Mayor?s backflip on transit centre stuns councillors

By YVONNE McLEAN

THE City Council's final decision on its proposed sale of the Transit Centre, Bruce Bishop Car Park and the Neal Shannon Park for redevelopment has been laid to rest until next year.

In an about face during one of the most acrimonious arguments witnessed in the life of this controversial council, Mayor Ron Clarke agreed not to proceed with his wish for a referendum or poll of Surfers Paradise residents on the future of the transit centre and its car park and green space.

Instead he won majority council backing for a suitable public statement on the proposed redevelopment to be published in Gold Coast newspapers prior to Christmas.

The mayor's intention to also seek public opinion on the Indy and the fluoridation of Gold Coast water was dismissed by councillors out of hand.

Earlier Cr Daphne McDonald had strongly criticised a referendum or poll to be restricted to Surfers Paradise because it would deny input by the residents across the community on a whole-of-city matter.

It was Cr Bob La Castra's motion endorsing the newspaper ads and seeking a full background of the transit centre site that won majority council support.

Anger escalated as Cr Peter Young insisted on knowing who was going to prepare the so-called suitable public statement for the newspapers considering wrong information from the mayor had in the past been printed in a news- paper wraparound.

Cr Dawn Crichlow, who has supported Surfers Paradise Cr Susie Douglas in her bid to stop the sale called on the mayor to "for goodness sake" listen to the people - they had spoken. The transit centre must not be sold.

A furious Cr Eddy Sarroff said buying newspaper ads to explain the proposed sale was a waste of ratepayers' money.

The people were outraged over the plan because there was no guarantee a developer would provide all the facilities that presently existed.

At one stage of this unpleasant debate Mayor Clarke accused former Gold Coast mayor and former Surfers Paradise MP Lex Bell (a solicitor and one of the Gold Coast's most respected citizens) of giving out totally wrong information about the proposed redevelopment at the recent protest rally.

As the shouting continued, Mayor Clarke's gavel worked overtime and through the noise Cr Rob Molhoek managed to have listed a recision motion against the transit sale to be discussed at the first full meeting in 2005.

He thought maybe councillors anxious to see the place sold would have a change of heart over Christmas.

Council ended the final session since the March election the way it began - with some ill will among some members and escalating disharmony.

During the furore Cr La Castra even tried a little bit of "ho-hoho" in an attempt to soothe the troubled waters.

The bid fell flat.



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