What the Mayor Cr Tony Wellington Said….

REPORT: Cooroy Chamber of Commerce Dinner With the Mayor

Cooroy RSL  Tuesday,  23 August

Transcript of Mayor Cr Tony Wellington ’s talk – Thanks to CARA

Mayor Cr Tony Wellington“The focus of my talk tonight is on the hinterland and Cooroy in particular.

I was chatting with Catherine Money from the Cooroy Butter Factory a couple of weeks ago, and she was telling me how well the Gallery venue was going, and also how well the community control model was working.

Catherine said she had noticed a marked increase in visitors to the Butter Factory since the sealing of Dr Pages Rd and the promotion of the Tourism Noosa Country Drive.

Just the day before this conversation between Catherine and myself, Council had officially opened the new sealed section of the hinterland loop road – Dr Pages Rd and part of Kinmond Creek Rd. Staff told me that vehicle traffic along the road had increased immediately it was finished by more than 100 cars per day.

I am informed that properties are selling faster in Kin Kin than they were before the roadworks, and also that land prices in Kin Kin have increased.

It’s a salient reminder of how a relatively small – though not in this case inexpensive – action by Council can have significant implications for residents and businesses.

dr pages roadSo let’s now focus on Cooroy. In some ways it seems that Cooroy is becoming what the Americans refer to as a “boom town”? A friend who had been working in shops in Hastings Street for a few years recently began work as a shop assistant here in Cooroy. She said the foot traffic through the Cooroy shop is busier, on average, than was the case in the Hastings Street establishments she had worked in. Her term for Cooroy was that it’s “buzzing”.

In the last state property valuations carried out by the Valuer General, Cooroy properties went up by much more than any other locale in the Shire – by 16% in fact. But although Cooroy went up much more than say, Pomona at 7% or Tinbeerwah at 5%, almost every ratepayer was below the general rates threshold and thus only copped the across the board 1.9% rate rise (equivalent to the LGAQ Cost Index and the second lowest rate rise in SEQ).

And while we’re making comparisons between Cooroy and Hastings St, there’s a topic that I would like to tackle head-on. There has long been this artificial divide between the Noosa hinterland and what I call the “flatlanders” i.e. the coastal dwellers. I say “artificial” because it is inevitably based on the erroneous assumption that Council is only interested in the coastal areas and tourists, and is thus disinterested in the rural hinterland.

Often the words “Hastings Street” are spoken – or written on the letters page – with some degree of bitterness.

So let’s do a reality check.

For a start, Hastings Street gets the attention it does because the businesses actually pay for it. That is, there are numerous levies over and above the normal rates payments. Thus Hastings Street property owners pay directly for the beach sand replenishment, for the fairy lights, for the extra street cleaning etc through those levies. Council imposes these levies so that other ratepayers don’t have to foot the bill.

The other point worth making about Hastings St is that the rates Council receives from this small precinct actually subsidise the rest of the Shire. Hastings St property values are very high, and so that itsy bitsy street actually raises 3.6% off all rates revenue in Noosa Shire.

Now let’s go to the comparison of rural versus urban localities. I have regularly heard people in rural areas complain that they don’t get enough attention or services from Council. The truth is that it costs a lot more for Council to service rural and semi-rural areas than it does to service urban areas.

The hinterland accounts for 65% of the total road network across the Shire, but it has just 27% of the Shire’s properties, including in the towns.

In terms of overall spend, if I simply add together some of the costs of facilities in the hinterland, like the Cooroy Butter Factory and Library, the parks and road maintenance etc, then the spend up here is well over $15 million (and that’s only selecting some costs), whereas rates revenue from the entire hinterland is under $10 million.

Cooroy is a fantastic town. It is also well served with Council owned community land and facilities. There is the:

  • world class library,
  • aforementioned Butter Factory,
  • Badminton building,
  • Community garden,
  • Various sports fields and associated buildings,
  • Pony club,
  • Woodies two buildings,
  • Camphor Laurel Group building,
  • Boiler House on the Lower Mill site,
  • Green space in front of the library,
  • Block in Emerald St where the Genies are building a new home, and
  • Apex park and facilities.

industrial land in Johnsons Court being used by the Woodies and Camphor Laurel group

and the Car Club land which is now partially used as an RV stopover.

If it came down to Council facilities on a per capita basis, Cooroy would win hands down.

By the way, use of the RV stopover is increasing. Between 22 July and 22 August it was used for a total of 219 nights and 451 persons.

So enough exploding myths, what does Council have in store for Cooroy?

We are experiencing a few staff changes in our infrastructure design department at present.

But in the fourth quarter of this financial year, sometime around April, we should be looking at traffic and pedestrian movement in Cooroy, focussing on angled parking (how to make it work better and more safely) and pedestrian crossings. The Chamber and the community will get a chance to have their say on these matters.

When we have finished our current master planning of the Gympie Terrace foreshore, property staff will move to consider Council’s land holdings in Cooroy and what their future might be. This includes industrial land as well as Lot 5, plus our land holding at the end of Jarrah St and Carpenters Rd.

The new planning scheme
As many of you would know, we are currently developing a new planning scheme for the Shire. The first stage of the community consultation process seeks input regarding the big picture. What do you love about your shire or your town? Where would you like to see your locality in ten year’s time? Should Cooroy continue to develop as a creative arts centre?

What do you envisage for the south side of town? The old Energex site on Diamond Street is up for sale. What would happen if there was more retail and commercial development on that side of town?

Believe me, Cooroy is constantly in our minds, and I look forward to your input into the development of the new planning scheme. I repeat that this first stage is about big picture ideas. The whole process will take around 3 years to complete and you will have an opportunity to drill down to the individual property level at the later consultation process.

On-going issues in and around Cooroy
Let’s begin with the dreadful Elm Street and Myall Street intersection. Council’s traffic consultants have noted that it is way over capacity and arguably the worst intersection in the Shire. But of course Council doesn’t own or control those roads. They are State controlled. But we are putting the thumb screws on DTMR and the State.

Council staff have drawn up rough design plans to show that a roundabout is feasible. Those have been provided to DTMR. I have held discussions with both Peter Wellington and senior DTMR bureaucrats reinforcing our desire to see the intersection improved. Just yesterday, Peter Wellington requested some more information from me ahead of a meeting he is having in Brisbane next week.

I believe the intersection is on DTMR’s works register. That is a huge step forward. But it remains to be seen when it is fully funded.

Council staff have also provided designs to DTMR to improve the Diamond Street and Elm Street intersection.

As you may know, the current round of Council meetings approved a new boutique supermarket to go into the old Wimmers’ factory site between Garnet St and the lane. That should be another good boost for the town.

Memorial Hall update
cooroy memorial hallI am going to finish by tackling the Cooroy Memorial Hall issue. I am acutely aware that the closure of the Memorial Hall has become a matter of significant angst in the local community. I am also aware that this is having a deleterious impact on the cohesiveness of the community. We would all like to see the issue resolved.

The Hall is currently under the trusteeship of the RSL. However this is not a simple matter.

Part of the problem is the land tenure. Most of the Hall and half of the RSL building are on State owned land under a DOGIT (Deed of Grant in Trust) for “Recreational and Memorial Hall Purposes”. The other small part of the Hall and the remaining half of the RSL building are on Council freehold land which Council currently leases to the RSL

The DOGIT land is administered by the State Government through DNRM – Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

If the RSL wish to relinquish their trusteeship of the DOGIT, then there has to be a change in the tenure of that land to accommodate the building encroachments.

There are various possible computations regarding the land – some involving removing the DOGIT, some swapping bits of the DOGIT, and some further subdividing the DOGIT.

Council has been in negotiations with DNRM about a land swap to solve the building encroachments. These have dragged on in part because the bureaucrat in charge at their Nambour Office has been away on long-term sick leave. However Council officers met with the Regional Manager yesterday and some progress was made.

In the meantime, the RSL remains trustee. And while they have closed the Hall for safety reasons they are not entirely certain what they wish to do with the Hall. Their options include upgrading the Hall themselves and using it for functions, leasing to a community group, or relinquishing the trusteeship.

I appreciate that many people see Council as the potential saviour here, riding in on our white horse and simply taking over the Hall. But the land issue needs to be resolved. We are not about to spend ratepayer money on a building that is not on land under our control.

But is that the best solution anyway, having the Council take it over? Ideally, the Hall would be managed by the RSL or the community, just as we have seen the community successfully run the Butter Factory– just as other Halls and Community Centres are run by community organisations.

Council also needs to consider if we were to repair the Hall so it was safe and able to be rented, how would we pay for that? And how would we pay for the ongoing maintenance etcetera?

Maybe the people of Cooroy would be happy to have a small rate increase to pay for the Hall, but would the people of Peregian or Tewantin be happy with it? Should there be a special levy on Cooroy folk? Or is there another way to fund it?

The thing is, every time Council builds or takes on a new asset, it has to be maintained and depreciated.

Now it may be that Council will help out with the Cooroy Memorial Hall, if the land issues can be resolved and if there are residents willing to run it. That may well be the final outcome. But we need to consider carefully how this might work.

There are no simple answers to these questions. Council recognises that the Hall has both historical and sentimental value to locals. We also recognise it is a much-loved asset. But as I said, the RSL’s position is not entirely clear, just as Council’s position is a work in progress.

Meanwhile, Council staff will continue to try and broker a solution with DNRM, the RSL and the community and a meeting is being held in early September with a wide range of representatives – including State representatives – to try and find a way forward.”