'Someone will die': Businessman defiant in free air fight
UPDATE: A Cooloola Coast businessman petitioning the State Government to supply air pumps for beach and Fraser Island 4WDs says he had "broad support" across government for running the temporary free air facility on state land near his business.
But the Department of Natural Resources says otherwise.
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Rainbow Beach 4WD Underbody and Complete Car Wash owner Scott Elms has criticised the State Government for forcing the closure of a free tyre inflating facility for motorists coming off the beach and Fraser Island.
He now wants the Government to "urgently" build and administer a free 24-hour tyre inflation facility at Rainbow Beach "to service Qld Parks and Wildlife Service customers requirements".
The government is not promising anything, and an epetition requesting it provide free air had last night acquired about 350 signatures and climbing.
A Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy spokesperson said yesterday establishing services or structures that permanently occupy state land without permission is prohibited, and that, to date, the pump owner had not applied to the department for tenure.
Gympie MP Tony Perrett said Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham advised him last week that the free tyre air service Mr Elms had been providing needed to be withdrawn and that tenure on the empty block of land where it had been loated was impacted by native title issues.
"The Minister advised that on 13 December last year the Federal Court recognised the Butchalla People Native Title rights and interest in relation to the Butchulla Land and Sea #2 Claim," Mr Perrett said.
"The government's solution is that there are already other businesses providing tyre inflation facilities. With the Shell station withdrawing its air hoses the BP station will have to carry the load of thousands of cars pumping their tyres. It's unreasonable."
Mr Elms said the issue started two years ago after staff were abused by customers for asking those pumping the free air into their tyres to use the roadside pump instead of the ones in the car wash, as it was taking their paid business away.
"We're a small site and can only fit so many people here," Mr Elms said.
"We had the air hoses in the bays, and it got ridiculous, people weren't able to use the car wash, we were almost like an air valet service and pumping their tyres for them.
"The final straw was one of my employees got threatened over a free air hose because he wanted him to move out to the other hose on the side of the road because he wasn't a customer."
Mr Elms said they decided to move the air pumps to neighbouring vacant land to allow for their business to survive with only allowing paying customers through their car wash bays.
"While it was a bit cheeky, we had broad support for our facility across multiple levels of government, including councils, mayors, state and federal," he said.
"It was only to be an interim solution for us, it was never to be a permanent solution," he said.
"It's important to note that what we were doing was, while it was a bit cheeky, free public infrastructure on public land that was zoned for future industrial and was already cleared.
"I wasn't doing it for our own personal gain, I'm not getting any money for it, but I was doing it for the public."
Mr Elms said the business had been down 98 per cent since coronavirus started and Rainbow Beach had basically "become a ghost town".
He added that if the issue surrounding the no air pumps wasn't resolved, the town's tourism might suffer.
"It's not just a financial issue, a business issue, a safety issue, but it's a tourism issue as well," he said.
"Can you imagine sipping your latte at a cafe down the main street and hearing the hum of 30 to 40 (personal) air compressors running off diesel?
"It would drive people away from this town."
Mr Elms said it cost his business between $5000-$10,000 a year to supply free air to tourists and locals alike, "with about $30,000 worth of infrastructure tied up in it".
"Giving away the free air costs me a lot of money, but I want to do it because it's for the good of the community.
"But I've been threatened with a $50,000 fine if I continued."
Mr Elms said they launched the petition to push for the State Government to supply air pumps for beach 4WDs to re-pump the air back in.
"The government advise them to lower the tyre pressure for safety on the beach, but don't provide something to repump them," he said.
"It's time to change that.
"It comes down to the government having a duty of care, and that is a road safety matter.
"Llew O'Brien is passionate about this too.
"He used to be a police officer dealing with road trauma all the time and was the chair of the road safety committee.
"He shares my belief that this will end in death or tragedy, because if you drive at 15PSI, a heavily laden 4WD that's probably top heavy with equipment on the roof, at 100km per hour on bitumen... it will end in tragedy."
Mr Elms said: "There aren't enough hours in a year for the three air hoses in town during the 12 hours a day that they're open, to inflate the 800,000 tyres required."
"We're not like a normal fuel station that gets used twice a week; we do 800,000 large tyres from about 15 PSI up to 40 PSI.
"Between the five air hoses I had, which are the only 24 hours, and the three shared between the two at the Shell and the BP, it still sometimes wasn't enough during peak holiday season to stop traffic banking up on the roads.
"We believe what we were doing was in the best interest of the community."
"We're in disbelief that the Palaszczuk Government wouldn't have at least given us the time of day, to have a roundtable discussion," he said.
"Our repeated requests for our permit to continue was rejected citing native title issues, and they acknowledged that native title was determined just before Christmas," he said.
"They're in the process of resuming that land for future industrial construction, but now that native title has been determined by the courts, it means its open to be leased, and we asked if we could lease it, or buy it, to keep the pumps, but they weren't interested.
"It seems like laziness, and someone will die because of pure laziness."
A COOLOOLA Coast business has gone on the attack against the State Government, refusing to accept its decision to close down a facility supplying free air to vehicles coming off the beach and Fraser Island because of "native title issues".
Many Rainbow Beach businesses are already in crisis, with coronavirus, the lockdown and closed state border all but destroying tourism on the Cooloola Coast.
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Some businesses have suffered a revenue decline of up to 90 per cent, Gympie MP Tony Perrett told State Parliament in June in an effort to accelerate the easing of lockdown restrictions.
The government's decision to remove the facility was an "egregious failure of duty of care" to motorists paying to drive on the beach and being advised to lower their tyre pressure before they do so, the Rainbow Beach 4WD Underbody and Complete Car Wash said via a Facebook post, urging people to sign a petition requesting the House to urgently build and administer a free 24 hour tyre inflation facility at Rainbow.
After a two year battle to get the State Government to agree "to a common sense free air solution", the Government had forced the removal of the free air facility, the Facebook post proclaimed.
"Blaming Native Title issues and without as much as a meeting, they have ignored warnings that this important piece of infrastructure should be available somewhere in Rainbow Beach," it reads.
"Within 24 hoursrs the Shell servo compressor failed to keep up with demand and that left only one air hose in Rainbow Beach at the BP.
"We understand many hardcore 4WDs will have their own compressors but our beaches are for everyone to enjoy.
"Please sign our petition sponsored by local LNP MP Tony Perrett and supported by Gympie Mayor Glen Hartwig and Division 2 councillor Dolly Jensen.
"After 20 years of supplying free air, it is our intention to work with local reps to find a solution.
The petition, which can se signed HERE, states:
Queensland citizens draws to the attention of the House that for 40 years Rainbow Beach businesses have carried the burden of filling approximately 800,000 tyres/year on 4WD vehicles that travel to our area to drive on the beaches in Cooloola and Fraser Island National Parks. The State Government, through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, receive permit fees from each and every vehicle and advise those vehicles to lower their tyre pressures. In an egregious failure of duty of care the State does not supply a free facility to reinflate those tyres to ensure the safety of those travellers once they return to our roads.
The petitioners, therefore, request the House to urgently build and administer a free 24 hour Tyre Inflation Facility at Rainbow Beach to service Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service customers' requirements.
The principal petitioner is Scott Elms of Rainbow Beach.
A response has been sought from the Premier's office and the office Environment Minister Leanne Enoch.