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How South East Queensland Regional Plan gives developers power to trample upon residents' rights

Please attend public forums against population growth, featuring Kelvin Thomson, Mark O'Connor and others. Brisbane: 8:30AM - 12:30PM, Saturday 13 March, Sunshine Coast: 2:00PM-4:30PM, Sunday 14 March.(See article "Sunshine Coast environmentalists condemn sham population debate" for more details.)


Glen Elmes, LNP
member for Noosa

In the debate over the The South East Queensland Regional Plan in 2009-2031 on 11 February 2010 Liberal National Party MLA Glen Elmes1 warned how the vast discretionary powers, given to the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning, Stirling Hinchliffe, with his past history as a property development industry insider, would add to the consequences of SEQ's already shambolic urban planning and environmental management and runaway population growth.

The speech is effective. However, it has shortcomings. The speech appears to accept that continued population growth, even if at a lower rate, is actually necessary and desirable, just as long as it is properly planned and the necessary infrastructure provided beforehand. It also appears to avoid confronting those directly responsible for the current rate of population growth that it otherwise makes abundantly clear is excessive. Those directly responsible are, of course, the Rudd Government with its record high immigration program, that is given every encouragement by the Queensland Government. It is possible to draw the implication from the speech that the harm caused by rapid population growth could possibly be mitigated to an acceptable degree by the adoption of measures such as decentralisation.2 and infilling.3

I learned of this speech from the following comment (see also ) made in response to the article, "It's time to fight Bligh's growth" by Bill Hoffman in the Sunshine Coast Daily of 6 Mar 10:

Vanga and happychappy1 may care to go to Hansard Thursday 11 Feb and read Glen Elmes' stirring speech to parliament condemning the government's population strategy for the Coast. At least Elmesy is doing his bit.

The speech, below, is from the Queensland State Parliamentary Hansard of Hansard of 12Feb 10, linked to from Hansard page. I have added subheadings. - JS

See also: "SEQ Regional Plan a travesty against the people of South East Queensland" of 9 May 09 by Dr Jane O'Sullivan, "The downward spiral of hasty population growth" of 8 Mar 10 on Online Opinion by Dr Jane O'Sullivan.

Mr ELMES (Noosa--LNP) (9.45 pm): ...

Queensland Government's habitual disregard of resident's wishes

I am privileged to rise to speak again on behalf of my electorate of Noosa in this critical debate about our future. My community always worries when Labor starts to plan on our behalf. The forced council amalgamation process of 2006 and 2007 was hallmarked by stripping Noosa and the Queensland constituency of the right to a binding vote on council amalgamations as enshrined in state law. Do you know why, Mr Deputy Speaker? It was because the Labor government knew that a vote would be defeated not by a small margin but overwhelmingly.

We know that all of the submissions in the world make no difference to this Labor government's approach to consultation.

We on this side of the House support the planning processes which would, in normal circumstances, lead to the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2009-2031, but these are not normal circumstances. We know that all of the submissions in the world make no difference to this Labor government's approach to consultation. We know that all the wisdom subscribed by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council; the highly respected Sunshine Coast Environment Council; the influential OSCAR, which stands for Organisation Sunshine Coast Associations of Residents; the forensic Development Watch; the EDV Residents Group; as well as the wise council from the Noosa Parks Association, the Noosa Residents and Ratepayers Association and of course the Friends of Noosa, to mention but a few, simply fail to be taken into account by this minister and this Labor government.

How could we expect anything to be different? With a Labor government now more dependent for its political survival on donations from the property development industry than from its traditional labour trade union base and with a minister captive to that same industry for whom he was a consultant and advocate before coming into this place, how could we expect other than what we have got? But the minister monsters any notion of impartiality through the concept of investigation areas and sleight of hand expansions of the urban footprint to appease his constituent urban development lobby.

Reckless disregard of established planning principles

The Sunshine Coast Regional Council opposed the 1,408-hectare Caloundra South extension investigation area on the basis of the loss of the interurban break and the nutrient and recreational use impacts on the Pumicestone Passage. Others opposed other inclusions into the urban footprint as well, but still on he ploughs. But everyone was unanimous in their chorus for the permanent protection of the interurban break between the Moreton Bay area and the Sunshine Coast, for it to be set in concrete, to become an article of faith. This interurban break is prone to flooding.


Stirling Hinchliffe, former development industry insider, now has sweeping powers to over-ride community and local government objections to grant developers all their wishes.

There simply must be a ban on the continued development of flood prone or flood plain land. The current practice of raising the level of flood plain land above the flood level for development purposes simply makes flooding elsewhere more likely and more severe. It is a 'beggar my neighbour' policy. On the Sunshine Coast we do not want to see the incremental stripping away of the interurban breaks, as has occurred between Brisbane and the Gold Coast which is an interurban break in name only. I strongly oppose this minister having the power to gazette new growth areas without public consultation and the process for declarations to occur.

There simply must be a ban on the continued development of flood prone or flood plain land. The current practice of raising the level of flood plain land above the flood level for development purposes simply makes flooding elsewhere more likely and more severe.

These regulations will permit a wide range of urban style tourist, recreation, sporting, hospitality and commercial developments to occur outside the urban footprint with limited code and impact assessment requirements and little guidance for local government. Further, I am also totally opposed to the proposed discretion for the minister to declare urban and future growth areas as a master plan area. Given the current minister's strong links to the property development industry, I am greatly alarmed by this proposed power, unfettered by any guidelines or ability to be challenged. This has been fostered by changing the definitions in the dictionary. Long-held definitions have turned turtle. What was forbidden is now at the bidding of the minister. Everyone has to go back to school and learn a new language.

My constituency and their advocacy groups requested the state support regional and local planning based on sustainable carrying capacity which also considers and accepts character and amenity. The Sunshine Coast Regional Council has a powerful electoral mandate for such planning and should be permitted to fulfil that mandate.

Queensland Government accomodates, rather than plans population growth

The South East Queensland Regional Plan proposes 156,000 extra dwellings by 2031, a 39 per cent increase over the 397,000 of 2006. The plan envisages 497,000 people crammed into a sardine city by 2031, 68 per cent more than the 295,000 of 2006. The place we call home and love so much will be loved to death by such an onslaught. The Sunshine Coast Regional Council sought assurance that dwelling allocations be qualified by assessment of development planning constraints--constraints extended by the Sunshine Coast Environment Council and others, all to no avail.

The growth is uneven. Although the South-East Queensland population growth is 1.57 million, Brisbane will grow by some 39 per cent, the Gold Coast will grow by 68 per cent and the heaviest impact will be borne by the Sunshine Coast, with a 76 per cent growth in population. Analysis of state and regional population progressions to 2031 and 2050 clearly shows that these are not sustainable in ecological, economic, financial or social terms. With the population doubling every 25 years and with two-thirds of the population in South-East Queensland, one-third in regional coastal areas and only one per cent west of the ranges, South-East Queensland will have a population equal to the present total state population by 2031 and 20 per cent of that population will be over the age of 65. The state already spends twice as much per capita on infrastructure as the other states and is facing mounting budget deficits and a state debt with a lowered credit rating. It just does not add up.

Here is a case for a state and regional population and settlement policy and strategy.4 Analysis of the drivers of population growth, which is natural increase, net interstate migration and net international migration, shows that the state has a number of policy instruments at its disposal to deliver a population and growth rate which is determined to be sustainable for the region and for the state overall. Managing international migration to Queensland is obvious, given this has been double the rate of interstate migration in the most recent decade.

The South East Queensland Regional Plan simply accepts population growth as a fact to be accommodated rather than managed. Strategies and then policies need to be developed and implemented by which growth is limited to no more than the sustainable carrying capacity of the Sunshine Coast. A key factor of sustainability in my view is provision of acceptable infrastructure proceeding or in conjunction with appropriate development. I believe that the current government policy encourages this excessive population growth, and therefore policy change can reduce it.

For example, concessional stamp duty for first home buyers in Queensland is a significant incentive for Victorian and New South Wales property owners to relocate to Queensland, particularly in retirement, rather than to relocate within their own state. Limiting the concession to first home buyers generally rather than first home buyers in Queensland, as now, would be a good first step in limiting growth and would send a clear message of intent that population growth for Queensland is not limitless. It should be noted here that the Sunshine Coast Regional Council was elected almost two years ago with an overwhelming mandate from electors to preserve their quality of life, to nurture the area's unique communities, to manage population growth and development and to make the region the most sustainable in Australia. The electors who live on the Sunshine Coast have sent this very clear message which should be informing planning and planning instruments such as the South East Queensland Regional Plan that replicating the Gold Coast on the Sunshine Coast is not acceptable to us.

There is here potential for a clear identification of community areas in which modelling of desirable future living could be trialled. I envisage the greater Noosa area as one which could be home to communities capable of ready adaption to important change. Booking the ClimateSmart Home Service--which is a state government initiative and which I wholly approve of--managing our carbon footprint, insulating our homes, installing hot-water systems and solar power generation, composting and recycling more of our waste, installing greywater systems and harvesting rainwater et cetera are a few examples of some of the myriad ways in which a small engaged community might model solutions to climate change and sustainability. These solutions might then be rolled out across the state when it is clear which approaches work best and how they might be implemented.

We residents of the Sunshine Coast advocate a much less intensive residential development for our area than the currently accepted urban norm of large estate development which requires water and energy to be captured or generated remotely and delivered to these developments and from which waste water and waste is transported to a remote site for treatment or disposal. The current urban model is ultimately unsustainable and undesirable. Greater Noosa, with recognition from UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program, is, I submit, ideally and best placed to model a sustainable future.

Queensland Government spends on infrastructure for population growth on maxed out bankcard

The truly monstrous failure of the Labor government has been in the provision of infrastructure. With our bankcard maxed out, the capacity for future generations to work through the economic catastrophe facing the state--home-grown by sheer economic incompetence--is hamstrung. Both the plan and the South-East Queensland infrastructure program fail to commit to the provision of the necessary infrastructure to support proposed increases in dwellings and sustainable development. The teaching hospital for the University of the Sunshine Coast--a truly fantastic win-win concept for health services in my region, for infrastructure provision and for education as a hub for economic development--has been put off and put back until it is almost out of sight and out of mind. Why? Because the Labor government has given up even the faintest hope of ever winning a seat on the Sunshine Coast so those electors do not matter anymore to Labor. The Queenslanders in this region of the south-east know who they cannot count on. Redress the wrong, address increases in public and active transport spending, and bring forward as a matter of urgency the coast section of CAMCOS and CoastConnect.

Effects of poor planning on Sunshine Coast

Many rural communities are home to those engaged in lower paid employment who are compelled to travel to work, often shiftwork, by private car. Alternative transport modes must be made available for these workers. It is not acceptable that bulk public transport solutions be provided only in the most heavily populated areas which are already advantaged by a wider range of services under competitive provision.

There are other infrastructure failures which I will only touch on. Education has failed. Schools are being built under a public-private partnership in my region. I am attending the opening of Peregian Springs tomorrow morning at 9.30, which in time will really max out the already maxed out bankcard. Health services fail every day. This is not the fault of the health professionals who struggle to meet the needs of those for whom they care; there are just too many of them to care for.

[Sunshine Coast residents] see paddock after paddock of enormous black pipes just waiting to be laid to suck the lifeblood from the region. Water will leave from where it was harvested via one-way pumps through the infamous water grid, off to Brisbane never to be seen again ...

Then there is water. What do Sunshine Coast residents see? They see paddock after paddock of enormous black pipes just waiting to be laid to suck the lifeblood from the region. Water will leave from where it was harvested via one-way pumps through the infamous water grid, off to Brisbane never to be seen again and for which the reward of recompense has been harvested by this broke Labor government also.

To most constituents, 'infill development' are dirty words but not everyone agrees. Displaying great courage and foresight, the Sunshine Coast Environment Council, for example, has proposed to focus on infill development to take advantage of existing infrastructure and services and the achievement of a more compact urban form incorporating sustainability principles. But this demands that location, scale and design must be sympathetic to the surrounding area and to community aspirations. In short, the local community needs to be engaged in the local solution.5

The Labor government's approach to planning did not even start from an informed position. There was no review of the performance of the previous plan despite the fact that the 2008 State of the region report showed declining trends in almost all sustainability indicators, most noticeably biodiversity and livability indicators, and many of the plans and strategies that the plan requires for implementation are still incomplete and not integrated. While growth, transport and climate change are acknowledged, no robust solutions are offered. It is almost as if they have conceded that they will not be around long enough to address these problems of their own making, but they do not effectively address or provide solutions to these issues. Finalisation of this plan should await a fundamental review of the carrying capacity of the region. The dreadful lag in infrastructure and services has caught up with even the existing population, and effective performance monitoring, review, resourcing and accountability structures are incorporated.

The South East Queensland Regional Plan will be informed by, and is subservient to, the Integrated Planning Act 1997 and the Sustainable Planning Act 2009. Accordingly, it is of particular concern that the act does not include a prohibition on development applications which conflict with local planning schemes. This deficiency requires any local council to assess an application despite the conflict. Consideration of such applications makes it very clear to the local community that their faith in the local planning scheme, developed following prolonged community consultation, is misplaced. It also highlights for them the significant waste of local rate revenues applied by council to the assessment process and the dilemma which councils face in defending their decision in the Planning and Environment Court should a developer appeal against a refusal. It is essential that this wasteful, resource intensive and unnecessary activity is made redundant by appropriate amendment to the act.

Failure to protect wildlife, agricultural land


Iconic koalas,threatened with extinction in South East Queensland by
State Government, pandering to wishes of developer consituency

While we humans can speak for ourselves, it is also incumbent to protect those who cannot defend themselves, and I speak particularly of the koala--our native icon--threatened with extinction by development, by this Labor government and by this plan in particular. The koala is a key indicator for biodiversity. They will be a lost indicator at the present rate as community groups struggle to offset the failures of this Labor government. The mapping program is inadequate, incomplete and slow, while another aspect of growth is seen with this minister--that is, the growth in loopholes to aid and abet the developer constituency to find legal ways to destroy koala habitat with impunity.

... another aspect of growth is ... the growth in loopholes to aid and abet the developer constituency to find legal ways to destroy koala habitat with impunity.

Another aspect that has been largely overlooked is the impact on food production from development. Productive land agricultural pursuits, particularly those close to major urban centres, need to be preserved. This is another failure of the Traveston Crossing Dam--that less than optimum water storage location which sought to flood farm land and deprive Brisbane of a source of food. Let us hope that the remedial work to repair the damage done to the Mary Valley, primarily by the Premier in this case, will focus on developing this food bowl and repairing the other major consequence, which is social dislocation.

There is strong objection to the amendment proposed to the regional landscape and rural production areas, which has the effect of expanding the urban footprint and redefining activities which were previously urban. These areas should be afforded the highest level of protection possible so that food production for South-East Queensland's increasing population can be secured and, simultaneously, natural conservation areas protected.

Reject Queensland Government's "Sardine City" vision for Sunshine Coast

For the Sunshine Coast, we all hope for the sustenance of it being a community of communities. We do not want a sardine city. We want the places in which we live, work, play and grow our families to retain their uniqueness and their individuality. We want them to be the places in communities which attracted us to them in the first place. We do not want to morph into obscurity. We do not want to be harmonised. We want progress without oblivion.

The vision for the future of South-East Queensland and the principles that underpin the plan are generally consistent with those supported and endorsed by Sunshine Coast constituents. However, one notes with concern that the plan and its regulated regulatory provisions have significant flaws which remain to be addressed. The major concerns remain the weak basis in the plan for determining how growth can be managed and the potential inconsistencies that arise between desired outcomes, the lack of infrastructure planning to underpin development and the powers to the minister, who always seems ready to do a stirling job on behalf of his developer mates. It does not bode well for a sustainable future for the Sunshine Coast or anywhere in South-East Queensland.

Appendix: Divided opinions about Sunshine Coast Members of State Parliament

The following are comments in response to the article "It's time to fight Bligh's growth" by Bill Hoffman in the Sunshine Coast Daily of 6 Mar 10.

Posted by vanga from Caloundra, Queensland, 06 March 2010 7:17 a.m.

yet another story bemoaning the imposition of 100K more people on our life styles and still no word from the liberal nationals

Will the libnats ban any greenfield development in south Caloundra?

Will the libnats go with the council on the maximum number of people for sippy downs and maroochydore urban infil?

Hello? Is there anybody out there?

McCardle, Elmes, Wellington, Dickson, Simpson, Powell and the other one I couldnt find - whats your thoughts? A lot of coast residents want to know if you are going to dare to be different or are we stuck with what labour are pushing on us because you want the same or even worse - more people?

Some answers libants - you cant just sit back and whinge about everything the government does - let us know if you will be any different

Posted by happychappy1 from Maroochydore, Queensland, 06 March 2010 7:41 a.m.

No, no, no, no, no. This govt has to be kicked out before our lifestyles are totally ruined. Please LNP, give us your views?

Posted by vanga from Caloundra, Queensland, 06 March 2010 7:43 a.m.

the emails are flooding in

Glen Elmes- not his responsibility - sent my email to Dave Gibson of the Gympie

Powell - and Dickson not in their electorate so they arent interested - suggested I contact Marc McCardle

Peter Wellington - good onya - a politician with an opinoin - dead set against the proposals

Posted by vanga from Caloundra, Queensland 06 March 2010 9 a.m.

happychappy - lnp views as emailed to me

Elmes - not his responsibility - sent my query to the member for Gympie because that member is the shadow minister - so elmes has no opinon

Peter wellington - against the proposals - was on ABC talking about it

Power and Dickson - its not their electorate so of no interest, told me to talk to Marc McCardle
Mccardel and simpson - no response yet

can someone tell the 7 memebrs of the state parliament they are members for the Sunshine Coast as well as their own fiefdoms?

Maybe if they actually spoke with each other they could present a united from for the coast

Posted by carrot from Maroochydore, Queensland 06 March 2010 9:51 a.m.

Vanga and happychappy1 may care to go to Hansard Thursday 11 Feb and read Glen Elmes' stirring speech to parliament condemning the government's population strategy for the Coast. At least Elmesy is doing his bit.

The SCRC (Sunshine Coast Regional Council) has already shot themselves in the foot by caving in immediately to Caloundra South. That set a precedent that informs the state government exactly how spineless they are.

Posted by tonyryan from Maroochydore Bc, Queensland 06 March 2010 1:17 p.m.

This is still a discussion in a bubble.

The predetermining issues are: 'population' and 'rights of the people'.

First POPULATION. Increase is NOT inevitable.

In fact natural Australian population growth went into reverse two decades after we installed statutory livable age pensions in 1946.

The current increase is primarily caused by three million migrants and refugees. Do we have to take them in? No. Australia is a desert continent and we have already reached our optimum sustainable population.

No foreign power can tell us what to do.

The newcomers are straining our water catchments; our rural food-growing zones through enforced urban sprawl; our culture; our national sovereignty and our social integrity.

And to say we must give way to seachangers is nonsense. All human communities in history have reserved the right to repel invaders in order to protect their homes, their incomes and their way of life.

Ignoring official lies, unemployment on the Sunshine Coast is 23% and newcomers compete for the few jobs going. In a sense, they import poverty.

And RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE?

During the past three decades there has been a media-driven viewpoint that we elect representatives to rule over us. This is dictatorial nonsense.

Democracy was clearly defined by the greatest minds in history... Thucydides of ancient Greece, the Irish Monks, Thomas Paine of 'The Rights of Man' fame, Lord Acton... but most lyrically by Abraham Lincoln: "Government of the people, by the people and for the people".

Abe overstated the definition because already, enemies of democracy were subverting the meaning.

In a democracy, councillors, MLAs and MHRs are our elected servants, there for one single purpose, to install the product of electoral consensus.... or in Constitutional terms... the will of the people.

Wellington and Blumell excepted, the rest of our grubby politicians are exchanging election campaign funding for development favours.

This is obviously true of tyrant Bligh and Andrews, but us equally true of the LNP. This is why they are silent.

If you want to save the Sunshine Coast, you will have to do what people have done since time immemorial; confront the politicians en masse.

They will back down, believe me.

Posted by shellsay from Maroochydore, Queensland 06 March 2010 1:46 p.m.

What is so arrogant about the Bligh/Hinchcliff army is that they have totally and utterly disregarded the S/C community and SCRC rights to have an opinion. The whole process of altering the maximum population number of nearly 16,000 set by council, to now become the minimum is outrageous, how can this just happen? Of course you can't stop population growth, but you should be able to stipulate a lot lower figure. And how can all this be approved by these loonies when no effort towards sustainable planning has been taken into consideration, we are talking flood plain land here, has anyone seen the amount of water that is lying on there at the moment. Why arent we utilising further regional areas for development, why does it have to be here, the infrastructure that is in place now can't cope. It is up to the S/C communities to stop this decision now, instead of just blogging about it let's all do something. Developers like Stocklands are way to powerful and have destroyed enough of the coast, they are not ratepayers and don't have a right to an opinion. Send a submission into council, to take a stand on this through the reinstatement of their structure plan, which can be viewed on their web: www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au. Sunshine Coast residents have a right to be heard, Bligh/Hinchcliff dont live here we do.

Footnotes

1. In spite of having made this speech, opinion about LNP member Glen Elmes is not unanimously favourable amongst Sunshine Coast residents opposed to population growth as can be seen below from comments in response to the article "It's time to fight Bligh's growth" by Bill Hoffman in the Sunshine Coast Daily of 6 Mar 10, where I learnt of this speech.

In the past the LNP has been correctly regarded as more the party of big business than the Labor Party. However, that reality appears to have been largely inverted in Queensland in recent years. An example which suggests this is the disturbing fact that on 2 June 2009, only two members of the Parliamentary Labor caucus were prepared to vote, even inside caucus, where they are all supposedly free to speak and vote as their consciences dicate, against privatisation. In contrast, the the LNP opposes privatisation and that opposition appears to be, in large part, genuine. They have repeatedly voted against privatisation and, on one occasion, LNP leader John-Paul Langbroek called on the State Governmet to put privatisation to the people in a referendum. Of course, the ultimate test for Parties such as the LNP is what they do upon winning government and not what some of their members are prepared to say whilst in opposition.

Glen Elmes' seat of Noosa was previously held by Cate Molloy, who was expelled from the Labor Party for her principled stand of opposition to the Bligh Government's environmentally and socially reckless plans to dam the Mary Valley at Traveston. Whilst we urged a vote for Cate Molloy in both the 2006 and 2009 state elections, this speech demonstrates that some considerable good has resulted from that loss.

2. , 4. This has raised decentralisation as a possible solution to overcrowding of the major urban areas. Noosa Shire Mayor Bob Abbot proposed decentralisation at the Debate at the Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane on Monday 22 February. His argument was that if our Governments had not allowed the infrastructure that serviced Inland Queensland in the firs half of the twentieth century to have been neglected in the second half of the 20th century then there would be plenty of desirable alternative locations for people to live outside the major urban regions. An argument put against this view is that, as a result of mechanisation, there was no longer as great a need for the larger rural workforces that existed back then. Also the lack of fertility and water have defeated past attempts to settle outback regions of the country, most famously the soldier settlers who were given plots of land in outback Victoria after the First World War.

Nevertheless, I believe that it is appropriate to carefully examine the capacity of some currently sparsely settled regions to support greater populations. Some factors which could bend the odds more in our favour are (1) The potential of Natural Sequence Farming as well as Permaculture techniques to restore fertility the land, (2) the capacity of the Internet to allow much intellectual work to be perfomed remotely, (3) Cheaper building techniques as described by US architect Michael Reynolds in his video Garbage Warrior.

If it were to be found that some of these regions may be able to sustainably support substantially larger human populations, then decentralisation should be adopted, but only as a solution to relieve the overcrowding of Australia's existing urban areas, rather than as an excuse to furhter increase Australia's population.

3. , 5. In fact, we would tend to agree that 'infill development' is dirty. In theory infill development could relieve some of the demand for land, but it is not environmentally cost-free. The financial and energy costs of building and operating multi0story dwellings and obtaining food, water and other necssities from elsewhere needs to be taken into account. In practice, it is also very difficult to infull without sacrificing ever more of the remnants of vegetation in city areas. In a context of population stability, some 'infill' development may prove to be a means to relieve the demand for bushland clearing, but, in the current environment of runaway population growth it has just become another means for developers to profit by degrading the quality of life of existing community.

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Comments

Interesting comments around Ealmes' speech, James - from you and from Sunshine Coast residents.
With regard to your comments on decentralisation: "Nevertheless, I believe that it is appropriate to carefully examine the capacity of some currently sparsely settled regions to support greater populations. Some factors which could bend the odds more in our favour are (1) The potential of Natural Sequence Farming as well as Permaculture techniques to restore fertility the land, (2) the capacity of the Internet to allow much intellectual work to be perfomed remotely, (3) Cheaper building techniques as described by US architect Michael Reynolds in his video Garbage Warrior."

What regions did Bob Abbott name as suitable for bigger populations? Do you have some suggestions yourself? It is difficult to discuss the matter without specificities.

Natural Sequence Farming and Permaculture are designed to rehabilitate the land for people to farm in a localised closed system. The current system is globalised and the government expects people to live on imported food and goods in areas which could not normally support them. To have people live from local produce on land which has been rehabilitated through permaculture or natural sequence farming would usually require a completely new approach to land-use planning. People would have to get back local control over government so as to be able to cooperate with eachother for local trade and land-use planning. In the case of alternative communities, they would need multiple titles on land to be used principally for farming. Title-holders would have to have legal-planning guarantee that neighboring titles could not be transformed into suburban developments etc. All of this is possible but difficult politically due to vested interest and systemic paralysis (cause and effect).

I'm glad you mentioned Garbage Warrior, which is a fantastic true story about an architect in America who builds amazing self-supporting communities which have such magnificent thermodynamic structures that they can retain heat in subzero winters in incredibly thick walls without requiring material to be burned for heat, using passive solar from huge thick glass window with skilfully calculated slopes. They can also supply food to families all year round, using passive solar. The architect, Michael Reynolds, was brought to a skidding halt after something around a 25 year successful track record, by a change of town planning personnel. He had then to confront the problems of post-war planning and construction traditions which had become set in concrete due to insurance-induced risk-aversion, which now means that planners massively resist innovation and thereby can no longer react to changing circumstances - notably overpopulation, pollution and fossil-fuel decline. We see Reynolds go to battle over several years to push through a bill to allow architectural and planning experimentation so that new functional communities can be built. The petrified-wood accumulated in the parliamentary and planning communities was amazing to behold.

During this time Reynolds is deregistered at State and Federal level and takes a trip to a tsunami-affected island off Sri-Lenka, where water is being imported in bottles due to ground-water contamination. There he teaches the survivors to build a wonderful round house with a double roof for shade (like two umbrellas) and a basement that collects water from the roofs. The whole thing is constructed mostly of rammed-earth-filled tires and bottles (which is just what I would like to build an extra wing on my house from - but would the council let me - um... NO.

I may have given away a fair bit of the story but the visual information on the buildings that Reynolds has constructed, and the observations of the people who built them and live in them, is highly stimulating and only available on the dvd which people can obtain here. Best $29.99 or so you will spend in a long time. Makes a great present. Could make all the difference to your future. Here is another link to a Wikipedia article about Reynolds and it includes "the packaged earthship".

With regard to working by internet long-distance. Yes, excellent idea which many would surely prefer. That means that broadband networks would have to cover the areas in question and be sustainable. I am not an expert in this, but you know quite a bit of what would be involved. I believe that you would be of the opinion that all the infrastructure would need to be laid out well ahead, before material (and rare earths) and fuel depletion set in.

The best places to grow food, of course, are where our cities have covered the land with concrete, unfortunately. Our cities have most of the water and most of the soil and the best climates and the highest density populations. Gee, what a coincidence - not!

The Australian Koala Foundation chief Deborah Tabart had the sad task of reading through 700 post mortem examination reports on koalas found dead in southeast Queensland. Most of them were "wasted".

Koalas' would-be saviour wryly applauds population debate

This says that the main threat is not just dogs, roads but lack of trees to feed on. Much of the bushland skirting Brisbane was being cleared to cram in thousands of new families.

The top invasive species is the human race. When indigenous species are lost to human invasion, we are not only threatening the integrity of our land and ecosystems, but the survival of an iconic, world known, species. It could ultimately mean we could be next! There is no economic, moral or environmental justification to add to our numbers at the present rate of population growth. It is just no sustainable, and the costs do not justify it.

Anna Bligh is not only more dangerous than cane toads as she is actually part of the threatening process by not calling for a cap on population.

Land developers and our State governments are all heavily invested in real estate at the cost of species loss and sustainability.

Our bushland is in serious trouble and if native non-human species can't survive. It means our environmental integrity is seriously threatened.

The Hon Ian MacDonald, M.L.C.
Minister for Mineral and Forest Resources
Governor Macquarie Tower
Level 36, 1 Farrer Place,
SYDNEY NSW 2000

Dear Mr. McDonald,
I have been reading about the destruction of koala habitat in the south eastern forests of N.S.W. through logging for wood chips and supply to the Japanese.
This is most alarming and further destruction of habitat needs to be prevented. Any wild life habitat should be preserved since we are the worst country for biodiversity loss in the world. Koala habitat is especially precious as these iconic Australian marsupials have always been very much loved.

Biodiversity aside, from the moral point of view if this continues we are no different than the 3rd world countries that destroy their forests to make way for palm oil leaving orang outangs to die in the devastation that follows destruction of habitat.
What right do you think the N.S.W. government has to allow this extermination and to deny future generations of Australians the joy of knowing these native animals in the region?
I am most unimpressed.

Yours Sincerely