It was bound to come to Noosa some day. Big party politics has smashed its way through the front doors of our little Council chamber on Pelican Street.
No doubt the local branch of the LNP were encouraged by the election of member Clare Stewart as Mayor in 2020. Now she’s had the benefit of four years of constant exposure in the Noosa electorate, she is their candidate to try to win the State seat of Noosa .
But that’s only the start. The party political campaign to take over Noosa Council is moving into another gear.
Now we are seeing invitations to a lunch this week for the Council election campaign launch of the LNP’s Alecia Staines, to be attended by the LNP MP for Wide Bay Llew O’Brien and Sophia Li, LNP Federal Senate candidate.
Members are directed to a Campaign Central website to book for the $60 lunch.
A second LNP member Leigh McCready’s council campaign “Website launch” also gets an honorable mention with the invitation to the lunch.
The BUSINESS FIRST bloc flexes its muscles
One of this Council’s first responsibilities in 2020 was the adoption of the Noosa Plan that had taken many years and huge resources and community consultation to finalise. The inexperienced Mayor and her ally Councillor Lorentson opposed its adoption.
Since then we have had a council split 4-3 on some of the most important issues they have faced. The departing Mayor and often the same two Councillors – Amelia Lorentson and Karen Finzel – have been voting as a bloc on many of those issues.
The trio of the Mayor and Councillors Lorentsen and Finzel opposed continuation of the Noosa River trial oyster reef program designed to provide data and practical hands-on experience for possible remediation of river health.
Transparency takes a back seat
After all the staff, consultant and community effort and cost of developing a Housing Strategy that they supported, in January this year the same trio of Councillors voted against proceeding with planning scheme amendments required to action some elements of the strategy.
The actual details of the proposed amendments have been kept confidential as required by legislation, but there was no secret that the amendments dealt with housing issues as well as short term accommodation (STA) problems for many of our residents.
The 3-plus hour meeting was held in camera, but the vote taken after the meeting was opened to the public as required. There was no debate, so we have seen no explanation for the unprecedented vote against forwarding the draft planning amendments. Unless that was done, the public would never get to see the proposals to have their say.
Did the trio not want the community to see what is proposed and have a say as required by legislation? Why not? Are we going to see what is proposed before the election? Are party politics already affecting decisions of Council? And where is the ‘transparency’ we keep hearing about?
Had they won that vote, any proposed changes to improve the current housing and STA problems would have been in limbo.
Thanks to the other four Councillors, the proposals were referred for the required State Interest Review by the State Government. After the Review, the proposed changes can be endorsed by Council for public notification and community consultation.
But will they be endorsed? Probably yes if the State has finalised its Review process before the election next March. But that’s unlikely now, and if it’s after the election, it may depend on who is elected. And it may also depend on what business or local LNP power brokers want to happen.
And Council party politics goes down the river
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Business-First trio kept the worst for what will hopefully be their last. They voted against adoption of the most professional and practical version of a Noosa River Plan ever produced, riding on a wave of social media hysteria, conspiracies and misinformation.
And the Mayor needed to use a second (casting) vote twice to kick the can down the road…to prevent further progress or even consultation on the health of our river in the life of this Council.
The question we all need to ask ourselves is whether we want our council to be like state and federal parliaments, or – for that matter – much larger city Councils…where most elected members are beholden to the power brokers of their party and getting re-elected is their first priority. Where voting is often ideological, along party lines and rebels are shown the door.
If the community loses what remains of its independent voice next March, we can expect the ‘local’ to disappear from local government in Noosa.