Councillors 'fumble the ball', FCO board says

THE tourism and economic body partly tasked with bringing business and marketing the region has accused the council of fumbling the ball on a key investment opportunity.

On Friday, the Fraser Coast Opportunities board weighed into the Becker Helicopters issue, which has gripped the region since Monday.

It described some councillors' actions as "extremely disappointing".

In an open letter to the Chronicle, the FCO board of directors said the council knew about the region's employment problems.

"It seems inconceivable that earlier in the week we were told the area has the worst unemployment in Australia and then a few days later we fumble the ball on a major opportunity," the letter read.

The letter stated the Fraser Coast Regional Council had decided to "slam the door shut" on new business.

On Wednesday the helicopter issue reached a climax when councillor Darren Everard successfully moved a motion to ban all helicopter flying schools from setting up in the region.

The FCO board said it believed that decision has cost the region 100 new jobs and more than $20 million in economic stimulus.

Speaking to the Chronicle on Friday, FCO board member Paul Cotton said the directors had a unanimous view that some of the council had botched this opportunity.

"These sorts of opportunities are crucial," he said.

"The mixed messages of Fraser Coast open for business and the rejection of this major potential new industry without due process will have significant ramifications far beyond this particular issue.

"We can't afford to be talking about things then individually pulling it apart."

Earlier in the week Cr Everard admitted he hadn't spoken to Becker Helicopters owner Mike Becker - something that annoyed Dr Cotton.

"To turn anyone away from here without due process or due considerations is myopic," he said.

"We've got kids who are leaving school in Year 12 with no opportunity to get a local trade."

Dr Cotton was reserved when the Chronicle asked if FCO would have done a better job at handling the situation with Becker Helicopters.

"I think if FCO were involved - at the seminal state of this, I think that we would have had a more considered and better balance, and maybe not have got the situation we're in now," he said.

"I think we all need to learn lessons about this.

"There needs to be a general maturity and an understanding the entity is there- it was put there for a reason."

FCO has previously been criticised by some councillors for not achieving results.

But yesterday the directors were on the front foot, calling on the council to invite Mr Becker back to the table and to work with FCO, to realise the potential of this opportunity.

Mr Becker was due to meet with councillors for discussions in Hervey Bay on Tuesday.



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