Who is driving the Boating Fishing ‘grey-shirts’ trying to ambush the Noosa Council election?

As Noosa’s voters navigate the gauntlet of leaflet-waving foot soldiers at polling centres, it’s likely that one of the how-to-vote cards shoved in their face will be held by someone in a grey shirt from the Noosa Boating Fishing Alliance.

It’s a small but very vocal, right-wing political lobby group with strong LNP connections and – at significant expense – it’s promoting one of the central fabrications of this campaign…that candidates they don’t like are trying to “lock up” the river and close it to motorboats and fishing.

This fabrication – that by giving Noosa Council a say in the management of its own river via a Conservation Park  will somehow threaten boaties’ rights – is the central falsehood of the campaign.  

Deputy Mayor and Mayoral contender Frank Wilkie and Councillors including Brian Stockwell have been busy trying to correct the fabrications.  

But truth is just a speedbump to be negotiated for this lobby group. By their own proud admission, they’ve been plotting to install their anointed candidates for at least two years.  In other words, long before Council planning staff had even raised the idea of a Conservation Park.

“Us guys have been working for two years on this, to give you the best chance to get rid of some people on the Council and to put in a Council for the future.”

‘Chicko’ Vella. NBFA.

The Conservation Park idea. A political wedge is carved out of thin air

The timeline of this intervention in Noosa politics is interesting and it hinges around a few key events.

September 21. 2023.   Council staff, frustrated by a lack of action on river protection issues, recommended Council consider – and consult widely on – the idea of a Conservation Park to give the Council some say in river management, long neglected by Queensland government agencies.  The ‘right’ bloc in Council, Mayor Stewart and Councillors Lorentson and Finzel convinced independent Joe Jurisevic to support their seemingly innocuous call for a one-month delay in the debate. What could possibly happen in a few weeks? Well, a lot as it turned out.

September 21 – October 23.  A ‘flash’ political campaign is quickly mounted.

It was during this one-month hiatus that the plot thickened. The delay allowed time for several things to happen.  All of them connected, and orchestrated.

  • An invitation-only “river” strategy meeting was organised by a well-known local LNP figure. Nick Hluszko was one of those present.
  • A larger public meeting followed.
  • Two petitions were rapidly organised against the draft River plan. One – with 207 signatures – was presented by Mayor Stewart.  Another – with 2,400 signatures – was presented by her ally Cr. Lorentson.  Both petitions were based on the falsehood that the Conservation Park plan would threaten boaties’ rights.
  • An email campaign was launched to bombard the ‘environment-first’ Councillors.
  • A noisy NBFA group was organised to attend the next Council meeting.
  • Several Councillors formed a political plan to ensure the Conservation Park idea would be defeated before it even made it to the consultation phase.

October 23. The political ambush takes place in Noosa Council

This was the day the Boating Fishing Alliance joined with some local LNP figures to celebrate victory.  The three women Councillors voted first to remove the pro-environment Cr Stockwell from the Ordinary Meeting of Council on the flimsiest and most questionable of pretexts, and then – with the Mayor’s casting vote – dumped any progress on river management, including any form of consultation, until the next Council was elected.  They didn’t just kick the can down the road. They tried to squash it.

NBFA’s Andrew McCarthy with (L) Alecia Staines, and (R) Karen Finzel & Amelia Lorentson

The small but well-connected political lobby group then moved into top gear.

As pre-poll centres opened last week, it was clear the NBFA ‘grey-shirts’ would be a loud and insistent presence.  

Who knows how many of them actually believe their own fabrication that sinister pro-environment forces are trying to ban motor boats on the river…but enough to muster a small band of conspiratorial foot soldiers at the booths.

Perhaps they were buoyed by the idea of this well known quote from the Jerry Seinfeld show.

“Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

George Costanza

It’s difficult to miss the list of NBFA sponsors, starting with Tackle World Noosa – for decades the business base for former Noosa LNP state member Bruce “Davo” Davidson, still one of the key players in local right-wing politics and a mentor for LNP Mayor Clare Stewart. When you blend fishing with politics, Davo’s your man.

Mayoral candidate Nick Hluszko with NBFA’s ‘Chicko’ Vella & Andrew McCarthy

Voters who accept one of the how-to-vote cards from the ‘grey-shirts’ will see Nick Hluszko as their number one choice for mayor. The same Hluszko who had been at the centre of planning as the conspiracy was hatched between those two Council meetings six months ago.

Hluszko isn’t the only candidate peddling the fabrication that giving Noosa Council a say in river management is part of a plot to lock motor boats out of the river.  Others are also keen to keep on the right side of the small, angry mob.   But going by the how-to-vote cards, he appears to be the principal beneficiary of the conspiracy he helped to hatch.

In the local council numbers game, the mob has been aided and abetted by Councillors like Amelia Lorentson and Karen Finzel.  All will be heavily beholden to this noisy little lobby group.

Increasingly, Noosa is carving a reputation for the toxicity of its local politics as vested interests seek to assert control over our Council and some candidates seek election, or re-election, at any cost.

This campaign will be over in a week, but the stink of it will last much longer.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    A truly water-tight expose. If only noosamatters’ articles could be syndicated! Delaying tactics seem to be fundamental to councillors’ armoury – just like needless assessments!

  2. Avatar

    I’d have to disagree with ‘consulted on widely’ there was a lot of long term, multi generational people at the council chambers who have a long history with the river who knew nothing about the conservation plan or what was in it. Consultation to me would be consulting everyone who operates on the river or associated with it instead of a few groups who sit on that side of the fence and trying to engage as many in the community (who they represent) as possible. I personally didn’t see any evidence of that!!

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