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Why Sunshine Coast is losing its community spirit and feel

BIG HOPE: Former Noosa mayor Bob Abbot arrives at an anti-amalgamation march to Parliament House, Brisbane.
BIG HOPE: Former Noosa mayor Bob Abbot arrives at an anti-amalgamation march to Parliament House, Brisbane. Jason Doughertynk

IT IS difficult to find a reason beyond self-interest for the high level of angst among senior Sunshine Coast Council bureaucrats about the decision to grant Noosa residents a vote on de-amalgamation.

In an ideal world, the bureaucracy is meant to be the servant of the democratic process.

In other words, it is not about them and their desires, but about facilitating the wishes and direction ratepayers and elected representatives determine to take.

Noosa fought amalgamation from the start and with good reason.

It had little to do with elitism, a lazy label applied in ignorance by some and wilfully by others wanting to exploit that perception.

Noosa Council developed a culture of service its community appreciated and wanted to retain.

It wasn't a business that saw itself in isolation from the community.

Under the fine stewardship of CEO Bruce Davidson, everyone within the organisation understood their role was to serve.

Certainly the outcome was not utopia. Nothing ever is. There are always those with gripes.

But overwhelmingly, Noosa was a community that took pride in the clearly understood values that guided decision-making.

Amalgamation of the three Sunshine Coast councils was meant to bring economies of scale and to unlock opportunity through a more regional approach.

Instead, what we have seen is the corporatisation of local government that was once closely connected to the community it served.

When residents voted for the first amalgamated council, they overwhelmingly, across the region, opted for Bob Abbot as mayor. The reason was simple. There was genuine hope that what had been created in Noosa would rub off on the rest of the region. That hope faded fast. Instead, the dead hand of the old Maroochy regime quickly claimed ascendancy and its service delivery feels less like community by the day.

Topics:  de-amalgamation, sunshine coast regional council


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