Cr Tony Wellington said he would be a member of Noosa Biosphere Ltd because he did not agree with its governance structure.
Cr Tony Wellington said he would be a member of Noosa Biosphere Ltd because he did not agree with its governance structure. Contributed

Biosphere critic sticks to guns

DIVISION 12 Councillor Tony Wellington - a stalwart of the Noosa Parks Association - has broken ranks with existing council practice by declining to be a member of Noosa Biosphere Ltd, which oversees the running of the UNESCO-designated entity.

Before his election, Cr Wellington had been a critic of the setting up of the NBL.

It has been at odds with the Noosa Parks Association concept of managing the area's green future.

Council was due yesterday to appoint new members to the NBL board - including filling the vacancy left by Cr Wellington's decision not to take up his predecessor Lew Brennan's position.

Cr Wellington said: "Until now, both of the councillors representing the Noosa Biosphere Reserve - that is, councillors for Divisions 11 and 12 - were systematically appointed to the board of directors for Noosa Biosphere Limited.

"I am on the public record as supporting a different governance structure for the Noosa Biosphere Reserve than that which is currently in place. I believe governance should be community-based, not controlled entirely by council."

Cr Wellington said the original application to UNESCO allowed for administration through a non-statutory body established as an incorporated association.

"The intent was for the biosphere to be a genuine partnership between community organisations, individual residents and council," he said.

"Instead we now have the biosphere reserve managed by a company that is wholly owned by council.

"This month's ordinary meeting (yesterday) will see council required to endorse the new board of NBL.

"Inevitably, residents see NBL as an arm of council, not a product of the community. This arguably disenfranchises some people and prevents them becoming actively involved."

Cr Wellington said Noosa's biosphere reserve status was a direct result of half a century of local community effort and engagement, and its management should rest primarily with the Noosa community, not a regional council.

"Certainly council must be a participant, but the driving force should be the community, as was originally intended," he said.

"There are many good, well-intentioned people who have volunteered their services to make the current structure work, but it is simply not a structure that I endorse."

Cr Wellington said company directors were supposed to make decisions in the best interests of the company.

"As someone who remains at odds with the structure of NBL, being on the board would inevitably lead to personal conflicts," he said.

"As councillor for Division 12 and in my environment portfolio role I will continue to work amicably with NBL to achieve the best outcomes for the Noosa Biosphere reserve."

Fellow Noosa representative Cr Russell Green remains an NBL board member.

NBL chair Dr Susan Davis said her organisation respected Cr Wellington's decision to "act as he sees fit in light of his previously stated concerns about our governance model".

Dr Davis said the newly-elected councillor had initially agreed to take a position on the board when she spoke to him a week after the April council election.

Later he had told her that on reflection he would not be joining the NBL.

She said they had held "frank but positive" discussions and agreed to further meetings to discuss biosphere matters.

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