On 30 October, 2014 the LNP Member for Mermaid Beach, Ray Stevens MP announced in the Queensland Parliament that he would build a private tourist enterprise – the Skyride Cableway – in the World Heritage Listed Springbrook National Park.

Fourteen years ago, after an extensive Environmental Impact Assessment process and considerable concern by the Gold Coast community, the then Beattie government refused the same proposal, based on a range of unacceptable impacts. Our most Frequently Asked Question is “So why is this a good idea now?”.  But here is a list of others.

What can we do about it?

There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered, like what money would the LNP government put into this project if it went ahead – for things like electricity and road upgrades that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and is it a coincidence that they recently announced a $400,000 suspension bridge at Purlingbrook Falls? What would they charge the developers for use of the land?
Is it commercial rates and do we really want state land like national parks to be cheaper than private land? How would they mitigate the impacts on world heritage values and threatened species? How will the community be consulted and how will the decision be made with probity and integrity? And, why can’t this be built in a more appropriate place, on land bought by the developers?

We need to write to our Members of Parliament, and ask these questions. We need to stand up and say “CableWay No Way!” like we did 14 years ago. Like our Facebook page, sign our petition (coming), purchase a sticker for your car (link coming) and register below (coming) if you’d like to help.

Ray Stevens has said that he would stay at “arm’s length” from any decision making. Doesn’t that make sure he has no conflict of interest?

Ray Stevens in politician in the current government, and is paid more than $206,000 p.a. for his role as a Member of Parliament, Assistant Minister and Manager of Government Business. He has said that he will do both – be an MP, and work as the consultant/advisor to the project. He is also a major shareholder in the project, so has an interest in it getting approved. As Manager of Government Business in the Parliament, Ray Stevens is responsible for managing and scheduling Government business and tactics for the Parliament, so is aware of everything that is coming before the Parliament, including, for example, changes to the Nature Conservation Act to allow commercial development in our national parks (which he voted for in Parliament).

Ray Stevens says he has the support of the Integrity Commissioner to do this, but won’t release the advice provided (only the person who sought the advice can release it). And how, as a Manager of Government Business in the Parliament, can he really avoid discussing this with his colleagues? In fact, the media reported that Ray Stevens enjoyed Melbourne Cup lunch with the Parks Minister Steve Dickson, just a few days after announcing his involvement in the development – can we assume they didn’t discuss the cableway through Springbrook? And, as the Member for Mermaid Beach, on the Gold Coast, what will he say to constituents that express concern about the project? How will he represent their interests?

The Skyrail in Cairns has been successful – why is this different?

Skyrail has been a successful tourism venture in the Wet Tropics, but it has some very stark differences from Springbrook. After 7 years of assessment, it was approved on the edge of a 900,000ha world heritage area – so does not sever a relatively small world heritage area like Springbrook at less than 2500ha.

Although there are threatened species across that 900,000ha, there are twice as many rare and endangered flora and fauna species along the proposed route of the Springbrook cableway as there are along the route of the Cairns Skyrail. It also runs through rainforest so the fire risk is much lower than at Springbrook and there is highway infrastructure and other tourism infrastructure to support it, leaving from Cairns and arriving in Kuranda. It is not at the head of the Cairns water supply, and Kuranda has sewage systems.

There may be great cableways throughout the world, but Springbrook is not the right location.

How would this affect other areas of the Gold Coast?

Gold Coast residents love their national parks – like Burleigh Heads National Park, and they would not like a cableway or any commercial development run through the middle of it. But it’s more than that – we are proud of the green behind the Gold, taking visitors to places like Springbrook to see views that don’t have cables and pylons, and we appreciate having one of the cleanest water supplies in Australia. Gold Coasters certainly would have serious concerns about a Member of Parliament and Assistant Minister running a project that needs the approval of his colleagues.

The developers have said it would have no environmental impact – is this the case?

There are ways the environmental impacts of development can be minimised through identifying the least impact route, avoiding threatened species and minimising clearing of vegetation However, this development requires up to 40 pylons, with a footprint of some 100 square meters each, a series of landing stations, some of which would be on the park and require large cleared areas, access tracks for servicing, safety and fire management – resulting in the clearing and fragmenting of many thousands of square metres of world heritage listed forest, as well as large areas of surrounding forest in our water catchment.

Add to that changing of fire regimes to ensure the safety of cableway patrons, rather than the values of the park, noise and downdraught impacts from months of helicopter construction methods on wildlife, visitors and local residents – not to mention potential pollution of our water supply, and there’s no way there can be no environmental impact.

And this isn’t development allowed for in a planning scheme where the most significant environmental issues have been considered and excluded – this is proposed smack in the middle of a national park, and a park listed on world heritage register for its internationally significant values!

National Parks are not for sale!

Why do they want to use Springbrook National Park?

Springbrook is a spectacular place – people go there and are refreshed by its unspoilt beauty. It is also world heritage listed – which means it has values that are internationally significant and have, or should have, the highest level of protection. No doubt this would give a private developer a marketing advantage. Of course, they are also proposing to build it predominantly on state owned lands – which must be seen as a cheap option. But, why would we want to risk spoiling this international treasure, for commercial benefit? Our tourism sector – which does need great tourism opportunities on the Gold Coast – simply doesn’t need another argument for Queensland tourism like the “Great Barrier Reef in danger” to affect our image.

Why did the government refuse it then?

The development assessment process found that the clearing of forests for the giant pylons, landing stations and access paths would negatively impact on the outstanding natural values of a very small world heritage area of less than 2,500 hectares. There was also a significant fire history and danger in getting people out in a fire, and further issues with transporting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the head of the Gold Coast water supply where there is no sewage treatment works (and trucking the human waste off the mountain)! The narrow winding road to Springbrook and the road through Mudgeeraba to the proposed entrance station also weren’t suitable for the number of proposed tour buses and supply trucks. So, after two years of careful consideration, the Beattie government rightly refused it. Perhaps it was a good idea, but clearly in the wrong place.

Has anything changed?

Springbrook is still world heritage listed and is a comparatively small park that this proposed cable way would cut right through the middle. There are more than 60 threatened plants and animals (and all have not yet been discovered). The mountain has no reticulated sewerage system (imagine 800,000 people depositing their human waste at the head of the Gold Coast water supply). It is still eucalypt forest at high risk of fire, there is still a narrow road up and down the mountain and Ray Stevens is still involved.What has changed is the LNP government has altered the Nature Conservation Act that protects our national parks to allow for private business development in publicly owned national parks, and Ray Stevens is now a Member of the Campbell Newman government that introduced and passed those changes to the Act.

This time, Ray Stevens MP told Parliament that, even though he has a job as a Member of Parliament, he is the consultant and investor for the project, holding all the class A shares! But Ray Stevens is not just an MP – he’s also the Manager of Government Business in the Parliament – privy to everything that is going on – and an Assistant Minister assisting the Premier.

How is this not a conflict of interest, working on a project to be built on state-owned land, through a world heritage listed national park that needs the approval of the government he is a part of? Now that’s just wrong.

So there are two key issues here – one about building a $100million development in a world heritage listed park with adverse impacts on the park’s values; and the other is a Member of Parliament and Assistant Minister moonlighting for the project, as the major shareholder.

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