Business left in dark as council prepares to leave town
BUSINESS groups have been forced to use Right To Information legislation in a bid to access a Sunshine Coast Council report the detail of which could help them prepare for a major economic hit to come.
The Nambour Alliance and Caloundra Chamber of Commerce have both filed RTI requests for the document that details the economic impact of the council moving out of the two towns and consolidating its workforce in the Maroochydore CBD.
Nambour councillor Greg Rogerson (Div 10) has described as ridiculous the failure to release the document, saying the council held itself up as being transparent.
The council, which has had the report since mid-2017, has around 200 staff in its Nambour office in a town already struggling from the loss of 1700 full time equivalent pay packets to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital in Birtinya.
The relocation has been labelled internally as the CBD City Hall Smart Move Project.
Nambour Alliance president Timothy Smith said the business community was not happy with the relocation, describing it as illogical and uneconomic.
"To go from a building you own to lease, doesn't make sense," he said.
Mr Smith said information in the report would be vital to the process the Alliance was working through with Member for Fairfax Ted O'Brien to determine where the town was going economically.
The Alliance has applied for a federal Building Better Regions grant, which had been matched by the divisional councillor and the mayor, to engage a consultant to compile a report which to an extent may have already been done.
He said the Alliance was trying to encourage smaller development into the town but the response was always 'why' when the council was leaving.
"At a meeting in May it came to light they had a report," Mr Smith said.
"They weren't eager to hand it over. We were offered a meeting and told the consultant would give a summary.
"We wanted the full report but they would only give us a redacted copy with no explanation why."
The Alliance filed its RTI request two weeks ago with the Caloundra Chamber doing the same on Monday.
Caloundra Chamber of Commerce president Michael Shadforth said it had asked for the document four weeks ago and had followed up to no response.
"I find that standard for this council," Mr Shadforth said. "I find it unreasonable to be honest.
"Caloundra is falling apart economically, investment is minimal and they think they can give us a nice coat of paint."
Meanwhile, he said, everything in terms of council investment was going to Maroochydore.
The chamber wants access to the council's 77 Bulcock Street building, the old Landsborough Shire Council building, to develop a creative industries space and stimulate economic activity.
Mr Shadforth said there was no support for the proposal compare with Noosa Council which had invested in a facility in Peregian to help small business grow.
Instead he said it appeared the council was parcelling up land it own to resell it.
Mr Shadforth said an internal rail system to a central CBD was a great outcome for a young, vibrant city to emerge, but they need to back fill other areas and give them equal energy.
A Sunshine Coast Council spokesperson said it was considering the release of the information.
The spokesperson said the council has committed to retaining staff at Nambour and Caloundra, while also having a presence in the new Maroochydore city centre.
"Council has and will continue to make significant investments in Nambour and Caloundra," the spokesperson said.