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Pumpkin Festival Query Sparks Anger

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Gympie Mayor Mick Curran and South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell, pictured with local police, get ready for the sponsors’ roll at this year’s Goomeri Pumpkin Festival

Cr Terry Fleischfresser … wanted Council to apologise to Gympie Regional Council for Cr Heit’s question

August 15, 2018

The South Burnett Regional Council’s support for the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival – an event held in neighbouring Gympie Council’s region – sparked angry exchanges at Wednesday’s council meeting in Kingaroy.

Division 6 councillor Ros Heit, whose area covers many of the rural ratepayers currently protesting against rate rises, asked a question on notice about how much South Burnett ratepayers’ money had been used to promote the Goomeri event.

She said it was a great festival which had been running successfully for many years, and she conceded the South Burnett drew some benefit from it.

“But I have an issue that we do have limited funds, and when we’re spending $60,000 on destination marketing, of which $25,000 is allocated to the ‘Let’s Go’ magazine and which promotes six (events), one of those is the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival,” Cr Heit said.

“I think if we can only promote six events, they should be six events that are in the South Burnett where we get all the benefit, because the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival primarily promotes Goomeri and that region.

“I think this magazine was an ideal opportunity to promote events – possibly the new ones coming up in the next month or so, like the Murgon Rail Trail Festival, or the Wondai Garden Expo.

“Then people can be coming to the region for these events, which is what we want.

“They’re new events, particularly the Murgon rail trail events, they’re new events that we should be promoting.

“I don’t think – and I’ve spoken to a number of people about this – that we should be promoting an event where the primary beneficiaries are outside our region.

“We should be growing and developing our own events in this region.”

Cr Heit’s statement drew an immediate response from Cr Gavin Jones, who accused her of providing misleading information.

Cr Jones said on a quick calculation, he estimated the Pumpkin Festival’s half-page in the “Let’s Go” magazine had cost about $887.

“The flow-on effect to Murgon, Nanango and the rest of our region would be far outweighing a small outlay of $890,” Cr Jones said.

“I just can’t see why we would not support something … Goomeri’s virtually on our boundary, and I consider Goomeri – whether you like it or not, it’s in Gympie Shire – if you’ve got 14,000 people knocking on your door, why the hell wouldn’t you spend $1000?” Cr Jones asked.

Cr Terry Fleischfresser said he found it “utterly disgusting” that Cr Heit had queried how much South Burnett ratepayers’ money had been spent.

He said it was an “an absolute disgrace” and “an embarrassment” that a South Burnett councillor would question it.

“We do share a rail trail (with Gympie) and this is nothing more than double standard politics coming from that councillor,” Cr Fleischfresser said.

“Here on the one hand you are sharing a rail trail infrastructure, promoting tourism, and on the other hand you are questioning an event that’s been going on for a long, long time.

“Gympie and South Burnett Regional Council have – well, did have – a very strong, working relationship.

“But let me tell you, I think that’s been slightly tarnished because of this question … I find this an absolute disgrace, I find it an embarrassment, to come from a councillor of the South Burnett to question this for a start.

“Mr Mayor, I’m thoroughly embarrassed over this and I would ask that you, Mr Mayor, write a letter of apology and apologise on behalf of the councillors who even raised this question.”

Cr Heit said she wanted to clarify that she was a great believer in having good relationships with neighbouring councils, and didn’t have any problem working together with them on things such as the rail trail.

“But if we’re going to promote six events, I think the six events … we should be promoting events within our region,” Cr Heit said.

“I do also take exception to Cr Jones saying I’m giving misleading information, which I think is a serious allegation.

“So I would like to follow that up because I don’t think that’s an appropriate thing to say.”

Mayor Keith Campbell said he fully supported backing the Goomeri event.

“This is not a discussion about whether or not we continue to support the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival, this is a response to Cr Heit’s question,” the Mayor said.

“I think from the level of speakers that have chosen to speak thus far there’s resounding support for the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival.

“Why would we slam the door on Goomeri Pumpkin Festival? That is certainly not something I would support.”

Cr Fleischfresser asked a second time if the Mayor intended to write a letter of apology to Gympie Regional Council.

Mayor Campbell said he would take CEO Mark Pitt’s advice on the matter.

“Councillor, I would say no,” Mr Pitt replied.

“Our relationship with Gympie is very strong. Our cross-border relationship with Gympie is very strong.

“The published material in the agenda is a legitimate response to facts in the public domain and it was a legitimate question to be asked.

“So the actual report itself causes, in my opinion, no offence nor an issue.”

* * *

Editor’s note: Goomeri Pumpkin Festival and four South Burnett-located events – BaconFest, Blackbutt Avocado Festival, Burrandowan Races, Nanango Show Society (Country Muster / Waterhole Rocks) – were invited by Council’s Economic Development Unit late last year to take part in a skills development and marketing project run by rEvents Academy, a Toowoomba-based company. Each of the five festivals contributed $1500 to the cost. The balance of course costs – believed to be $30,000 – was picked up by the South Burnett Regional Council. The Pumpkin Festival was also included in Council’s recent $25,360 “Let’s Go” tourism magazine, was promoted on Council’s stand at Regional Flavours in Brisbane, and is featured in the window of the Economic Development Unit’s office in Glendon Street, Kingaroy.

[UPDATED]


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13 Responses to Pumpkin Festival Query Sparks Anger

  1. John Box

    Thank you Cr Ros Heit for continuing to stand up for our South Burnett community members in the face of rude uninformed opposition.

    Why should South Burnett ratepayers pay to promote events in other regions when those Regions are quite capable and financially viable to promote their own events? There are multiple iconic events that draw tourists from far and wide to our region that deserve promotion ahead of events in other regions.

    Promoting the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival in the Gympie Region is a slap in the face for all the South Burnett volunteers and businesses who give heart and soul and financial support to promote events in our own wonderful South Burnett region.

  2. RogerC

    Good on you Cr Heit and shame on the Councillors who shot her question down. It was a legitimate question that ratepayers had posed to her and Ros is just doing her job by raising the question at the meeting. I am personally not a fan of many who currently sit on our council but I throw my full support to any and all that actually represent their constituents such as Ros did here.

  3. Andrew

    Good question Cr Heit. Obviously the two councillors mentioned don’t have a proper answer so they attack. Cr Fleischfresser’s reaction is absurd at best.

  4. Cap'n McRummy

    What a pathetic carry on from Terry. If you can’t have a civilized conversation without resorting to the sort of garbage we see from State and Federal elected representatives then you should resign and let the adults get on with things. This is a council, not a parliament. If you want to have a crack at the State or Federal trough then again, resign and let someone else get on with the job. Is it any wonder ratepayers generally hold council and councillors in such low regard…

  5. Concerned Tourism Operator in the South Burnett

    I commend Ros Heit for doing her job. It is unacceptable to be bullied and treated with such disrespect. The Mayor should not allow such tactics to be displayed in his Chamber and should not have needed to seek advice from the CEO.

    I congratulate the CEO for his stand on this, and hopefully these out of control councillors can be pulled into line.

    Also thank you South Burnett Online for this report, without your news, ratepayers are unaware of the unacceptable behaviour that some SBRC councillors are getting away with.

    I agree fully with John Box, the South Burnett does benefit from the Goomeri Pumpkin festival and I commend them on the great festival they run year after year. This is about SBRC ratepayers expenditure of OUR money. That money should stay in the region.

    I am sure Gympie council wouldn’t fund any events in our region as any council in their right mind would utilise their ratepayers’ money to promote the region they are elected to represent.

  6. John Carey

    Just a question? I would be interested in knowing the results of the study into whether there has been increased visitor numbers to the South Burnett since redirecting rates from Southern Qld Country Tourism to the current spread of recipients? Is it is yielding increased visitor numbers to the South Burnett year on year? PS. Looking forward to Baconfest exceeding 14,000 visitors.

  7. Carolyn Stone

    A valid question from Cr Heit and thank you for bringing it up. The Goomeri Pumpkin Festival is an amazing event for the Gympie Regional Council, but not at the cost to SBRC ratepayers. The South Burnett Regional Council has given the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival a $6000 subsidy to attend the event marketing course run by Toowoomba consultants. Originally there were to be 10 events in the pilot program. What other SBRC events were consulted? And was it because they could not afford the $1500 that they did not become involved? Whatever the reason, this is another lack of communication by SBRC to rate payers about how their money is being spent. Thank you CEO Mark Pitt for bringing common sense to the chamber.

  8. Thank you Councillor Heit for your comments. Your passion and concern for the South Burnett is noteworthy and as always you have behaved as a lady and how a councillor should, shaming your opposition who act more like children than adult councillors. Thank you for representing your Council and the people of the South Burnett, thank you for doing your job. And thank you to our CEO, your reply was succinct and welcomed, good man.

  9. Angela Andersen

    I think there more to this rather than looking at narrow local government boundaries…agree with Mr Carey re question put. The Council portfolio report in the minutes provides a page or so of the economic benefits let alone the tourism region is Kilkivan to Blackbutt including Yarraman also not in the SB region. Visitors and tourists don’t see or care about local government boundaries. Murgon businesses get the max. Benefit which means so do ratepayers who work for the Murgon businesses and more… we are talking about low investment and high return. Those SB events who didn’t put up their hand to get involved will be keen next year so that’s a good thing, too.

  10. Lorna Wieland

    This is as silly as Western Downs or the North Burnett promoting Boondooma Homestead from their rate payer funds. I can imagine how their ratepayers would react. The response Ros Heit received for asking a valid question was like stand-over tactics. Is this how this Council behaves? No wonder there are some serious observations being made.

  11. Dee M

    I read with interest the article regarding the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival and I agree with the CEO Mark Pitt that the question asked by Councillor Heit was a legitimate one. Cr Terry Fleischfresser carried on like a spoilt brat saying he found it “utterly disgusting” that Cr Heit had queried how much South Burnett ratepayers’ money had been spent. Isn’t that what we elect councillors for? To fight for, and represent the voices of, the ratepayers? Grow up Terry.

    I also note with interest, the remarks of the Mayor “I think from the level of speakers that have chosen to speak thus far there’s resounding support for the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival” The way I read it, there were two very loud councillors in favour to support the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival. Resounding? Is that what is called a democracy?

    The Goomeri Pumpkin Festival has been going for 20+ years and is well and truly entrenched on the Queensland and Australian festival calendar, so why not throw support and money towards the up and coming festivals of the South Burnett i.e. Wondai Country Festival, Murgon Rail Trail Festival, Wondai Sprints? Good on you Ros, for continuing to ask questions on behalf of the ratepayers of South Burnett.

  12. Maree Perkins

    When the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival is held, do the travelling public stay/shop only in Gympie Regional Council area? No they go everywhere including SB council area, both areas benefit from festival. Next year we should tell the public to stay/shop only in Gympie council area only. How dumb would that look?

  13. Rodger Parker

    As the Pumpkin Festival is on the agenda, and just reading the above report, sounds like a cat fight. Red tape aside and a simple question?

    I have only lived in the area for two years now but have passed the site where the artwork is displayed on the side of the shed many times. Does anybody else think that it’s about time it is repainted?

    If you are trying to promote the Pumpkin Festival, that is a good place to spend a little money. I am sure there is another argument about who will pay.

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