THE COMMUNITY catchups are continuing around the region.
Mayor Julie Hall and Whitsunday Regional Council councillors and directors held the second community catchup for 2023, at the Cannonvale TAFE, on Wednesday, March 29.
The Cannonvale catchup attracted about 20 residents and topics discussed included the appearance of the entrance to Airlie Beach, a five-year town plan, lack of parking spaces, the Paluma Road post office intersection, and other local projects and town planning issues relevant to the Cannonvale community.
Things took an interesting turn when Director of Development Services Neil McGaffin broached the subject of the Port of Airlie high-rise.
“Obviously, council has approved a resort development at Airlie Beach, the 12-storey. That is going through the planning and environment court and that will be in court in April so, hopefully, this year we will get a response on that,” he said.
Residents were quick to raise their hands to question the decision, with Mr McGaffin quickly being inundated with hecklers.
One audience member asked Mr McGaffin point blank to explain his reasoning behind recommending the high-rise be approved.
“You analysed over 2,000 objections to a high-rise and then you approved destroying our town plan of a five-storey limit to go to 12. Can you please explain why you did that?”
Mr McGaffin said he felt the need for the hotel warranted going against the town plan.
“We received an application, council isn’t able to refuse to accept that application, council has a responsibility to consider that application when it comes in,” he said.
“Now, there is no doubt there are a lot of people that don’t like it. But the assessment was undertaken in regard to how it complied or didn’t comply with the planning scheme.
“My professional recommendation to council was that the need for the hotel was worthy of the variation of height.”
Mr McGaffin was interrupted by audience members several times, with Mayor Hall eventually stepping in to put a stop to the debate, informing community members that they could continue to ask questions at the end of the catchup.
Mayor Hall said she was a huge advocate of face-to-face engagement with residents in the Whitsunday region.
“Face to face catchups allow us to facilitate a two-way flow of information, updating residents on council projects relevant to them and listen to issues affecting the local community,” Mayor Hall said.
Upcoming catchups are planned for Gumlu/Cape Upstart, Collinsville, Proserpine, Conway, Scottville, Bowen, Airlie Beach/Shute Harbour and Mt Coolon.