Bruce Devereaux offers his thoughts on Gympie Regional Council after attending his first meeting.
Bruce Devereaux offers his thoughts on Gympie Regional Council after attending his first meeting. Contributed

Bad coffee, hypocrisy at 'scripted' Gympie council meeting

by BRUCE DEVEREAUX

IT'S important to sort out the important stuff right off the bat.

I've been mulling a few things over since attending my first ever council meeting last Wednesday, and as I'm running on communication I couldn't help but pull up my keyboard to share a few observations because for me it really did highlight some why I think I'm needed.

Firstly, if you've never been but are considering attending a council meeting you need to know they are boring AF, so consider yourself forewarned and bring your phone.

Pretty sure a lot of councils broadcast or stream meetings these days, and given how uncomfortable the onlookers' seats are I reckon this would be the way forward for those wanting to watch their local representatives strutting their stuff.

Councillors Mark McDonald, Bob Fredman, Hilary Smerdon, Mal Gear, Dan Stewart, Glen Hartwig, Daryl Dodt and Deputy Mayor Bob Leitch at the council's budget meeting.
Councillors in action. Phil Coquerand

Even my kids know how to do a Facebook Live. If they haven't sorted this by next year I've made a note to have one of them show them how.

The room itself has this odd "lords residing from on high” set-up which feels like an intimidating courtroom rather than a meeting of equals.

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Surely a council meeting should be more of a round table affair.

Someone I spoke to this week said they've heard talk council will look to changing this when they renovate or when a new council building is erected, but I shift furniture around our house every couple of months at my wife's say-so. It's really no biggy. Tracey can supervise.

Confession time: As is my way, what with being an online influencer type person, I spent most the meeting on my phone.

A point which didn't go unnoticed as, while my hand was crushed to the point I took a Meloxicam when I got home, it was explained that'd have to stop if elected because our representatives aren't allowed on their devices during meetings. Shame. They could google better jokes.

iphone, smartphone, mobile phone, phone, generic
Mobile phone. Pexels

Over the course of several hours council staff were marched in to give short speeches on items and occasionally someone would ask a question. Very occasionally a pretty good one which was hit out of the park - presumably because I've been told questions have to be submitted ahead of time. That would certainly explain why my kids have more animated discussions about what to watch on Netflix.

Which all makes me wonder, what the Hades happened to general business?

That'd add a bit of spontaneity and spice and liven things up again. This felt scripted while I think council needs an injection of passion occasionally. Why was it was removed? Can we get it back? It'd sure improve ratings.

Contrary to normal logic as I was amongst the last to arrive I got the best seat in the house. A comfy one brought in from an office and placed right behind where the action was. Because I was in the space usually kept empty, between councillors and onlookers, I could hear everything being said but apparently the people behind me had to rely on the monitor showing the notes of the meeting being typed up as minutes.

Bryce Marlow from Shed Twelve in Nambour is holding a free coffee day for Bastille Day.
Coffee. Warren Lynam

On the one hand the cursor on the screen seemed to be trying not so much to keep up with the motions and seconds but to not get ahead of them: on the other hand there seemed to be stuff said and not jotted down.

Like the couple of off-the-cuff jokes one member tried out which prompted me to message my friend. Jokes which I don't think appeared on the monitor - possibly because they were fairly barbed and not that funny.

Which brings me in a not immediately obvious way to my second point - the coffee council serves up is poo.

How can anyone be expected to think clearly about important local issues and making witty banter when they can't move past 'will I ever get this taste out of my mouth?'

And speaking of bad tastes in my mouth, and arriving, I feel, rather eloquently at the main reason for my writing all this, amongst the tempered humdrum of the slowly progressing council meeting, with everyone seeming to find a need to congratulate anyone else who spoke, I was stunned by what appeared to be a very hypocritical point in a little speech regarding why the quarry at Bells Bridge was a no go.

A plan for a quarry at Bells Bridge would allow for between 5000-100,000 tonnes of material to be extracted and screened every year at 41ha site beside the Wide Bay Highway.
The proposed Bells Bridge quarry site. Contributed

I find it interesting, I tapped into Messenger, how suddenly if you buy next to an airport the noise and all the rest is on you, but they've actually tried to shut businesses down in that sort of scenario. Yeah?

The point being voiced, and nodded along to by an important looking lady from the council planning staff who'd briefly been granted performance rights up on the dais, was the residents at Bells Bridge didn't buy their properties in the expectation of a quarry opening and bringing with it all the noise and dust which one might create.

If they'd bought knowing a quarry was up the road or about to be, the speaker continued, then that's on them.

A very fair point, which is why I'd messaged my friend.

My phone vibrated.

Like Widgee, came the reply.

Yep, exactly what I was thinking: like Widgee Engineering.

Widgee Engineering Chris Austin.
Widgee Engineering. Renee Albrecht

The speaker's words were not lost on one person sitting in the crowded Town Hall room listening to the day's business being attended to. A woman in a state of severe distress I didn't even realise was there, but who I passed as I came up the steps during recess as she descended in the arms of another woman, sobbing inconsolably.

'She's tasted the coffee,' I thought to myself.

But no. That little speech, so obviously for the benefit of the relieved Bells Bridge residents perched on the edge of uncomfortable seats for the outcome of council's deliberations on their situation, must have cut deeply for Di Saal.

It was a heartbreaking moment to witness. I can't imagine how it must have felt to be in the middle of it.

So the third and primary point of this rambling is why, with a straight face, were these words being strung together and used to prop up the reasoning for stopping a business opening amidst existing residents and not for leaving Di's business alone?

I know for a fact it's what you'd hear around town at the time council were deliberating on the engineering business's future. If new houses had encroached on the place or people had purchased knowing the business was there then that's surely not so much the fault of the business. And by 'so much' the consensus from people really did seem to be 'at all'.

A slip of the tongue?

Maybe.

One thing's for certain, it sure does seem to highlight that thing I mentioned about the difficulty this council has communicating their decisions and reasonings. Again, something I hope to be given the chance to help with. Or at least getting to the bottom of.

Might have something to do with that damn awful coffee.

Bruce Devereaux

Blogger, Keeper of Keys & Nouns, Defender of Weak Green Tea, Risk Adverse Adventurer, Eater of Cheese, The Original Jockey Idol, and now...

your soon-to-be candidate for Division 4