Community rallies against possible Council cuts
A RECORD number of people turned out to yesterday’s Whitsunday Regional Council meeting in Bowen where a public protest was held.
More than 700 people protested about the rumoured closure of Bowen’s Council offices and the associated job losses this would bring.
Whitsunday mayor Jennifer Whitney claims the crowd was whipped into a frenzy by Councillor Dave Clark who spoke at a Whitsunday Regional Residents’ Association meeting on Monday night.
Councillors voted yesterday morning to move the meeting to the Bowen PCYC due to the size of the crowd.
Police officers were on site to monitor the hostility, particularly directed at the mayor.
Cr Whitney, who was booed on her way into the meeting, flatly denied that any decision about the Bowen Council office had been made.
“I am not closing the Bowen Council, nor are we sacking the staff,” she said.
The man behind the “economic rationale” of the potential decision was Gerard Nelson, from Australian Workplace Strategies, who was previously employed to conduct Council’s efficiency and effectiveness review.
Mr Nelson addressed the crowd about why centralising Council’s operations had come into his report in November last year.
Mr Nelson said from a purely economic perspective there was no sense in having Council centres in Bowen, Proserpine and Collinsville.
However, he said his report made it clear that the closure of the Bowen office was not one of his recommendations. He said this was ultimately a decision for all of Council to make and something for the ratepayers to choose whether they were happy to subsidise.
The crowd erupted at various stages of Mr Nelson’s presentation, with calls for a vote of no confidence, de- amalgamation and the appointment of an administrator.
Like Cr Whitney, Mr Nelson warned heavily against administration.
Cr Dave Clark moved to re- ject Mr Nelson’s report, which started a lengthy and at times emotional debate.
Cr Kevin Collins begged him to table it so that the issues at hand could be properly discussed. Eventually, an amendment to table the report was passed. Further amendments were made, stating that Council would hold a comprehensive workshop to set equitable staffing directions at all its locations.
PUBLIC SPEAKS: The crowd calls for a vote of no confidence in the current Council and mayor. Photo Sharon Smallwood / Whitsunday Times