The fight to save Springbrook
By Peter Farrell
Springbrook, population about 600, altitude 950 metres, rainfall three metres per year, bordering NSW, is a 45-minute, 40 km drive from the heart of the Gold Coast, up a winding, steep and narrow (single lane in some places) road through some of the best bush land in the area.
As one drives up the mountain (the ears begin to pop and the cooler temperature is felt), one may notice the changing forest types and the sympathy with the environment of some of the few residents who have built and live there.
At the top (Springbrook Village) are the most scenic views, (Bilbrough's Lookout, Hardy's Lookout, Best of All Lookout) in all directions.
Around Springbrook are Warrie National Park, Mt Cougal National Park, Lamington National Park, Natural Bridge National Park and Numinbah State Forest.
The forests, ranging from eucalypt to subtropical rainforest, support an enormous diversity of flora and fauna (some rare and endangered). One hundred-metre waterfalls pour into crystal clear creeks and ponds. The many National Park nature walks are amazing. Listen closely in the late afternoon and you may hear the call of the Albert lyre bird, which can be found only in this region.
Feeling envious of those able to live and/or work within this Garden of Eden? Don't: it may all be about to change.
The developers have discovered the Springbrook area. They appear to have the full support of the Albert Shire Council, whose motto is "The Green Behind The Gold".
Not content with the 65-odd golf courses/resorts already within Albert Shire, the council has given approval to GOLDCO to develop a golf resort in the heart of Springbrook. The design incorporates easy urban development: for example, fairways are the width of streets. (Golf resorts are apparently not very profitable at the moment.)
This development also requires clearing of high altitude rainforest, possibly causing erosion and silting, not to mention loss of habitat for various species.
The environmental impact assessment carried out by the developer failed to properly address at least two key points: the effect on the natural habitat of the rare and endangered Albert lyre bird, and the effects of pesticide and herbicide (used to maintain the golf course) run-off into creeks, springs and the Gold Coast water supply after heavy rain.
Another application, by Alpine Panorama Pty Ltd, wants to rezone 80 hectares of the highest and most scenic escarpment land (adjacent to Bilbrough's Lookout) to Rural B (General Rural) from Rural C (Rural Conservation). Under the Albert Shire Strategic Plan, the only possible rezoning from Rural C is to Rural B. From a Rural B zone, however, other rezonings are possible.
The entire area of Springbrook (excluding National Parks) is currently zoned Rural Conservation. Rezoning of this particular land could open the way to easy rezoning of many other parts of the area, and subsequent rezoning and higher density subdivisions, which would be disastrous environmentally.
The Alpine Panorama development would allow the clearing of substantial regrowth rainforest, containing some rare and endangered flora species, and construction of up to 40 dwellings, all of these having septic sewerage systems.
2>The Springbrook area is the main water catchment area for the Gold Coast (Hinze Dam and Little Nerang Dam). There are already water quality problems in Little Nerang Dam, which has suffered from algae blooms in warm weather, possibly due to run-off from the existing few hundred septic sewerage systems on Springbrook.0>
The Gold Coast Environment Centre and the Springbrook Progress Association have called on the Albert Shire Council to:
l formulate a Development Control Plan for the Springbrook area;
l require proper environmental impact studies on the current development and rezoning proposals before council;
l investigate the declaration of Springbrook as water catchment area. (The Gold Coast is the only major city in Australia without a declared water catchment area.)
All of these requests have been refused.
The over worked volunteers of the under-resourced Gold Coast Environment Centre and Springbrook Progress Association have a major struggle ahead to conserve this last remaining parcel of nature on the Gold Coast Hinterland. n