Tensions emerge between council, residents over skate park
A GROUP of Butchulla locals have joined a growing chorus of opponents to the proposed Pialba skate park after staging a protest on Friday.
But council CEO Ken Diehm has hit back at the critics, accusing a group of residents of "trying to use Aboriginal people to further their own cause."
It's the latest development in an ongoing row between the Fraser Coast Regional Council and Pialba residents over the Esplanade development.
Approved by councillors on June 27, the project involves the construction of a new skate park down near the adventure playground on the Esplanade.
A group of residents, led by Ian Poulter, claim the council never consulted them over the proposal to build the park.
Butchulla locals have also claimed they were not consulted over the development.
About 15 people grouped near Seafront Oval to protest the development about at 9am.
Aunty Mally Clarke, a Butchulla elder, said the site of the proposed park held a lot of spiritual meaning to the Indigenous community and claims she only found out about the development until informed by Mr Poulter.
"We still do some cultural activities down here, we bring our children down here and they dance," Ms Clarke said.
"If the council had consulted us, it would have gone through the Murri grapevine, and we all would have known.
"They (the Butchulla people) would never have agreed with this in the first place."
Mr Poulter is one of several residents who have expressed concern over the development, claiming it will attract more anti-social activity to the Esplanade.
He said the council should consider their concerns and those of the Butchulla people.
"It's a long shot to think the people who are perpetrators of the anti-social behaviour on the Torquay Rd skate park will not come down here," Mr Poulter said.
"We've said before the council didn't consult with the residents... this is now a residential area, and we've now discovered they haven't consulted with the Butchulla people."
But Mr Diehm said the council had consulted about seven Butchulla elders and their legal representatives back in February, and even earlier that morning.
He told the Chronicle they had not raised any concerns about the development.
"We did agree we would ensure the kitchen area would be preserved and enhanced to showcase Aboriginal culture," Mr Diehm said.
"It's really upsetting a small group of privileged residents are trying to use aboriginal people to further their own cause, which is to maintain exclusive rights to a significant community asset."
"We consulted with the whole community in 2015, those residents built their properties after that date.
"A simple check on our website would have revealed the master planning for area, and unfortunately they should have done their due diligence."
Mr Diehm said the concerns about anti-social behaviour were "without merit" due to the project's public location.
"This project will be used by residents and tourists, it will be activated - used by a lot of people - and will incorporate principles of urban design to minimise antisocial behaviour," he said.
The project is part of the Fraser Coast Regional Council's Hervey Bay Esplanade Tourist Precinct master plan.
Once the skate park is constructed, the existing park on Torquay Rd will be demolished.
The council went to public consultation over the plan between August and September 2015.