This year, as Noosa Council was developing its Eastern Beaches Foreshore Management Plan, it was watching as more beachfront landholders destroyed more native vegetation on yet more dunes.
An extraordinary 90 percent of Noosa Eastern Beachfront residents encroach in some way on the bushland in front of them, some just a little, some a lot, and some are nothing less than environmental vandals.
It’s no wonder our beach bushcare groups are beyond frustrated with a Council that’s done so little to take on the mix of uninformed, oblivious or ignorant homeowners and the odd angry and sometimes violent response to any attempt to rein them in.
The extent of the problem and the wealth and sense of entitlement of some beachfront owners has made this a tough nut to crack, and the understaffed, underfunded compliance officers have had little political support to do their job.
Here’s just one example, starting with an earlier picture of the native vegetation in front of a house on Lorikeet Drive in Peregian Beach.
Around 2021 photos showed large-scale destruction opening up a sea view. Council officers erected this small sign suggesting “Illegal interference with vegetation was under investigation”. Let’s call it a slap on the wrist.
This year, locals say the little sign is gone and the damage today is considerably worse than it was in 2021.
The wide, open wound in the dunal vegetation is something of a giant middle finger to the environment, other residents, bushcare groups and the impotence of Noosa Council.
Council was informed yet again in January this year, but the response several months later was that the matter was now “closed”.
Multiply this by scores – in fact hundreds – of other transgressions; lawns, stairways, paths, beach furniture and contaminated spill where native vegetation should be. All of it adding to the increasing risk that these dunes will be eroded, or worse. Some irresponsible real estate agents advertise these acts of vandalism as selling features, your own ‘shortcut’ to the beach.
Noosa Council now has a brand new ‘policy’ to guide it, one that talks a lot about education and – if necessary – enforcement. But a council that’s turned sitting on its hands into an art form in recent years is yet to prove that it’s serious about protecting our fragile and vital dunes from human destruction.
Will council listen if you have a big stick and a deep wallet?
Now, contrast this with the flurry of action over a much more localised environmental issue that is, for the most part, out of Council hands.
A small lobby group of beachfront homeowners unironically calling themselves the Eastern Beaches Protection Association, having collected $5,000 membership from each owner, made headlines when it hired a high-powered lobby group – linked to Adani – to press its case that encroachment isn’t really the big problem here (well, they would say that, wouldn’t they), and nor is rising sea level or global warming.
Instead they argued Council should focus much more on the brown coloured water flowing through the Burgess Creek outlet in their well-heeled neighbourhood of Sunshine and Sunrise Beach. This discolouration, just like many other small creeks flowing to our oceans, is primarily caused by vegetation tannins.
As a local, Councillor Amelia Lorentson was happy to listen and has been campaigning energetically on the management of the little water catchment, more testing of the water quality and urging the building of a deep ocean outfall by the State Government…all much to the delight of the EBPA lobby group on her doorstep.
It may be a minor and questionable environmental issue, but it’s become a relentless campaign issue for Ms Lorentsen in social media, supportive newspaper coverage, social media and her own letterboxing as she positions herself for the upcoming March Council elections as the wealthy EBPA lobby group’s best friend, with the Mayor right beside her as always.
The bushcare groups and frustrated residents waiting to see genuine action on the much larger and more destructive issue of encroachment on environmentally sensitive, public land must be wondering what it takes for them to be heard.