Grassroots group battles for public parkland
Contributed by Save our Foreshore spokesperson Suzanne Pelt
A PROMINENT community group that has appeared in the pages of the Whitsunday Times over the years is grassroots organisation Save Our Foreshore (SOF).
It was born 16 years ago out of the powerful and broadscale community objection to handing over public parkland to a private developer in the heart of Airlie Beach.
The parkland concerned remains a “temporary car park” in the town’s centre but was always intended to be a grassy parkland for public use and the community has never given up on this transformation.
Back in 2004, the local council of the day made a deal with a large developer to build a privately owned high-rise hotel on the site.
It was in contravention of the Town Planning Scheme and angered locals who, historically, want to keep a low-rise, two storey building height limit in the Main St area.
The move had followed extensive community consultation.
An enraged public rallied in October that year, the largest community rally ever seen in the town.
The community won, after a long battle. Save Our Foreshore considered its work done.
But defeating that first proposal wasn’t the end of the public land issue.
In the ensuing decade and a half, the community has battled again and again to keep public land in public hands.
Community consultations often seemed to have no effect, despite the many thousands of petition signatures.
SOF came to the fore again over a series of landgrabs, large and small.
SOF brought together members from every corner of the region to fight and win against mining oil shale on the fragile wetlands south of Proserpine.
The SOF community prevented an unfunded land swap to divert and build a new road through the same central Airlie carpark so that a hotel could be built over the existing main street.
SOF joined with Shute Harbour residents to fight against a bizarre marina design for Shute Harbour that has so many gaping holes in the plan.
And that fight continues to this day.
SOF became a respected community watchdog, protecting public lands and to this day is also fighting for the retention of blocks of public land on Airlie’s foreshore.
SOF liaises with government departments on all levels to ensure all available information is made public.
Please be aware that SOF is made up of volunteers from the community who have no vested interest other than preserving public lands for public use.