Candidates in firing line
By Sonia Isaacs
THE first Hinterland meet the candidate forum proved to be a trial by fire as Sunshine Coast Council mayoral and divisional candidates faced a grilling over their position on the proposed expansion of Hanson’s Glasshouse Quarry.
Hosted by the Save Our Glass House Mountains protest group, the February 11 meeting saw five out the six mayoral candidates and three Division 1 candidates invited to pitch their candidacy and address Hinterland hot-topic issues; primarily the current development application lodged by Hanson’s Glasshouse Quarry to double extraction operations.
Mayoral hopefuls Wayne Parcell, Jason O’Pray, Rosanna Natoli, Ashley Robinson and Min Swan joined divisional candidates Jenny Broderick, Kristy Taylor-Rose and the newly nominated Stan Nawrocki in facing a passionate and sometimes fiery audience determined to grill the panel on the quarry issue
Around 100 people turned up to listen and voice concerns over the proposal with environmental effects, increased noise, pollution and impacts on tourism some of the issues raised.
The forum provided local residents the opportunity to witness first-hand the capacity and capability of the region’s future leaders in an informative and sometimes uncomfortable debate.
Save Our Glass House Mountains Campaign Co-Creator, Megan Standring, said while she was pleased with the turnout and emotion in the room, there was still a lot of hard work to be done.
“There was a little bit of disappointment from me in regard to the candidates not giving their opinion on the quarry, but I understand the legalities in that,” she said.
“I think there was a big consensus in the room that if we knew what we know today this quarry would not be approved, so we just need to keep working hard, one step at a time.”
Division 1 Candidate Jenny Broderick, was the first speaker.
She said if the decision regarding the Glasshouse Quarry were a heart decision, most would agree there should never have been a quarry built.
She acknowledged that the topic was a big one, however, without all the reports, data and community feedback it would be unwise of any candidate to present a position. This sentiment was echoed by other candidates, with both Mr Parcell and Ms Natoli also reiterating the potential legal implications of stating a position publicly that could preclude them from input in a future decision.
Ms Broderick said the most valuable aspect of the forum was the opportunity for the candidates to listen. She said under the current permit, Hanson had decades of product left to extract.
“I have messaged Hanson several times and been told there is 25 million tonnes to go. One of the most significant and ongoing issues is the amount of traffic and noise along current routes and that is an issue we can be looking at solutions for now,” she said.
Mr Nawrocki, acknowledged he was still learning about the quarry issue, but said if he had to make a decision between quarry and community he “was on the community side.”
Ms Taylor-Rose said while she did not live in the Glass House Mountains she had experienced a similar issue previously, and she would fight for the truck route to be redirected outside of the town centre, and she urged residents to lodge individual submissions.
“I am curious to hear what Hanson has to say about impact to the residents about noise and silica,” she said.
Ms Natoli said she was absolutely committed to transparency from Hanson and sharing that information with the community.
She said the expansion plans were before council and she had been warned to be very careful what she said in an open forum.
She acknowledged that the independent legal advice given to her would not satisfy the audience.
“You do not want your representatives removed from that debate, how shameful would it be if I was removed from the debate because of something I said here,” she said to a fired up audience.
Mr O’Pray, the only candidate who has been a sitting Sunshine Coast Councillor, reiterated that individual submissions to Council would be critical in this issue and having the best Division 1 candidate to lead the charge was vital.
He acknowledged that in today’s environment, the decision to approve a quarry in the current position would have not have gotten across the line.
“You need a good team that will make this decision,” he said.
“You need six people out of the 11 to say no to the expansion. It doesn’t come from the leadership of the mayor or Division 1 councillor – it comes from the 11 councillors with advice from the divisional councillor leading the charge.”
Mr Robinson acknowledged the importance of the issue to the community and said he would like to ensure an independent study was done to ensure Hanson abided by all their conditions.
He said he would work with the community to find solutions.
He added he would be “willing to get into a fight’ if Hanson were found to have broken any of the conditions.
Ms Swan said she understood how important the Glass House Mountains were to everyone on the Sunshine Coast.
She said she would like to work with all stakeholders to seek creative solutions to issues like the quarry expansion which she suggested logic would indicate was not a great idea.
“I would immediately like to implement a community group to help me understand the topic better and include Hanson who is the other side to this debate and should be part of it,” she said.
“Together we need to come up with a solution.”
Mr Parcell said he was prepared to be brave for the community and had the experience and capacity to fight, however, he would not put forward a position due to the legal process.
“I’m a lawyer, the lawyer in me says you need someone smart like me to lawyer up when the time comes and go to battle for you to get the right outcome,” he said.
“Leadership means being brave and saying it is not in your best interests for me to state a position.”
Hanson has until March 8 to respond to state and local government queries on their application before public consultation will open.