From Maple Street Coop News, April/May 2005 issue
Published by Maple Street Co-op, 37 Maple Street, Maleny Qld 4552
Tel 5494 2088, email email@example.com
The Campaign for the Obi Obi
by Ruth Parnell, Editor, "Maple Street Co-op News"
It was a year ago, on Wednesday 14 April, that Cornerstone sent in the Deen Brothers to demolish trees on the site earmarked for a Woolworths supermarket in Maleny. They'd have succeeded completely in their mission had some brave protesters not climbed the remaining trees and staged a vigil to protect them from destruction.
There have been many highs and lows in the meantime, including Daniel Jones's six-week-long stint in the remaining bunya pine, and hundreds of dedicated Maleny locals have carried on the campaign to keep the Obi Obi creekside site free from inappropriate development--a campaign that's been in progress for several years. They have lobbied at local, state and federal levels to try to protect the flora and fauna, particularly the habitat of the platypus whose burrows encroach well into the proposed construction zone.
Maple Street Co-op has had an ongoing role in the campaign, for we consider that a concrete box supermarket alongside such a sensitive part of the creek would be a disaster in terms of environmental as well as socio-economic outcomes and thus would be at odds with our ethics and principles. Many of our members have been very active in the ongoing protesting and lobbying. Director Sidonie Bouchet was among seven protesters arrested on the morning the Deen Brothers came to Maleny, and staff member Rod Castle was one of several activists who took to the remaining trees to save them; both of them have been part of further actions in the past year. Your editor and other staff members like Lori Sturtz and Sue Verstraten have been plugging away behind a computer, a camera lens, a shopfront window and even over an oven to raise awareness about the campaign.
Since our last edition, there have been some noteworthy developments. Platypus expert Dr Les Hall met with Cornerstone in early February to discuss his survey of the creek bank. A group of protesters under the Obi Creek Protection Group banner made a stand on 17 February outside the Brisbane offices of F. A. Pidgeon & Son, parent company of Cornerstone Properties, to draw attention to the potential destruction of the local platypus habitat due to construction activities. Maleny Voice, now a legally incorporated association, held its first AGM on 26 February, and a new phone tree has been set up.
Of particular significance is that the Mairwarr Indigenous Environmental Group has made a Land Acquisition Application to the Australian Government's Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) to purchase the land at 2-4 Bunya Street for an Environmental Park and an Environmental and Cultural Education Centre, to be shared between indigenous and non-indigenous communities. ("Mairwarr", incidentally, means "place where platypus breed".) According to the application, "the centre on the site will also be used for cultural maintenance and restorative purposes by Indigenous people and to generate income to enable proper management of the property". One proposed land use is to revegetate the land with endemic species as well as bush food and bush medicine plants and to create a habitat for native fauna displaced since the site was degraded in April last year.
The detailed, professional application was prepared for the group by Sue Saunders, Terri-Anne Goodreid, Garry Claridge and Jill Jordan and was presented at a public meeting on Saturday 26 February. It has since been submitted to the ILC. The group also prepared a comprehensive Obi Obi Creek Environmental Park Property Management Plan, which is a supporting document to the application. (Maleny Voice website has downloadable versions of the application and management plan.)
The Mairwarr Group has since received communication from the ILC, acknowledging receipt of the application and stating that it is proceeding according to the guidelines. The group is now in the next stage of the process. We also understand that Cornerstone is aware that the application has been submitted.
Some campaigners have even gone so far as to suggest that Woolworths' top executives, with their huge salaries and packages, could easily afford to buy the site from Cornerstone and hand it over to the Maleny community as a gesture of goodwill and cooperation! What a sign of corporate social responsibility that would be--and what a precedent!
Protest actions continue to be planned and staged. A large rally was held in Tesch Park on Sunday 27 February and was addressed by Mairwarr Indigenous Environmental Group members and others including Susie Duncan, spokesperson for the Obi Creek Protection Group. After the speakers' segments, protesters formed a human chain and wound their way under the bridge to the Bunya Street site, where they tied colourful ribbons, banners and artworks to the fencing. And a Peaceful Protest Workshop took place on 19 March, at which a Code of Conduct was drawn up.
In the week before Easter, the installation of a bright lime-green Holden station-wagon between the gates at the site, bearing "No Woolworths" signs and weighed down with cement, caused a commotion around town--but no one has claimed responsibility for placing it there, and this was not an official action by any established campaign group. The car has since been removed, but Maleny is "Still Holden On", as one message on the car announced. Amazingly, at the end of March the fence itself was mysteriously taken away; again, not a sanctioned protest action.
Maleny campaigners remain united in their opposition to a supermarket on the site and are maintaining an early morning vigil nearby. The Obi Creek Protection Group has restated its objective for the site to be acquired for community use and will continue to pursue opportunities to negotiate this with Cornerstone and Woolworths. However, should work begin at the site--and once Cornerstone secures a builder, this could be any time now--the group will be getting behind any peaceful mass protests that are staged; in fact, it is already liaising with the police department. For now, perhaps Cornerstone is merely waiting to hear the results of the Mairwarr group's application to the ILC.
Commenting on the scope for the acquisition of the site from Cornerstone, Susie Duncan said: "I think we're closer to achieving this than we were six to 12 months ago, because Cornerstone knows that the community is seriously committed to protecting the site and is not going to go away."
She added: "I have no doubt that Cornerstone and Woolworths are looking for a simple way to get off the site to avoid continuing bad PR, and that the community is more than willing to negotiate a realistic purchase arrangement."
[Thanks to the Obi Creek Protection Group and various campaigners for their contributions to this article. If you have any queries about the campaign, contact Joe Colreavy on 5499 9662, Jan Duffield on 5429 6021 or Susie Duncan on 5429 6622.]
From Maple Street Co-op News,
April/May 2005 issue
Published by Maple Street Co-op,
37 Maple Street, Maleny, Qld 4552,
tel 07 5494 2088, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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