‘FURIOUS’: Beach-side residents fight council plans
UPSET residents from the small coastal town of St Helens Beach have told the Mackay Regional Council to "go back to the drawing board".
A fiery debate broke out after the council presented its draft local coastal plan to the community, dozens of residents concerned about proposed changes to the shoreline.
With many long-time recreational fishermen among the group, the council's suggestion to build fences along the beach had some furious.
Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance president John Bennett said the draft coastal plan was "pretty messy", though he commended council for consulting with residents.
Mr Bennett owns a beach house along the St Helens Beach esplanade and regularly uses a tractor to launch his boat.
"The boat ramp here is a half-tide ramp so there is a very small window of time you can use it," he said.
"This is a fishing community so everyone that lives here owns a tractor and they go straight out onto the beach from the esplanade to launch their boat.
"If council goes and builds fences and revegetates that esplanade, it will take away the reason people choose to live here."
Mr Bennet said he was serious about preserving the lifestyle that St Helens Beach offered to residents.
He said the open spaces for children to play were a drawcard for families.
"Kids play cricket down here on the grass or go down to the beach to play - all while parents sit on their verandas and keep an eye on them," he said.
"Santa Clause drives down the esplanade every year at Christmas time.
"When public areas like that start getting fenced off, people get concerned."
Noel Keioskie is another St Helens Beach resident who made his opinion known at the council community consultation session last week.
Mr Keioskie's family has lived in the area for more than a century after his great grandfather Kerry Keioskie settled at the beach in 1886.
The 71 year old was "disgusted" at the council's suggestion to build a rockwall, revegetate the esplanade and build a fence to "block the beautiful view".
"Everyone is a bit upset because this draft plan is too complicated," he said.
"When you pay for a beachfront block, you normally pay double. If council is going to bugger our view are they going to pay us for the devaluation of our land?"
The St Helens Beach draft local coastal plan was created by Reef Catchments and Mackay Regional Council.
Reef Catchments projects officer Cass Hayward was at the community consultation day last week and said she wasn't surprised at how vocal residents were about the future of their beach.
"We knew the residents were very passionate about their community, but at the end of the day this plan is a draft, so nothing is set in stone," she said.
"Our intention was always to present something to the community and then have negotiation on certain points."
Moving forward, Ms Hayward said, further consultation with residents was required in order to re-work the draft local coastal plan.
"It is clear we need some time to flesh out the ideas in detail with representatives from the community," she said.
St Helens Beach is 50km north of Mackay and has a population of about 200 people.