PACKED: The Peregian surf club information meeting saw the crowd spill out on the veranda and lawn
PACKED: The Peregian surf club information meeting saw the crowd spill out on the veranda and lawn Peter Gardiner

Calls to save us from the pokies at Peregian turns up

IT WAS a compact, elderly man who addressed the elephant in the full and overflowing room.

He put forward, to the two incorporated community groups battling to secure volunteer lifesaving services on Peregian Beach, a simple question.

"Why can't you two groups work together?"

This was met with enthusiastic applause by about 130 people at the information session held at the Peregian Beach Community House to discuss the future of the Peregian Beach surf club, which is currently run by Noosa Heads SLSC.

The Peregian Beach Surf Club, which is not affiliated with Surf Life Saving Queensland, wants a community-based "grassroots" surf club run by locals on the existing clubhouse site. Spokesman Rob Neely outlined a new model surf club run along surf safety and ecological educational lines and involving marine groups and not a "pokie palace by the sea".

Mr Neely told the meeting Noosa Heads SLSC's intentions was to build a new $16million clubhouse.

He said of the PFFA: "It's quite clear to me they're actually there to move towards building a bigger building.

"Our concern with that is ... we don't want it filled with pokies."

He said surf clubs relying on pokie machines was "abhorrent".

"Our issue is this, to build a $16million building you have to have an enormous turnover of people to come through and pay for that.

"Whether it's pokies in that club there, the club they want to build there, or it's money coming from pokies at Noosa, I have a massive problem with that."

Peregian Family and Friends Association spokesman Ollie Hooper said the surf club has been very clear that a new clubhouse was only a concept at this stage.

"The talk of the pokie palace thing, respectfully, Rob, I think is rubbish. The only talk of pokie palaces is coming from this Peregian Beach surf lifesaving group here.

"I've not seen anything from Noosa Heads stating that they want a pokie palace on the sand dunes.

"I certainly do not want a pokie palace on the sand dunes and I think this whole phrase and line of things is a big beat-up.

"They've (Noosa Heads SLSC) stated they'd be driven by the community and get behind what they wanted to see (there)," he said.

Mr Hooper said his group, rather than fight Noosa Heads SLSC, wants to work with the club to enhance sustainable lifesaving services that will include reintroducing a nippers program next season.

This group is seen by its opponents as supporting the Noosa Heads SLSC's proposal for a larger clubhouse with ocean views, possibly where the skate park is.

The PFFA is conducting a survey for public feedback on what sort of lifesaving services the community wants. Mr Hooper, the father of a Noosa nipper, is adamant his group will push for what locals want.

"Our intent is to work with the current leaseholders and service providers, which is the Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club.

"I think as a community, we would not all be sitting here in this room if it wasn't for the generosity and the drive from Noosa Heads to get behind the surf club," MrHooper said.

"I think there would be many surf clubs in Queensland and Australia that would give their right arm to have the support that Noosa's provided to this surf club and this community."

He said to date about 200 had done PFFA group's online survey.

Mr Neely is convinced if Noosa Heads SLSC does not get its bigger, closer club, it will walk away from Peregian Beach, leaving SLSQ to take over the club building for use as an admin office and install lifeguards there seven days a week.

"We believe it's a very, very simple solution and that is get the present surf club up and running with the Peregian community manning it and running it," he said.

Mr Neely, a former senior Noosa Heads SLSC member, said his group has always said it is "happy to work together" with PFFA "but there is a divergence on perhaps the methodology seeking to find the solutions".

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