This website offers factual documentation and commentary on matters surrounding the construction of a rock revetment by the Fraser Coast Regional Council, on a section of State owned public use Esplanade at Toogoom Beach in Queensland Australia.
The broad purpose of this website is to advise the community of the ramifications of the Local Government Act (Qld.) in allowing councils to levy nearby property owners of their choosing, significant sums of money for funding public infrastructure projects on State land that need not be specifically sought by or designed for the benefit of a particular nearby owner without any need to explain or justify their actions to him/her.
THE CURRENT Act MERELY REQUIRES A LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO “DEEM” (ie. pretend) A PROPERTY OWNER IS RECEIVING SOME UNDEFINED BENEFIT FROM NEARBY PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE BEFORE CHARGING UNLIMITED LEVIES.
THEY DO NOT NEED TO STATE WHAT THE BENEFIT IS, LET ALONE JUSTIFY THE CLAIM.
THERE IS NO LEGAL RECOURSE AVAILABLE IN PROVING THAT THE L.G. PRETENCE WAS WRONG, ie. THAT THE DEEMED BENEFIT DID NOT IN REALITY ACCRUE OR WAS EVEN NEEDED.
IN THIS INSTANCE, THE SEAWALL DESIGN WAS TESTED BY HYDRAULIC MODELLING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NSW WHICH CONCLUDED THAT NEARBY PROPERTIES WOULD NOT BE PROTECTED FROM INUNDATION AND DAMAGE IN A STORM EVENT, THUS CHALLENGING THE CLAIMS OF PROMOTERS AND FCRC.
Whilst there were eight or so property owners who were justifiably concerned about erosion of the public esplanade road reserve near their properties in Toogoom, the injustice of these dealings was the way in which property owners who were NOT exposed to imminent erosion risk were either coerced through deception or forced to participate against their will, at great financial cost to each owner.
It was and still is the responsibility of the Fraser Coast Regional Council to protect that road reserve as it is public land. They refused to fund such action at Toogoom whilst they freely expend such funds elsewhere in Hervey Bay (Scarness, Torquay & Urangan).
This website does not attempt to determine what ought to have been the appropriate response of FCRC to the valid concerns of those eight or so central property owners who were exposed to imminent erosion threat, as that requires detailed engineering consideration of the many environmental, social and structural impact factors of alternative treatment options, consideration that was not appropriately given in this case.
Instead, this website focusses on the unfair, sometimes privileged and clearly inconsistent treatment of those eight or so additional properties which were NOT under “imminent threat of collapse”, a State requirement to allow a hardened revetment such as a rock wall, yet were originally included by FCRC in their proposal of 2012.
Those promoting the construction of the Toogoom Esplanade Rock Wall, including the design engineers, falsely and fraudulently claimed that all properties from 48 to 80 Kingfisher Parade were under imminent threat from erosion of the nearby public esplanade. That was a lie.
The initial investigations of the State authorities identified 60 to 76 as being under threat but would consider extending that to 54-82 inclusive as a convenience to source backfill sand for use in front of the central properties. That information was provided to the main proponent of this wall whose property was not even included in that group of 54-82.
That crucial information was not onforwarded or otherwise provided to (all) other owners. One must ask why.
Many property owners were deceived into believing that their homes would be lost to the sea in the next storm. That also was a deliberate deception put about by promoters of this wall who had their own personal agenda.
To deceive through invoking fear is deemed to be intimidation and any agreement reached under such conditions can be ruled invalid.
To knowingly mislead others for personal financial gain in commercial dealings is Deceptive Conduct as defined under Commonwealth Law and is a serious offence.
To have the State conduct its dealings SOLELY with an individual whose property was not even behind the proposed wall footprint (54 to 82) defies belief. Properties 48, 50 and 52 were not included and the beach nearby was deemed “quite healthy” by the EHP coastal engineer.
The following was addressed to the then owner of 48 as “Hi” Xxxxxx (name redacted by EHP):
Clearly, this person at the western end of that group of properties (left side of picture) was NOT under imminent risk, as required under State Code before a hardened revetment can be built, yet he drove this project to his own personal agenda with the assistance of the then local State member, FCRC, and DEHP. Those entities turned a blind eye to the mandatory State requirements applicable to such a development.
That same DEHP officer who prepared and forwarded this document, then continued communicating directly with the previous owner of 48 to the exclusion of most other nearby owners, and in time changed his claim in a file note summarising the final structure to one of asserting that all properties from 48 to 82 were at imminent risk. This complete about face from his earlier assessment reeks of dishonesty as the initial statement was more correct and can be proven to be so (only 60 to 76 were under imminent threat from erosion). The questions need to be asked:
Who pressured this individual into denying his own prior assessment, and why?
Was this corrupt behaviour on the part of some person or persons?
State and FCRC dealings on this matter were conducted in secret in one or two private premises and state entities continued to communicate with those property owners (only) on the matter. One of those privileged owners opposed RTI release of those documented dealings for a lengthy period. They were eventually released in 2016, after that person had sold the property and left the area. FCRC claimed that they had no documents pertaining to these pivotal secret meetings though FCRC personnel were present.
The following two photos show the ACTUAL erosion outcome near the eastern end (80-82) over TWO YEARS in the ABSENCE of a rock wall.
They prove that the hysterical claims of the promoters, their personally chosen design engineers, and the Fraser Coast Regional Council were FALSE:
Four of those five eastern end property owners opposed the wall for good reason as can be seen:
November 2013, following a series of cyclonic storm events and prior to the construction of the Toogoom Esplanade Rock Wall, and following a simple sand “push” in early 2013:
There had been two significant erosion events since the sand push at the beginning of 2013, the latest in September 2013. This was the result as at November 2013, shortly before vegetation removal commenced.
February 2016: The subsequent recovery of the same section of esplanade without the “special benefit” “protection from seawater” of a 4.6m high x 9m wide wall of 6 tonne rocks as FCRC fraudulently claimed was urgently needed to protect nearby properties from collapse and from which a “special benefit levy” would ensue to some at great financial cost to those particular property owners:
SHOCK HORROR! What a disastrous erosion outcome to the foreshore and esplanade after several storm events, as was (falsely) predicted by the promoters and designers of this wall to cause property loss, in collusion with the Fraser Coast Regional Council, the then Mayor and CEO in particular, and with the active support of the then State Member for the locality and now a FCRC councillor, Mrs Anne Maddern, who still, as at March 2016, falsely implied that this matter relates to erosion on private land.
IT DOES NOT.
The erosion/ accretion cycle occurs entirely on State owned land, administered by FCRC, yet she and FCRC both denied responsibility for stabilising that small section of immediate concern (near 60-76).
These above photos of the eastern end erosion/ recovery demonstrate that the attempted intimidation of those nearby property owners (inducement through fear), by certain promoters, in collusion with the Fraser Coast Regional Council and the design engineers, was not supported by the reality of the situation and meets the definition of deceptive conduct.
This Toogoom Beach locality was once a popular recreation area. It is now an area of danger to the public and is noted as such in FCRC signage on the structure.
What is the safer and more amenable outcome for the public, the natural recovery at the eastern end, or the man made “repair” of a shambles of a rock wall as erected nearby? At least one large brown snake has appeared, coming out of the crevices of the wall. Where would a responsible parent prefer their children to play? It is no wonder that the occupancy rates of those rental properties have plummeted whilst nearby properties not behind the wall have strong patronage.
The promoters, with the assistance of the above entities, fraudulently asserted to property owners that, if they did not fully fund the stabilisation of this public esplanade with a massive rock wall, their homes would be “lost to the sea in the next storm”, as neither FCRC nor the State were going to assist. Nobody has ever demonstrated that such claim of private property loss was valid for all those conscripted or coerced into this project, and time has shown such claim to be fraudulent.
How could any reasonable person conclude that the above photos show that the exaggerated claims of promoters of the rock wall and their personally chosen design engineers were based on fact? How could the above natural outcome cause private property loss as falsely claimed?
Prior studies have deemed this to be a “low energy” beach as waves travel over extensive sand flats (1-2km wide) thus losing their energy before impacting the shoreline. This is not an area prone to severe erosion in general.
Aurecon admitted in their Preliminary Design Report of 24 July 2013 (Page 7) that:
“The ambient wave heights … were found to be of a small size. Significant wave heights larger than 1.0m are rare, ….
Extreme waves during a storm or a cyclone break over the wide and shallow Beelbi Creek Estuary. The design wave becomes “depth-limited” by this breaking process, which means that the wave heights are constrained by the nearshore shallow water.”
Note above the 1-2 km wide sandflats which protect this locality from extreme storm waves. Only waves from the NW to NE direction directly impact on these beaches, and they only occur from cyclone impact if the cyclone has already crossed the coast to the north and travells south inland (clockwise wind rotation) e.g. Cyclone Oswald. Cyclones travelling offshore down the coast generate Easterly > SE>S>SW>Westerly winds. This north facing beach locality on the western side of Hervey Bay is protected from large storm waves in these instances by Fraser Island to the east.
The risk to these eastern end private properties and the benefits claimed by the promoters of this wall, were grossly exaggerated in a deceptive manner in order to, financially or otherwise, potentially benefit those promoters.
These dealings surrounding the Toogoom Esplanade Rock Wall reek of dishonesty and deception, and were deliberately kept secret from the wider community by the Fraser Coast Regional Council.
The esplanade near 78 recovered even more quickly before being permanently destroyed by a second excavation by FCRC:
This section of foreshore would have revegetated similarly to near 80, had rocks not been dumped on the site and the natural littoral flow of sand interfered with. This reduction in width from 25m to 10m INCREASES storm wave risk to that nearby property.
When the “wall” was finally imposed, the beach profile was lowered in front of the wall (near 78) compared to that area that did not have a wall (near 82 as above). This is the normal effect of rock revetments ie. increased scouring of the beach next to the revetment due to reflected wave action compared to areas where waves can run up the slope, lose energy, deposit sand and more gently recede, as occured in the past.
This sand loss in front of these rock revetments is sometimes referred to as the “washing machine effect”, as the rocks create swirling turbulence as waves strike the boulders, thus suspending and taking away the sand. The only way to minimise this is to invoke concurrent sand replenishment (nourishment) which is a requirement under State code in any case. This was not done at Toogoom.
Which is the more environmentally responsible outcome, the above result near 78 or the above result near 82?
You be the judge.
Mrs Anne Maddern, the former State Member and now a councillor, falsely claimed (March 2016) that this outcome has increased the value of that property. With a cost liability (special rate levy) of some $120,000 to $200,000 now attached to that property by FCRC, such a claim is farcical and not supported by the marketplace according to recent sales. As a property valuer she would be aware of this.
It would have been far cheaper, less destructive of the esplanade and far more effective for that owner to provide appropriate property protection within his property boundary if such ever became necessary, but such option was not allowed consideration.
When one central property was submitted for open auction on 7th May 2016, not one bid was received, putting lie to the opinion of Mrs Maddern. The neighbouring property at 68-70 was also put up for auction in September 2016. A significant number of included owners have sought to sell up and leave the area since this project was announced.
The attempted auction of September 2016 for 68-70 was non-productive. This double block property had been recorded as being purchased for $1,200,000 several years ago, was offered at auction with no response and is now on the market for $750,000. Add to that initial outlay of $1.2m the $200,000+ levy obligation, and one can see that the property value has collapsed, not risen as falsely claimed by those who facilitated this debacle.
Whoever purchases these properties is further exposed to the FCRC maintenance and repair levy for ten years, which, based on prior experience at Scarness, could exceed the initial levy. At the end of the ten year levy period, if the wall has significantly deteriorated, it may well need to be rebuilt. Following this FCRC precedent, those property owners could well suffer a new 10 year levy for that process to be funded. This is now a potentially never ending liability hanging over the heads of those innocent property owners conscripted into this debacle.
Other properties behind the rocks that were once in high demand as holiday rentals, have had dismal occupancy rates since the wall was built.
Mrs Maddern has undermined her credibilty as a valuer when nett. value property prices (sale price less levy) have clearly not increased as she claims in instances where sales have occurred, and other affected properties on the market are not readily saleable. Rental incomes have declined dramatically as the location is no longer family friendly as a result of the dangerous rocks with their razor sharp shards being dispersed across the beach.
These claims that the erosion was on private land, that the wall would provide private property protection and increase property values are simply deceptions put about by those who promoted this wall. Each of these claims is demonstrably FALSE and undeserving of a person in public office.
To add insult to injury, an involved councillor has advised that the loss of property values was caused by those who oppose this development, not those, including himself, who instigated the debacle in the first place.
Several entities, including the main promoter, were to gain financially from the construction of this particular wall design and alignment. Other supporters of a rock wall also hoped to gain.
The main owner/promoter was trying to sell his property and was assisted by the needless clearing of dense vegetation that occurred. A second owner/promoter owned a contracting company and offered to construct the wall without the matter going to tender.
Those five eastern properties initially included from 78-86 Kingfisher parade were NOT under any “imminent threat” of erosion and collapse, a pre-requisite for the imposition of a wall under State Codes. Four openly opposed the proposal. Three only were excused from the FCRC levy, by whom we are denied knowledge. They should ALL have been excused participation as the wall was NOT designed for their particular situation nor for their benefit.
The design engineers falsely stated that the escarpment at this location was 1-2m high prior to August in claiming that a 4.6m high rock wall was needed here. That claimed escarpment height would be over the head of the individual standing there.
These lies and deceptions pervaded future dealings.
The following photos show the erosion escarpment at the eastern end at its worst following later September 2013 storm impact.
In all three of these adjoining locations, sand rapidly returned after these transient erosion events. None of these properties needed a 4.6m high x 9m wide rock wall.
The “erosion” circumstance as at the time of these photos was even less at the time the earlier decision to build a rock wall was made, and was similar for all three locations. NONE were under imminent threat of property collapse, a State requirement for allowing such a wall, and sand rapidly returned to this location after these transient erosion events, even after major cyclone impact such as Cyclone Oswald of early 2013.
The Result of considering the above situation:
The “protective” Toogoom Esplanade Rock Wall was forced on the owner of 78 against his will by Fraser Coast Regional Council at the behest of neighbours who stood to gain financially.
WAS THIS SIZE WALL EVER NEEDED AT THIS LOCATION?
The above photos would suggest NOT:
WAS THIS WALL SECTION EVER BUILT TO THE DESIGN SPECIFICATION of 4.6m high x 9m wide?
Documented evidence suggests NOT, yet that owner was forcibly charged for such a structure by the Fraser Coast Regional Council:
The question that needs to be asked is what “protection” will this random scattering of assorted rocks provide? The answer is not as simple or superficial as one may at first assume on such a “low energy” beach with 1km wide tidal flats protecting it. Large waves do not carry over these shallows.
THE DESIGN ENGINEERS WERE FORCED TO ADMIT, FOLLOWING EXTENSIVE INDEPENDENT TESTING OF THEIR DESIGN, THAT THIS STRUCTURE WOULD NOT PROTECT SUCH NEARBY PRIVATE PROPERTY FROM SEAWATER IMPACT IN A STORM.
That University of NSW hydraulic modelling report was only produced a few days before the final design was presented to property owners. The design ought to have been reassessed, following that damning report as to its functionality and lack of protection benefit to nearby properties in a storm.
Nobody was given adequate time to properly address the implications of that report, nor the final design itself, and these documents were not supplied to owners until after the secret decison making meeting of August 2013 where owners were required to endorse the previous July 2013 decision of FCRC to build a revetment structure at this location, by open vote under the threat of agree to this now or get nothing.
See extract: Water Research Laboratory Report. Pdf.
That outcome was NOT the original design intent (private property protection) as initially put forward by the CEO of the Fraser Coast Regional Council in 2012 and as subsequently promoted in the media by the then Mayor.
Aurecon (design engineers) were forced to admit following testing of their design: “This seawall does not provide substantial protection from coastal flooding and overtopping during the design storm is very substantial.”
They further stated in regard to the WRL testing for storm impact:
” .. the flow becomes “above 1.0m flow depth” ….such overtopping rate is a major hazard to buildings. …… and could lead to substantial building damages. Such flow is beyond standard building capacity”
In addition, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection published their own technical document (page 3) which concludes that seawalls do not prevent storm erosion impact, particularly if they are not maintained (and therefore built) correctly, as occurred in this case. They advise how seawalls often fail in storm events and WRL demonstrated that there would be 30% failure (displacement) of the capping rocks following storm impact using this particular wall design.
Why did FCRC proceed with this deficient design in the face of this independent testing report and DEHP technical documents which prove that the initial design intent would not be achieved? Nearby private property owners were to suffer financially, not FCRC who refused to pay for this structure or contribute in any meaningful way to its maintenance, despite it being owned by FCRC.
The above photos demonstrate that this struture cannot protect that property from wave impact in a severe storm. This was not a property that was under imminent risk from erosion impact (as opposed to storm wave impact) unlike some nearby properties. Sand naturally accumulated at this location.
This nearby private property had never been impacted in prior cyclonic or storm events and was previously protected from wave impact by a vegetated esplanade of 15-25m width. Erosion impact on this section of esplanade in a storm/wind event was minor and transient with sand loss rapidly reinstated. FCRC excavated and reduced the vegetated esplanade to 10m width thus increasing the risk of storm wave impact on that property as, according to State Code and common sense, the wider the vegetated buffer from a property, the lower the risk of storm wave impact.
FCRC FRAUDULENTLY “DEEMED” THAT THESE ROCKS WOULD “PROTECT” THAT NEARBY PRIVATE PROPERTY “FROM SEAWATER” AND LEVIED THE OWNER ACCORDINGLY.
THE FCRC ARE ANSWERABLE TO NOBODY IN THIS REGARD (other than the Minister) UNDER THE Act.
This particular matter of the Toogoom Esplanade Rock Wall appears to be a test case example by the Fraser Coast Regional Council as prior coastal works of a similar nature on other State land on the Fraser Coast have been, and still are, funded entirely by Council with State assistance on occasion.
These dealings of public importance and impact were deliberately conducted in private premises and IN SECRET by the FCRC, in defiance of the Principles of the Local Government Act, to the knowledge of both the former and current Ministers for Local Government who refuse to enforce the provisions of the Act. Up to nine State and local government bureaucrats met together in private premises at Toogoom on one particular occasion in 2013, away from public scrutiny, to discuss and determine issues of great community and state significance. Who authorised this secrecy at a State level?
When approached by other ratepayers on the matter, the FCRC response was to deny “any information” on the matter, provide false statements in response, or otherwise deceive and mislead the general public. They appear to be immune from compliance with the mandatory Principles of the Local Government Act which oppose such behaviour, simply because consecutive State Ministers refuse to enforce those provisions.
The Act which allows this behaviour by Local Governments was put in place by a prior (Labor) government, which party is once again in power following the last State elections. Both previous governments were thrown out of power through voter dissatisfaction with their performance and attitude to the public. It will be interesting to see whether current politicians have learnt any lessons from this.
FCRC compliance officer(s) and DEHP (Maryborough) representatives repeatedly turned a blind eye to non-compliance with permit conditions throughout the construction process, treating the matter as a joke, and shrugging off the concerns of owner(s).
VIDEO: DEHP & FCRC “inspection” (at high tide with partially built wall submerged) 19.12.2013. (This meeting of DEHP, FCRC, engineers and contractors was observed and recorded by mere chance whilst videoing the discoloured discharge from the site.)
DEHP falsely claimed there was “no evidence” of discharge of sediments into the waters:
None of those present could rightly deny the evidence before them, yet DEHP did so deny the obvious in their subsequent report. Why the shrugging of shoulders, why the repeated laughter, and why the denial of the truth by DEHP in their subsequent report?
Who instructed this cover-up and who suggested that the inspection should take place at high tide with the partly built structure covered in sand and water?
see: T Collings. Pdf. (Response from submission to Minister)
Despite these clear documented breaches of the permit conditions, these EHP officers passed this inspection and claimed that there was no such evidence. A reasonable person could conclude that such response was either incompetent or dishonest. Complaints to EHP were dismissed out of hand, implying that the senior department officers who were advised, accept such behaviour.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection displayed no credibility in their dealings with this matter throughout, from their endorsement of a non-compliant application to incompetent supervision and a dishonest assessment of the final structure. Successive Ministers have been informed of these matters but elect to do nothing under instruction from their bureaucrats.
This new FCRC policy of forcing private property owners to pay for public works on public land, has potential impact on ANY private property owner in Queensland, should a local government decide to build public infrastructure near (not on, not adjoining) their property, as it is STATE legislation that allows this unconscionable behaviour.
At the same time that the Fraser Coast Regional Council councillors were charging nearby private property owners for public infrastructure on State land (public esplanade) at Toogoom, they were fully funding similar works immediately in front of commercial premises at Scarness with no contribution required from that business owner.
The Cardno Options Report advised that private property owners deriving a benefit from such structures could be levied by councils. They also advised that leasehold beneficiaries on state land could be likewise levied. Why did FCRC exclude the leasehold commercial premises at Scarness (whose lease arrangements are secret) from any levy, whilst charging private property owners?
This website focusses on the plight of one young resident property owner on the Fraser Coast but also addresses the wider issues surrounding the Toogoom Esplanade “wall” as he has been forced, by the Fraser Coast Regional Council, to contribute to the “revegetation”, repairs and upkeep of the whole exposed wall and beyond, not simply that small part buried near his property. Over the ten year levy period, this could approach or exceed the initial cost of the wall based on repeated experiences of failure of a similar wall at nearby Scarness ($1m+ to repair 400m yet again), predictions of failure by engineers and experts, and observation to date.
This website also addresses a number of environmental issues impacting the wider community and draws into question the integrity of the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection in Queensland.
These matters also raise concerns about the dealings of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines who are the nominated “owner” of the land in question and who allowed this project to proceed in the manner it did. DNRM is responsible for the “management” of the State’s natural resources and State land.
Ultimately, the Minister for Local Government is personally responsible for addressing Local Government wrongdoings, yet the current minister (Labor) refuses to consider the matter, and her LNP predecessor refused to intervene in documented wrongdoings by FCRC.
The following MUST READ document gives a brief summary of certain documented dealings on the matter, and evidences the deliberate deceptions of the FCRC and its CEO: (click to open)
This is a not for profit website administered by local citizens who are not aligned to any environmental groups or political parties.