The Mayor & Councillors of the Fraser Coast Regional Council

Petition Background (Preamble):

The Fraser Coast Regional Council has enacted its Hervey Bay Foreshore Enhancement Action Plans in 33 sub-precincts from Beach Road, Pialba to Esplanade Urangan. These plans effectively displace any previous council plans for the foreshore. These are linked to the Shoreline Erosion Management Plan, which is underpinned by the Gap Analysis Report prepared by Cardno Pty Ltd., and this plan is still being developed.
Cardno estimates the implementing of the Hervey Bay Coastal Protection Strategy (WBM, 2004) at $16M based on a 50 years period. This might include rock walls, groynes or offshore wave breaks. However, it considers the best approach to be beach nourishment, which involves sand being moved from another source to the eroded section of the beach.

According to the Chronicle, 26th October, 2012, the FCRC endorsed its Shoreline Erosion Management Plan (SEMP) in August, after going through a report on local ocean levels. It identified $530 million worth of erosion works over 20 years would need to be done on the Fraser Coast's 112km of shoreline, from Tinnanbar to Burrum Heads.

The above highlights the major risk of erosion to the Hervey Bay shoreline.

To see the Enhancement Action Plans and photos go to http://www.frasercoast.qld.gov.au/web/your-council/beaches-and-coastal-management

Vital undergrowth has already been removed from most of the Hervey Bay foreshore along with native cottonwoods, other trees and shrubs. A striking example is the complete removal of a large clump of cottonwoods between the Pines and Beach Road in a highly vulnerable erosion zone. This contravenes its own Enhancement Action Plan for sub-precinct 1, which says nothing about removal of cottonwoods. Also, the buffer width is relatively small, and now that it is more vulnerable to erosion, the shoreline could recede even more rapidly and markedly.

Another is the removal of about fifty trees behind and near the Torquay tennis courts. This is all to improve views, with no regard for the environment or the long term protection of the coastal dunes.

The FCRC talks much about "tidying up'. On one of FCRC's display signs, of a variegated fairy wren, in the Botanical gardens at Urangan, reads " 'Tidying up' the understorey may make an area look very neat, but it creates an environment that is hostile for native wildlife."

More Trees and other Vegetation Targeted:
The Enhancement Action Plans drawn up by the Fraser Coast Regional Council show that most of the native cottonwoods, along the Hervey Bay foreshore from Pialba to Esplanade Urangan, have been targeted for removal, crown lifting or pruning, and other trees selected for crown lifting or pruning, in order to improve views, and access to the beach on safety grounds in some cases. Crown lifting of trees means removal of lower branches, to create views for pedestrians and cars, including their drivers.

Division 10 councillor George Seymour recommended the stopping of vegetative clearing, prior to wider public consultation, at a recent Fraser Coast Regional Council meeting, but this was rejected by the Mayor and the other 9 Councillors.

Previous Hervey Bay Town and City Councils had the foresight, and understood the value of cottonwoods and casuarinas by planting more of them along the foreshore.

From 1975 to 2000, under the leadership of Parks Curator for the Hervey Bay Council, Glen Kruger, 15,000 trees mainly cottonwoods and casuarinas, both salt-resistant trees, were planted from Burrum Heads to Esplanade Urangan.

Glen said "It took a lot of time, energy and money to plant those cottonwoods because back then, there were a large number of sand blows right across the Esplanade. There were problems and we fixed them. I think it is a huge step backwards to pull them out now, the council don't seem to realise why it was done". "They were planted there to serve as protection for the beach as well as the hind dune vegetation. I have strong fears for erosion issues and protection of the hind dune vegetation because that stops the salt from getting through.

Without that protection they will have major problems with maintaining grass cover. The wind will blow straight through, and bring the salt and hinder any future prospects." "Other issues raised included glare, noise, wildlife protection and wind during storm seasons." Independent, 25th October, 2012, p. 25.

Organs Mens’ Wear, opposite Organ Park at Torquay operated from the 1970s to the early 2000s. The owner Mr. Organ planted cottonwoods on the foreshore in front of his shop to prevent sand and salt blowing into his shop particularly in Summer when the northerlies blow.

Swimming pool owners remember their filters filling up with sand before the trees were planted on the foreshore.

There are three prime issues highlighted below and then others mentioned in the petition itself.

Firstly, "Erosion Prone Areas Mapping" in the GA report shows the whole of the Hervey Bay shoreline is erosion prone, and that erosion is a major issue. The shoreline could be subject to major erosion in the event of a wave or tidal surge, caused, by for example, a strong northerly, south easterly, storm, or cyclone similar to the high category one, which moved down the Queensland coast in the recent past, or in the event of a low category tsunami, which might be generated from an earthquake on the ring of fire in the Pacific Ocean.

1. Cardno Pty Ltd, GA Report, 2011, p.43
● “It is recommended that Council may wish to incorporate storm surge considerations into the development of options for the SEMP (Shoreline Erosion Management Plan).”

Clearing vegetation such as cottonwoods, which are native trees, particularly adapted to reduce water and wind erosion of sand, increases the likelihood of damaging erosion.

However, the removal of certain weeds, particularly noxious species, as well as litter is considered important.

Brooke Brendan, Australian Government, Geoscience Australia,
2. www.ozcoasts.gov.au/indicators/beach_erosion.jsp
● “Removal of dune vegetation
The loss of protective vegetation is a major trigger for dune erosion.”
3. www.ozcoasts.gov.au/indicators/beach_dune.jsp
●“Dunes serve as natural buffers, protecting the land from storm tides and waves of short duration, and wind.”
4. Coastal State Planning Regulatory Provision, Oct 2012
● "retention of native vegetation wherever practicable"
Secondly, in the event of severe winds, from the north or the south east, or resulting from a storm or cyclone, there could be major property damage along the esplanade, as the natural barriers of vegetation may have been removed.

Strong winds will blow in more sand, grit and leaves into people's faces, as well as foreshore shops, restaurants and other businesses. Business owners in the Torquay foreshore deliberately planted trees, decades ago, to prevent this very discomfort, happening to customers.

Thirdly, the removal of native undergrowth including the understorey, thickets and ground cover destroys habitats for small animals including insectivorous birds, which are important for other relationships with plants, such as food sources and consuming insect pests. The aesthetic value of plants and animals is also valuable for the wellbeing of people.
5. Coastal State Planning Regulatory Provision, Oct 2012
● "protecting beaches providing significant wildlife habitats (including roosting, nesting and breeding for turtles and birds)" and "if habitat is to be lost it should be replaced."

The above issues were also highlighted in the Cardno GA report.
6. Cardno Pty Ltd, GA Report, 2011, “Executive Summary’, p. ii:
● “The challenge is to facilitate the ongoing conservation and enhancement of these natural assets while at the same managing the risk to public safety and built assets.”

The issues above form three of seven aims in the petition below. The eighth aim is concerned with the aesthetics.

Email letters have been sent to the Mayor, Councillors and Executive Management Team, as well as the Deputy Premier & Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, and the State MP for Hervey Bay, as well as the State & Federal Ministers for the Environment.

Two formal complaints were lodged with the FCRC in the week beginning 22nd October, 2012 and tabled at the public input section of FCRC on 7th December5, 2012

1. Mr. David Egan was the owner and manager of Gringos Mexican restaurant on the Torquay Esplanade for 25 years. He said that thousands of tourists have commented to him, how special the Hervey Bay foreshore is. Its greenness, its thick vegetation, its beauty, like nothing else in the world, with the blue coastal waters just a few short steps away, through native trees and undergrowth - precious wildlife habitat, particularly for birds including insectivorous species. These are two distinct yet intricately connected natural environments in close proximity to each other.

2. A recent revealing story by a local, 25 year old, professional person- "On my lunch break I decided to have lunch in the park on the Torquay foreshore. I noticed an elderly couple (in their late 80s) strolling across the park. It was quite a romantic sight, seeing this elderly couple strolling along arm in arm, very close to each other. “Love lives on” I thought. I then placed my coffee cup down on the park bench that I was sitting on. My coffee cup took off as gale force winds blew it away. I then realised this elderly couple were probably not as “in love” as I had first thought and that they were simply holding onto each other for dear life as their once peaceful park stroll had turned into a death defying trek across the unknown.

3. A prep school child climbing with two older primary school children in the cottonwoods which were "crown lifted", said that she loved playing in these trees, but they had cut off the lower branches, that we used to sit on, and that "sucks".

The Fraser Coast Chronicle conducted a web poll at http://www.frasercoastchronicle.com.au/story/2012/10/08/online-petition-opposes-foreshore-clearing/ . The percentage of people, opposing the clearing of vegetation on the foreshore, had risen from 29% on 8th October, to 37%, and was still rising, when it was closed down on 22nd October, 2012. There were 367 responses.

We urge you to sign this petition. The wellbeing and protection of the Hervey Bay foreshore is in everyone’s best interests, now and for generations to come. We urge you to urge others to sign the petition, whether they are locals, visitors or tourists. The future of the foreshore is in jeopardy, and everybody has a stake in that. Google 'Hervey Bay foreshore protection petition" or email me to obtain a hand-written signature sheet.

To view a map of signatures, click here.

Petition writer & editor: Rodney Dudgeon, B.Sc., Dip. Ed., Head of the Science Department at Hervey Bay State High School from 1974 till 2002.

PETITION - We, the undersigned, call on the Fraser Coast Regional Council to STOP THE CLEARING OF VEGETATION ON THE HERVEY BAY FORESHORE

1. To help reduce erosion of the foreshore, by a wave or tidal surge, caused by severe winds from the north or south east or by a storm, cyclone or a low category tsunami, with vegetation such as cottonwoods, casuarinas, vitex, sand vines and beach grasses.

2. To maintain a natural barrier of vegetation for property on the esplanade, particularly cottonwoods, in the event of severe winds from the north, or south east, or caused by a storm or cyclone.

3. To prevent further destruction of vital native habitat for birds and other fauna, including trees and the undergrowth.

4. To maintain the native cottonwoods, other trees and undergrowth as natural barriers to wind, salt, sand, grit, leaves, heat, and glare, and to prevent these blowing into or striking the faces of people, while on the foreshore, as well as shops, cafes, restaurants and other businesses, during windy weather conditions. They also block vehicular noises from the Esplanade road onto the beach.

5. To reduce the reflection of UV from the ocean, which increases the risks of eye and skin damage for passers-by on walkways and other foreshore areas. Queensland has the highest skin cancer levels in the world. This is a major public health and safety issue.

6. To encourage the public to report to the police, any suspected criminal or antisocial behaviour, that may be occurring on the foreshore.

7. To avoid the risk caused by the continuous viewing of the ocean and foreshore, while driving a vehicle. This is a risk to public safety, because high density vehicular and pedestrian traffic utilize the Hervey Bay Esplanade, as a direct route from one end to the other, particularly during holiday periods, when pedestrians are using walkways and crossings more frequently.

8. To preserve the aesthetic quality of the foreshore as a unique and precious natural environment and to maintain it as a peaceful, relaxing natural environment.

Actions required:

1. We call on the Fraser Coast Regional Council to stop the Enhancement Action Plans, as a matter of urgency, reassessing in accordance with the relevant sections of the Draft Coastal Protection State Planning Regulatory Provision made by the Deputy Premier & Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, effective from 8th October, 2012, as well as the scientific knowledge, referred to in the preamble.

2. The Shoreline Erosion Management Plan acknowledge the scientific value of native cottonwoods, other native trees and undergrowth, and so ensure their protection as very effective wind barriers, helping to reduce property damage in severe wind events. Quote:"retention of native vegetation wherever practicable" 9 (b) p.11, Coastal PSPRP, Oct., 2012.

3. Trees and undergrowth are known scientifically to be vital wildlife habitat. These need replacing. Quote: "if habitat is to be lost it should be replaced." 9 (a) Coastal PSPRP, Oct., 2012.

4. The Council needs to tell its ratepayers how much this clearing is costing, and what it is likely to cost in the future in terms of ongoing maintenance.

5. The Council needs to implement properly designed restoration and revegetation programs for the foreshore including cottonwoods, casuarinas, vitex, ground vines and grasses to help control erosion.

The Hervey Bay Foreshore Protection Group petition to The Mayor & Councillors of the Fraser Coast Regional Council was written by RodneyDudgeon and is in the category Environment at GoPetition.