The struggles behind the scenery

Lake Weyba. Photo by Tony Wellington.

By KEITH JACKSON

PRESENT day Noosa (its name probably deriving from the Malay word for island) has always been a place of incredible, God-given beauty.
And while the footsteps of history have not kept nature pristine, down the years Noosa has retained an unusually exquisite quality.
At the same time, it has also acquired a reputation as a most desirable destination for settlers and visitors.
Noosa, one of the most recognised place-names in Australia with a brand value of a billion dollars, is an elegant town, blending commercial acuity with natural splendour.
But, given that nature can so readily succumb to commerce, such an impeccable fusion, did not happen by accident.
Which is where Councillor Tony Wellington’s just published book, Noosa & Cooloola, comes in.
The large format hardcover is an unusual work in that it juxtaposes stunning colour images of Noosa with the gritty story of the struggles, compromises, setbacks and triumphs that created the place we know today.
Noosa & Cooloola is essentially the story of the Noosa Parks Association (NPA), but it is also the story of modern-day Noosa.
Cr Wellington relates the history in a series of thematic episodes, many based around locales such as the north shore, the river and lakes, the national parks and, of course, Hastings Street.
NPA was established in 1962 and since then it has not just been along for the ride – its hand has been on or near the tiller for all those 52 years.
It evolved as a veritable conscience – and a sometimes fierce one – which, from its earliest days, understood the realities and intricacies of Noosa and the need to maintain a balance between the natural and the material.
NPA’s founder, the late Dr Arthur Harrold, knew that to achieve this balance NPA needed to be “first and foremost, an activist organisation and not a social club”. Some of its members still remain embarrassed about this description.
Tony Wellington reveals that, in the early days, “many, perhaps most, local residents reviled [Harrold]; his vision ran very much against the popular grain.”
And a flick through recent letters to local newspapers shows that, despite the demonstrable achievements of Dr Harrold and his successors, a residual vexatiousness towards NPA lingers.
But, as events have demonstrated – especially the heroic rescue mission to save Noosa and its values from the impact of a union that would have weakened both – these dissident voices, despite their shrillness, are at the margin.
Noosa & Cooloola connects readers with the great beauty and environmental fragility of Noosa and the vigilance required to protect it from ignorance, small-mindedness and greed.
Noosa did not get where it is by accident; it got there because many people decided they could live a good life in an idyllic environment, and, in this shared vision, found the leadership to get there.
But that was not enough. They also had to harness the audacity and skill to fight effectively to maintain the vision.
Tony Wellington has documented this and much more in lucid, readable prose which is accompanied by an abundance of splendid photography, most of it his own.
This is a book for both coffee table and brain; the absorbing story of the place you chose to live; and a great book for all seasons.
Tony Wellington, Noosa & Cooloola: Celebrating 50 years of Noosa Parks Association, Beaut Books, $44.95, hardback, 144 pages, 275 colour illustrations. Available from local bookshops or by post from Noosa Parks Association – www.noosaparks.org.au

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