'Community spirit banned'
SOMETIMES we walk right past the things we are looking for.
And so it is with the tiny but venerable ex-mining town of Neerdie on Gympie’s eastern side, an unpretentious but highly successful example of community spirit and environmental sustainability.
That was the case until recently, when a crushing Gympie Regional Council ruling banned spontaneous community working bees in the park, under principles which technically may also ban householders from mowing their footpaths.
Residents told The Gympie Times yesterday that they had advised the council of their park clean-up efforts, only to be told that in future “approval from council will be required for you or a contractor to undertake works on the trees on council land”.
“They will break the spirit of the place,” said resident David Camplin, as he and neighbours looked out over the town’s Paul O’Brien Memorial Park.
“This is an ideal community which shows what people can do if they are just given a go.
“I believe Neerdie is an example of sustainable development.
“We deal with our own wastes, catch our own water and many places have solar power,” he said.
But that sort of community spirit is not allowed anymore.
The defiant residents of Neerdie broke the rules a few weeks ago when they held a community working bee in their town’s park, safely felling a dangerous dead tree, trimming the bushes, mowing the lawn, mulching and removing weeds.
“We used a tractor and had all the safety gear,” Andy Hamilton said yesterday.
“I kept (the council) up to date with what we were doing and – shock, horror - what we’re doing is illegal.
“We’re only allowed to rake leaves and pick up weeds.”
“We’re rural people,” said Mr Camplin. “We’re used to heavy equipment.
“The council is trying to force town regulations on a rural community that does not share their values,” he said.
“I’ve been here six-and-a-half years and for five-and-a-half of those you couldn’t get in because the weeds were chest high,” said another neighbour Diana Chadwick.
“Twice a year we’d get a slasher. We’ve cleared so much rubbish and the conservation volunteers did a great job here during the summer.”
“It was donated to the community, not to Gympie Regional Council and it has a history of community maintenance,” said Mr Hamilton.
They also re-painted a sign commemorating the donation of the parkland to “the community” by Paul O’Brien, grandson of Neerdie pioneers, David and Elizabeth Power.
“Paul’s grandson, Tony O’Brien used to slash the place. It’s a tradition,” said Mr Camplin.
“What next?” asked Mr Hamilton yesterday.
“We probably shouldn’t use the barbecue, because we might burn our fingers.”