EDITORIAL: Tough love talk needed for our Coast today
FOR too long there’s been a rule in many ranks that being town and region proud means never speaking ill of the place we call home.
It is however hard to imagine a more important moment in history to be frank about the challenges we face on the Fraser Coast.
That amid the green shoots of positivity and progress in both Maryborough and Hervey Bay, is an underlying misery which threatens our safety and tears at the fabric of our community.
Yes, we live in one of the best places in the world but if we want it to stay that way, we must address entrenched social disadvantage, divisiveness between the two cities and the problems which plagued our region long before COVID-19.
Dismissing drug and crime trends with “it’s not just here, it’s everywhere” is both ignorant and irresponsible.
Retirees don’t get mugged at knifepoint on their way home from the shops everywhere.
Shops aren’t held up by armed robbers for consecutive weekends everywhere.
More than 140 people don’t go through the local courthouse in one day everywhere.
Poor Townsville and a few spots near Brisbane with much larger populations are probably exceptions but surely we don’t need to get to that level before we accept we have a problem.
Any police officer (on the beat and not in desk roles where parroting department heads is a prerequisite) will tell you the drug situation is dire.
They long for the days where speed was the most serious drug on the local market.
It was nothing compared to ice.
A day in the Maryborough courthouse on Mondays and Tuesdays and Hervey Bay courthouse on Thursdays will also provide a wake up call.
The jail, while a major employer, is the source of much of this misery.
Consecutive governments have expected this community to tolerate not only a jail but also, an overcrowded one without being prepared to help fund the fix.
Too many kids continue to fall through the cracks and once they’ve turned to crime, police are powerless to do anything about it.
The powers that be have watched as wall to wall housing estates and CBDs are filled with ex-inmates and jail families who bring their issues with them and then stay living here with their paroled relatives.
A successful rehabilitation centre, directly responsible for helping change the lives of many, including those who were previously breaking into our homes, can’t get funding because of links to an evangelical Christian church.
It’s been here for 10 years.
Now both major parties are promising to build new rehabs instead.
Unenviable unemployment rates have all but been accepted as the norm.
The jobless rates which have left much of the country reeling have been our reality for more than a decade.
Until now, we’ve been quick to put this down to a lack of opportunity.
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on many local businesses and left many talented and capable people out of work.
It has also exposed an uncomfortable truth – that many of the region’s other unemployed weren’t actually that keen to roll up their sleeves.
Some of our biggest employers and most popular businesses are crying out for staff and cutting back opening hours because there’s simply no applications.
We have promoted investment in the region and on the rare occasion, authorities have been prepared to work together to speed things up in an area which has earned a reputation for red tape.
Even then, the munitions factory would never have gotten off the ground had critical power supply shortage not been exposed and urgent works worth millions of dollars committed.
The Chronicle has, for the last two years, celebrated job and investment wins and will continue to do so just as it will continue to promote pride in our region and call out toxic naysayers on social media sites who spew only hate.
But you can be an advocate for this region and still want change.
In fact, its biggest champions are needed right now to use their influence to call on the leaders of this region to remove the rose coloured glasses and stop pretending everything is, well, rosy.
You can promote the best bits of living and working here while still being honest about the not so great bits and being part of the solution.
Anyone who believes the enemies of prosperity can be killed with kindness and by focusing only on the positives is out touch with what’s really going on.
By the end of this weekend we will know who is going to lead the Fraser Coast for the longest term in Queensland Government history.
Whether it means a change of Government or a change of approach at a local level, one thing is for sure - the message sent by the people of the Fraser Coast at the ballot box today and in the wake of this election must be that our eyes are open and we will not accept more of the same.
Loving where we live doesn’t mean this shouldn’t sometimes come in the form of tough love.
There’s never been a better time to break that rule.