Departing bus leaves post-Covid lessons for Noosa

A town planning scheme cannot predict the future. 

And by the time the 10-year-spanning document is written, let alone endorsed, elements of it can often already be out of date. 

The Noosa Plan is a statement outlining uses of land in the shire, and it’s the best thing we have in terms of providing predictability and security of domestic and commercial tenure.

Always a giant body of work, taking upwards of four years to complete, it focuses on capturing changes in circumstances of living, with huge input from the community, to reflect that community’s views and sentiments. It’s a ‘living’ document, to which amendments can be made.

When the 2020 plan became law, endorsed by most of the current Noosa Councillors, something then known as a ‘coronavirus’ was still only just beginning to throw all our lives into disarray. 

But there is no detailed mention of what we now call Covid-19 in the Noosa Plan. How could there be? 

Meanwhile, the ‘big boys’ in development tend to know their way round these town plans in order to get desired results, although often pushing the envelope to some degree – usually with deep pockets to cover application changes as part of the ‘cost of doing business’.

Three are currently in play, for example: RACV Resort’s short-term accommodation DA, Noosa Springs Resort’s five-star hotel DA, and Gemlife’s gated community resort DA on/adjacent to the Cooroy golf course, all refused as they stood in their original iterations, but bringing changes back to council on a regular basis and delaying any final outcome.

The small players often don’t even know how to begin dealing with council, and bureaucratic-language advice is not always easily understood, leading at times to a blame game on incorrect process and advice.

Often they aren’t even aware they can apply to council for a pre-lodgement meeting ($252 flat rate) with planners to get sound, clear advice on what’s allowed, what’s not, and ‘grey areas’ before applying formally.

Cooroy ‘small player’ and business success story Bus Stop Espresso saw much of more than two years of investment based on advice go up in smoke recently when council voted 6-1 against it continuing to sell coffee and (non-dining, pre-cooked) snacks at its Ordinary Meeting, despite an attempt by Cr Tom Wegener to extend its parole to 24 months from the present three. 

Councillors correctly defended the integrity of the Noosa Plan in refusing a food and drink permit to the much-loved business, their decision also based on a neighbour’s complaint which included some valid points about rural amenity, but also concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety.

Amazingly, inside three minutes, an amendment then put by Cr Joe Jurisevic to conduct a speed limit review where the business is located on Mary River Rd (along with a rural fire depot and council’s own Cooroy waste station) from 80km/h to 60km/h, was endorsed unanimously, which would render access and egress from the Bus Stop (and the waste station) much safer, and all but demolish the primary stated concerns of at least two Councillors who voted against the application. One can only wonder what other issues could have been overcome with such speedy cooperative resolution.

(When a speed limit review is completed, it is submitted to the local Speed Management committee which includes representatives from the Queensland Police Service, Council and the TMR. The committee then makes a recommendation  which takes an average of six to eight months to complete.)

Cr Amelia Lorentson also amended the final resolution to ensure council would help to find the business an alternative location, given its huge support from the community. A noble gesture, but as one knowledgeable observer noted, for council to put the business through competitive tender to then operate in a location of council’s choice, is missing the point.

What happened to make Bus Stop Espresso so unique was created in the height of Covid impacts when the business opened in early 2021.

Residents were restricted in social mobility by regulation and fear, but the Bus Stop provided a safe haven for people to enjoy fresh air and sociability in a safe way – something which turned out to be literally a lifeline.

While Covid has receded – for now, anyway – so many people across the world have since changed their lifestyle, and the seeds of Bus Stop Espresso’s success can be found in its tapping into that lifestyle change.

Customers have used mainly social media to describe a ‘paradise’ of being able to enjoy a coffee in a safe environment set in nature, which encourages social interaction – something the council itself recognised by utilising the venue for a post-Covid wellbeing exercise, where upwards of 100 residents gathered every Saturday for four-to-six weeks.

The business grew organically from the ground up. Whether a ‘top-down’ edict as to the future location of this unique experiment can replicate the magic is a matter of conjecture, with many supporters not confident it can.

It now has three months to cease the sale of coffee and snacks, but interestingly, Council wants it to nevertheless record its findings on why it has been so successful and what can be learned as to the “need” for such places outside urban areas.

But the Bus may be at its terminus by the time such rural community hubs – modelled on Bus Stop Espresso as suggested in the same council meeting – might become a reality.

Disclosure: the author has been one of the many regular customers at Bus Stop Espresso since it opened.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    This forced closure is bureaucracy at its worst. The council community service Sip n Social seniors group even promoted this venue to their membership. We need to go back to when the Noosa Council had wards so that, in stead of an homogeneous group of councillors, we have a councillor with a special interest in their ward (a red) within the shire.

  2. Avatar

    ‘A neighbour’s complaint’ ??According to Cr. Frank Wilke Council had a petition with 148 signatures about the issue. Notwithstanding, 148 or one, people buy into zonings believing planning provision gives them some protection. To have Council ignore that (as they have done with the STA issue) would add to the mockery that a town plan means anything at all. The Busstop Cafe is a nice idea that many people support, but so is STA in our residential suburbs, and we have seen where a laissez-faire Council has landed residents in that scenario. Approve this one and how many more will pop up?

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