'Council should hang their heads in shame'

Gympie mayor, Mick Curran.
Gympie mayor, Mick Curran. Tom Daunt

TENSIONS were high in Widgee yesterday afternoon as more than 100 locals faced off against Gympie Regional Councillors over the forced relocation or closure of local manufacturing heavyweight, Widgee Engineering.

In a public meeting at Widgee Memorial Hall, residents questioned the council's decision to close the town's main employer.

"Council should hang their heads in shame if they can't come up with a solution,” one meeting attendee stated.

"How does one complaint close a business?” asked another.

Mayor Mick Curran, who was one of three councillors to vote against the motion to move or close the business, said he had to "respect the decision of council".

"There was a recommendation made by council staff to councillors,” Cr Curran said.

Mayor Mick Curran addresses the crowd yesterday in Widgee.
Mayor Mick Curran addresses the crowd yesterday in Widgee. Tom Daunt

"I didn't support that recommendation and I voted to support Widgee Engineering.

"I believe there is a lot of background issue here in regard to the process.

"This is a business that has been operating in the Widgee area since 1993.

"Probably their own success has caused them to be in the position they are today.

"There has been a number of approvals since 1993 to council which in my personal opinion shows tacit consent for this business to be operating."

Cr Bob Leitch came under fire for his vote to support the recommendation to close the business.

Cr Leitch said his decision was based on the information given to him by council staff.

"I spent time reading it, it was a very difficult decision,” he said.

"I think the meeting showed that Widgee Engineering has tremendous support in the community and the community obviously still wants them here in this situation."

Cr Leitch said after attending yesterday's meeting he has a new perspective on the issue.

"Most certainly, I have seen a different side” he said.

Councillor Bob Leitch (white shirt) at the Widgee meeting yesterday.
Councillor Bob Leitch (white shirt) at the Widgee meeting yesterday. Tom Daunt

"I probably have more connection with the people and the community here than what I had previously."

Meeting organiser and Widgee Engineering employee Malcolm Biegel said saving the business means everything to him.

"The meeting was (called) because Gympie council voted to close Widgee Engineering down,” he said.

"I believe that most of the decisions that the town planners based their decisions on were either misleading or exaggerated.”

He was overwhelmed by the community support.

"There was not one person in the entire room that would say anything against Widgee Engineering and the loss of these jobs," Mr Borges said.

"It (Widgee) is a small country community where everybody supports everybody else and binds together.

"They showed up in more or less torrential rain in droves to support our cause.”

Hundreds packed in to the Widgee Memorial Hall.
Hundreds packed in to the Widgee Memorial Hall. Tom Daunt

A motion was moved at the end of the meeting to call on council to review their decision and leave no stone unturned to ensure the continuation of the business.

They requested five days' notice in writing for council to respond.

Topics:  gympie regional council. local government mick curran planning and environment court of queensland widgee engineering

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