Editor signs off after two decades at helm

Story: Outgoing editor Michael Roser

YESTERDAY was the last day I technically will be working at The Gympie Times after 20 years.

I am on leave now until February 5 when I start as news editor at our sister publication in Toowoomba ? The Chronicle.

It has been a very difficult decision to leave this warm and cosy existence and strike out for something new, but the offer was very good and the challenge even better.

Indeed, as a young cadet on the Warwick Daily News in the mid-70s, I often thought of working at the much-bigger Chronicle ? it has only taken about 32 years to realise this ambition.

I started at The Gympie Times in July, 1986. There are still a few old-timers still pottering around the office who were here when I first walked in the door as a green deputy editor fresh from the cane fields of Mackay.

I had no idea then that I would still be here 20 years later, but needless to say it was the warm welcome my wife Terri and I received and the caring, friendly environment that made me and my family throw out the anchor and settle down for the long haul.

Gympie in those days was very much like the small city of Warwick where I grew up.

Winter was about rugby league and summer about cricket. There were four rugby league clubs. Slowly but surely these were whittled down to two, then one and even that one is struggling today.

The city and country were divided in two. Gympie City Council controlled the urban area up to the river and Widgee Shire Council the surrounding countryside.

There were many arguments between the two, mainly over shared services and Widgee Shire's contributions to Gympie City's amenities.

When the opportunity came to amalgamate the two, The Gympie Times got behind the process and thankfully both local authorities merged into a united entity called Cooloola Shire Council which today is a dynamic local authority contributing greatly to the continuing advancement of Gympie and its surrounds.

One of the most divisive times that I can remember in Gympie politics occurred after the Port Arthur massacre when Prime Minister John Howard, to his great credit, moved to curtail the gun culture that had grown up over the decades in Australia.

I will always remember the effigy of Tim Fischer hanging from a noose outside the Civic Centre and still believe it was one of the saddest sights that I have ever seen in Cooloola.

Deputy Prime Minister Fischer bravely fronted a packed theatre where there were constant interjections from those against the curtailment of rampant gun ownership in this country.

Fischer later described attending this meeting as one of the most difficult things he had ever done during his term in politics.

Gympie has struggled ever since to restore a tarnished reputation which it neither deserved nor asked for. Of late, The Gympie Times has been to the forefront in forcing the State Government to rethink the route for the proposed Bruce Highway bypass of Gympie.

The five routes put up in November last year were totally unsuitable and, while the new route might not be perfect, it is at least a better solution than those five. Of course, this does not ease of the pain of those affected and I know this community feels their sadness.

One unfinished job that unfortunately I must leave to others is stopping the disastrous Traveston Crossing Dam and the huge dislocation that this will have on the Mary Valley.

Gympie people did take the valley for granted, but they are now fully aware of what will be lost by this ill-conceived project.

It will be incredibly sad if I return to Gympie in the future and find a dry gully where once the Mary flowed through the city and surrounds.

I will miss the journey home over the Kidd Bridge where the Mary and its flood plain were always a sight of calm serenity.

I will also miss those rare occasions when the heavens opened and the Mary gave the inner city and countryside an incredible drenching that few people could imagine unless they have lived through it.

The floods were always exciting times for The Gympie Times' reporting staff as many of us had to bolster ourselves for the difficult crossing of the raging torrent in the open punts used as ferries by Cooloola Shire Council staff.

These ferries will no longer operate and I have to wonder how the flood stories are going to be told if our reporters cannot get to work.

The residents of the valley can be assured that there will be at least one voice on The Chronicle urging the use of recycled water rather than the drowning of wonderful agricultural country. I am sure that is a message that the people of Toowoomba will understand.

I am also particularly proud of the role The Gympie Times played in forcing the State Government to fix the highway at Federal. We know through our efforts that lives have been saved on this dangerous stretch of road.

The Gympie Times has changed and will continue to change as new technology and opinions continue to impact on how things are done.

One thing is for certain, the past 20 years at The Gympie Times have never been dull and the next 20 will not be either.

I have always been aware of the enormous history that this newspaper has and the contribution that it has made to Cooloola over the past 138 years and the many fine newspaper people who have gone before us.

It has been my privilege and honour to have led such a fine team at the newspaper over such a long period.

However, we will leave behind two grown children in this district so the opportunity to return will be grabbed as often as possible.

So it's not goodbye, but just farewell for the present.

Gympie Times

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