You are here

Bald Hills community fights sand mining threat to flood plains and Moreton Bay

Whilst Brisbane's Courier Mail rightly recently exposed the ecological vandalism of Consolidated Rutile on North Stradbroke Island, it and the rest of the Queensland newsmedia, have largely ignored a proposed extension of sand and gravel mining on the nearby mainland, which may prove to be even more harmful for the Moreton Bay region.

The compelling case against the expansion of Neilsen's sand and gravel mine

In the Bald Hills region immediately to the North of Brisbane, in the Greater Moreton Shire, the health and peace of 600 students of Bald Hills Primary School, one of the first 10 to be established in Queensland, is threatened by the proposed extension of an existing sand and gravel mine across the Pine River into the adjoining flood plains as close as 150 metres metres from the school oval.

As well as the health of school students, the extension of the sand mine, owned by Neilsen's mining company, threatens the whole surrounding flood plain and even Moreton Bay. A six minute YouTube broadcast "Bald Hills Flats under threat" published on 9 August has put the compelling and overwhelming case against the expansion of sand mining. Much of the following is paraphrased from that excellent video.

Bald Hills flats, which is bordered by the Pine River, contains a delicate diverse eco-system that serves as a large cartchment area which feeds into Moreton Bay.

Studies in the US show that the ecological costs of sand and gravel mining include:

  • increased stream acidity;
  • soil nutrient depletion; and
  • loss of bio-diversity, including in the Bald Hills region aquatic birds, rare fish and koalas.

Health effects caused by silicate, and other forms of dust, include:

  • respiratory problems;
  • aggravation of asthma; and
  • increased risk of lung cancer.

Pine River has flooded many times in the last 20 years. During a recent flood earlier this year, everything in the flood plain was washed out into Moreton Bay -- toxic wastes, algae from stagnant swamps caused by sand mining and sludge.

Such natural events are well beyond what Nielsen's are capable of preventing or constraining in any way.

Already the Pine River is under great stress from numerous inappropriate developments upstream. A number of public works have been destroyed or damaged because of the inability of planners to predict what course the water of the Pine River will follow.

The narrator of "Bald Hills Flats under threat" makes the emphatic point:

"The Bald Hills Community is not seeking a few token conditions which will be applied upon application approval. We do not want this application approved at all. Not now. Not ever.

"Surely we have learnt from past mistakes that you simply just can't go ahead and decimate a valley within the Brisbane Metropolitan area because of a need for resources. The problems outlined here are not problems that can simply be addressed. The problems here are problems that simply can't be overcome."

Why do our governments seek population growth if it necessitates ecological destruction?

This point confronts the nub of the conflict at the heart of the fight of the Bald Hills Community.

The Pine Rivers Press of 20 August reported that Neilsen's CEO Mario Panuccio said the company had exhausted its supplies at its Brendale site. Panuccio continued:

"To ensure the secure supply of sand and gravel to support the growing community's infrastructure needs, we need to put in place a plan to source sand and gravel from our eastern landholdings."

So, in order to provide for a "growing community's infrastructure needs" a "traditional, historic, well-loved, green pasture within Brisbane turned into a dusty, ugly open-cut mine." as the narrator points out.

The threatened destruction of the Bald Hills flats is only one of almost countless costs the Australian community is being made to bear in order to pay for population growth needlessly imposed by Federal, state and local governments.

This population growth is utimately driven by the Federal Government's record high immigration program for apparently no better purpose than to line the pockets of the property developers and land speculators who so generously contribute to the coffers of the governing political parties. Just some of ecological costs include the threartened damming of the Mary Valley containing the endangered lung fish, the Mary Valley cod and the Mary Valley turtle, the damming of Wyaralong said to be necessary to provide the necessary additional water, the threatened total extinction of the Koala, not only in the Bald Hills region, but throughout the rest of South East
Queensland, the destruction of Minnippi Parklands containing rare sugar gliders. Social costs include the destruction of rural communities, ever increasing trafic congestion, escalating housing costs and homelessness, escalating council rates and charges for electricity, water, road use and other government services.

Surely, then, it is time that we questioned altogther the need for population growth? Surely, instead of causing incessant population growth, our governments at the Federal, state and local level, should instead, be working out exactly what numbeers of humans South East Queensland and the rest of this country can support and accordingly plan to stabilise our population at those levels?

How our governments no longer serve the interests of local communities they claim to represent

A number of courageous people from the Bald Hills are determined to stand up for their community and environment.

They are led by parents of children attending the Bald Hills Primary School. However, they face formidable barriers in the form of the Moreton Bay Regional Council and the Queensland State Labor government. The Moreton Bay Regional council is the product of the dictatorial amalgamations imposed in 2007 by then Premier Peter Beattie and then Local Government Minister Andrew Fraser at the behest of the Property Council of Australia. Whilst in some councils this backfired badly on Beattie and the Property Council, when popular anti-development mayors won in Cairns, the Sunshine Coast and Redlands Shire, the Moreton Bay Regional Council appears to be dominated by councillors unresponsive to the needs of constituents such as those in the Bald Hills region.

Further, the Queensland state Government is doing its best thwart the wishes of the Bald Hills community. According to a Bald Hills community activist, teachers from the Bald Hills Primary School were threatened with the sack if they were to participate in any community protests against sand mining.

However, the Bald Hills community are resolved to fight and need your support. If they succeed in saving their valley, then so can you next time the preservation of your lifestyle and your environment stands in the way of corporate profits.

See also: "Bald Hills Flats under threat", an excellent six minute YouTube broadcast published on 9 Aug 09 (also embedded in this article), "Residents launch campaign to fight quarry plan" by Joel Gould and Miranda Forster in the Pine Rivers Press of 20 Aug 09, "Parents blast plan to mine sand and gravel near school" by Tanya Chilcott in the Courier Mail of 20 Aug 09 (almost identical copy to be found here), "North Stradbroke Island eaten away by sand mininig" by Greg Stolz in the Courier Mail of 15 Aug , "North Stradbroke Island mine rort alleged" by Greg Stolz in the Courier Mail of 20 Aug 09.
Recent articles describing other threats to biodiversity in South East Queensland: "Rescuers fear for koalas" by Alyce Valentine in the Pine Rivers Press of 27 Aug 09, "Traffic noise makes it hard for frogs to find a mate" by Brian Williams in the Courier Mail of 27 Aug&nbsp, "Rezoning anger at Bald Hills" by Miranda Forster in the Pine Rivers Press of 13 May 10, Bald Hills Against Mining FaceBook page.

What you can do

1. Contact the Mayor of the Moreton Bay Regional Council and the other 12 Councillors and let them know of your opposition to the expansion of sand and gravel mining. Please send us copies of any correspondences to and from these councillors so that we can publish them.

Division Councillor Phone E-mail Representing
  Note: Add '@moretonbay.qld.gov.au' (omit quotes) to all e-mail addresses.
Mayor Allan Sutherland (07) 5433 295, 0407 629 002 mayor Moreton Bay Region
1 Gary Parsons (07) 5433 2958, 0407 629 002 gary.parsons Banksia Beach, Bellara, Bongaree, Donnybrook, Godwin Beach, Meldale, Ningi, Sandstone Point, Toorbul,Welsby, White Patch, Woorim and parts of Caboolture and Elimbah.
2 Chris Whiting (07) 5433 2959, 0409 831 236 chris.whiting Beachmere, Burpengary, parts of Caboolture East, Deception Bay and parts of Morayfield.
3 Greg Chippendale (07) 5433 2960, 0418 754 727 greg.chippendale Caboolture, Caboolture South, Morayfield, parts of Bellmere and Moodlu
4 Julie Greer (07) 3283 0453, 0419 801 853 julie.greer North Lakes, Mango Hill, Griffin, Dakabin, parts of Kallangur, Deception Bay, Burpengary and Narangba.
5 James Houghton (07) 3283 0455, 0419 801 853 Division5 Redcliffe (north), Scarborough, Newport, Kippa-Ring (north) and Rothwell.
6 Rae Frawley (07) 3283 0375, 0438 813 403 rae.frawley Clontarf, Woody Point, Margate, Redcliffe (south) and Kippa-Ring (south)
7 David Dwyer (07) 3480 6625, 0418 878 514 david.dwyer Petrie, Kallangur, Murrumba Downs and Kurwongbah.
8 Mick Gillam (07) 3480 6777, 0408 878 517 mick.gillam Strathpine (east), Bray Park, Lawnton, Joyner, Cashmere (north) and Warner (north)
9 Mike Charlton (07) 3480 6869, 0417 757 751 mike.charlton Albany Creek, Brendale, Eatons Hill, Strathpine (west) and Warner (south)
10 Brian Battersby (07) 3480 6383 brian.battersby "The Hills District" (Arana Hills, Everton Hills, Ferny Hills), Bunya and southwest Albany Creek.
11 Bob Millar (07) 3480 6455, 0409 890 203 bob.millar Armstrong Creek, Camp Mountain, Cedar Creek, Clear Mountain, Closeburn, Dayboro, Draper, Highvale, Jollys Lookout, King Scrub, Kobble Creek, Laceys Creek, Mount Glorious, Mount Nebo, Mount Pleasant, Mount Samson, Ocean View, Rush Creek, Samford, Samford Valley, Samsonvale, Whiteside, Wights Mountain, Yugar and parts of Burpengary, Cashmere, Kurwongbah, Moorina and Narangba.
12 Adrian Raedel (07) 5433 2961, 0488 186 487 adrian.raedel parts of Bellmere, Bellthorpe, Booroobin, Bracalba, parts of Burpengary, Campbells Pocket, parts of Caboolture, Cedarton, Commissioner's Flat, D'Aguilar, Delaneys Creek, Elimbah, Moodlu, Mount Delaney, Mount Mee, parts of Morayfield, Moorina, Neurum, Rocksberg, Stanmore, Stony Creek, Upper Caboolture, Wamuran Basin, Wamuran and Woodford.

2. Contact you local member (MLA) of the Queensland Legislative Assembly (Parliament) and demand that the state Parliament act to save Moreton Bay as well as Bald Hills flats. Contact details of Queensland MLA's can be found here on the State Parliament web site.

3. Contact Geoffrey Wilson the Queensland State Minister for Education (ph 07 3237 1000, education[AT]ministerial.qld.gov.au) and ask that teachers be given categorical assurances that any participation by Bald Hills State School teachers in protest actions in support of their community and their environment will not result in their sacking or any other form of victimisation.

4. Attend protest actions against the expansion of sand and gravel mining on the Bald Hills flats. Also attend other protest actions in support of the environment such as the protest to Save the Koala, which is also threatened by the extension of the sand mine.

Details of the Save the Koala protest are:

Time/Date:11AM sign-in for a 12PM start, Friday, 25 Septemper
Place: Brisbane Square (in front of Treasury Casino)
Contact: saveourkoalas[AT]gmail.com, www.koalarescue.org.au

Comments

This is completely a whole lot of bullshit. The children will not be hurt. It will make more jobs and the community gets a lake out of it as well as concrete to make schools.

I have children who go to Bald Hills school it doesn't sound like you do. I also have to put up with the dust and eyesore that comes from both Nielsons and the illegal operation at the Bowman's property which is directly next to current proposal. Buffer zones and flood control. What a joke! What a disgrace this has been by the state and local governments to continue to let these operations continue.

"Jobs"! What a crock! This writer has no idea of the long term effects of this proposed sand mining expansion. Sure, this expansion may create some jobs for wasters who have no education nor qualifications to get a decent job, similar to some of the councilors you elect. (The councillor who wins is usually the one most practiced at defaming any opposition - and not actually judged on qualifications and a credible resume for the job. Ah, but this is Australia, land of mateship, not informed voters!) If our governments provided increased funding for education and job training as well as revamping the dumbed-down education system, we wouldn't have the need to provide jobs and low-income housing at the cost of our lifestyle and environment. Get with the 21st Century, we need to elect qualified, literate (especially in science) politicians who aren't self-serving. Only then we may be able to rescue our beautiful Australia, ("MY COUNTRY" Dorothea Mackellar), from the grip of developers.

Chapter one, page one of the development propaganda manual to get a development application through is:

'Thou shalt proclaim a development is good for jobs, even better 'local' jobs.'

Proven effective in even the most contentious of circumstances, the jobs appeal (pretense) serves to instantly quash moral objections, and divide and conquer objectors. The jobs pretense seeks the moral high ground. Most people regard jobs for people with higher value than the value of ecology. The jobs appeal is an anthropocentric appeal. It attracts irresistable political support - jobs mean votes! The jobs appeal will get local support - 'jobs for locals'...see -rolls off the tongue nicely. How can anyone object to more jobs for locals?

But as to what jobs? How many? Who will get the jobs? How long will the jobs last?

Mmm, well as long as one comes up with a figure on the number of jobs, say 123 to pluck one out of the air (or a darker place) the public will assume that the company must have carried out an economic case to support that figure, so presume the figure unquestioningly to be true. How could doubters disprove a jobs figure when the jobs figure is an internal estimate by the developer?

The jobs pretense has become a tried a tested hookwink gem that works every time! Details are not important. Who follows up on the job count anyway?

Once the development is approved, the protestors go home, the politicians forget, the planning process is over, the conditions of consent are delegated to internal accountability which instantly is not publicly accountable. As for job count...I can hear it...'well this is not a consent condition so outside our terms of reference, and a political issue, so you'll have to contact your local politician...'

"Jobs"! What a crock!"...absolutely! It's a developer con numero uno!

Tiger Quoll
Snowy River 3885
Australia

I think we need to ask exactly what sort of jobs are being generated by sand mining in particular and the whole South East Queensland development juggernaut in general.

If you drive around Brisbane any day, you will observe with your own eyes easily hundreds of workers engaged in some of the most unpleasant, lowly paid, unskilled occupations imaginable with little job security, training or prospects for career advancement. The most noticible are the hapless traffic controllers who have to stand up in the hot sun mostly on bitumen surfaces through the working day, breathing in car exhaust and all the dust and chemicals entailed in road works.

If they can put up the necessary money for training courses and take the time off work and they find an opening whilst they still have the skills obtained in training, they may hope to rise to the grand heights of being a heavy equipment operator, but that would seem to be it.

What would be most revealing would be a proper audit of exactly what sort of occupations people are employed in today's runaway growth economy as opposed to the less frenetic paced economy of a generation or more ago. I would not expect that today's figures would compare favourably.

Brisbane and much of Queensland is a noisy, ugly, dusty wound, of rotting tree carcasses bulldozed into moonscaped red mud battlefields, intersected by heavily trafficked new roads. And everywhere ticky-tacky boxes covering the hills and bearing down on the disappearing woodlands, like infestations of locusts, the desperado families herded by advertising into Bunningses and Big Ws etc, looking for manufactured meaning in lives where meaning, reality and nature lie bleeding, dying and dissed. The city groans with pain as a tribe of phallicly challenged pharaoh parvenus compulsively seeks compensation for their an-epiphany in continuous erection of redundant concrete and glass monuments, with no care as to the absurdity of their conduct and its awful financial, aesthetic and environmental costs.

The government in Queensland is completely out of touch along with the developers. I wonder where it will all end. I don't think the insensitive ones are going to get away with what they are doing forever.

Nielsen's existing mine is in Moreton Bay Region. Their proposal is for a NEW mine, adjacent to the current one, but in the adjoining Brisbane City. When the council assesses the application they will consider any submissions made by third parties (such as neighbours). Submissions can be made on the Brisbane city council website for development applications http://pdonline.brisbane.qld.gov.au. The relevant applications are A002422976 and A002423015. Submissions can be made at any time, but submissions made during the public notification period allow the submitter to appeal against the council's decision. The public notification period will start after enough documentation has been lodged by Nielsen's. That MAY be several months from now.

Hi Everyone - It is time to lodge our protests against the degradation of the Lovely Bald Hills Flats - now is the time to encourage the Brisbane City Council (BCC) to stand by its word to make Brisbane and Greener more Livable City - to do this we need to stop the Nielson application to destroy the flats.

Editorial comment: The FaceBook page against the expansion of sand mining is here. I have been advised that those wishing to lodge objections to the expansion of sand mining have until 12 October to do so. We first wrote of this on candobetter in the article "Bald Hills community fights sand mining threat to flood plains and Moreton Bay" of 31 Aug 2009.