JEWEL BARGARA: Artist impressions of a proposed high rise on the Bargara esplanade.
JEWEL BARGARA: Artist impressions of a proposed high rise on the Bargara esplanade. Contributed

High-rise supporters upbeat after 'bizarre' council decision

SUPPORTERS of the proposed nine-storey Bargara high-rise remain upbeat despite a "bizarre” turn of events at yesterday's Bundaberg Regional Council meeting.

Following a dramatic meeting, council CEO Steve Johnston now has power under delegation to determine the controversial application after the council failed to make a decision.

It's hard to see how the CEO will be able to vote against a recommendation made by his own officers.

He has until Friday to make a decision.

But the mood in the two camps following the meeting was ironically opposite to what you would have expected.

Opponents were subdued, concerned about how the "bizarre” events had unfolded and that one of their advocates, CrGreg Barnes, had been removed from having a say.

Those for the project weren't keen to speak publicly, but there was a quiet confidence all was not lost.

Maybe there will be another twist or turn in an application that has divided a community.

More than 50 people gathered at Gin Gin's Town Hall for yesterday's eagerly-awaited meeting.

Things got off to an explosive start with the removal of Bargara division representative Greg Barnes.

NewsMail reporter Tahlia Stehbens said "you could feel the tension in the air” as a majority of his fellow councillors determined he had a conflict of interest.

Cr Barnes then countered against Mayor Jack Dempsey.

In an attempt to have the Mayor removed from the vote, CrBarnes produced an unsigned drafted letter which claimed the Mayor had developed a "friendship” with the developer.

The mayor denied any material or personal interest as claimed by CrBarnes and questioned the veracity of the unsigned letter.

"We feel as though our vote has been lost as CrBarnes would have likely supported the recommendation from the town planner,” George Martin, one of those against nine storeys, said after the meeting.

Two other councillors (Deputy Mayor Bill Trevor and Scott Rowleson) had also removed themselves because of a "perceived conflict of interest”.

Mayor Jack Dempsey used his casting vote to rule against approving the application at 20m.

The mayor yesterday vowed the process would be completed in a professional manner as he said it was now up to the CEO to make the final call.

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