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12 April, 2022

Petition calls for CBD vision

A PETITION has been launched by a Mareeba businessman who is appalled at trees being pulled out and replaced by car parks in Byrnes Street and is calling for a “truly shared vision” for the town’s CBD.

By Robyn Holmes

Photo | Dreamstime

Forever Wild chief executive officer Fiachra Kearney walked the street last week to ascertain the opinion of business operators about the works in Byrnes Street which have been touted by Mareeba Shire Council as a “revitalisation” or “refresh” of the busy thoroughfare. 

Council is currently taking out the grass median strip from the northern part of the street and has earmarked the removal of several trees through the median car parking area so more spaces can be created. 

“Mareeba is our beautiful town and it belongs to all who live here. Over the past 24 months, the main street has been radically altered,” Mr Kearney said. “First, we lost all the greenery where the traffic lights are now, at the entrance to our CBD. 

“Then we lost trees to put in the wombat crossings. And now the council has begun removing the last of the beautiful trees and green median strips for more parking. And yet the town has an abundance of parking. All it needed was some signs directing people to the huge parking lots behind the shops. 

“My family and I are angry and upset watching the relentless destruction. The cooling effect of green spaces, the effect on people's well-being, and the draw of the town's beauty for tourism cannot be ignored any longer.” 

But council says the works are part of a Street Tree Master Plan which was adopted in 2018 after community consultation. Council has also been up front that the changes will allow a reduction in maintenance costs in the main street so the funds can be spent on maintaining and upgrading parks and open spaces in other areas of the shire. 

“To meet the vision outlined in the Master Plan, the current project will preserve many of the existing street trees. The planting of native trees will replace the lawn, shrubs and palm trees north of Atherton Street and the works will result in improved shade for parking,” Mayor Angela Toppin said. 

“I would like to reassure residents that while the job site currently does not look pleasing to the eye, it will look much more appealing once works are completed, just as the eastern and western sides of Byrnes Street do.” 

But Mr Kearney is adamant a future shared vision is necessary for the CBD and says that out of the 42 businesses in Byrnes Street, only one did not support the development of such a plan. 

In his petition, he calls on Mareeba Shire Council to support the development of a vision, co-designed with the community, for a CBD that “reflects our heritage, our tropical climate, and encourages commerce. Let us create a beautiful CBD that encourages people to stay longer, gives us shade and makes us smile”. 

“We must stand up and be heard. We demand that modern town planning practices be adopted and that a community-driven vision for Mareeba's CBD be developed. Creating a beautiful CBD just requires imagination!” 

The petition had surpassed 1000 signatures by Monday. 

“It really demonstrates the depth of feeling for our town, and that people want their voices to be heard clearly. This is so positive and sets the foundation for creating a shared vision for Mareeba's CBD,” Mr Kearney said. 

Mr Kearney has an office in Byrnes Street and is a member of the Mareeba Chamber of Commerce which council says supported the creation of more car parking in the street. 

Chamber president Joe Moro said he applauded Mr Fearney’s passion and would await the outcome of the petition and the discussion it had initiated.

“But we must also remember that the whatever we may decide to do, Byrnes Street is part of the highway and must remain a functional street,” he said. 

Mr Kearney plans to put forward a “strategy for change, and a process to create a truly shared vision for Mareeba” in the next few weeks. 

“If the majority of the community want our green spaces back, our town's CBD heritage protected and a plan for the future, then we must make it happen,” he said. 

“A key objective is to come together as a community, and I urge Mareeba Shire Council to join us. While mistakes have been made, council also have passion for our town and its future. They just need to listen, and now that the community voice is loud, we can come together and create a shared vision for our CBD.”

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