Polluting trust as well as the ocean
Sunshine Coast Council has a hideously expensive bill coming its way to treat PFAS contamination at the airport that should surely have been identified in the 2014 Environmental Impact Statement.
A failure to communicate honestly with community groups has contributed to the distrust in the fix now being presented.
See the Sunshine Coast Daily BILL HOFFMAN
31st Aug 2019 8:47 AM
It’s more than that though. The ocean is at the centre of many residents’ lives, it’s the reason for being here, and that’s something this council clearly either doesn’t understand or fails to care about.
The solution to pump to the water into the sea 400m off swimming beaches has understandably created enormous angst for a community of beach goers and surfers.
Everyone gets we can’t keep using the ocean as a dumping ground. A fundamental environmental truth is that dilution is no solution.
The State Department of Environment and science supports the council’s contention that PFAS levels are low — apparently just 112 grams in 160 million litres of water — but clearly that amount and the impact on the river’s saline environment was untenable.
More no doubt will be pushed to sea once summer rains hit the Coast.
Precautionary principles are now dictating a level of caution and care that have previously appeared absent in the clumsy manner this “game changing” project has been planned and executed.
Alterations to alignment and orientation of the runway, the casual disposal of the $80m asset of the existing runway to create real estate value for an investor, variations to flight paths and ‘a don’t care, we’re building it anyway’ attitude to consultation feed into the growing lack of confidence in this council.
That distrust now presents a serious challenge to our councillors as they undertake their deeply conflicted role as decision makers in assessing the Sunshine Coast Airport Master Plan 2040.
There is a serious conflict of interest at play here.
The document represents the desires of Palisade Investment Partners who don’t pay the final $290 million it owes as part of its 99-year lease agreement until 2022.
The fine detail of the deal with Palisades has been kept secret. There will be break points in the contract that if triggered will leave council and subsequently ratepayers with the bill.
Palisades’ draft master plan seeks commercial land uses for the airport’s western and northern precincts that weren’t contemplated in the Environmental Impact Statement, and may place buildings in areas not considered in flood modelling of the runway project.
The proposed extension of Finland Rd through the western precinct would cut straight through the middle of a barely adequate conservation corridor.
But where do residents turn when its council has already expressed support for the draft plan and when the federal government is in the deal via a $180 million concessional loan it wants repaid?
What sort of push back can the council exert, when its 2019 budget shows we are entering a period from now until 2021 where its Net Financial Liabilities Ratio will be 68.8 per cent, 94.7 per cent and 104.2 per cent over those years compared with the maximum recommended as prudent of just 60 per cent.
Groups like the Sunshine Coast Environment Council and rate payer associations are often dismissed as greenies and NIMBYs.
It denies levels of expertise they have in their memberships across a range of areas including finance, development, management, engineering and environment that are more than capable of holding this council to account.
A council that genuinely consulted its community would listen to those voices. Failure to do so ignores a valuable resource and has left it with problems it at best wants to hide, at worst to ignore.
Blithely the council has kept insisting the runway will be completed by the end of next year, pronouncements that appear brave given the mess created by a bit of rain in an otherwise below average year for rainfall.
I was introduced this week to the term “differential settlement”. What it means is that fill, be it for roads or runways, can settle at different rates depending on what lies underneath.
The dips in the Sunshine Motorway north of Pacific Paradise in line with the end of the new runway are an example of the phenomenon.
What they did there to meet a time deadline was simply to lay the bitumen over the uneven surface making for a quirky change in the road.
That approach while acceptable for a road, can’t be contemplated on our new runway to the future that traverses similar ground.
The quickly dismissed “do minimum” approach that would have delivered most of the claimed economic benefits of the new runway at a fraction of the cost looks more attractive by the day.