Mayor’s blast at national park planning body, saying… ’It’s out of control’

What all the fuss is ultimately about - Cooloola National Park, from the Rainbow Beach end. 403246_01

Arthur Gorrie

Gympie region mayor Glen Hartwig has blasted a mesh of hidden agendas and personal ambitions which he says threatens the integrity of management strategies for the Cooloola national park.

He also joined a conga-line of Gympie representatives who have been offended over many years by the dominance of Noosa interests on the body which helps develop those strategies, the Teewah Cooloola Working Group.

Cr Hartwig said proper standards of governance for the group were more difficult to achieve because of a lack of respect for the concerns of Gympie region people.

He said it was legitimate for Gympie interests to question Noosa proposals to reduce vehicle access to the park from its southern side, because this would boost amenity and property values for Noosa-leaning landowners and lessees, while also impacting negatively on Rainbow Beach tourism numbers.

The mayor’s comments followed the leaking of confidential emails, between Cr Hartwig and Noosa mayor Frank Wilkie.

In the emails, copies of which have been leaked to some media organisations, Cr Hartwig blasted his Noosa counterpart over what he saw as another snub to Gympie – the decision to invite Gympie region councillor Jess Milne to a working group meeting, without asking or even informing her own council.

Cr Hartwig said the leaking of the emails, though not a tragedy in itself, showed poor governance at the working group level.

“Given this email has been leaked, there is no guarantee of an appropriate governance level (to prevent other more significant leaks) and we can’t be sure there aren’t people out there who could use (leaked information) for personal gain,“ he said.

“If an observer were to buy a property because they heard from this group that numbers (of tourists) may be limited, boosting amenity and therefore property values, it would undermine the integrity of decisions,“ the Gympie mayor said.

Cr Hartwig said he was told when he first attended a group meeting that attendance had to be managed because of discussion of confidential matters and possible conflicts of interest.

Cr Hartwig said history showed the need for proper processes to protect the community.

He also blasted an apparent Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service agenda to cut public camping and access, including cuts in camper numbers around Teewah, Double Island Point and Inskip Point.

“We see it at Inskip Point, with camping grounds closed down because of gastro problems, but when the gastro had gone, they didn’t reinstate the camping numbers,“ he said.

This also was in line with consistent Noosa pressures to restrict visitor numbers and the public’s right to enjoy the national park, and was a threat to the Rainbow Beach economy.

The matter also coincides with the release of draft state government planning strategies for the Cooloola and K’gari national parks.

The draft documents discuss visitor numbers and possible restrictions on access, noting that planning is influenced by the fact South East Queensland faces a short term future in which its population is expected to grow by a million people.