Fraser Coast Chronicle journalist Roderick Makim.
Fraser Coast Chronicle journalist Roderick Makim.

‘We the people' are the power brokers in a democracy

IT'S easy to forget the power of democracy.

Decision making at all levels of government can seem so far removed from the people - obfuscated by layers of bureaucracy, spin-doctors, party politics and clauses of confidentiality.

The fact it is the voters with whom the real power of democracy rests can be overlooked.

That is why the public participation sections of the Fraser Coast Regional Council meetings are so important.

The most recent meeting involved one and a half hours of the public having their say, and some of it had a direct correlation with what later happened when it was time for the council to make a decision on an issue.

On paper, the Rosewood on Hervey Bay development on Pulgul St seemed to be a no-brainer for any council to approve.

A $60 million project, with buzz words in the design like "carbon neutral", and a report that stated agreement had been reached with the Butchulla people to look after significant sites.

Then the people of Pulgul St got to have their say, and presented such a strong rebuttal of the report on key points such as which Butchulla had made the agreement, or what part of Moolyyir Creek was actually considered a creek - that the council had no choice but to listen and hold off on approving the development.

One councillor confided he had been ready to approve the project that morning, but not until he was satisfied he could answer the questions raised by the people who stood up and had their say in public participation.

It was democracy at its most raw.

It was the voice of the people being heard and acted upon immediately.

Of course, it doesn't always work quite like that.

Allan Fuary is well known in the council meetings, as he rarely misses a chance to have his say in public participation.

Last week, he handed the council a Certificate of Non Achievement after his long-running lament over the state of Old Coach Rd was ignored once again.

Either way, the people of the Fraser Coast are lucky they even have the opportunity to speak directly to the councillors that public participation offers.

Many other councils across the state don't have it.

While the exact numbers are unknown, the Local Government Association of Queensland confirmed many councils had discontinued it due to lack of public interest.

Something tells me that won't be the case on the Fraser Coast any time in the foreseeable future.