Co­conut cull causes a stir

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Mark Mur­ray

A DIS­PUTE is brew­ing be­tween Daintree res­i­dents and a sci­en­tist de­ter­mined to erad­i­cate co­conut trees along the Cape Tribu­la­tion coast­line.

Dr Hugh Spencer, who runs the Aus­tralian Trop­i­cal Re­search Foun­da­tion in Cape Tribu­la­tion, ad­mits to ‘de­cap­i­tat­ing’ juvenile palms across Far North beaches de­spite not hav­ing a writ­ten per­mit from Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil.

His ac­tions are caus­ing a stir north of the Daintree River with re­ports of al­ter­ca­tions be­tween the former univer­sity lec­turer and upset lo­cals.

It comes five year’s af­ter coun­cil or­dered him to stop poi­son­ing palms along tourist beaches us­ing Roundup.

The has been con­tacted by res­i­dents who claim there is ev­i­dence of the her­bi­cide still be­ing used in Cape Tribu­la­tion. Dr Spencer vig­or­ously de­nied the claims.

“I have not been us­ing Roundup on co­conuts. I haven’t done that for years and years,” he told the

“I have been de­cap­i­tat­ing ju­ve­niles us­ing se­c­etares and a saw along coun­cil land on the es­planade.

“There are some peo­ple mak­ing it their is­sue to make as much fuss as pos­si­ble.”

Dr Spencer be­lieves Daintree beaches will be over­run by “in­va­sive” co­conut palms if they are not con­trolled.

Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Mark Sto­er­mer will travel to the Daintree in com­ing weeks for a meet­ing af­ter re­ceiv­ing writ­ten com­plaints about Dr Spencer’s ac­tiv­i­ties.

Gerry Na­gle, who runs the Co­conut Beach House, said he had in­structed guests not to crack open co­conuts and drink their milk on Co­conut Beach.

“I’m en­cour­ag­ing my guests not to do that be­cause they could po­ten­tially be poi­soned,” he ex­plained.

Mr Na­gle said trees were planted on his land with­out per­mis­sion. “I’ve ripped them out,” he said.

“Coun­cil have caught this guy in the act and he ad­mits to do­ing things all the time, but in­stead of pe­nal­is­ing him they just say ‘please don’t do that’.

“He openly ad­mits it and says it’s on coun­cil’s be­half. He is em­bold­ened.”

Dou­glas Shire Mayor Ju­lia Leu was re­luc­tant to com­ment but con­firmed a per­mit was re­quired to re­move veg­e­ta­tion from coun­cil land.

“Coun­cil is aware of the com­plaint,” she said in a state­ment.

“As we are in the process of in­ves­ti­gat­ing it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to make any fur­ther com­ment at this time.”

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