Sunday, January 26, 2014

Update: Charles and Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve


Congratulations to Judi Gray, for her work in drawing public attention to the yellow spots on trees in this reserve, and the Toowoomba Regional Council’s plan to put a very wide, concrete path through it. Congratulations also on her rapid organisation of a petition which enabled her to present a case to TRC that Toowoomba and Highfields residents (and others) value this reserve, and found the planned footpath inappropriate.

The Chronicle Newspaper (Toowoomba) published a glowing report giving the impression that a complete victory for environmental and community concerns had been won.
You can read it online here:  http://www.thechronicle.com.au/news/a-community-led-fight-to-stop-a-footpath-being-bui/2145956/
Headlined “Petition saves endangered bushland from pathway”, The Chronicle article stated that the path “will now hug O'Briens Rd on road-reserve land”.

Unfortunately, this is not true.

TRC’s own report speaks of a “compromise”, which has the footpath “primarily within the O'Brien Road reserve”. It also states that “where possible”, significant trees will be retained within the road and bushland reserves.
See the council’s statement at:
http://www.toowoombarc.qld.gov.au/about-council/newspublications/9992-council-to-work-with-highfields-community-to-find-best-footpath-option

On the surface, "compromise" sounds so mature and rational - as though the interests of all parties have been considered. In my opinion, far too many compromises have already been made, as far as this little reserve is concerned. Every further “compromise” is really just another way of making further inroads seem like sensible decisions. (I still regret the ancient ivorywood, one of the very few of this beautiful species still remaining in our district, which was destroyed to build the skate park. Something like this is impossible to replace within a human lifespan, yet no-one with the slightest idea of its of its value was consulted before it was given the chop.)


TRC made no promise that anyone with knowledge of native flora would decide which trees were“significant”. My concern is that people without such knowledge sometimes decide that size is the only marker of tree significance, and that removing even large habitat trees is the right thing to do, because their hollows allegedly make them dangerous.  (The argument in favour of a 3m concrete path through the reserve was that this would make it would be a "safe" path.)

It is the function of such reserves to preserve ecosystems, not just "significant trees", but the reserve's other flora didn't even get a mention in TRC's report. You would also have noticed that TRC's compromise leaves open the option of destruction of "significant" trees within the reserve, if it is not "possible" for these massive pathworks to avoid them. Presumably any other vegetation which gets in the way will be destroyed without a second thought!

A council vote for a compromise whereby it designs a footpath "primarily" within the O'Brien Road reserve is an odd one. Once the footpath is on O'Brien Road there seems to be no need to bring it through the reserve at all. Anything but a rather large detour through it would cut very little off the journey to be made by the schoolchildren between the school and the shopping centre or sports facilities. The proposed compromise might be very similar to the original proposal in its destructive effect.  

Anyone who didn’t get a chance to sign the petition prior to the vote can still do so.  Every signature will count in showing the Council that the people care about issues such as this.  Link to the petition here:
https://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/toowoomba-regional-council-preserve-charles-motee-rogers-bushland-reserve-at-highfields

(Please also see last week’s blog on the subject, below.)

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