Three public meetings and two landscape concept plans and it's still not right.
As the taped graffiti letters WTF on the exclusion fence shows, the community is justifiably shocked as the elevated design unfolds with the construction incorporating hard edged concrete block walls that impede views and excessive use of concrete surrounding the trees introducing a built area separate from the beach.
The small township of Bingil Bay is separated from Mission Beach by a tourist scenic route described as one of the most spectacular seaside drives in the world and travels through where the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage areas meet. At the end of the drive there was a small picnic area with a couple of sets of tables and seats and an old very utilised concrete barbeque.
The charming setting under the Calophyllum trees has been enjoyed as a meeting place for decades and was the pride of the close knit local community who describe Bingil Bay as ‘the real Mission Beach’, because of the 'naturalness’ of the rainforest and rural aspect of the beach side village. The natural lay of the land leading from the picnic tables to the sand and the absence of harsh lighting enhanced the day and night time experience by a strong sense of connection with the natural environment
After Cyclone Larry in 2006 the Council allocated some funds to rebuild what they described as the destroyed Bingil Bay picnic area. In fact the picnic area was not ‘destroyed’. There was no built environment there. The ‘magic of the community meeting place was in its natural amenity. It could certainly have been in line for a spruce up of the basic facilities.
An architectural plan, (right) resembling a mini Townsville Strand, was drawn up by a Townsville consultant and displayed for comment in May 2009 following feedback from the community at a meeting a year earlier. At a second public meeting held at the beach by acting Parks Manager, Paul Devine (and attended by Councilor Jennifer Downs) it was made clear the plans were 'over the top' and did not reflect the low key design that was envisaged by those who attended.
As the public works on the dunal erosion prone area has unfolded, it has become evident that the 'reconstruction'' of the picnic area is not going to reflect either the strong community vision to retain and enhance the casual natural ambiance of the historical meeting place or have any sensitivity to the the natural environment.
It resembles something that could be described as a 'backyard blitz makeover' or what could be expected to be seen in a resort planned area such as Palm Cove, Arlie Beach or Port Douglas.
Despite the many letters and emails to Council representatives registering strong objection to what was unfolding, work has continued and a media campaign launched by the Council to praise the work.
A response from the Mayor was he agreed that the work was not in character with Bingil Bay . Our local Councillor Alister Pike has assessed the situation and didn't feel the need to attend the meeting on Sunday commenting "I didn't sign up for this job to work on weekends".
Both the Mayor and Cr Pike concluded at a Council meeting held to discuss the concerns, that the work should continue and if necessary a couple of rows of blocks could be knocked off to help regain views that have been lost at the approaches to Bingil Bay both from the scenic tourist routes and the local community access to the beach.
What has been a pride of the Bingil Bay community because of the natural amenity in comparison to some parts of Mission Beach where the natural environment has been virtually destroyed, is now being irrevocably compromised by the hard edged, landscaped design.
A meeting was held on Sunday 8th July to discuss the inappropriate development. As a result of the meeting offers were made by professional people to help by making minor changes to the master plan to reduce the impact of the excessive use of concrete. These offers have been refused.
The current ad hoc approach to development, as well meaning as some of the individual projects may be, is incrementally diminishing the community and tourist appeal of our area. Without clear guidelines to protect the natural values with a Mission Beach specific plan we will indeed kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Brunswick Heads council cared enough to do it, so did Kuranda and Margaret River. Isn't Mission Beach worth saving too?
A petition is now being circulated to be presented to Council at the earliest possible time which will now not be until the 26th July. By then the work may have been completed.