Noosa Council has voted to send a strong reminder to the community that it is still focused on, and engaged in, environmental protection of Noosa River, despite recent events and decisions.
Following a decision to delay further action on the Noosa River Plan in the October round of meetings until July 2024, Cr Brian Stockwell on Thursday presented a Notice of Motion to councillors at the December Ordinary Meeting, asking staff to prioritise extra effort within areas where council has jurisdiction, to the ongoing protection of the river.
While the state has control of waterway content in general, councils are responsible for land above the waterline, and thus control of sediment and other runoff, as well as protection of waterside flora and fauna, and rehabilitating degraded wetlands, waterways and fish habitats, stream banks and riparian buffers, Cr Stockwell said.
He reminded councillors of the Noosa Environment Strategy goal signed off in 2019 that “by 2030 waterways, wetlands and coasts are healthy, resilient to change and valued by the community”.
“This motion is about as straightforward as it gets – asking Council to focus a bit harder on precisely what we’ve all agreed to do – and that’s protect our river and waterways and coast for the clear benefit of us all,” he said.
“Doing this is about as close as it gets to a no-brainer.”
The three councillors who engineered last month’s “ambush” resulting in the ejection of Cr Stockwell from the decisive November meeting argued the motion was redundant, in that council had already agreed to the undertaking within its Environment Strategy.
Cr Karen Finzel sought to have staff prepare a report for a following meeting that outlined what “psychosocial” impact the extra work would have on staff, however her motion was defeated 5-2, perhaps also because the time taken to compile such a detailed report would also impact on staff time and resources.
Mayor Clare Stewart argued vigorously that river management was a state issue; that the main cause of river pollution was effluent from permanent river craft; that council’s responsibility was already being undertaken; and that the recent Healthy Waterways report showed an improvement in Noosa River’s health over the previous year.
She also argued that by Noosa Council being part of the SEQ Council of Mayors, money would be flowing in to deal with all aspects of river protection, thus saving ratepayer monies.
Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie spoke strongly in favour of Cr Stockwell’s motion.
There’s no reason to defer this motion. There’s no reason to object to, or block, this simple statement which clarifies to our organisation – our hardworking staff who may be confused about what this council’s values are, and signals to the community what our values are in terms of environmental stewardship. To use a procedural motion to block this sort of clarity, I think, is ungracious to say the least and it’s not useful and I don’t see any good reason for it. We know the work can be done, the staff have told us the work can be done. Already in this term we’ve seen environmental projects voted against, motions moved to kill them off, motions moved to defer them.
Please let’s not do this again. It’s not the Noosa Council wayDeputy Mayor Frank Wilkie
And Cr Stockwell made the point that the 200 or so years the state has been in charge of the river created the very problems the shire was now facing.
He also pointed out that while the Healthy Waterways report was positive on a year-on-year comparison, the river’s health in the last few decades had deteriorated markedly, and that was the point to focus on.
The extra effort sought from staff did not involve redistribution of current funds from other environmental endeavours, nor impact on the 2023-24 council budget, he said.
Cr Stockwell said while committed council staff and the huge number of dedicated volunteers and project officers in our community-based environment and natural resource management groups are doing great work with the resources currently available to them, “the status quo is not enough to achieve the 2030 targets”.
His motion also sought to “pursue new funding and grant opportunities to extend the Oyster Reef Restoration and Oyster Gardening Programs into other suitable locations in the Noosa River and Lakes system, considering the early successes of this program”, as well as seeking greater input from collaboration with the Kabi Kabi people to develop and implement a Land and Sea Rangers – or similar – program that educates others on how to respect and avoid harm to the indigenous, historical, environmental and conservation cultural heritage of the Noosa River system.
Cr Stockwell’s motion was carried in a 4-3 vote (For: Crs Stockwell, Wilkie, Jurisevic, Wegener. Against: Crs Stewart, Lorentson and Finzel.)