River plan back to stagnation – again

Endorsement of the Noosa River Catchment Management Plan has been deferred until July 2024, following a 3-3 Noosa Councillor vote, with Mayor Clare Stewart’s casting vote breaking the deadlock.

Concern from boating and fishing interests which use the river, about the idea of a ‘conservation park’ on part of the river, took hold in the community in the weeks prior to the previous round of council meetings.

Social media posts and petitions of 2400 and 200 signatories respectively, many containing misleading information, amplified the suggestion from little more than a thought bubble to somehow a full-blown attack on all fossil fuel-powered craft using the river.

The council report stated: “A petition was established to ‘Stop Noosa River turning into a Conservation Park’, which received 2,400 signatures. This petition included inaccuracies in its justification, including, ‘Council’s assertion that there’s been community consultation including the move to have the river and lakes declared a conservation park’. 

“The petition also inaccurately states that a conservation park would directly affect Noosa North Shore residents for infrastructure issues and all members of the community for general access and use of the river, and implied endorsement of the Plan meant immediate endorsement of a conservation park,” it continued.

A large crowd attended council’s Ordinary Meeting on Thursday evening to witness the debate and vote where, in what gave the impression of being an orchestrated, pre-planned strategy, Cr Brian Stockwell was removed from debating and voting on the item due to perceived conflicts of interest.

Cr Stockwell has a long history of involvement with community groups, organisations and not-for-profits associated with the river and has acted as a consultant at times in that capacity. In all previous meetings as with this one, he has declared such perceived conflicts where applicable, and his technical knowledge and expertise has invariably been enough to ensure his inclusion in the debates.

But not this time. 

Crs Stewart, Lorentson and Finzel voted against his remaining, creating a 3-3 vote deadlock, and the mayor used her casting vote to expel Cr Stockwell from the meeting.

Cr Amelia Lorentson then put a procedural motion asking that, due to community concern about the implications of the Conservation Park idea, a vote on the whole river plan be deferred until next year.

Various councillors argued that such action would: set back what has been a plan nearly 20 years in the making (Wilkie); that the ‘conservation park’ idea was one of many others constantly raised in the formation of plans which could in theory perpetuate an idea-community consultation merry-go-round, resulting in no plan ever being endorsed (Jurisevic). Questions were asked about the irresponsibility of deferring the decision for a new council to have to deal with (Wilkie); while the motion was described as “economic vandalism” (Wegener).

Once again, following extensive debate, Cr Lorentson’s motion sneaked through on the same 3-3 vote deadlock, Mayor Clare Stewarts’ casting vote winning the day.

In feedback to council, various groups and organisations registered their support for finalisation of the management plan, including the Boating Industry Association, Cootharaba Community Association, DES, Healthy Land and Water, Kabi Kabi Indigenous representatives, Mary River Catchment Care Committee, Noosa Landcare, NICA, NBRF, Noosa Parks Association and Noosa Residents and Ratepayers, while four out of eight former representatives on the Noosa River Stakeholders Advisory also gave their support (the other four against).

Noosa Boating and Fishing Alliance were strongly against the idea of a conservation park, while 95 private emails were received expressing concerns about the idea, and 60 emails received in support of both the plan and the idea of a conservation park.


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