Debate rages on foreshore dilemma

EMOTIONS ran high, anger fueled the university air and a distinct tension prevailed.

The question of what – if anything – should be done with Hervey Bay’s foreshore stirred a sharp debate at the Fraser Coast campus of USQ on Thursday night, when locals displayed a sense of ownership often found wanting in the city.

For 90 minutes the argument raged with calls for “sustainable development of a unique asset” countered by claims it should be retained in its natural state.

“All we want the council to do is come and clean up the shit,” one member of the 200-strong audience said as the debate reached boiling point.

He wanted the unkempt undergrowth that clogs up the foreshore cleared.

Steve Dixon, who chaired the debate, began by asking who in the auditorium wanted to see the foreshore covered in concrete, a question which received a stony silence in reply.

When he asked who wanted the Esplanade to be let go unkempt, the silence was broken by a number of angry voices.

“That’s a stupid question.”

The forum heard the views of five guest speakers.

Greg McGarvie, secretary of the Fraser Coast Sustainable Development Association, called for the foreshore to be returned to its past, allowing nature and grasses to trap the sands.

Brett Langabeer from USQ wanted the Esplanade to cater better for tourism.

“I’m not suggesting we replicate the Gold Coast but we need well-managed development, a precinct with spaces and places that provide culture.

“A café precinct in a pedestrian-only area would entice families there and businesses to invest.”

Councillor Sue Brooks raised the first emotive applause of the night when she ended her address with “I don’t want a concrete coast. Leave it alone”.

Leigh Bennett, who spoke on behalf of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, raised the heckles of part of the crowd when he called for the removal of caravan parks on the foreshore.

“We need more great places. Some places on the foreshore are messy and embarrassing.”

Kevin Smith of Holiday Hervey Bay said the region was losing the tourism battle to other coastal destinations with sea views. He also linked incidents of crime to the foreshore’s current state.

“It is now a man-made mess that appears unloved.”

Yesterday, two English tourists gave the foreshore’s rugged natural feel the thumbs up.

“I like it the way it is,” 21-year-old Kimberley Jones said. “I prefer it natural.” Sarah Windle, 24, surveyed her surroundings as she strolled to the beach near Denmans Camp Road.

“I wouldn’t destroy this. I don’t see shit. I see trees that have fallen. I see nature. I see Australia.”

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