Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu has expressed fears that native wildlife including cassowaries will be killed because of a decision by the Department of Natural Resources to reject an application for an animal shelter at Yule Point.
The Department yesterday announced it had refused an application for Council to purchase state reserve land at Yule Point for a much-needed animal shelter.
The state-of-the-art enclosed facility was to be funded and operated by local organisation Paws & Claws with more than $500,000 raised from the local community on what is considered the only viable site in the Douglas Shire.
After working with Council for several months to survey the Yule Point site and prepare for the land transfer, the Department did an about-face in November 2016 and informed Council that it no longer supported the sale due to the site’s “significant and sensitive environmental values … and essential habitat for the endangered Southern Cassowary”.
Minister Dr Anthony Lynham then directed Council to seek approval from the Australian Conservation Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, Cairns and Far North Environment Centre, North Queensland Conservation Council, Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland (FNQ branch) and Wilderness Society (Cairns), despite none of these groups raising any objections to the proposal with Council previously.
A vegetation survey of the site conducted by Council’s Land Management staff showed that all of the 68 plant species found there were classified as “Of Least Concern Wildlife” according to the Nature Conservation Act despite the fact the vegetation communities are classified as “of concern regional ecosystems”.
Mayor Leu said the Department’s decision was a significant threat to the viability of Paws and Claws’ animal shelter which had overwhelming support from the community in the proposed location.
“It has been a considerable battle for Paws and Claws and Council to find a suitable location for the new animal shelter and the Yule Point site represented the best outcome for abandoned animals and the native animals threatened by them,” Mayor Leu said.
“Council has exhausted all avenues for other potential suitable sites in the Douglas Shire and it is now going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for this new animal shelter to be built somewhere else.
“Without a new animal shelter, these abandoned animals who would’ve been housed there will be left to roam, killing native wildlife including cassowaries which the Department claims their decision was meant to protect.
“It’s a ludicrous decision when Council has demonstrated that the Yule Point site is a suitable location for this vital community facility and clearly detailed the likely implications for native wildlife if the Department was to reject our proposal.
“I’m extremely disappointed in the decision of the Department and the Minister, but I’m even more disillusioned with the process Council has been subjected to.
“For more than six months we’ve been left in limbo and I seriously question the Minister’s direction for Council to seek approval for its proposal from six environmental groups that should have nothing to do with the decision.
“Is this how the State Government works these days? Do local councils or government departments in south-east Queensland need to seek the approval of environmental groups before they proceed with much-needed community infrastructure?
“I also take issue with the State Government’s position that Douglas Shire Council was seeking to endorse a development proposal that posed a threat to our local environment, which is not the case.
“There is not a Council in this country that does more to preserve and enhance our World Heritage-listed natural environment than ours, a fact demonstrated by the numerous environmental awards and achievements this Council has been recognised for over many years.
“The outcome will be the opposite of what Department intended as the failure to support this proposal will most certainly directly result in the death of native wildlife from the influx of feral cats and wild dogs in the local environment.
“It’s a terrible decision for our community and our native wildlife which is sure to be remembered by the thousands of Paws and Claws supporters in the lead-up to the next state election.”