Landing a Monster

An endless cycle of changes, deferrals and consultation results in a delay to Noosa river management.

“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard and putting off a hard one makes it impossible.”

George H Lorimer (legendary editor of The Saturday Evening Post)

A move for Noosa council to conduct full community consultation on a Conservation Park, as part of an endorsed Noosa River Plan, has been deferred until after the March 2024 election.

The debate followed false claims and fears a Conservation Park would be established without community consultation, and that Noosa council wanted to ban fishing and boating on the river.

The decision to remove one councillor due to a declarable conflict of interest was pivotal in the deferral, which required a casting vote from the Mayor, standard practice when deadlocks occur in the seven-member council.

The council report on community feedback gained after another deferral motion in September clarified that broad community consultation on a conservation park, to apply to the existing Fish Habitat Areas, was part of the Noosa River Plan.

It also stated boating and commercial and recreational fishing were permitted in a conservation park, and council had no plans to remove petrol and diesel fuelled boats from the river.

The Council also deferred approving the River Plan prior to the March 2020 election. While I supported a motion for council to conduct full community consultation on the pros and cons of a Conservation Park and endorse the Noosa River Plan, I accept and respect the decision of council to defer doing this till after the March 2024 election and by July 2024.

The following paragraphs are extracted from notes I made prior to speaking at Council’s Ordinary Meeting of 26 October against the motion to defer again:

In late 1934 Howard Parkyn and Alec Gibson landed a 454lb (206kg) groper at Tewantin, reportedly where the old baths used to be near the Marina. According to a newspaper report dated 5 December 1934, it took Howard and Alec over half an hour to land the fish, which was seven foot (2.13m) long and smashed the previous record of a 300lb groper caught 12 years previously by the Massouds.

Before it was caught, there’d been reports of a very large fish in the vicinity, but no one knew exactly what it was. That was until Howard and Alec hooked it, wrestled with it and landed it.

For years the Noosa River Plan has been out there lurking, surfacing now and then. Depending on our individual interests and angles, there have been different views on what it is. With each passing year, it grows bigger and bigger, fed by continual feedback gathered from community and stakeholder consultation.

The Noosa River plan involves multiple state government agencies and seeks to balance countless interests, some pulling in different directions. It is a monster of a plan and no one’s been able to land the beast. Until hopefully tonight.

The growth of the current river plan started again in 2017 when Council reviewed and updated the 2004 Noosa River Plan, taking a more comprehensive whole-of-catchment management approach to protecting and balancing the environmental, economic, and social interests of the river. After more consultation with internal and community consultation in 2018, it grew again into an updated version of the draft plan.

That version was endorsed for feedback in November 2019 and a second round of community consultation occurred from December to January 2019 and 2020. Again, new ideas were added and it grew further.

From April 2021 to March 2023 the Noosa River Stakeholder Advisory Committee advised Council and Maritime Services Queensland on river priorities. The plan is so broad they wisely focused on getting action on anchoring and mooring. More recent targeted stakeholder engagement was conducted and more ideas, including “consideration of” a conservation park, were added.

When the new ideas were presented to councillors in June this year, all expressed support. That updated version of the Noosa River Plan went to council last month, where it was deferred for a month to allow for further feedback. Another list of changes three pages long was recommended.

With every consultation, the plan takes on a new form. We’re caught in an absurd, endless, bureaucratic cycle of more consultation on new versions borne of consultation.

We’ve been playing this fish for years as it grows bigger and bigger and gets harder to land. It’s time to finally reel this thing in.

That’s why this latest plan had consultation built into it for ideas like the conservation park. The Conservation Park was seen as a potential means of giving Noosa Council a voice at the table with State Government agencies- who would remain the prime authorities- to help ensure all parties remained resourced and focused.

This plan, including public consultation for a conservation park, gives us all the best chance of ensuring we hand down a river to our children that is clean, uncluttered, safe and teeming with fish and aquatic life, for all users.

Prior to the last election in 2020, we were in exactly this same position. We’re still splashing about with no decision. Let’s not let this ever-growing beast run again and get away on us for another four years.

Let’s land it. Together. Tonight.

(But, of course, we didn’t. It eluded us all, again)