Councillors undecided on foreshore

A SIMPLE note handed to every councillor at yesterday's Tavistock Street meeting sparked a major debate on the Chronicle's headlining Hervey Bay foreshore campaign.

The Chronicle invited each councillor to state their position on whether to clean up or not clean up the foreshore – and write up to two sentences of comment.

Councillors Gerard O'Connell and Barbara Hovard happily supplied their yes or no answers and views but after about 20 minutes of robust debate the Chronicle had to return their words to them and scrap our survey.

Mr O'Connell decided to break ranks yesterday afternoon, saying yes – clean it up.

“If you love something you look after it and we love it.

“I'm not talking about knocking down trees and building concrete jungles.

“This is stage one to a multi-stage approach to the whole of the Esplanade.”

All the councillors, except mayor Mick Kruger and councillor Anne Nioa, who were away, ended up muzzling themselves on the foreshore issue.

Councillor Les MucKan fired the first shot when he said councillors shouldn't answer the Chronicle's survey but instead should present a single position in the foreshore debate.

Councillor David Dalgleish seconded that and Mr MucKan then said that more discussion was still needed.

“One councillor says one thing and another another. How do we go about answering this?”

Mr Dalgleish said the former Hervey Bay City Council, four councillors of which now sit on the new regional council, had long discussed the foreshore issue.

“Council did have plans to tidy it up but the work seems to have slowly disappeared. I'm personally a strong supporter of huge grass and shade trees so people can sit and watch their children play.”

Councillor Sue Brooks said the council's new community environment program's volunteers could maintain areas of the foreshore.

She mentioned the review of the Hervey Bay Foreshore Management Plan that the old council put together more than two years ago was coming to councillors on December 8.

And, within that plan, council had a current position in relation to the foreshore.

Mr MucKan, with passionate input from councillor Belinda McNeven, reworded his motion to say that council discuss the adopted HBFMP to form a single council view on the foreshore.

Mr Dalgleish said he'd be “disappointed to see 11 different views on the foreshore in the paper”.

Ms McNeven proclaimed she was born in Hervey Bay and lived most of her life there. “I've walked every metre in the HBFMP. It's a very worthwhile document.”

She then wanted to know if the Fraser Coast Chronicle had “actually read council's adopted FMP”?

Ms Brooks said last week she'd been given five to 10 minutes' notice of a location chosen by Chronicle editor Chapman, which happened to be in front of Delfinos, for what ended up as a Saturday front page picture of her and the editor and a story.

“He told me ‘This area looks fine' and I replied that area was a natural area as defined in the FMP.

“I have never been a person who's said leave the foreshore alone but I was presented (in the Chronicle) as saying that.”

Later she directed the Chronicle to her blog where she says: “I have worked hard to find a way to better resource our council staff so that increased weeding regimes can occur.”

Mr Chapman said yesterday he thought it was more than fair to ask each councillor what they feel about the important issue.

“We aren't after the result of a council meeting; let's have each elected member go on record.

“We have been giving plenty of publicity to the fact that our current poll is running heavily in favour of a clean-up. Is this a case that some councillors don't want to share a view that they believe mightn't be popular with the majority of voters?

“Surely there is nothing to hide. This community is sick of talkfests – they want action and leadership. We want our councillors to speak out, not be muzzled.

“As for Ms Brooks, she had known for two days we wanted a picture of her on the foreshore and she'd carefully chosen to be photographed in an area that didn't reflect this issue. The spot where we asked to take the photo was chosen because it has been central to a number of letters.

“She is right in saying it looked fine, (but) there was clear evidence it had been cleaned up.”

The debate got quite blurry but finally Mr MucKan got his motion through, seconded by Mr Dalgleish. Both later said they wanted the debate to include all of the region's foreshores – not just the Bay.

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