An oeander butterfly drinking nectar.
An oeander butterfly drinking nectar. Hugh Maxwell

Nature and economy go together: Noosa pollies

THE interests of the economy and the environment are often seen as opposite, but former Noosa mayor Noel Playford recalls a time when local government turned that assumption on its head.

"It's not one or the other,” Mr Playford said.

"It's not the environment or development. We have to build a built environment that can coexist with our natural environment and not destroy it, because that's what our local economy will depend on.”

Noosa doesn't have natural advantages, he said, like a port.

He said the planning ethos of the council under his leadership from 1988 to 1997 showed it was possible for Noosa to cut its own path, and not be riddled by poverty and unemployment as naysayers suggested.

Locals' opposition to high-rise buildings, traffic lights and excessive signage have meant the area retains a "coastal and country village feel”, unburdened by overpopulation, says independent member for Noosa Sandy Bolton.

"Whether design or planning principles, environmental ethos, or how we spend our weekends or dress, the Noosa 'way' is a style of its own,” she said.

Protection of nature was central to Noosa making its own path, says former Noosa mayor Bob Abbot.

His local government career spanned 30 years and included leading a 10,000-strong protest against de-amalgamation.

The early years of his local government career in the 1980s and 1990s, when he was a councillor and Mr Playford was mayor the first time, the main achievement was to "establish the ground rules” for environmentally sustainable development.

Through the 1990s and early 2000s the council's planning work put in place "a good solid grounding for establishing the modern Noosa”.

Mr Abbot was mayor of Noosa for nine years from 1997 and mayor of the first amalgamated Sunshine Coast Council from 2018-2012, which included Noosa and Caloundra shires.

In his time as mayor, he felt responsibility for bringing "the concept that the environment is good for the community and good for business” to fruition.

"In all fairness the third leg of the trifecta (economy) is still incomplete,” he said.

Clean industries are establishing, and are creating jobs for the Noosa populace, he said, but for the potential of an "alternative economy” in Noosa to truly be realised, state and local government need to establish a closer relationship with the business community.

"I think there needs to be a bit more work done on that, I think it's probably dropped off a bit since the amalgamation,” Mr Abbot said.

The tourism industry has since the 1990s had a strong relationship with Noosa Council and State Government, Mr Abbot said, and this has been crucial for Noosa to become the eco-tourism mecca it now is.

"The economy is everybody's issue, and it needs to be done in cooperation,” Mr Abbot said.

"I think there's probably not the trust that there used to be - but there's a whole lot more trust than there was when I first got involved in council.

"It needs to be constantly worked on.”