Monday 10 March 2008

The Death Throes of Mareeba Shire - Part 4

When Syd Walker started writing about Mareeba Shire Council’s ‘Special Meeting’ in early February, little did he imagine how deep the rabbit hole would go.

When I started the ‘Deathroes of Mareeba Shire Council’ series, all those weeks ago, I had no real idea how long the series would run.

I think The Simpsons started in a similar way.

But even if I carry on writing fictitious episodes after March 15th, with complex plots and plenty of drama, I doubt I could ever invent stories as amazing as the true tales of Mayor Borzi’s Mareeba Shire Council in its dying days.

So far, the State Government has parried community demands for urgent and strong intervention – so for at least a few days longer, it seems this series has a secure future. Who knows how many more episodes there may be!

A couple of Monday's ago, I woke up feeling full of zest. It was a sunny morning and I was keen to get out and about.

I made a coffee and checked my email. While downloading bucketloads of spam at ISDN (yawn) speed, I decided on a whim to check the Mareeba Shire Council minutes for its most recent meeting. The meeting took place on February 19th. I hadn’t attended or tried to attend. I find it too confusing knowing whether a meeting is actually open, even when it’s self-evidently closed. It’s too weird for me. I don’t need that much existential uncertainty in my life.

From the safety of my living room I skimmed the minutes of the latest meeting. Mostly, of course, they are as interesting as the telephone directory. Without relevant background documents – Development Applications and the like – recorded decisions mean very little. From the minutes alone, it’s hard to know the implications of decisions, why they were made and who may have benefited.

I scanned down and arrived at ITEM-22 Reconfiguration Application - M Borzi.

Hmmm. That name again. Something I vaguely understand. I read on… and my jaw dropped open.

In item 22, Council resolved to “Issue a Development Permit for the application made by M Borzi for the reconfiguration of land described as Lots 5, 6, 7 and 8 on RP703622, Parish of Formartine, situated on Morton Street, Kuranda, into eight (8) allotments as indicated on plan submitted with the application…”

Unlike the January 29th Special Meeting which considered the Myola Plan for the Myola Zone, within which Mayor Borzi (pictured left from the Weekend Post) indubitably owns a block of land - Mr Borzi quite properly absented himself from the relevant part of the meeting on the 19th February. There’s no story of undeclared conflict of interest here.

This is a rather different story...

If I understood the Chief Planner correctly, because the Mayor’s application was for ‘reconfiguration’ of several blocks - not a ‘development’ or change of purpose - there was no legal requirement for advertising or public notification of any form. And it appears that none occurred. Nor does it appear there was sufficient time for it, unless I misread the documents. The date of the Mayor’s Reconfiguration Application was early February – AFTER the initial furor over the Myola block had broken.

The Mayor’s application did not suffer a long stay in the intray gathering dust. It was before Council within a fortnight. A one-line item in the Council Meeting Agenda was all the notice the public were to receive and no-one I know spotted this application in advance. It’s not easy being an informed citizen in Mareeba Shire. For example, the last time I tried to get hold of a Mareeba Shire Council meeting agenda in advance - one day before the meeting in question - it was still unavailable at that time.

For all I know, the Chief Planner may be right about the ‘reconfiguration’ technicality. What do I know? As I do learn more about Local Government legislation, my belief system has been stretched to accommodate absurdities I never previously imagined. Not long ago, in a simple-minded way, I imagined that all subdivisions in this day and age require public notification to allow for objections. Oh well…

Council’s item 22 decision also allowed for provision of services to the eight new blocks created out of four. So it appears the Mayor intends to proceed with development on what have long been vacant lots. Rather like in the game of monopoly, he’s just won himself (potentially) an extra house apiece on a row of four properties. No record of dissent was recorded in the minutes, so we can only assume that all Councilors present all thought this was a fine idea.

The reconfiguration may well be a fine idea too – if the game we are playing in Kuranda is Monopoly.

Who wouldn’t want extra houses on a row? Why tell the competition what's coming next? What about Hotels and Get out of Jail Free Cards? Even better!

But the question people who care about Kuranda and its future need to ask is whether Monopoly is an appropriate game to play with our small and fragile village, which is a unique human community nested inside a complex and valuable (World Heritage-listed) ecosystem.

Without its rainforest perimeter, Kuranda becomes just another suburb.

I believe that in a very real sense, Mick Borzi’s seven (now eleven) blocks at the gateway to Kuranda are a crucial key to Kuranda’s future.

I think the fate of this battered but surviving patch of rainforest will determine Kuranda’s sense of identity - and economy – long into the future.

Let's take a closer look at what's at stake, including the map showing Mr Borzi's new sub-divisions.



Anonymous said...

This is just shocking. Without Syd's painstaking research, no-one would know. With our coming "super-council" how will councillors have the time to research every application, like this one?

Anonymous said...

The difference with the Simpsons is that it gets to the point BEFORE its audience has nodded off to sleep.

Anonymous said...

WTF? I though Ulysses was confusing! Can someone please explain? Mr Moore, as editor of this blog, you should have ordered a rewrite with a view to clarity. Is Syd saying Borzi got Mareeba Council, on the lsy, to change zoning of land he owns so he can subdivide it more????