A decision to put $250,000 towards the cost of a bitumen car park for the Blackbutt Memorial Hall led to some harsh words at Wednesday’s South Burnett Regional Council meeting.
Councillors were asked to support a motion the Council would contribute 50 per cent of the car park’s costs if its application to the State Government’s Building Our Regions grants program was successful.
The Memorial Hall is currently being moved from its former Coulson Street site to a new home near the Blackbutt Showgrounds so a modern supermarket can be built on the Coulson Street site.
Speaking to the motion, Cr Ros Heit said she thought a supermarket development in Blackbutt was a good idea.
“It will provide an economic boost to the area and generate employment in Blackbutt,” Cr Heit said.
“It will set up a facility which will support further growth (of the town) into the future.”
Cr Heit said she also thought the Blackbutt Hall’s new location was a good one, and having the developer upgrade the Hall to comply with current standards as part of the relocation project was a good thing, too.
“However, I have an issue with the cost of $500,000 plus to set up footpaths, a 22-bay carpark and landscaping,” Cr Heit said.
“Firstly, Blackbutt residents were told there would be no or a very minimal cost to ratepayers to relocate the Hall.
“$500,000 plus is a lot of money, and I think we are betraying not only Blackbutt’s residents but all South Burnett residents if we spend this sort of money on unnecessary infrastructure.
“There are nearly 20 halls in the South Burnett, most of which don’t have disability access toilets, are old and desperately in need of maintenance, and certainly don’t have a bitumen line-marked carpark.
“Secondly, the hall is a valuable community asset that is used for big functions once or twice a year, and smaller functions every couple of months, and I don’t believe this level of usage justifies the need for a bitumen carpark.
“Council assesses the need to seal roads on the basis of traffic counts, and I think the traffic count for this road would be less than one a day.
“If we have a spare $500,000 there are plenty of dangerous roads that could be improved with that sort of money which would get a lot more traffic.”
Cr Heit said she was also concerned Council might be setting a precedent by spending $500,000 to encourage the supermarket development to come to the region.
“Will every other new business want this sort of money spent to allow them to operate here? Can we afford this?”
However, Cr Heit said that if the Council can get a 50 per cent subsidy from the State Government, it made the redevelopment a more attractive proposition.
“With reluctance, I will vote for this motion,” Cr Heit said.
“But if we are unsuccessful in this submission, I will argue that $500,000 for such a low usage hall carpark is gross negligence and a betrayal of our obligation to deliver prudent financial management.”