CAN IT: Councillor calls for high-rise to be scrapped
A "PERCEIVED conflict of interest" saw two councillors excuse themselves from discussions about the proposed Bargara high-rise development at yesterday's Bundaberg Regional Council briefing meeting.
The two councillors, Bill Trevor and Scott Rowleson, withdrew from council chambers, later telling the NewsMail they had done so to be as transparent as possible.
The pair were among a council delegation to China where they had meetings and dinner functions with the proposed developer of the Jewel at Bargara, Sheng Wei.
A third councillor, Greg Barnes, remained in the meeting, despite also declaring he "may" have a perceived conflict of interest.
Cr Barnes declined to comment further when approached by the NewsMail after the meeting.
The packed room heard from Cr John Learmonth who said the proposal for a nine-story high-rise on the Esplanade, Bargara, should be "thrown out the window".
Cr Learmonth said the developer's revised application was "bugger all difference, to be quite honest" from the original application.
"We have been asked to vote on this, as an average layman ... as we are not engineers," he said.
"But we still have a recommendation from planning not to accept it at that height.
"I think it should be thrown out the door.
"I don't know why we are having this argument in public.... it's as if they are taking us for fools and pushing and pushing until we approve it."
Council's CEO Steve Johnson said there was a process to follow and a role of the council staff was to assess the application.
"It's the role of the elected council to make a decision with the information that has been put forward and to look at the planning recommendation," he said.
"This will then be voted on by those in the room at the time."
Councillors yesterday questioned council staff on the development, asking about turtle protection and whether the development would set a precedent.
Mayor Jack Demspey was not at the meeting as he was in China as part of another council delegation.
Among the opponents who attended the meeting was a representative of the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office.
After the meeting, opponents were not confident and believed the application would be approved at council's full meeting in Gin Gin on Monday.
Cr Trevor explained his withdrawal.
"I led the delegation to China last year," he said.
"At one of the official functions that Mr Wei hosted I was present, then a couple of days later the deputy mayor took us to show us Mr Wei's building and there was a dinner held there and I am not sure if the Chinese paid for this, or if Mr Wei paid for it."
Cr Trevor said prior to this the pair had a couple of dinners together also.
"I am being ultra, ultra cautious," he said.
Cr Rowleson said as he was also part of a delegation to China last year where he had meals with representatives from multiple organisations.
"The developer in question was at two of those functions," he said.
"Whilst I never discussed any development with him, I just feel as though in the current climate that some councils have created in Queensland, I would prefer to use the 'if in doubt, I'm out rule' I've always been cautious and will continue to be so.
"Furthermore, I have already advised the CEO that I would possibly not be at the meeting now scheduled for the 24th as I had a long standing medical appointment that I'd prefer not to go back on the waiting list for."
Sea Turtle Alliance's Gary Brandon attended the meeting and said the group's concern was on the impact of light.
"We've just had the $18 million turtle facility that is being built," Mr Brandon said.
"If this goes through and sets a precedent for high-rise buildings, what will happen is it will make this the white elephant.
"At least one of the councillors are listening."