Noosa Dreaming, part 3: waking up to our residents’ priorities

Parts 1 and 2 looked at how a Noosa community endorsed plan for a sustainable quality of life is under threat. 

There are many unhappy residents in Noosa these days. More than there should be. The future they either worked for or moved here for is being eroded, but – to be fair – the report card is mixed.  

The good stuff;  significant resources are being applied to conserving the local environment by Noosa Council, the Noosa community and external bodies including the State. The amount of land under protected tenure has expanded dramatically in the last few decades, management has improved, and steps are being taken to pay more attention to the marine environment. That’s a big plus for Noosa’s future. 

The urban environment is more of a mixed bag.

  • It’s good that traffic lights have not increased from those in the vicinity of schools at Sunshine Beach and Cooroy; 
  • there was a crack-down on illegal signage some years ago but it’s obviously not one of Council’s priorities these days; 
  • it seems the Council is planning to allow extra storeys on selected land, potentially the thin edge of the wedge; 
  • the liveability of some residential neighbourhoods has been adversely affected by short term accommodation approvals.

What should alarm residents most of all is that there is no coherent narrative coming from Council about pursuing a resident-endorsed Noosa future to guide them in their decision making. In simple terms, where are we going, where are you taking us…and is it where we want to go?

Issues seem to be considered and decisions made on a piecemeal basis. While knee-jerk reactions to perceived and actual problems that arise have taken precedence, ongoing basic issues are ignored or have been abandoned.

Worse still, the Council is in denial. They have just endorsed a new Corporate Plan that includes gems like the following:

       Noosa Shire is striving to have an efficient, free flowing, innovative transport system ………..

The word that comes to mind is ‘delusional’. The previous Council endorsed a Transport Strategy and introduced a Transport Levy six years ago, promising innovative solutions to the problem of congestion in a 10 year plan.  A large proportion of the $5 million levy funds paid by all ratepayers has disappeared into a black hole and there is no innovation in sight. 

Here we are less than 12 months to the next council election, wondering how the last 3 years could have delivered so little of value. 

The Council lowlights have been; 

  • huge staff turnover (starting at the very top), 
  • a continual increase in Council staff numbers, 
  • a lack of attention to basic services despite massive increases in Council rate revenue and government grants, 
  • and a preoccupation with new policies, reports, plans, strategies, consultation and restructuring. Most of which will add no value for residents, or will sit on the shelf gathering dust along with the 6 year old Transport Strategy and the new Corporate Plan.

If an elected council has no agreed direction for the future that meets the expectations of the community, council staff work in a vacuum. A significant majority of staff do not and never have lived in Noosa Shire, and the massive increase in numbers of new staff in recent years would have no knowledge or experience of the Noosa values and direction that made Noosa such a magnet for new residents.

Nevertheless, a fundamental role of local government is to deliver basic services to its residents. And increasing numbers of residents are feeling abandoned.

A prime example is the annual kerbside pickup of large unwanted items that was a basic service for Noosa residents. It was abandoned by the Regional Council after amalgamation in 2008, and reinstated by the new Noosa Council after de-amalgamation in 2014. Then the current Council cancelled it – because of ‘Covid’. 

Why hasn’t it been reinstated? Covid is no longer a reason, and money can’t be the problem.

Unprecedented State and Federal funds have flowed to Council during Covid and after the floods, and the Council has increased total general rates by 26% from $52 million to $66 million over the last 2 years.   Let that sink in.  26% in two years.

Capital revenue received from State and Commonwealth Governments was $3 million in FY2019, $5 million in FY2020, then with Covid came an explosion of grants to $9 million in FY21 and $12.5 million in FY2022. And it’s kept coming this financial year as well.

Put the two revenue streams together, and that’s a bonanza Council has not been able to spend.

So why haven’t they spent a tiny proportion of the large budget surpluses on getting a contractor to reinstate such a cost effective and basic kerbside pickup service that was appreciated by so many residents? 

The flood of new policies, strategies and have-your-say invitations are no substitute for delivering on existing commitments, including timely repair of flood damage and other basic services.

It’s clear that the era of Council putting the interests of residents first is well and truly over. That era started in 1982 when a team of candidates stood under The Residents’ Team banner, promising to put residents first, and won half of the Councillor positions. 

Concerned residents will be wondering if a repeat of that people-power initiative is the only chance of reversing what many see as a current Council more interested in photo opportunities, self-serving media releases and political survival than in leading the community to a quality future.


This Post Has One Comment

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    Well said Noel. This current Council is a real concern to many Noosa longterm residents. Short Term Accommodation has led to increased traffic and lack of parking. Increased funding on local bus transport has not helped reduce private vehicle us.
    Increased staff numbers – most of whom don’t live in Noosa don’t value Noosa’s natural environment.
    Rate revenue increases with less basic services e.g. kerbeside pickup etc. is a real concern.
    We must all work towards changing Council’s leadership before its too late.

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