PUBLIC SPACE PETITION: Chris O’Reilly (Whitsunday Seafood Bar), Ference Sfakianakis and Diane Astbury (Ra Natural Health) and Gabby Edwards (Reef Goddess) with their petition against the council’s proposed changed to the commercial use of public land.
PUBLIC SPACE PETITION: Chris O’Reilly (Whitsunday Seafood Bar), Ference Sfakianakis and Diane Astbury (Ra Natural Health) and Gabby Edwards (Reef Goddess) with their petition against the council’s proposed changed to the commercial use of public land.

Petition targets public land use

THE debate over the commercial use of public land in the Whitsundays has heated up with a petition started by Airlie Beach business owners concerned over potential changes.

The Whitsunday Regional Council developed a draft policy for the commercial use of council reserves and the management plan was released for public comment on September 4.

The period for public comment was extended until October 18 and council received about 20 submissions which were a mixture of those for and against the trial.

A petition against the proposed changes set up by Ra Natural Health owner Diane Astbury has more than 50 signatures and she said they all objected to a trial of these changes.

"We do not believe there has been sufficient consultation and most importantly the majority of residents and businesses don't even know these changes are on the table," she said.

"There are already flea markets set up throughout the Whitsundays and we object to council changing the law and creating extra commercial opportunities to the detriment of existing rate-paying owners and business operators in the Whitsundays."

Five representatives from local businesses attended a meeting organised by Ms Astbury on Monday. They voiced their concerns to Airlie Beach Chamber of Commerce representative Philip Larsson.

The chamber put out a statement this week which stated they understood the Council had sought to engage the community to obtain input to assist them in drafting a policy and stated clearly that the interests of their members conducting businesses in the main street and tourist precincts of Airlie Beach should be considered and safeguarded.

"We stated that we would not support any form of touting, soliciting or operation that would adversely affect the amenity of the areas concerned," the statement said.

"But visitation to the Airlie Beach area has fallen significantly in recent years and we need to take action to reverse this position for the sake of all of our businesses and the area in general.

We need to work together to create atmosphere, to create energy, to create connectedness with the visitors, to differentiate Airlie Beach from other destinations and to create a more positive engaging experience."

To sign the petition online visit http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/object-to-whitsunday-regional-council-changes-to-laws-commercial-use-of-public-land-and-reserves-in-the-whitsundays.html or sign it in person at Ra Natural Health in Airlie Beach.

Council will prepare a report on the issue which is expected to be discussed in an open council meeting before the end of the year.


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