Town plan meet­ings held be­hind closed doors

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

OF THE six groups in­vited to meet with Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil over its draft town plan this week, only three de­cided to take the of­fer up.

The Whit­sun­day Ratepay­ers As- so­ci­a­tion, Whit­sun­day Coast Cham­ber of Com­merce and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Body Cor­po­rates of Golden Orchid Drive at­tended their sched­uled de­po­si­tions at the coun­cil cham­bers in Proser­pine on Tues­day, while the Whit­sun­day Re­gional Res­i­dents As­so­ci­a­tion, Save Our Fore­shore and Fight for Air­lie groups did not.

Mem­bers of the lat­ter three groups did how­ever gather out­side the coun­cil build­ing, bear­ing signs that read ‘Sneaky Coun­cil’ and ‘High Rise, Air­lie Dies’.

WRRA pres­i­dent Ross Newell, whose as­so­ci­a­tion was only in­vited at the eleventh hour, said this was a process that should have been open to the whole com­mu­nity.

“Se­lec­tive con­sul­ta­tion does not al­ways achieve the best out­come,” he said.

“WHY the rush?” was a com­mon ques­tion asked by mem­bers of all three groups who de­clined the Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil’s in­vi­ta­tion to “present” on the draft town plan at in­di­vid­ual meet­ings on Tues­day.

Save Our Fore­shore pres­i­dent Suzette Pelt said the in­vi­ta­tion to a closed meet­ing ex­tended late last week, “al­lowed” just three peo­ple from each group to at­tend, with “all of 10 min­utes each to make our case”.

She said the tim­ing of the in­vi­ta­tions left the groups with less than three work­ing days to can­vass the cur­rent views of their mem­ber­ships and pre­pare doc­u­men­ta­tion.

“Once again we are sens­ing the coun­cil steam­roller at work which per­pet­u­ates the com­mu­nity’s per­cep­tion – real or not – that coun­cil has set their minds on a par­tic­u­lar out­come and will not change from that po­si­tion,” she said.

Mayor Jen­nifer Whit­ney de­nied this was the case say­ing the devel­op­ment of coun­cil’s pro­posed draft plan­ning scheme was on­go­ing, with sub­mis­sions yet to be for­mally pre­sented and de­cided upon.

She said the six lo­cal com­mu­nity groups had been in­vited to talk over their spe­cific con­cerns about build­ing heights with coun­cil­lors and mem­bers of the ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment team.

“As a col­lec­tive, coun­cil­lors were of the view that this would be an ap­pro­pri­ate fo­rum for us to dis­cuss their con­cerns fur­ther,” she said.

But Ms Pelt said coun­cil hadn’t ex­plained what in- flu­ence, if any, th­ese ses­sions would have on the for­mal sub­mis­sions to the draft scheme al­ready made.

“What ex­actly is the point of th­ese ses­sions? What does ‘to help sup­port a pos­i­tive out­come’ ac­tu­ally mean?” she asked.

“Coun­cil can­not sub­sti­tute a closed and hastily con­vened meet­ing with some com­mu­nity groups for a proper, open and trans­par­ent com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion process.”

Ms Pelt also noted the sale of land on Water­son Way to Whit­sun­day Chi­na­town In- vest­ment Pty Ltd, “an in­te­gral part of the build­ing heights de­ba­cle”, was on the agenda for the coun­cil meet­ing the very next day.

Fight for Air­lie mem­ber Roger Down, who re­ferred coun­cil to the Crime and Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion over its han­dling of the deal, said too many ques­tions re­mained unan­swered.

“Ex­am­ine the facts, do not rush. Let the peo­ple vote in March 2016. Re­mem­ber, once the con­crete is poured it is very hard to re­verse with­out le­gal ram­i­fi­ca­tions. Af­ter all we are meant to be a demo­cratic so­ci­ety,” he said.

Mean­while Mar­garet Shaw, who did at­tend one of the meet­ings as a mem­ber of the Whit­sun­day Ratepay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, said she thought “coun­cil were in­ter­ested in our opin­ions”.

“I ap­pre­ci­ated the op­por­tu­nity to have in­put to the dis­cus­sion with­out con­fronta­tion, some­thing I be­lieve has been miss­ing on pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions over the years,” she said.

Ms Shaw said the WRA had sub­mit­ted against high rise build­ings on the fore­shore, agreed with eight storeys on the land bounded by Water­son Way and thought the Port of Air­lie precinct should be lim­ited to the height of the ex­ist­ing Boathouse build­ing.

Cr Whit­ney said she was pleased at least three of the groups had taken Tues­day’s op­por­tu­nity up, with coun­cil’s plan­ning and en­vi­ron­ment depart­ment ex­pected to present a re­port for the coun­cil meet­ing of Novem­ber 25.

FIGHT­ING FOR AIR­LIE: Bob Mor­ton, Jonathan Pe­ter, Joey Prowse, Eric Oliver, Roger Down, Michelle Lynes, Shauna O'Shan­nessy and Ro­gin Tay­lor, cam­paign out­side the Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil of­fices where dep­u­ta­tions about the draft town plan­ning scheme were held this week.

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