicle.
What permit is relevant?
These matters are defined and authorised under “B-Double Additional Route Permit BD1386” issued by Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR).
The permit is renewed annually. The most recent permit covers 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014.
The permit explicitly states that it is
…subject to ongoing assessment by stakeholders.
We take this to include the community as well as the cane transporters.
What can I do?
If you have an objection to the type of vehicle that has been approved to use a particular road, the first point of objection would be Council.
Mackay Sugar has announced its selection for the Community Working Group (CWG). The first meeting is slated for 26 August (2013) and the group is expected to run for one year.
Mackay Sugar hired local corporate communications consultants to help address local residents’ concerns over the substantial increase in cane haulage that will impact on the communities of Molloy and Julatten in particular.
The CWG is expected to meet once every two months, with its last meeting just before the peak of the proposed hauling in 2014.
Members self-nominated to the CWG, and JAMARR provided letters of support.
On 1 Aug 2013 your Vice Chair Diana Abiad and JAMARR Secretary John Brisbin fronted to Tablelands Regional Council to present JAMARR’s statement of concerns and request for Council action. A copy of the presentation as tabled is attached here.
The meeting was well-attended with at least 15 residents lining the gallery. Councillors received the presentation respectfully and several showed genuine support (esp Cr Taylor). A motion was carried to ask for Council staff to respond to JAMARR’s information requests promptly.
Following our presentation, Mr Haydn Slattery, manager of Mackay Sugar’s Mossman Mill, gave a presentation. He repeated Mackay Sugar’s stated intentions to increase overall cane production in the area, aiming for 2M tons, which would fill both mills to capacity.
He used the expression “supporting grower’s choice” when referring to the contract with the Tablelands farmers. He did not acknowledge that the Arriga mill owners have improved their offer to growers, allowing them to market through the QSL.
Cr Taylor questioned Mr Slattery’s lack of engagement with ratepayer concerns over public safety, amenity, and road damage (especially on the back roads proposed for heavy truck access).
The Mackay Sugar Comms Officer responded that the proposed Community Working Group was intended to address residents concerns.
The question was then asked if there was any room for negotiation on the amount of cane being proposed for hauling. There was no direct answer on this point, but it was clear that Mackay’s first priority is to meet its aspirations to crush 700,000 tons of cane from the Tablelands.
Since this was an official Council meeting, questions from the floor were not invited. Nonetheless, several residents insisted on letting their frustrations loose in the meeting.
Mayor Long closed the presentation and we were ushered out. It was agreed that Di delivered the presentation in excellent style: strong, intelligent, and passionate…yet disciplined. Some direct communications between long-time JAMARR members and the Mackay Sugar reps took place before people dispersed.
We are the people who live and thrive in a special corner of far north Queensland, on the northern fringe of the Atherton Tablelands.
JAMARR is a not-for-profit Queensland incorporated association. We represent and act on the views of our members only: we are not affiliated with or beholden to any other political, social, commercial, or religious organisation.
JAMARR is a progressive organisation whose main function is to serve as a forum for collective action by local people.