OBJECTORS of the proposed Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Primary Health Care Service development had the opportunity to voice their concerns at last week’s Tablelands Regional Council meeting.
Five residents were each given five minutes to allude to the issues associated with the development, before its approval or disapproval was voted on by TRC councillors later in the meeting.
The multi-million dollar project will include a medical centre with additional amenities such as a function facility, shop, office and food and drink outlet as stated in the proposal’s official documents.
Atherton resident Michelle Saunders said those who object to the development don’t disapprove of the health service; however they do disapprove of the supplementary facilities.
“We have continually stated that we are not opposed to the medical centre,” she said.
“However when you look at the development in its totality, it doesn’t check the boxes from a feasibility standpoint. It is in the wrong place and should be undertaken elsewhere.”
One issue which garnered a strong negative response from the residents was the provision of alcohol.
“Common sense would say that a medical service and the supplying of alcohol don’t go hand in hand,” Ms Saunders said.
“Council have stated that there will not be a bottle shop however the application states the contrary.
“There are a number of problems that can arise if you mix people seeking medical assistance and the accessibility to alcohol.”
Tablelands Regional Council Chief Executive Officer Justin Commons refuted the objectors’ claims that there will be a bottle shop as part of the development.
“Black and white, a bottle shop is not able to go into that facility because it does not meet the conditions that have been imposed on the development approval,” he said. “The provision of alcohol must be ancillary to the facility, which a liquor outlet is not.”
TRC Mayor Joe Paronella said the alcohol licencing for the facility may be granted for the function centre and potentially for training programs relating to hospitality services, however he wanted to reiterate that the decision to grant such licenses is not TRC’s, it is the State Government’s.
Another pertinent issue tabled by an objector at the council meeting was the impact the development could have on the Peaks Gully Catchment.
Council concluded that the Mulungu project would have a “non-worsening” effect on the catchment, a conclusion objector Sidney Dikes strongly disagrees with.
“The stormwater drainage problems with Peaks Gully Catchment have been a multi-decade issue,” Mr Dikes said.
“There have been a number of engineers and hydrologists who have noted the significant improvements that need to be made to address the frequency with which the town is flooded.
“When council say that there can be no increase in water into the system, all you’ve got to do is put one building in an absorbent area and you’ll immediately have a water increase.
“That is the threat which this development poses and I don’t see how council can say it will have a non-worsening effect.”
Mr Commons said it is very clear within the report that there is to be no worsening of the current stormwater issues that is experienced in the area.
“In terms of the development application from Mulungu, it has been conditioned that their development cannot cause further deterioration to the existing water issues that are there,” he said.
“There was a request from councillors that they be provided with a report outlining what the status is in relation to the Peaks Gully Catchment and its associated drainage issues.
“That report will be coming back to council in either March or April, and it will specifically look at the underlying issues that exist and what needs to be done to address it”
Mr Commons said to reach a complete resolution to the stormwater drainage issues will be a significantly large project.
“Another aspect of the report will identify how council can stage works incrementally over a number of years to address the stormwater problems,” he said.
Although the problems some residents had with the development itself were of great significance, it was also the public consultation process that had many objectors displeased.
“They did not follow the process in relation to the public consultation calendar,” resident Rachel Grandcourt said.
“We were given from December 7 to January 4, however December 20-January 4 are not business operating days.
“So instead of having a full month, they only operated the public consultation over 9 days, which did not give the people the proper ability to make an objection.”
Ms Grandcourt said what concerns her is that the entire process has been colluded.
“There has been no transparency, and it has seemed that council had a pre-empted outcome in mind – so this process was in bias of one party over another,” she said.
“We were largely excluded from the process – there has been no liaising with the community.
“So council’s statement that this is a community project has proven to be anything but.
“Ultimately this development will be catatonic and change where we live forever, so we should have had more of a say.”
TRC CEO Justin Commons said although council’s public consultation process wasn’t quite what they envisioned; they are firmly of the view that council has heard clearly what a number of concerns are from the community.
“We’re comfortable we have gotten a clear understanding of the community’s concerns, and we believe the report appropriately addresses many of those that were raised,” he said.
At the council meeting, the Mulungu development was approved via a casting vote from TRC Mayor Joe Paronella.