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Big party politics makes its move on Noosa Council

It is one of Noosa’s richest ironies that the LNP – and a referendum promise by one-term Premier Campbell Newman – were key to local residents winning back their independent Council, and with it a means to plan and govern ‘The Noosa Way’.  As we approach 10-years since our independent council was re-established, it is now that same LNP and its brand of ‘take-no-prisoners’, big party politics that’s eyeing off control of Noosa Council and a grip on the steering wheel of our future planning.

In 2020, Mayor Tony Wellington (one of our contributors) was unexpectedly removed courtesy of a paper-thin margin by an unknown, untested Mayoral candidate who had $70,000 to spend on her campaign, ten times as much as Mayor Wellington, and the LNP party machine behind her.

Fast forward to late 2023, and Mayor Clare Stewart now has the diligently nurtured profile  – thanks to the Council’s PR team – that she lacked four years ago and will use it as a springboard to run against Independent MP Sandy Bolton for the seat of Noosa next October.  

The LNP candidates’ escalator-of-ambition is not a path for the faint-hearted. You need to show the local brains’ trust you have what it takes.  This time around Mayor Stewart waited patiently as her friend Leigh McCready first put her hand up with great enthusiasm.  The response from the Noosa LNP backroom was an emphatic “yeah, nah”.  She was seen as too divisive and carrying too much baggage to take on the popular Sandy Bolton.

Ms McCready has until recently had a substantial share in Altum, the company behind the large Parkridge development at Noosa Springs and The Whiteley at Noosaville among others.  

Altum has been a very big advertiser – in Noosa terms a “whale” client – in the local media. 

As Ms McCready has moved around with often brief roles in various local groups, charities and committees, it’s been impossible to miss the coverage of each media release in full, each announcement of fundraising achievements, each photo of the aspiring politician.  Such is the torrent and familiarity of coverage, she’s now simply referred to as “Leigh”, a single moniker like Madonna and Beyonce.  And – to the bemusement of some long-term Noosa volunteers – she has taken to describing herself as a “community leader”.

The political baggage begins to get heavy

Those in the thick of local politics will remember that Leigh McCready was one of the central players in the darkest episode of the 2020 local election campaign.

She was a campaign manager for the Future Noosa Team which claimed repeatedly it had no connections with property developers.  Some 20 local residents who simply shared a Facebook post stating this was not correct were sent threatening legal letters. This was intimidation designed to stop anyone talking about it.  The local media was cowed too.  

Ms McCready and her team claimed at the time she was simply the wife of a property developer, but the Independent Council Election Observer (ICEO) found the team’s claims were false and misleading and that McCready was in fact a property developer because of her 25% share in Altum AND because she was the spouse of a developer.  

The discredited Future Noosa team limped through the campaign, with Karen Finzel the only member elected.

Ms McCready appears to have done a little housekeeping in the run up to the next election, divesting her share in the company to her husband.  Queensland electoral law, though, still sees her as a property developer but this will not prevent her from running.

With new campaign spending limits in force, there will be many local eyes on spending as we head towards the Noosa Election in March, including spending by ‘associated entities’ and wealthy local lobbyists masquerading as ‘community’ groups.  There will also be very keen interest in the coverage by local media of self promotion by LNP candidates (and their regular boosters) versus the exposure given to others.

The stench lingers from the Peregian Beach ‘Pokie Palace’ debacle

When it comes to political baggage, it doesn’t get much heavier than the battle by vested interests for a $16-million ‘surf club’ – dubbed the ‘Pokie Palace’- on the fragile Coastal Protection Zone at Peregian Beach (the skate park site).

The addition of a third giant, taxpayer-funded, beachfront ‘club’ in Noosa is seen as a potential gold mine by some in Surf Lifesaving Queensland with a firm focus on gambling-funded development.

Ms McCready has spearheaded the development push – on behalf of Noosa Heads Surf club – for the past six years, despite continual pushback from the State Environment & Science Department, Noosa Council and much of the local Peregian Beach community which is truly dismayed at the thought of what this would do to their already congested village, let alone the beachfront dunes.

In January this year, she told the Sunshine Coast News her campaign was still very much alive, run on the ground by her Peregian Springs based lobby group Peregian Family and Friends.

Peregian Family and Friends founder and president Leigh McCready, who was behind the drive to revive the club, said a more effective and suitable base was required.

“I think we not only need to knock it down but move it to where you can easily access the beach in an emergency,” she said.

The clubhouse is about 130m from the ocean and giant pine trees obscure the view.

Ms McCready said club members at the venue should “have passive surveillance from the deck for off-duty vigilance”.

She also said members and guests should be able “to enjoy ocean views, which will make the club financially sustainable as it relies on income from upstairs”.

“It would require the State Government changing the lease area we are allowed to operate the club from, so this is a long-term project.”

Sunshine Coast News. January 2023.

With elections approaching, Ms McCready and the local Surf club development cohort have lately gone quiet on their plans for Peregian Beach.  But as they freely admit, they’re playing the long game.

Meanwhile, locals are now accustomed to hearing the line that boozy patrons (and gamblers) of a giant ‘club’ on the fragile, frontal dune will somehow enhance lifesaving by “passive surveillance” of the beach.  In the words of one long-time local resident “you couldn’t make this shit up”.

The Noosa Council paradox

In this beautiful tourist mecca in Australia’s most conservative state, the paradox of Council voting patterns – until recently at least – has been that even LNP voters have seen the virtues of an independent Council.  A local chamber populated by citizens with a strong history of community service trying to give something back.  Not those who are looking ‘for a job’ or for a pathway to ambitious political goals further afield.

The machinations of Big Party politics, Big Business influence and naked political ambition are not something we’ve seen a lot of in Pelican Street.  That is now changing.

Leigh McCready and fellow LNP contender Alecia Staines are setting their sights on joining the other ‘Business First’ Councillors Amelia Lorentson and Karen Finzel.  If all four get across the line in March, the Council will be theirs.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    We must keep party politics out of Noosa Council. Yes, a bit late since Claire the mayor is an active LNP member that defeated Tony Wellington last time around. Let’s stop the rot. Claire is leaving to contest in state politics. There are two candidates for council that are both active LNP members. This has no place in local government. My political leanings are to the right; they have no place in local government.

  2. Avatar

    WoW ! Thé more I read about Noosa the more quick smart Irealise we need to be to stop what happened in Northern Beaches Sydney where Tony Abbott..Bronwyn……all have wrecked that village feel by building a massive failed Private/public hospital requiring enormous motorways to transport workers and sick away from another new hospital just a few km.away .LNP are not conservatives by any measure. 😫🤯🙀

  3. Avatar

    Once a LNP voter but never again. How many Peregian Family and Friends actually live in the Noosa LGA or in Peregian Beach itself? Do any of the members of this group work on foreshore bushcare, pick up micro-plastics/rubbish on the beach, or help protect and rehabilitate foreshore wildlife? If people want to have a meal and alcohol overlooking the beach, and gamble there is the Coolum Surf Club just 6km south of Peregian Beach. I’m getting annoyed how the Peregian is being used to encompass Peregian Beach, Springs and Breeze, these are different precincts. Channel 10 did it the other day when purportedly reporting on a so-called newsworthy item referring to Lumeah in Peregian, not Peregian Springs. This was nothing more than advertising and so I wonder if this was in breach of their regularity requirements?

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