AN OPEN letter by former Fraser Coast Opportunities board member David Hay has slammed some councillors for firing "political bullets" and undermining the organisation.
The Kingfisher Bay group general manager joined Dr Theresa Craig and Glen Winney in quitting the embattled FCO board on Monday, just days after Fraser Coast Mayor Gerard O'Connell said he did not intend to continue as chairman.
In his letter Mr Hay said he still believed FCO was "the best option for our region".
"FCO could never be the panacea but it was a chance to start along the journey to a better place to 'live, work and play', as the slogan goes," he said.
"We are not yet mature enough as a community to commit to making a good idea into a great opportunity."
Mr Hay cited the failed establishment of Becker Helicopters flight training school as "an opportunity wasted", after Darren Everard moved a motion against the operation.
"What we did was set it up (FCO) but then not use it when opportunities came our way- and criticised it when it did not focus enough, from some people's point of view, on small business," he said.
While Mr Hay did not single out individuals, councillors Rolf Light, Chris Loft, Darren Everard and James Hansen have previously publicly criticised FCO's approach to small business.
Mr Hay had a few questions for all of the councillors.
"What actual practical suggestions you have made regarding small business needing assistance," he asked.
"What is FCO not doing that the council used to do?"
Mr Hay also asked what other regions were doing in this regard that FCO was not.
"The answer from my perspective is that you don't have the answers but it is a convenient throwaway line that you think sounds good to your constituents," he said.
"It doesn't - it is insulting that you think the residents of this region are so stupid that they can't see your comments for the political bullets that they are."
Cr Hansen, a passionate rural councillor suggested having an employee dedicated to growing the region's agricultural prospects.
But in his letter, Mr Hay said some councillors were waiting for FCO to implode.
"The knives have been out ready for the slightest slip up or error from some of the very people who were elected to lead our community," he said.
"The political nature of the current council is simply mind boggling to me and it is a shame that some of our councillors have more of an eye on their next term."
Emotionally tired of the issue, Mayor Gerard O'Connell said some councillors needed to stop undermining FCO.
"I think we have got enormous potential and I'm appalled that we're having these discussions on these issues," he said.
Cr O'Connell said he had only hoped to get the best for our region- but he was still considering his role as chairman.
"It hasn't been discussed with the other board members," he said.
Read David Hay's open letter in full below-
It is with a heavy heart that I have resigned from the board of Fraser Coast Opportunities.
The last eighteen months or so has seen this region attempt to change our destiny through the creation of a body which would effectively market and attract business and visitors to our beautiful part of Australia.
Similar bodies have been created in other areas of Queensland & Australia with varying degrees of success and I remain firmly of the view that it is the best option for our region.
It is important for us all to remember that our region has the sad distinction of one of the highest unemployment rates in Australia and we have many socio-economic challenges.
The main reasons I supported the creation of FCO was to try to change this and do all we can as a community to ensure that this region gets on the path to a more prosperous future as quickly and efficiently as possible.
This is a big ask for one organisation you might say and you would be correct. FCO could never be the panacea but it was a chance to start along the journey to a better place to "live, work and play" as the slogan goes.
Alas, it seems from my perspective that we are not yet mature enough as a community to commit to making a good idea into a great opportunity.
One of the most significant reasons for creating FCO was that we wanted a body which was not a part of council and therefore would not be as constrained by regulation, be it industrial relations and otherwise.
We wanted to create an organisation that could ensure that any potential enterprise wanting to set up shop here would be welcome and the process as simple as possible.
We wanted meaningful investment attraction activities which would bear fruit. What we did was set it up but then not use it when opportunities came our way (Becket Helicopters) and criticised it when it did not focus enough, from some people's point of view, on small business.
I ask you Councillors what actual practical suggestions you have made regarding small business needing assistance.
What should FCO do to assist small businesses?
What is FCO not doing that the Council used to do?
What are other regions doing in this regard that we are not?
The answer from my perspective is that you don't have the answers but it is a convenient throwaway line that you think sounds good to your constituents.
It doesn't, it is insulting that you think the residents of this region are so stupid that they can't see your comments for the political bullets that they are.
Much has been said about the cost of operating FCO and this has been another popular throwaway line by some of the so called "leaders" of our community.
The council funding allocated to FCO is mostly the same as the funding FCRC was spending on the areas of Events, Marketing, Tourism (via the tourism board) and Investment Attraction.
An additional $500,000 per annum over and above this previous expenditure was committed to ensure that Investment Attraction area received the development it required, as there was very little activity in this regard under council.
This information has been known by all Councillors for two years yet we continue to see throw away comments regarding the cost of running FCO and ridiculous statements suggesting that the organisation is doing nothing.
The achievements of FCO through David Spear and his team in my view have been significant in a very short space of time.
For anyone to attempt to judge the success of this organisation based on less than twelve months of operation is either naive or cynical.
Having said that I am not suggesting that David or FCO have got everything right but ask yourself, who does?
The knives have been out ready for the slightest slip up or error from some of the very people who were elected to "lead" our community.
It is apparent of course to many of us that much of this stirring up of trouble has not really been about FCO or David Spear.
The political nature of the current council is simply mind boggling to me and it is a shame that some of our Councillors have more of an eye on their next term (if they get one) than the present one.
My view is that if you want to change something in business or life in general you make a plan which involves arriving at a consensus the majority can live with, then you implement it with the support of the team who agreed the plan.
What we have seen from this council in relation to FCO is a plan developed with some dissension resulting in the implementation being undermined at every step by those who did not get the organisation they wanted.
This is not how teams work; it is how wars are waged.
As a volunteer on the board of FCO I have given up many hours of professional and personal time in order to try to assist a cause I believe was a worthy one.
Having lived on the Fraser Coast for more than twenty years I passionately want this region to succeed, therefore have been prepared to invest time and effort to this organisation.
To be accused by some of only being involved for purposes of self-interest I find offencive.
I manage a business which employs around three hundred people and is the largest tourism enterprise in our region, thus I believe I have some knowledge and skills with regard to the tourism industry.
I have previously served on the board Tourism Fraser Coast for ten years and believe I have always acted in the best interests of the region rather than my own.
I will not sit by and be pilloried behind closed doors for daring to think and act differently than others.
If you want a board that will follow directions and not challenge the status quo I suggest that no board is needed.
I would like to offer my apologies to the former members of Tourism Fraser Coast who I asked to trust me in making the transition from a standalone tourism body to the FCO model.
My reasons as I have stated above were genuine and philosophically I maintain the view that this was the best option for our future as an industry.
I believe that many of the activities which the tourism board formerly undertook have been adequately delivered under the FCO model and I would like to specifically thank the TFC staff who undertook this significant transition.
Our industry does have a bright future in this region and I look forward to supporting its development for a long time to come.
My entire focus going forward will be on the business I manage rather than FCO, however I will continue to support the effective promotion and development of our region in any way I can.
Group General Manager
The Kingfisher Bay Resort Group