Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cowley Beach access decision likely - reports Innisfail Advocate

Environmental damage from unregulated traffic including cars, four wheel drives, quad bikes and motor bikes continues along the dunes and foreshore of Innisfail’s Cowley Beach.

It was interesting to compare recent photographs from this area with older photographs taken by Cowley Beach resident Richard Piper. The destruction of coastal vegetation was obvious. As an example I received the photo below in May 2009.
The following photo was taken by in November 2009.
Though the larger Casuarinas are doing fine in this photo low growing dune stabilising plants like the Goats foot convolvulus Ipomoea pes-caprae are taking a hammering.

If you don’t know about the damage being inflicted on this North Queensland beach a visit to Cassowary Coast Regional Council’s mismanagement encourages dune damage at Cowley Beach and Council inaction encourages environmental abuse at Cowley Beach could be a good place to start!

Our local paper, The Innisfail Advocate, published this story on Saturday, 28 November 2009.
Click on image to enlarge.

My guess is that the vehicular beach access ramp will stay in place and a track through the dunes with bollards will be established, time will tell.

In a recent Cairns Post article Cairns Post reports ‘Fears over beach 4WD’ at Cowley Beach CCRC mayor Bill Shannon stated “But we’ve been told for a road to comply it must be 8 metres wide.”

Documentation that has been passed on to me tells a different story to what the Mayor has stated ...

At the recent inspection by Sel Sultmann which I attended Mr Sultmann indicated that all that was needed was a track similar to the previous one with bollards preventing vehicles leaving the track and destroying dune vegetation. The Cowley Beach Vehicle Advisory Committee has never received any advice that a road should be 8m wide. In fact one of the members of the Committee and Cowley beach resident, Mrs. June Fisher contacted the Dept of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) recently and was informed that the track can be "3 feet, 3 metres or just two wheel tracks".

Considering Mr Sel Sultmann is DERM’s dune and foreshore expert I would have thought his opinions regarding track sizes would have carried some weight!

Anyway perhaps Mayor Shannon was simply mis-quoted. Mayor Shannon also incorrectly identified the local creek as Maria Creek (not Liverpool Creek) in the same article and such a glaring error suggests maybe he really was mis-quoted??

At the end of the day I doubt DERM’s best possible outcome of zero beach traffic will become a reality however some control needs to be established on this totally unregulated beach traffic. Regulation and compliance monitoring will not only help stabilize the coast’s damaged dune and foreshore habitats but will make Cowley Beach a safer place for locals and visitors to the area as well.

To me it appears that the Cassowary Cast Regional Council is performing rather poorly with regards to their environmental duty of care at Cowley Beach.
With increased beach usage by all parties (beach users and beach drivers) during the holiday season Cassowary Coast Regional Council needs to fully recognise their duty of care towards pedestrian beach users on this beach.
There’s only one noise I would dislike hearing on this beach more than 4WD vehicles ripping up the dunes and that’s the sound of a rescue helicopter setting down to collect a vehicle trauma casualty. I hope our Cassowary Coast Regional Council feels the same way and acts appropriately.

Cheers Russ

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