Why Noosa needs to call the shots
WHEN I came to report in Noosa 19 years ago I was of the fairly populist view that this was a glorified playground for rich, Victorian tourists or an enclave of re-located, entitled southerners.
What I was profoundly struck by, when I lobbed from my lower south-east Queensland stamping grounds, was that this Noosa Council was like none of the dozen or so I had reported on in the past.
And that, in a nutshell, is why Noosa desperately needs to be calling its own shots again – before it is brought to heel and homogenised by large-scale council indifference.
And it is certainly why former Caloundra and Maroochy residents should not be polled to see if Noosa can be de-amalgamated – far too many I fear misconstrue Noosa’s carefully thought out points of difference as being “up itself” and would vote to spite Noosa’s bold ambition to do things its way again.
Back in 1992, as a Noosa “newbe”, rather than an elitist push in charge, I found the elected reps of Noosa a decidedly different breed of cattle than the ones I used to herd with as a council reporter, including the much-hyped Paul Pisasale of Ipswich.
I was delighted to have calls to almost all of the Noosa Crs answered fairly promptly, but stunned to be told by them, if I needed more detail, to call the department head handling whatever ratepayer concern I was putting to them.
Failing that I could often talk direct to the council CEO, Bruce Davidson, who rather than give you a lot of PR prattle, gave you a concise appraisal of the council’s position.
This was revolutionary stuff – and one much feared by the other council admins I had worked with who spent large chunks of ratepayer money erecting walls of PR people between us and them – the councillors and the pesky Press.
Noosa not only gave access, but I quickly discovered they had a plan for the future, a pretty good one.
Sure Hastings St and surrounds was still clogging up at Christmas, but they were working on an advanced road network, free buses and something called a business centre whose development contributions would help pay for vital infrastructure – all which have come to pass and proved pretty effective.
Now when I want to go somewhere in Noosa’s coastal area I usually have four choices of route and minimal traffic.
And Noosa had forward thinking planners like Raul Weychardt and Paul Summers, who were keen to help the council, led by Noel Playford, achieve its limited development vision, which was called the “population cap”.
And never had I ever run into so many people intent on achieving green outcomes – in Noosa even the conservatives indulged in a bit of tree-hugging because they knew how important open space, wildlife corridors, green belts, national parks and high-rise bans were for distancing this part of the world from a rampant Gold Coast-style development.
Council in Noosa loved to micro-manage to prevent the visual pollution of signs including election propaganda and billboards, the blight of traffic lights favoured by unimaginative councils and all the over-the-top big city symbols.
McDonalds was almost driven mad by council’s refusal to allow the normal size golden arches over its fast-food heaven in Noosaville.
Noosa Council was never afraid to stand up to big developers and drew a line in the sand on Noosa North Shore and at the Marcus Dune.
Whatever the legal costs – and the talk of Noosa being bankrupted by its legal battle was wide of the mark – it was a price well worth paying.
Just as the cost of de-amalgamation will be.
The fact is, Noosa was a financially viable, cutting-edge council – why shouldn’t it be again?
Why not call Noosa’s two remaining councillors – Crs Russell Green and Lew Brennan and ask them for an answer?
They still care about making Noosa great, but are much more time-poor, what with helping manage a massive region that sees them spending far too much time travelling about in cars.
They still call me back as soon as they can get some breathing space.
But they have so much on their plate.
Even they, in their reflective moments, must think back to their days in Noosa when things were far different, and a scaled-back future quite a deal clearer.