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October 4, 2022

Move to fill library pond sparks Tweed councillor’s walkout

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The Murwillumbah library pond which council wants to fill in. Photo supplied.
The Murwillumbah library pond which council wants to fill in. Photo supplied.

Luis Feliu

Tweed Cr Gary Bagnall stormed out of council chambers last night accusing mayor Barry Longland of ignoring the community over a controversial plan to fill in a pond surrounding Murwillumbah’s public library.

Cr Bagnall told Echonetdaily he was ‘sick and tired of being betrayed’ by the mayor over community and environment issues, and he walked out in protest after the meeting had been going for around three hours.

'Stormed out': Tweed Cr Gary Bagnall
‘Stormed out’: Tweed Cr Gary Bagnall

Cr Bagnall said after the meeting he was ‘over’ the mayor ‘telling us one thing beforehand yet voting with the others (pro-development bloc) in the meeting’ and the library pond issue was the ‘last straw’.

Crs Bagnall and Longland, along with Greens Cr Katie Milne and Labor’s Michael Armstrong, make up the progressive bloc on the seven-member council, with the National Party’s Crs Warren Polglase and Phil Youngblutt and conservative Cr Carolyn Byrne on the ‘pro-development’ side.

However, the two groups don’t always vote in blocs.

Cr Bagnall said differences between himself and the mayor emerged last night in debate over the width of a proposed wildlife passage under a road through a wildlife corridor which developer Leda has to build for its Cobaki housing development.

He said there had already been enough cuts to the width of the proposed wildlife passage and was angered when the mayor proposed to cut the width of the passages recommended by staff even more.

‘Then the Murwillumbah library pond issue came up where staff have recommended doing away with it by filling it and landscaping it, but the kids love it and Cr Milne and I argued for it to be retained and made more attractive,’ Cr Bagnall said.

‘But no, Cr Longland in supporting the recommendation said that around five years ago the pond was identified as being “dangerous” as children may fall in it.

He said the river and rock wall in a large park were more of a danger than a shallow pond outside the library.

‘I asked how many children have drowned in it? If it’s dangerous, we can put mesh around it, the river on the edge of Budd Park is more dangerous and it would make more sense to put a fence along the river than to fill in the pond.

‘The children in our shire have for years enjoyed the library pond. It has been part of their childhood. It is like the rainforest around the Kingscliff library. Next thing they will want to cut down the Kingscliff library rainforest and turn it into lawn.


‘Cr Milne and I argued that the community wouldn’t like the pond being filled and residents should be consulted and their opinion sought, and an amendment for that was put up, but Cr Polglase moved the staff recommendation to do away with it and the mayor also agreed to rip the pond out,’ Cr Bagnall said.

‘That’s when I got up, told the mayor what I thought of him and walked out.

‘We were begging for the community to have a look at the plan and be given a say but they didn’t want a bar of it.

‘I told them that council seems to have a thing about ponds, they wanted to fill in the feature pond in Seabreeze Estate at Pottsville last year, not because it was dangerous, but because they it was too expensive to maintain the water level.

‘That was met with a huge outcry from the community. The community won and the pond is to stay and is being hooked up to run-off water from the streets.

‘I know kids love the library pond, my own kids love it. I saw a freshwater eel in there the other day and enjoyed seeing it there, we should beautify it, not do it in.’

Cr Bagnall said that the Gallery of Modern Art at South Bank in Brisbane had a large pond in the foyer about the same depth as the library’s with no fence.

He said the Murwillumbah library was on a main road and ‘any children outside the library should be supervised because of the road. The road is a greater danger than the pond and it would make more sense to put a fence up between the library and road,’ he said.

‘Crs Milne, Armstrong and I wanted to look at other ways to remediate any dangers to children drowning, but they weren’t interested in exploring them,’ Cr Bagnall said.

‘This has the potential of upsetting people, so we should allow them to express their thoughts before ripping out the pond. Who knows, the people might think the redesign is a good idea, but let them have their say first,’ he said.

The move by the three councillors to put the staff’s landscaping design plan out for public consultation for two weeks was lost 3-4 (Crs Bagnall, Milne and Armstrong for).

Cr Longland told Echonetdaily later that Cr Bagnall was ‘clearly upset when he left the meeting early’ and he was ‘not aware of the reasons for his actions so I would like the opportunity to have a discussion with him first before making any public comment’.


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  1. The pond a danger to children; Oh My! what next?….reminds of the Simpsonism “won’t somebody please think of the Children”
    What’s the plan? fill it in with cotton wool?
    how many children have been injured in the lifetime of the pond’s existence? not very many i reckon

  2. Instead of removing ‘potential hazards’, why not teach children safety around such hazards? They will have then learnt life skills which will help avoid future ‘potential hazards’ and allow us all to have more nice things, including greater scope for the imagination which is something adults and children alike crave. I see that as being much more cost-effective and beneficial than a cement truck solution in this case. Even a flat, cemented floor has its own hazards. Development isn’t only about houses, factories, mines, and skyscrapers you know.

  3. What rubbish! The library and its pond are directly opposite the Tweed River!

    Stop dressing up what is obviously a cost cutting exercise as a safety issue. That’s blatant bullshit.

    I agree – the pond should be upgraded. A lot of children and the elderly would receive enjoyment from it. In particular, the elderly do not have the mobility to get around in our beautiful area – so these little touches of nature would mean a lot to them.

    It’s not always about money.

    While you’re cost cutting, I hope your saving money to put towards the disgraceful state of our roads in Murwillumbah CBD. Is that even being discussed???

  4. Surely the people of Murwillumbah deserve a chance to be consulted on this! The pond uses rainwater, so it is not a drain on the townwater supplies. When I was a child, seeing the waterlilies and fish in the pond was the highlight of my trip to the library and it thrills me that my children have been able to do the same.
    Give people a chance to have their say!

  5. On visiting the council offices last week I was struck by how lovely the pond is. It made me believe that the council not only had vision of making their space beautiful and available for wildlifew in the difficult days of draught but also what an inspiration for others,especially the youth of the area. It would be an act of flagrant vandalism to remove it . Good on councillors for drawing attention to this . The majority of voters would I am sure say keep it.

  6. It would be a great shame if the pond went. Since the councilors don’t want the public to decide, do they understand the meaning of democracy. I know where my vote will go next time. I think that the councilors should be aware of that .

  7. How long has that pond been there? I don’t often hear of children or, for that matter, even drunken yobs ending up face-down in it. What is it about cement that makes it more attractive than nature, at least to the pro-devos…and now the mayor!

  8. I also love the pond and enjoy seeing it and the occasional stirring of life (I glimpsed the mud stir just the other day as I waited in line to get my library books scanned). I’m always enjoying kids responses to it as they walk into library.

    If you also, would like to see it remain connected to the waterfall pond on the other side of Civic Centre steps, please send a letter or email to the council ASAP ! and let ALL your friends know about it too.

    Otherwise TSCouncil will think no-one cares or wants it. If know one knows , it may be taken away, as no-one said “Hey we actually value this pond and follage” !

    Thank you Cr Bagnall for standing up for the community …. We need all the awake, caring, community minded, environmentally conscious councillors we can get !!

  9. What on earth is wrong with this council. The pond around our library is absolutely beautiful, the kids love to stand and look at the fish and water dragons that live there what is it with councils and governments these days they all seem to not have a love of anything to do with nature . just fill it up or dig it up seems to be the motto of so many it is a worry

  10. Keep the pond. It’s an attractive asset. Murwillumbah has few enough attractive landscaped feature as it is. There are clever ways of meshing it just under water level if it can be proved it is a hazard to small children. If Council is obsessed with keeping children safe get rid of the skate park in Knox Park. That will prevent a plethora of broken arms or worse.Why be so risk averse about the library pond and then spend thousands on something that encourages kids to take risks?

  11. Please keep the pond around the library. It add a spark of character to our modern architecture that can be so dull. My kids love it and carefully walk around the edge of it and so far they have survived!!!!

  12. Christina Percival writes “what’s wrong with this Council?” Too many pro-developer councillors !

    Might be worth checking to see if any are connected to, or benefit from, Cement Works in the Shire. We need more Gary Bagnalls, Katie Milnes and Michael Armstrongs on Council – genuine community-minded people of integrity – not afraid to stand up to be counted – or in this case, standing up and walking out in disgust, when Council can’t see its duty of care to come up with pro-people decisions.

    This problem can certainly be rectified at the next Election. May it be so.


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