Nev hijacks Geoff?s day
By ED SOUTHORN
IT was planned to be a major event in the election campaign of Tweed Nationals candidate Geoff Provest.
But yesterday's public rally to protest against NSW government plans to redevelop the Jack Evans Boat Harbour was dominated by Labor MP Neville Newell.
Mr Newell stood casually on the back of a truck, verbally fended off hecklers and gave a long explanation of how government proposals to update the harbour precinct would maximise and improve public open space.
A noisy crowd of about 500 people, mostly National Party supporters, turned out for the rally, chaired by Coastal Alliance president Phil Arnott.
After Mr Newell gave his lengthy speech and then answered questions from the crowd, Nationals supporter and Save the Jack Evans Boat Harbour group member Dudley Kelso suddenly took the microphone to declare the rally closed.
Mr Newell initially declined an invitation from Mr Arnott to address the rally, and at first appeared reluctant to speak, but then announced he would, but only after everyone else had their say.
Mr Provest, Duranbah Hill resident and motor racing identity Tony Longhurst, Young Liberals spokesman Luke Barnes, Mr Arnott and Mr Kelso all spoke before Mr Newell.
They argued that the state government wanted to sell off public open space around the boat harbour, build a boardwalk over part of the harbour to support a building, allow a four-storey residential and commercial building on public land in Coral Street and desecrate Flagstaff Hill with a museum.
Mr Longhurst said he had lived on the Tweed for about six years and had observed rapid population and development.
He declared the museum would be a "concrete bunker".
"There are beautiful public amenities on the Queensland side of the border, but on the NSW side it's appalling," Mr Longhurst said.
Mr Arnott said $8 million in consultancy fees for the boat harbour redevelopment could be better spent on schools, hospitals and roads.
Mr Barnes claimed the government wanted to fill in "two football fields worth of the harbour".
Mr Provest said he was "sick and tired of the Sydney Labor government's rape and pillage of the Tweed's natural resources".
Mr Kelso presented a petition to Mr Provest with more than 3000 names opposed to the boat harbour master plan proposals.
Mr Newell said residents were being "hoodwinked" by politically inspired misinformation.
He said the rally site, near the Boundary and Coral streets intersection, would be protected from development which had been allowed under a Tweed Shire planning scheme.
He also said the boat harbour master plan had been exposed to lengthy public consultation, Flagstaff Hill would retain a large section of open space, the museum would be at the bottom of the hill and a Volunteer Marine Rescue base originally planned for the boat harbour would be relocated to Dry Dock Road.
Mr Newell conceded crown land on Coral Street would be permitted for a maximum four-storey mixed-use development.
"I know I've got some hecklers, but they don't want to hear the truth," Mr Newell told the crowd.
Labor sources at the rally told the Daily News the Flagstaff Hill museum had replaced a cultural centre building option for construction over a small portion of the boat harbour, although a boardwalk was still planned over the harbour to service a river-facing jetty.
The rally adopted motions to preserve open space and oppose any buildings over the harbour.