Examples of court and council news reporting
A selection of court and council news stories.
Coast health industry in jeopardy
Sunshine Coast health industry could suffer from the shocks of the federal government budget announced on Thursday.
The budget will wind back hospital funding agreements agreed under the former Rudd government, saying it would save $50 billion over eight years.
The budget will also freeze federal assistance grants to councils, worth hundreds of millions.
Only recently, contract disputes between health workers and the Queensland state government reached an uneasy truce.
Additionally, hours before the federal budget was delivered, Queensland state Premier Campbell Newman sacked Assistant Health Minister Chris Davis.
The result on the economy on the Sunshine Coast remains to be seen, where the health industry is the largest employer.
The Sunshine Coast Public University Hospital will fully open in 2016. With 3500 staff already on the books, that number will to swell to 6000 by 2021.
Earlier this month, nearly 1000 students attended a ‘Health Heroes’ forum held at the hospital with industry professionals and tertiary providers.
The forum is run in partnership with education, community, industry and all levels of government.
With education also taking a cut in the budget, students will have to pay more for their tertiary studies to work in the health industry.
Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said it was important to provide an opportunity for young people to see career opportunities within the health industry.
“The health sector is, and continues to be, the largest employer on the Sunshine Coast – we are thinking ahead to equip young people with the right skills to ensure as many locals as possible have the opportunity to make a career here,” Cr Jamieson said.
“Council is working towards a sustainable economy by developing seven high-value industries identified in the Regional Economic Development Strategy – starting with health – and by creating career opportunities for our children.”
Sunshine Coast Council declare war… on weeds
The Sunshine Coast Council has declared war on weed, in an initiative where residents can swap garden weeds for free Australian native plants.
The initiative is part of the council’s Community Nature Conservation Program, which helps local volunteer groups in their environmental restoration work across the region.
Environment Portfolio Councillor Jenny McKay said the ‘War on Weeds’ is a great way for people to play a hands on role in contributing to their environment.
“It represents an ongoing partnership between council and the community in protecting and enhancing biodiversity,” she said.
Hundreds of volunteers, at various weed swap sites, will be lending a green thumb across the region to provide help and advice.
Sunshine Coast Environmental Council CEO Wiebe ter Bal agreed with Cr McKay.
Mr ter Bal said feral weeds, as well as feral animal species, are the biggest threat to Australia’s unique and fragile environment.
“It’s not sexy at all, not like climate change or urban development, but feral weeds, weeds are the number one problem we have in Australia, along with feral species,” he said.
“Feral pigs and cats, cat’s claw creeper, Japanese sunflower, lantana, cane toads.
“They are the number one threat to our biodiversity.”
Cr McKay encouraged residents to get behind the initiative and help protect Australia’s biodiversity.
“Over 70 per cent of the invasive environmental weeds in South East Queensland are actually escaped garden weeds,” she said.
“Everyone has a role to play in looking after our environment and removing weeds from the garden and replacing them with native trees is one great way to make a positive contribution.”
Information on where and when you can swap your weeds for native plants is available on the council’s website.
A mouse in Stockland’s house
A rare rodent has been found living around Bells Creek, south of Caloundra.
The native rodent is found in three areas of Australia and is marked high-priority for conservation.
The water mouse was discovered over summer, during the first stage of the Sunshine Coast Council’s largest fauna monitoring project.
Conservationist Jenna Brown, a masters student in environmental science at the University of the Sunshine Coast, has been working with the institution’s Sustainability Research Centre since 2012.
Ms Brown says the rodent’s discovery is proof the region should be protected, reigniting the debate surrounding the Caloundra South development.
“It’s just amazing that this kind of environment can be demolished to make way for human habitation
“The whole area is a keystone ecosystem for Pumicestone Passage.
“Whole populations of numerous land and sea dwelling animals depend on it,” Ms Brown says.
The four-year, $570,000 project aims to improve conservation management.
Specialist crews will monitor 10 reserves across the coast.
The information gathered will then help develop a monitoring program so the council can best manage its environmental reserves.
Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson says the project will help towards a sustainable environment for our region.
“It’s not enough to simply buy land, although this is a major component, we also need to know what species are living in our reserves.
“And the wins aren’t just environmental; economically this will assist in promoting the unique fauna values of this region for a range of interests including education, research and tourism,” Major Jamieson says.
Division 2 councillor Tim Dwyer says the program is already providing some interesting insights into local fauna.
“Work has only just begun and already it’s giving us useful information which may prevent the loss of important species from our reserves.”
Residents can follow the project on the council website.
Man charged with drug possession while in custody
A man held in custody has been fined $750 for drug-related charges has claimed his habit has been fuelled by ongoing injuries.
Anthony Hyland, of Maroochydore, was already being held in custody over separate charges when police searched his home and uncovered drugs and utensils in late April.
Hyland, who was already in custody for separate and unrelated charges, stood in handcuffs before the court.
The prosecutor said police found a capped syringe above the microwave of his Beach Road apartment, as well as other drug related utensils.
The defendant told the Maroochydore Magistrates Court he was prescribed two morphine tablets per day by a phamacy in Maroochydore.
He claimed he needed the drug as a painkiller so he could deal with the effects of ongoing injuries.
The defendant admitted to dissolving the drug and using the syringe to it into his leg to relieve the pain of injuries sustained from being hit by a drunk driver.
He claimed he has also been fighting ongoing injuries suffered in his youth while participating in rodeo’s.
He claimed he has been rendered unfit and unable to work since 2012, which added to his reliance on painkillers.
Magistrate Barry Barrett charged the defendant with possession of utensil or pipes that had been used as well as possession of a dangerous drug.
Hyland pleaded guilty and was fined a total of $750 and will not face court again for these charges.
The court could not take into account the separate charges which Hyland is yet to face trial for.
Repeated drug offender charged over personal crop
A Buderim man has been found guilty of various drug offences after police uncovered photos of his personal cannabis plant saved on his phone.
Luke Fowler, of Buderim, faced the Maroochydore Magistrate Court charged with producing dangerous drugs, possessing dangerous drugs and possessing utensils or pipes.
Fowler told the court the 45 centimeter tall backyard cannabis plant was for his own personal use and did not sell of distribute the plant, prepared in any way or not, to anybody.
The police prosecutor showed the court photos of the plant at various stages of growth, taken on Fowler’s own personal phone.
Police searched Fowler’s home in Buderim on a search warrant last month, where they uncovered 28 grams of cannabis, a coffee grinder used to prepare the drug, a glass pipe and the plant itself.
The pipe, grinder and can of cannabis were found on Fowler’s kitchen bench.
The plant was found in a fenced off area in the backyard of the property.
Fowler admitted to using the pipe to smoke the illegal drug.
The defendant went with police to the Maroochydore Police Station voluntarily after the search.
Mr Barrett took into account an early plea of guilty and fined Fowler $2000.
Fowler, who owns and operates an earth moving business, claimed he was growing the plant to save money so he could then pay off an excavator he bought for his business.
He has previously been convicted of four drug related charges over the past six years and has been fined on every occasion.
Mr Barrett stared intently down at Fowler when he issued the fine and said a prison sentence will be highly likely if he reoffends.