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On Common Ground

By Mark Beale

Not one hand was raised when former Member for Dawson De-Anne Kelly asked a room of more than 60 people how many wanted to see 12 storeys on the Port of Airlie site.

Ms Kelly was chair of the meeting, organised by Shute Haven resident John Hill and held at the PCYC on Monday night, in an effort to find some community consensus on Whitsunday Regional Council’s draft town plan.

With attendees able to vote and comment on options for five clearly defined areas, the conversation on what has been a divisive issue was certainly robust.

Some people said they were thankful the meeting had been organised while others questioned what influence on an outcome it would actually have.

With mayor Jennifer Whitney and five of the six councillors in attendance, what the meeting did was allow the majority of Council to hear directly from the community ahead of having to vote on whether to adopt the plan.

It also gave Cr Whitney the chance to talk in public about what she described as “misinformation”, particularly relating to Chinatown and it gave members of the community the chance to air grievances and ask some poignant questions.

The way in which the community has been consulted and engaged was again a sore point, with local resident Eric Oliver producing a flyer, letterbox-dropped to residents of another Local Government area, containing a questionnaire about a community issue.

He and others asked why Whitsunday Regional Council couldn’t have done the same, saying there were many out of town investors who weren’t going to spend hours trawling through Council’s website and that it wouldn’t have hurt to send out material with the last rates notice.

“I do take on board we haven’t met everyone’s expectations,” Cr Whitney conceded.

While there was some confusion over the difference of storeys versus metres in overall height, ultimately, the message given to Council by those in attendance was their concern that the town would lose its village atmosphere and key viewing corridors to Pioneer Bay.

Cr Whitney and her councillors said they were listening and promised the outcome of Wednesday’s motion on adopting the plan wasn’t pre-determined.

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