Tweed Shire Council Chief Planner Vince Connell has recommended that council not proceed with the prosecution of the developer whose unauthorised land clearing caused a major pollution event at Hopping Dick Creek, Limpinwood.
The pollution event destroyed a well-known and loved platypus habitat. It also deposited tons of sediment and construction debris into Hopping Dick Creek. This eventually flowed into Oxley Creek and into the iconic Tweed River.
Our original investigation and photographic evidence can be viewed here.
The advice to council is that the COST and the RISK may not be worth it.
Council staff say they are satisfied with the remedial work undertaken by the developer and ‘in light of recent cooperation from the developer’, the recommendation is that council not proceed with the class 5 proceedings.
The Caldera Environment Centre is extremely disappointed with this turn of events.
At council’s last Planning Committee meeting, Caldera Environment Centre Coordinator Sam Dawson represented our concerned members and supporters, as well as the ratepayers of the Hopping Dick Creek catchment in delivering this presentation…
…”Good Evening, tonight I am here representing the concerns of the Caldera Environment Centre and Tweed rate payers in the Hopping Dick catchment who have concerns about the development of Boormans Road, Limpinwood.
Earlier this year the CEC was forced to blow the whistle on criminal damage of the aquatic environment of Hopping Dick’s Creek by a developer who had undertaken work without approval. Despite numerous complaints by a neighbouring property owner local and state government took no action for up to eight months.
Despite the warnings of Ms Hearder that no mitigation measures had been taken by the developer, and there was a serious risk of a major erosion event occurring, both council and the state departments responsible did nothing. Cases were opened and closed, and still the bulldozers chugged along, destroying riparian vegetation, making roads and several house pads, all without consent from Tweed Shire Council.
Eventually the fears of Ms Hearder were justified when a relatively minor rainfall event sent a column of sediment up to 20km downstream, impacting river users in the Oxley River, including myself who were unable to pump for domestic purposes.
After having the media take notice of the issue council was forced to act and we were pleased to hear noises proclaiming legal action would be taken against these blatant transgressions…until today when we learned that council’s threat of legal action had about as much courage as Monty Python’s knights. “Run Away! Run Away!”
Because the offender is being compliant council is turning the other cheek and forgiving this crime.
I have viewed the sediment clean up report, and seen the site today and spoken to ms Hearder about the work conducted on the drain. The work DID NOT follow the plan as outlined. The work is insufficiently cleared the drain, with a significant pile of sediment remaining at the downstream end of the drainage pipe which will impede free flow of water. The drainage pipe is still half clogged with sediment. The work is a joke, at best this is a tokenistic compliance.
Significant sediment remains in Hopping Dick creek, Platypus which were once commonly seen at the waterhole on Ms Hearder’s place are now absent, their pool once filled with rocks, cobble and gravel now has a film of sediment covering the benthic layer of the stream for at least 100m downstream. A short walk upstream will easily demonstrate that there is no sediment beyond the development site. The pollution is still there.
Last year council launched a platypus watch program, council has the river health program, and there is this thing called the river committee. But when push comes to shove council is unable to enforce the idea of clean waterways.
Prosecuting Mr Fish for this crime is an opportunity to demonstrate that council is a force to be reckoned with. Allowing him to get away scot free will encourage copycat activities. The CEC is aware of many other instances of council sitting in its hands while development in rural areas continues, “holiday houses” and “farm sheds” are often excuses used to get a dwelling over the line, yet council sits there doing nothing, waiting for nosy neighbours to dob on each other, and when they do, council cannot even enforce its own rules!
By way of example I would like to demonstrate to the chamber the contempt Mr Fish has shown for the environment. If I were to dump my waste like this… into the chamber is that acceptable? But maybe if you threaten to sue me I’ll clean it up after I write a report about it”…
To their credit, council deferred the matter until the December Planning Committee meeting.
Devastatingly, after the Community Access session and Planning Committee meeting, the Limpinwood catchment received 29mm of rain…
The Caldera Environment Centre was shocked when we received the following photos from the indomitable Susie Hearder, neighbour and tireless defender of Hopping Dick Creek.
April 11 2014 – Tweed waterway pollution blamed on earthworks
Story breaks: Major earthworks on a property at Limpinwood in the Tweed Valley, followed by last week’s heavy rains that washed tonnes of soil into a nearby waterway, have been described as an ‘ecological disaster’.
June 17 2014 – Developer ordered to stop works in Limpinwood
Developer stopped: Tweed Shire Council has ordered a Gold Coast developer to stop construction work at a Limpinwood property following complaints from residents.
July 2 2014 – Developer fights back
Developer denies claims: Gold Coast developer John Fish has denied recent earthworks have caused environmental damage.
July 6 2014 – Limpinwood Pollution Event Linked to Earthworks
Caldera Environment Centre provides evidence: investigation answers questions.