The Bruce Highway divides the Sunshine Coast east to west.
The Bruce Highway divides the Sunshine Coast east to west. John McCutcheon

GREAT DIVIDE: Calls for breakaway hinterland council

THE Bruce Highway has become the frontline of a battle Nambour resident Rex Metcalfe says is born of hinterland neglect.

He is among a chorus of voices calling for a breakaway from Sunshine Coast Council so hinterland residents can run their own local government.

Noosa Council successfully de-amalgamated in 2013 and Mr Metcalfe hopes the hinterland can one day do the same.

"Over the last few years and particularly with the current council, the area west of the highway is being neglected," Mr Metcalfe said.

He said the neglect related to infrastructure and services.

"If you drive down Currie St, you are very lucky not to hit a pothole," Mr Metcalfe said.

He said all major infrastructure projects seemed to be on the coastline.

"I think that the hinterland would be much better off by itself," he said.

Mr Metcalfe noted there were smaller local governments which were able to maintain themselves.

Should the Sunshine Coast hinterland break away and form its own council?

This poll ended on 02 April 2018.

Current Results

Definitely. The hinterland would finally get some attention.

58%

No way, it would waste money and create more problems.

17%

I'm not sure. The residents should get to decide with a vote.

23%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.


"It (the hinterland) wouldn't be a wealthy council but it certainly would be viable," he said.

"The current council seems to be only interested in the coast."

His sentiments were shared by former Woombye resident Steven Ford.

He said his dream was to eventually buy a rural property on the Mary River.

"I'm interested in the local politics of the area and I just feel Nambour particularly is being ignored and abused by Sunshine Coast Council," Mr Ford said.

He said the hinterland had a wealth of history, population and opportunities to improve.

"We are just not making the best of them," he said.

He conceded a new hinterland council could struggle financially but that could be countered by attracting more residents to the area.

"The whole hinterland area is an amazing area and we could be doing so much more with it," he said.

Life-long Conondale resident Ian Fleiter, 84, said he felt the area around his farm was the "tail-end" of the region when it came to council spending. He and wife Nancy, 85, run about 50 head of cattle.

"We have got to fight like hell for everything that you want done and I don't think everyday ratepayers should have to do that," Mr Fleiter said.

"I think it is the old story that there are not many votes out here.

"I believe the majority of the work gets done where the votes are."

However, he said the region would not be better served by its own council.

"Even though we disagree at times, I've never really thought that it would be successful to split the shire into two," Mr Fleiter said.

"I just don't think the population is out here when you come away from that coastal strip."

Kenilworth and District Chamber of Commerce and Citizens president Dennis James also doubted the sustainability of a new local government.

He gave his personal thoughts, as the topic had not been discussed by his organisation.

"I don't know they would be able to do much more than what is being done at the minute," Mr James said.

"If it appeared and suddenly put the rates up, I think people would feel they had made the wrong choice."

Sunshine Coast Council figures showed the council was spending more on the hinterland than it generated in rates.

The figures showed rates income and capital expenditure from the past six years and the projected rates income and capital expenditure for the coming four years.

They showed the council had allocated 30.1 per cent of its capital expenditure on hinterland divisions which generated 23.8 per cent of rates.

A council spokesman said the council supported a State Government statement ruling out further changes to local government boundaries.

"The hinterland communities have always been joined with the coastal communities under the local government arrangements on the Sunshine Coast - even prior to amalgamation in 2008," the spokesman said.

"This recognises that the less-populated communities in the hinterland benefit in many ways from their inclusion in a wider local government area."

He said any stand-alone hinterland council would need to significantly reduce expenditure or introduce a substantial rate rise to maintain the levels of service and capital works currently provided by Sunshine Coast Council.

The spokesman said while a number of the major regional infrastructure projects like the Sunshine Coast Airport expansion, the solar farm and the Maroochydore City Centre were physically located east of the Bruce Highway, they delivered benefits for the whole region.

"These benefits include access to new employment opportunities, better access to facilities and services within the region and more opportunities for supply chain businesses based in the hinterland," he said.


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