Mayor Glen Hartwig says councillors were not consulted on the decision to let Gympie’s online food hub website lapse.
Mayor Glen Hartwig says councillors were not consulted on the decision to let Gympie’s online food hub website lapse.

Mayor: We had no say on decision to axe Gympie food hub

THE axing of Gympie Regional Council’s digital food producer hub, Gympie Gold Regional Produce, was not made at the behest of councillors or even with their input, Mayor Glen Hartwig said yesterday.

In the wake of revelations the website had been replaced with a private business advertising items such as tyres and glass bongs, Mr Hartwig said there had been no consultation with elected officials about the matter before it happened.

The Gympie Gold Regional Produce page as it was on June 1, 2020.
The Gympie Gold Regional Produce page as it was on June 1, 2020.

“That decision appears to have been made by staff without consultation or direction of councillors,” Mr Hartwig said.

The shuttering of the page, first launched in 2012, occurred sometime between June and September this year, according to information available online.

A sole trader from Victoria is now listed as the web page’s owner.

The move has added to the backlash against the council following its controversial decision to drop celebrity chef Matt Golinski as food ambassador.

Mr Golinski said this week he was hurt by the axing and felt they were treating him as “some kind of scammer”.

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The website as it appears now.
The website as it appears now.

Mr Hartwig defended the choice and said letting it lapse was not an indictment of Mr Golinski’s work.

“The council’s decision had nothing to do with Matt.

“I think Matt has done a wonderful job.

“We never in five years evaluated if we could work with Matt in different ways.”

He said the council would now be working with the region’s food producers and other industries on promoting Gympie region food.

Many readers on The Gympie Times Facebook page said Mr Golinski should have been kept on; the Facebook page for business Suncoast Limes labelled the council “a bunch of fools” and several commenters said they should be ashamed.

The decision to let the council’s produce page lapse has only added to the backlash from producers and the community over the decision to drop Matt Golinski as food ambassador.
The decision to let the council’s produce page lapse has only added to the backlash from producers and the community over the decision to drop Matt Golinski as food ambassador.

But at least one other person questioned how the council handled matters behind the scenes in the past few years.

Designer Cindy Vogels, who served as the council’s arts and culture ambassador before resigning in 2018, said the organisation was plagued by internal disruptions which had a lasting impact.

“(Matt) has absolutely gone above and beyond since the birth of his role five plus years ago via Andrew Saunders, our then head of tourism Visit Gympie Region,” Ms Vogels said.

“Lynne Wilbraham as then head of Economic Development was incredible, working with Matt and our Regional Producers/Farmers Heroes of our Food Bowl Gympie Gold Regional Produce.

“Sadly great people in fundamental roles were disrupted and moved about to make way for newcomers from out of town … I will leave it there.

Mayor Glen Hartwig says the council will be working with the region’s producers on how to promote their goods.
Mayor Glen Hartwig says the council will be working with the region’s producers on how to promote their goods.

“(Mr Hartwig) and (the) newly elected council have an enormous task to sift through the rubble and resurrect the damage done … but in a timely manner so as not to lose the incredible staff we have left in major roles holding on for our community.

“I sincerely hope that we as a community are able to turn this around and be stronger and united moving forward.”