Bolton delivers River Reform as the LNP grasps for a Noosa ‘issue’

How hard is it to wrestle a seat like Noosa away from a popular, hard-working Independent Member? Well, just ask the LNP as it manoeuvres clumsily towards full campaign mode for the October election.

The party faithful turned up this week at the Tewantin Noosa Golf Club in their “hundreds”, (Hmmm?) according to candidate Clare Stewart.  Once again this year Noosa will be effectively a two horse race.  Well, a three horse race if you include Henny Penny – but we’ll get back to that.

Clare Stewart (centre) at her campaign launch

Seared into the local LNP memory is 2020, when they plucked their candidate – an unknown accountant straight out of central casting, James Blevin, to take on Sandy Bolton.  That didn’t go well.  

Blevin looked like a decent bloke thrust into an unwinnable fight, fed LNP attack lines that clearly didn’t sit comfortably with him…such as the nonsense about the fiercely Independent Bolton being effectively a Labor stooge.  He went down in a ‘two-candidate preferred’ landslide 34 percent to Sandy Bolton’s 66 percent, managing to boost Bolton’s already massive lead by over 4 percent.

Which brings us back to the present.  One of the glaring problems for the LNP is that it’s learned the hard way that a gloves-off fight, dishing the dirt against the entrenched Independent member simply won’t wash.  This time they’ve declared there’ll be no personal attack on her. The problem is, for any of the big party machines in Australia, ‘playing nice’ is simply not in their DNA.  It’s like asking a crocodile to play by the rules.

Scare. Rinse. Repeat.

The length of the lease on Noosa Hospital is very disappointing. Ten years is not long enough to plan a future that includes expanded emergency care and parking solutions. I would investigate the efficacy of that lease and the relationship between Queensland Health and Ramsay Health Care, and see if it’s rooted in some kind of commercial logic.

James Blevin. LNP candidate, 2020.

Does this scare campaign from the LNP candidate four years ago sound familiar? It should.  The LNP is now recycling the same scare, suggesting the privately run Noosa hospital – in ongoing expansion negotiations – is somehow under threat because its current lease expires in six years. 

“With time running out on Noosa Hospital’s existing agreement with the state government, the future of our local hospital remains uncertain.

Our community deserves certainty that additional investment and ongoing access to local health services will be secured.”

From Clare Stewart’s LNP petition.

Those words come from Clare Stewart’s petition that screams out “Let’s Save Noosa Hospital”, a petition based on misinformation and hyperbole. And soon after the LNP promised not to personally attack Ms Bolton, try this for a backhander.

LNP Candidate for Noosa, Clare Stewart this week thanked Noosa MP Sandy Bolton for what she said was her honesty in admitting both she and the Miles Palaszczuk Government had failed to secure a long-term lease for Noosa’s Hospital.

LNP media release.

This was Sandy Bolton’s response.

“There is no threat of the Noosa Private Hospital closing, that it needs saving, or otherwise. As I have reported, it is the slowness of the emergency department expansion due to commercial in confidence negotiations between Ramsay and Queensland Health regarding the lease, including the length of, that has been the issue. There has never been a concern that an extension or new lease would not occur, and to indicate otherwise is misinforming our community.”

Sandy Bolton. Noosa MP.

Ms Bolton says this latest scare is part of a ‘data harvesting’ exercise by the LNP, and those who signed can expect their inbox to be bombarded with LNP election material.

Historic progress delivered for the Noosa River 

Meanwhile, this month’s giant leap forward in protecting the safety and environment of the Noosa River is great news…except perhaps if you’re a candidate trying to undermine the member for Noosa who was largely responsible for delivering this reform package.

Wading through this bureaucratic minefield has taken so long, much of Noosa had almost given up hope of an outcome that looks like genuine progress.  

Many have contributed…Marine Safety Queensland (MSQ), senior public servants, Noosa Council, and the stakeholder group known as NSRAC, and especially the relentless and detail-oriented, local MP Sandy Bolton.   So what’s happening?

Since September 2023,  we’ve seen 6 knot speed zones introduced in some busy parts of the river to police the hoons, and over the Summer this appears to have been pretty successful.

May 2024: At last a plan to remove the rotting hulks of our river.  Vessels identified as ‘non compliant’ will be issued notices.  Those that don’t comply or are unseaworthy or abandoned will be removed between now and August.

From July a ‘no anchoring’ area will apply;

  • 60 metres from the busy Southern shore of the river from Noosa Sound to the entrance of Lake Doonella.
  • Across Noosa Sound up to Woods Bay.
  • In the ‘dog beach’ area south of the river entrance.

That will not affect boaties dropping off or picking up passengers or accessing restaurants and other attractions.

October 2024: MSQ will create a ‘no anchoring’ area for all unoccupied vessels over 5-metres long.

March 2025: the final stage will see a 28-day anchoring time limit for Noosa waterways, with the owners of rotting houseboats given until June to move them.

“Our community has waited a long time to see the state take any significant action to address the list of congestion, safety and pollution issues facing Noosa River – one of the busiest in Queensland – so we look forward to seeing the government deliver on all of these commitments in the timeframe promised.”

Mayor Frank Wilkie

The State Government made the announcement, but the quiet achiever in all this was Noosa MP Sandy Bolton who’s been working through this tangled mess for six years.  There’s no doubt this breakthrough will be one of the defining victories of her four year term.  

The timing wasn’t so great for LNP candidate and former Mayor Clare Stewart.  Within minutes of the Friday morning announcement by Transport Minister Bart Mellish, Ms Stewart issued her own – already out-of-date – call for the government to release its river consultation findings…something they had just done.

And she released a picture of herself and the LNP’s Environment spokesman Sam O’Connor meeting with failed Mayoral contender Nick Hluszko and Andrew McCarthy from the LNP associated political lobby group Noosa Boating and Fishing Alliance which attempted to play a spoiler role in the recent Council election.

Mayoral candidate Nick Hluszko, Clare Stewart, NBFA’s Andrew McCarthy & LNP Environment spokesman Sam O’Connor

Scare. Petition. Rinse. Repeat.

Please tell us our October Noosa election won’t be a conspiracy-laden, dirty tricks repeat of the March Council election when LNP associated players peddled ‘The Big Lie’ that Environment focused Council candidates were trying to lock motorboats out of the river.

Two of those were Hluszko and McCarthy, who coincidentally made up the little group discussing the river with Noosa candidate Clare Stewart and the LNP’s Environment spokesman Sam O’Connor.

Already there’s speculation in local political circles that the foot soldiers of the Noosa Boating and Fishing Alliance may be called on again in the months ahead to stir up another conspiracy in another ‘off the books’ operation for the LNP.

There are plenty of challenges facing Noosa…protecting our environment and lifestyle against the threat of turbo-charged development thrust on us by the state, a widening gap between wealthy investment property owners and a local workforce and struggling families that can’t afford to pay our skyrocketing rents.  There’s plenty to feed a contest of ideas.

But no, our hospital is not threatened, no-one is trying to lock motorboats out of the river.  And no, Henny Penny, the sky is not falling.


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