Anti-mosque group lodges petition to Fraser Coast Council
A PETITION from an anti-mosque group calling for the closure of a Hervey Bay Islamic prayer hall has made its way to the Fraser Coast Regional Council.
Tabled in a council meeting yesterday by CEO Ken Diehm, the petition calls for the closure of the prayer hall on Tooth St and that future places of worship in the Fraser Coast be impact-assessd.
"This site was zoned as a place of worship in 1979 when the area was semi-rural but now it is a residential area," the petition reads.
"An updated Impact Assessment and no Public Consultation was undertaken when the property was recently purchased.
"Therefore, an Islamic Prayer Hall is not conducive with the residential zoning it has been given."
It has since garnered more than 1000 signatures since it was launched in July.
The petition is now awaiting action by the CEO's office, and could be discussed by councillors at their next meeting.
But deputy mayor George Seymour said any further discussion was unlikely, as the location had already been zoned at an earlier date.
Cr Seymour earlier told the Chronicle he respected people's right to worship and would not be in favour of any petition attacking people on the basis of their religion.
The issue remains contentious for council, with a similar petition tabled by Cr James Hansen last year aiming to amend planning laws to make places of worship impact assessable. The motion was defeated 6-5.
When asked about the current petition before council, Cr Hansen said he had no involvement with the group.
"I support everyone's right to petition about anything; I would support people's right to table a petition about changing the colour of the STOP signs," Cr Hansen said.
Petitioner Jyrki Lehtonen said the petition was started to change the council's planning laws surrounding places of worship.
He said residents in the area were concerned about the potential noise and parking issues the prayer hall created.
"The owners might do an extension or build upwards, make it into a bigger congregational place," Mr Lehtonen said.
"We believe it should be looked at."
But he denied the petition was anti-Muslim, saying they would campaign just as hard if the location was a worship place of any other religion.
"It's based on resident's concerns with the place...long-term, we want to see all places of worship impact-assessed," Mr Lehtonen said.