STREET OF FIRE: The plan to spend $3 million to beautify Upper Mary St has split Gympie Regional Councillors.
STREET OF FIRE: The plan to spend $3 million to beautify Upper Mary St has split Gympie Regional Councillors. Renee Albrecht

SPLIT: $3m CBD project drives wedge in Gympie council

THE planned $3 million beautification of Upper Mary St has caused a rift within Gympie Regional Council, with two councillors asking if the project can be scrapped.

Councillor Bob Fredman said the project was a "worry” and questioned if the council could return the $1.5 million Federal Government grant and find a better use for the ratepayers' money.

Since 2013, $155,000 has been spent on the project, including $90,000 for the detailed designs used to secure Federal funding. Another $97,000 is still budgeted as part of a contract to finish the detailed design documents.

Upper Mary street Gympie.
Upper Mary street Gympie. Renee Albrecht

Cr Fredman said the lack of underground power was a concern given it was part of the original project floated in 2015, and could still happen in the future. It was not his only concern either. "I'm not a fan of putting trees in Upper Mary St,” he said, adding that the $1.5 million "won't make the street any flatter” either.

"It will still be a bugger to walk up,” he said.

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Cr Hilary Smerdon also queried what the benefit to the community would be.

Mayor Mick Curran defended it as work the council needed to do ahead of the bypass opening.

And it was "past the point of no return” when it came to the question of ditching it, he said.

READY TO UPGRADE: The concepts for the Mary St revitalisation show a host of changes.
READY TO UPGRADE: The concepts for the Mary St revitalisation show a host of changes. Gympie Regional Council

If they did, Cr Curran said,"common sense” said the council could "kiss goodbye” to their chances of receiving future Federal funds.

According to Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien, while the council would lose that $1.5 million if it returned the money there would be no long-term repercussions.

"In terms of future applications it won't have any effect,” Mr O'Brien said.

"Applications are judged their merit and strength.

"It's treated on a case-by-case basis.”

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Asked about this position, Cr Curran said returning the funding would still be "detrimental”.

"Appreciating and respecting Llew O'Brien's comments, council would not be acting responsibly and I still believe it would be detrimental to the relationship council has worked hard to develop with the Federal Government,” he said.

He said the council must still be mindful of the extensive consultation and work already done. "We would be breaking the trust with local business to abandon the project without due cause.”

The effect on businesses was also a bone of contention.

Cr Glen Hartwig said he had been approached by two people over the potential inconvenience of the work on businesses if it was done the "same way we did Smithfield St”.

"It's when these things drag on... a lot of those businesses will shut,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Bob Leitch said the council was going back to consult with businesses, and any who were worried about the work should speak up.

"They're the conversations they should be having,” he said.

"Make sure you voice these opinions to the planners.”

Gympie Times


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