River St Maclean - Neglected or not?
River St Maclean - Neglected or not? Adam Hourigan

Maclean debate reaches boiling point

DEBATE has been bubbling in Maclean for a long time.

It is a town not short of those with strong opinions about many issues.

And the bubbling has become boiling this week following the Greater Maclean Community Action Group's stinging open letter to Clarence Valley councillors.

Mayor Richie Williamson responded to the group's claims in Wednesday's Daily Examiner, and the full text from both can be found at www.dailyexaminer.com.au.

Those views have prompted plenty of others to put their opinions in writing.

Among them are two published below, written by Pete Wilby and Denise Worrill, who each have different takes on the debate.

You can have your say by writing to letters@dailyexaminer.com.au (remember the word limit) or at our website.

 

ACTION, NOT INACTION: By Denise Worrill of Maclean

COUNCILLORS, I am apologising in advance that you have had to put up with the blatant lies which have emanated from the Maclean Inaction Group letter.

A group of 100 people does not and will not ever represent the sum of all opinions on any matter, let alone that regarding a supermarket. It certainly does not represent the whole 3000 members of the bowling club.

It is unfortunate that the current discussion to move the supermarket does look like a variation on a plan, but it will undoubtedly be a better solution if shoppers have the current tar car parking to use while the supermarket is being built.

But let's get back to the letter:

Accusing the council of no provision for future growth. WRONG.

There is ample space for future growth, and this supermarket plus current supplies, according to the Maclean Urban Study (a plan I think) will be enough until 2031. But hey, the Maclean Action Group - a misnomer if ever there was one - say otherwise. They must be the experts.

Accusing the council of a pretence with public consultation. WRONG.

The Maclean Inaction Group did not even bother to put in a deputation when this was discussed two weeks ago, as the Chamber of Commerce did. A deputation is the correct forum for pleading your case.

Accusing the council of no feedback. WRONG.

A group of 100 people does not and will not ever represent the sum of all opinions on any matter.

The council replies by many methods: email, letters, phone calls, deputations on site, and when they call a public meeting to discuss the visions for the year, six people turn up.

Accusing the council is ignoring Grafton. Well, let Grafton solve its own problems and get its own Grafton Inaction Group. We've got enough up here if they want to share.

Accusing the council of doing very little in Maclean in 10 years. WRONG.

They have paved through the CBD; built a footpath from past Gulmarrad School all the way into the High School; built the Sports Centre; built the new toilets which were needed and connected the sections of grass in a much more usable way; re-done the stormwater around the bowling club and up the hill; done the garden roundabout at the Post Office.

They are in planning for a million-dollar upgrade of McLachlan Park and Wherrett Park, both of which should start as soon as the weather clears and the Highland Gathering is finished.

Accusing the council of not upgrading the main street. WRONG.

When council did the paving, they completely revamped the outside parking lanes of the main street. The centre lanes I believe are the responsibility of the RMS. Maybe this has changed?

Accusing the council of taking away what little green space we have in Maclean. WRONG.

This new supermarket concept actually gives Maclean residents more green space than supermarket one. Keep in mind IGA has a valid DA on supermarket one. If they believe the Maclean Inaction Group, they may go back and build version one without any further discussion, but this will definitely put pressure on the people of Maclean compared to option two.

Accusing council of not maintaining the Civic Centre. WRONG.

I would like to offer the Maclean Inaction Group some vouchers to Specsavers, so they can catch a glimpse of the fairly new green Colorbond roof on the Civic Centre and the brand new kitchen which has been put in. Yes the ceiling needs painting. I'll lend them a brush.

Accusing the council of not calling a public meeting on the issue. WRONG.

They did. Years ago. The chamber has called three public meetings on the issue, but because the Maclean Inaction Group didn't get the response they wanted, the group said these meetings were rigged.

The Action Group has called four meetings - I believe meetings where if you try to stand up and discuss the issues rationally you get told to "shut up". They are meetings where there is no option to give a view opposing to theirs.

Accusing council of not replacing trees in town. WRONG.

They have replaced several trees in town, particularly in the main street. To say that Maclean only has two parks is a blatant lie. To say that people have to go to Yamba to play in a park completely ignores the beautiful children's playground next to the very expensive Sports Centre built by council with partly a grant. Specsavers again?

Perhaps the people driving to Yamba are actually going to a beach, visiting their aunt or dare I say visiting a really big supermarket?

Accusing council of overcharging on rates compared to Brisbane City. Well, sadly that's the maths behind the problem.

Accusing council of overcharging on rates compared to Brisbane City. Well, sadly that's the maths behind the problem.

If you have three million ratepayers paying rather than 2600, then the base price will always be less. It's called economies of scale. Council is not crying poor over these upgrades to Maclean, as they have grants and the sale money quarantined to be spent only on Maclean projects. This is fact.

The Maclean Inaction Group concludes their letter with a threat to pull the council into line at the next election. That is their democratic right.

However if they do get elected, they will find that legal constraints on councillors are far more rigorous than even they have any understanding of.

Successful decisions of council are an amalgamation (dare I use that word!) of councillors, council management and staff and proposals put before them.

Sometimes as, in this case, they are tweaked to get the best result. They are not the result of bullying.

 

Open letter from the Greater Maclean Community Action Group says "Maclean is not dying, it's being killed". Story here. 

 

LEARN FROM HISTORY: By Pete Wilby of Maclean

THE conflict between Clarence Valley Council and the Maclean Community Action Group has brought to the surface a confrontation that has been simmering for years and shows no sign of an immediate resolution.

Two sides can point fingers but it gets us nowhere.

There are real issues on both sides that require an urgent re-evaluation by all concerned and an admission from both sides of a need to lift their game.

Negativity exists on both sides, albeit less obvious in the case of Cr Williamson. The majority of residents seem to labour under the excuse that amalgamation is the cause of their problems.

Two sides can point fingers but it gets us nowhere.

The supermarket problem is a prime example of this.

The decision to develop retail on Cameron Park was effectively foretold in the Lower Retail Strategy in 2007. Although two CBD locations were earmarked, the other location had effectively been ruled out by a study (less than a year earlier) that nominated most of the alternative to the car park as of heritage value.

Where were the objections from the residents at this time? Council minutes only list a developer with a vested interest as speaking.

The Retail Strategy also recommended a revisit to the strategy three years later. This revisit and consideration of other locations was ignored by the council with no sign of a council meeting minute to record an agreement to do so.

Where were the residents when this adopted policy was ignored?

The adopted Retail Strategy itself does not bear scrutiny.

Although it calls itself 'The Lower Clarence', it is clearly devoted to where to put a shopping centre in the middle of Maclean.

Just as the residents cannot absolve themselves from blame in this, the council and the councillors should look at their failures in this whole saga. At what point will they realise that the wrong building has been put in the wrong place, just to placate a small pressure group in the town?

A small (and it is very small) supermarket, shoe-horned into the centre of Maclean does nothing to address the retail needs of the Lower Clarence. As one of the managers of IGA confessed, "This is where the council wanted it".

On the broader front of the Lower Clarence in total, Yamba continues to steam ahead and is a much more vibrant and attractive place to live and to visit.

Yamba has not suffered the restriction of trying to squeeze more retail into a crowded centre. It has also managed to convince this and earlier councils that they can support a large retail centre, further out of town than the suggested one at Townsend.

Yamba has a Chamber of Commerce that, in addition to looking after business interests, includes the improvement of the town and increasing tourism. It has a president who is very effective. It has lifted its sights to become the Yamba and District Chamber. If only the Maclean Chamber had such vision.

The Maclean Chamber of Commerce has only recently lifted its game but still shows no interest in the broader issue of tourism.

After many years of ineffective complaining by the chamber about the ugly power lines running across the main street, there has been no action.

It is no surprise that controversy still reigns over McLachlan Park.

The Maclean Chamber of Commerce has only recently lifted its game but still shows no interest in the broader issue of tourism.

Although the revamp is meant to be a gateway to the Clouston Plan, it remains no more than an isolated fix of one aspect of Maclean.

Where is the plan that it forms part of and how much will its deviation from the Clouston version affect the final result?

The next issue with the waterfront is the almost total lack of project management.

The move of the fisheries building was an immediate priority. Will it happen and why is the public not kept up to date?

When the owner of land on the waterfront project hit a financial wall recently, a good project manager would have pressured for a rezoning of the Home Hardware yard. This land has a real value to Maclean far greater than the reduced cost of purchase that a rezoning would have generated.

Maclean will have this eyesore on prime recreational land well into the future and it will compromise any attempt to give real value to this prime waterfront land.

Credit must go to the efforts to lift two of the Maclean hotels to a higher standard but let us not forget that there have been complaints about spoiling the heritage value.

What of the grand future outlined by the mayor?

Upgrading a very small park (a minor addition to the Clouston Plan), much needed maintenance to the Showground and Wherrett Park may temporarily lift the spirits of the residents, but how long will they offset the rancour over the attack on Maclean rates?

There is already a whisper that some professional businesses with a main base in Grafton will withdraw services from Maclean when the increased rates flow through to rents in Maclean.

It is action that improves an economy. Talking up future prospects needs more than blue sky thinking.

The Grafton economy has had a few hits of recent years. It will suffer more when the highway completion isolates it a little more.

The effect on tourism in the Valley will need a shot in the arm, starting now. The downgrading of the emphasis on tourism in the Clarence has been a negative.

In future, Maclean will be the best chance to attract tourists to pause. A service centre on the highway may be counterproductive unless the tourist can be lured to a vibrant town. Ferry Park already has a negative effect on Maclean; very few travellers are lured into town.

Maclean has potential but the absence of direction from council and the lack of proactive drive by residents does not look promising.



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