Opponents of two bids to operate a controversial inflatable water fun park for the Jack Evans Boat Harbour at Tweed Heads to be debated , tonight, the last meeting before the September 10 poll, have urged councillors to reject the proposals outright.
Eyebrows have also been raised by opponents over the revelation that one of the bidders is running on a group ticket headed by sitting Cr Carolyn Byrne of the National Party.
And another group vying for election says expressions of interest (EOI) for the activity at the harbour should not be dealt with before the community has been consulted.
After a public outcry over the Aquasplash plan, the Gold-Coast based company withdrew its application two months ago, but in April had decided to call for expressions of interest for a licence to conduct water-based activities there.
But only two bids were received, both to run floating fun parks, one from Aquasplash, the other from Tweed-based Endless Summer Hire, owned by Paula Kloots, who is running for election on Cr Byrne’s National Party-aligned group ticket.
Cr Byrne, asked if she’d declare a conflict of interest and abstain tonight, refused to say, telling Echonetdaily that ‘Paula Kloots is a small business operator in the Tweed who chose to be on my ticket’.
Council general manager Troy Green told Echonetdaily that conflict of interests ‘are matters for each councillor to consider in accordance with the pecuniary and non pecuniary provisions of the code of conduct’.
Cr Byrne took a swipe at Echonetdaily’s ‘focus’ on her National Party links.
The councillor recently failed in her bid for National Party pre-selection for the federal seat of Richmond, won by Matthew Fraser with a huge margin.
In the 2012 council poll, Cr Byrne’s campaign was funded by the then head of the National Party in the Tweed, Rory Curtis and his wife Deborah, to the tune of $5,000.
Save Jack Evans Boat Harbour group secretary Stephanie Deane is fuming that Mrs Kloots claimed in a local newspaper that the harbour lobby group did not respond to her call about her proposal.
‘Our group did not receive any communication in any shape or form from Mrs Kloots,’ Ms Deane told Echonetdaily.
Council candidate Chris Cherry, from the Pottsville Community Association, who is heading the group Ms Deane is running on, said if council approves the EOIs, ‘it’s a tacit approval for one of those inflatable fun parks to go ahead before they’ve even asked the community whether they want one’
‘I think that’s wrong, they need to stand up and say we’ve put the cart before the horse here,’ Ms Cherry said.
‘If you have a community mandate for a fun park, then you can obviously ask who would like to provide one,’ Ms Cherry told media.
Attempts to contact Mrs Kloots this morning were unsuccessful, but she told APN Media this week that they had ‘customised’ their tender for a 25-by-30-metre fun park ‘in response to a controversial 25m by 50m Aquasplash bid’.
‘Our tender is a version of an inflatable aquatic park but much more in line with something suited to the Tweed Coast rather than a Gold Coast theme park style, we’ve scaled back in size compared to Aquasplash.’