Tuesday, December 6, 2016

CARA – Caring for Cooroy and District


REPORT: Cooroy Chamber of Commerce Dinner With the Mayor

Tuesday  23 August 

Transcript of Mayor Cr Tony Wellington’s talk

TonyW2The 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.

So 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.

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

So let’s do a little 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

hall-SMALLI 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.

 

TOWN MEETING: New Councillor Q&A

Tuesday  28 June meeting report


CARA’s town meeting to welcome the three new councillors to Cooroy on Tuesday night was an opportunity for residents to explain to Crs Jackson, Glasgow and Stockwell the issues that concern them. The reopening of the Cooroy Hall was at the top of the list, while farm gate sales, flood mitigation, the new town plan and local roads and traffic issues all featured. Each councillor had the opportunity to talk about their ideas for reviving the hinterland’s economy and to assure attendees that Cooroy and district was not forgotten

Cooroy benefits from Noosa Council Budget 2016-2017
• The historic Boiler House will receive essential repair and safety works, hopefully allowing the site to once again open to the public.
• Plans will be developed for an iconic playground in Cooroy.
• The Heritage Levy has been increased from $5 to $10 to support the implementation of the Heritage Plan
• A Six Mile Creek flood study will provide Council with a better understanding of flooding across the catchment, from Cooroy to Pomona and Cooran. It will also investigate flood concerns in the Lake Macdonald area.
• Hinterland roads will share in more than $400,000 worth of gravel road re-sheeting.
• Council is currently finishing an assessment of our sealed road network to highlight where there are roads requiring attention. If rural sealed roads require immediate attention, there are capital reserves available for this purpose.

Cooroy Memorial Hall update

hall-SMALLThe recently-formed hall steering committee met with council staff on December 18 to share positions and objectives. The RSL remains responsible for the hall as it takes steps to divest itself and find a new trustee. While Council wishes to play an active part in the ultimate outcome, it appears that it may not become the hall trustee. The hall steering committee may hold a facilitated workshop in February to establish a management committee, work out how to re-open the hall, and plan its future.

Lake Macdonald Tomato Farm appeal

tomatoaerialAn unapproved tomato and cucumber growing facility near Lake Macdonald has been subject to residents’ complaints since it was first constructed in 2013. Generator noise, sediment and erosion control and the safety of Lake Macdonald Drive were issues, but the facility came under increased scrutiny early in 2015, when floodwaters associated with Cyclone Marcia caused debris from the tomato plants, growing media and plastic being washed into the nearby waterway.

Council planning staff retrospectively assessed the operation and recommended in November last year that the farm be allowed to go ahead, subject to a list of conditions including: the raising of the plants off the ground on racks; a nominated flood warden to be on site at all times during operation hours, and a “flood refuge area” that can handle “an extreme flood event”.

In backing the decision and voting to accept the planner’s, report Cr Wellington said: “It would be nice if people simply started the process of applying for approval when they were supposed to start”, rather than council having to “continually push them”. Cr Jurisevic was also “disappointed that due process did not occur in the first place”.

In early December last year, the applicant filed a Notice of Appeal in the Planning and Environment Court challenging 12 of the conditions proposed by council planners.

Community joins Cooroy broiler farm farm appeal

This week, three Noosa Shire residents joined with the Noosa Council as co-respondents in the Planning and Environment Court appeal against the council’s decision to refuse the Cooroy broiler farm development application. This important step enables the community to participate in the hearings and to present original evidence in support of Council’s case.

CARA President’s Report 2015

737488-cooroy-mountainThe Cooroy Area Residents’ Association (CARA) is a non-political organisation formed to provide information on issues and development proposals affecting our community and to give the residents a forum to express their opinions to the planning authorities.

The past 12 months has seen several development applications in our area considered by the Noosa Council, notably the Cooroy Highway Service Centre and the Cooroy Broiler Farm, both of which were refused by Council. The applicant for the Service Centre lodged an appeal in the Planning and Environment Court on 28 August but there’s been no hearings to date.

After the horrific accident at the intersection of Swift Road and Lake Macdonald Drive, CARA decided to host a public meeting on road and traffic issues such as speed limits, parking issues, pedestrian crossings, the Elm Street Bridge congestion, cycle lanes, signage, traffic calming, noise issues, and accident procedures.

CARA asked the Noosa Council and State member Peter Wellington for assistance with the Elm Street bridge congestion. Peter replied that the state has a policy of fixing problems that cause the most fatalities. However, Council has employed traffic consultants who conducted research on the Elm Street Bridge and Elm Street – Cooroy-Tewantin Road intersections, which showed that these are both dangerous. Council is hoping that this research will help when presenting a case to the state government for funding new intersection arrangements.

Revising the Noosa Plan
After council elections next year, the new Noosa Council will embark on the huge task of rewriting the Noosa Plan. To gather ideas on changes that would benefit the Cooroy area, CARA hosted a Cooroy planning breakfast (Cooroy: Where To Now?) at the Bowls Club, which was attended by about 50 people and emceed very capably by Richard Hansen of Inspiring Cooroy.

Councillors and representatives of the Cooroy Chamber of Commerce spoke, and attendees presented many excellent ideas on planning Cooroy’s future. A website (www.cooroy.org) was set up by CARA for interested persons to post and discuss ideas on planning changes to council. Next year, we may hold workshops to finalise any recommendations for changes/improvements to the town plan.

Future CARA information nights: Meet the Candidates (mid Feb 2016) and an EDV debate.

Other 2015 items of interest:

  1. April: The custodian of the Butter Factory is now the Lower Mill Board, which has received and extra $80,000 to firm up their proposal.
  2. June: A six-month trial of an RV park at the campground opposite the tennis courts – 4 consecutive nights stay limit. Council to construct a dump point.
  3. Formation of the Noosa Community Biosphere Association – membership is free, so go online and join at Noosacba.org
  4. The Cooroy Palm Lakes over 50’s retirement village started construction in October.
  5. Closing of the Cooroy Memorial Hall, possible CARA involvement on the steering committee. Support for NCBA’s proposal to apply for and manage a grant to restore the Hall.

2015 has been an interesting year for the residents of the Cooroy area and 2016 looks like having plenty of issues to bring before residents.

Office Bearers for 2016
President: Rod Ritchie
Secretary: julia Walkden
Treasurer: Clytie Glass
Committee member: Alan Hodgkinson
Committee member: Helen McGregor
Committee member: Peter Lyle

Special note:
We’d like to thank Dennis Pitman, our inaugural Treasurer, for his years of dedicated service to CARA. While Dennis is stepping aside from an executive role, he remains a valuable supporter and member.

Elm Street intersection update

Elm Street intersection approached from Maple Street

Elm Street intersection approached from Maple Street

Our local member, Peter Wellington, has made representations on our behalf to the District Director of Department of Transport and Main Roads about the Elm Street, Myall Street intersection. Here is their reply:

Thank you for your further query regarding congestion at Cooroy intersections, particularly east of the railway line at Myall and Elm streets.

TMR acknowledges that congestion is experienced during peak periods in the Cooroy town centre and motorists experience some delays at Myall and Elm streets and Diamond and Elm streets intersections. TMR receives many requests for improvement works at intersections and allocates funding for these improvements on a priority basis. Priorities are determined by considering site-specific parameters that primarily include crash history, but may also include other factors such as traffic volumes, geometry and visibility. A review of TMR’s crash database shows these intersections both have low crash histories and are not considered a high priority for funding as there are other intersections across the state and within North Coast District demonstrating a greater need.

 As you are aware, TMR is working closely with Noosa Council to consider future east-west connections between coastal areas and towns such as Cooroy in the Northern part of the Sunshine Coast. While these investigations take a regional approach, localised issues are also being considered as part of the future transport requirements for the area. The investigations are in a preliminary phase and the link between, and including these two intersections, has been highlighted as a priority area for consideration. 

I can advise that Noosa Council is developing options for possible improvements to the intersections for TMR to review. TMR will continue to work alongside council to progress these options.

 Once the strategy is finalised, further investigation will be required to determine the best solutions for the area, taking into account forecast transport requirements.  TMR will then consider funding for any improvements during future reviews of the program.

 TMR will continue to monitor performance of these intersections and continue routine maintenance in the area.

Cooroy Community Workshop From May 1998 

At the time when local timber resources were running out and the state government was instituting its SE Forests Agreement, a community workshop was conducted at the Cooroy RSL in May 1998. You can read a report on this meeting HERE, to see how there are many  topics mentioned then that are similar to current concerns.

Meeting starts the process

CARAmeeting2

 

 

 

 

 

Around 50 people gathered for the working breakfast at The Hub on 25 March to pool their collective brainstorming talent to come up with ideas on how Cooroy may develop in the years to come, as it copes with the challenges of inevitable growth. Councillors Bolton and Pardon were helpful participants.

MC Richard Hansen capably kept the ideas flowing. These included a general desire to see the town retain its country atmosphere, Lake McDonald development plans, affordable housing, mixed housing zoning, a ring-road around Cooroy, improved Internet speed, an extra toilet block in town, an industrial area with access to the highway, a second retirement village, expansion of Rural Living zoning, clear zoning guidelines for intensive farming proposals, a disaster muster centre, and appropriate zoning for Black Mountain transfer station.

As well, support for local tourism operators, the establishment of a Cooroy farmer’s market, national park status for West Cooroy State Forest, an off-leash area for dogs, and better playground facilities were proposed.

CooryBowls2A Broad masterplan for Cooroy needs to be made with the roles of the state and local government in mind. The Elm Street bridge was identified as a major issue, and given that this is a state responsibility, it appears that only extensive traffic holdups or more accidents will push the crossing up the state priority lists. And an improved pedestrian crossing for rail lines also needs state assistance if it is to become a reality.

To the argument that Cooroy is a town divided, it was countered that the town could be recognised for its precincts, and these need to be recognised, strengthened and promoted. If there was a consensus, it was that the town of the future needs to be resident and family friendly, have a vibrant commercial and retail centre, encourage more alfresco dining, institute traffic calming measures, and ensure a sound economic base that includes environmental sustainability.

The future
We plan to put up a web site that will list all the ideas, call for more suggestions, and allow comments from all those who can’t get to meetings, but who still would like a say in the town’s future. Later in the year, CARA and the Cooroy Chamber of Commerce will likely co-host a forum that scrutinise all the best and most viable options, and put together a submission for Noosa Council as it prepares for its new Noosa Plan in 2016.

And now that our local state member, Peter Wellington, is in a strong position to help us with our aims, we plan to meet with him once we have a clear idea of how best he could assist us.

Cooroy: where to now?

Cooroy2A breakfast meeting of professionals, business owners, community representatives, and others interested in how Cooroy may develop in the years to come.

The idea is to set the agenda for a major planning workshop hosted in conjunction with interested community groups later in the year. This event will collate planning suggestions for the future of Cooroy, and present them to Noosa Council for consideration as they prepare the new Noosa Plan in 2016.

The Hub
5 Opal St
7am, Wednesday, 25 March 2015
Cost: $15 for breakfast (pay on the day)
Meeting only 7:30am: Free
RSVP : caracooroy@yahoo.com.au   23 March
Please indicate whether you’d like to include the breakfast.

The breakfast event is not about long speeches, it’s more of a get together for brainstorming and coming up with practical ideas which will be collated and put up for discussion in the future. 

Meeting moderator: Richard Hansen

Possible topics:
• Cooroy: a town divided          • The Elm St Bridge
• Parking problems                    • Housing growth areas
• Light industrial growth areas      • Flood mitigation
• Tourism        • Rural subdivision         • Your topic

To facilitate further discussion, we’ll publish a website dedicated to the Planning Cooroy Forum where all the material can be posted and where debate and further discussion can take place.

Review of Cooroy Butter Factory appraisal process

On 9 March, Noosa Council CEO Brett de Chastel asked council’s executive manager to investigate allegations by Bruce Creswell that there may have been conflict of interest by having council consultants d-sipher prepare a report for the review process and then help two of the favoured concepts make up their submissions. The report was received on 12 March at the monthly ordinary meeting of Council and the allegation was dismissed. Councillors voted to support the Lower Mill Board’s (LMB) submission, but tempered this decision by the withdrawal of a planned offer of $80,000 to the LMB to allow them to meet start-up expenses and employ suitably qualified staff to support the operations of the new Butter Factory model. They now have to negotiate a funding package and resubmit this to Council along with a business plan.

This will put the iconic building’s future on hold for now, and CARA will request the opportunity to host a town meeting to discuss the LMB’s final concept.

Where to for the Cooroy Butter Factory?

_MG_2557

November 25 Meeting
At the meeting 25 November in the Butter Factory council staff gave a presentation on five favoured proposals from the list of submissions which can be found HERE.

LEAD CONCEPTS Model style:
1. U3A Cooroy sub-branch (U3A Noosa) proposal
Establish a sub-branch of U3A Noosa within the Butter Factory, offering classes and activities.
It could incorporate existing Butter Factory activities and extend to other groups.

2.Community managed
For example this could be the Lower Mill Board managing on behalf of the community.

3.Council managed
This would basically maintain the status quo.

4. Interpretation centre, (Bruce Cresswell, Jeanette Alfredson)
Create an interpretation centre using the historic Cooroy Butter Factory sitting at the geographical centre of the Noosa community biosphere. It would extend the existing arts components by adding new segments of nature, indigenous and heritage tourism.

Centre for ceramic excellence (Rowley Drysdale)
5. To establish a local, national and internationally acclaimed Cooroy Butter Factory Centre for Ceramic Excellence which would incorporate exhibitions, retail sales, workshops and accredited classes.

CooroySignWhy not join us?
CARA exists to provide a forum for community information and discussion on matters affecting the residents of Cooroy and district.

A Queensland Health Report found that, “People who actively participate in their community and have strong and supportive family, cultural and community relationships have better health than people who are socially isolated.”

So join CARA now and become an active member of your community.