The Bushfire Event of 7 December 2020 demonstrated how a resilient community working together with a well-conceived plan could achieve outcomes against all odds.
The day following the fire, we held a Community Debriefing session. Our President, Russell Postle, noted that “we are a powerful, engaged community and need to work to improve facilities in Happy Valley and develop a shared vision for our Town”. It was agreed we should hold a “Community Planning Day” on 13 March.
Community consultation was essential to ensure that the planning day was constructive, and Elspeth Murray organised a survey of members. The survey was sent to members, and 116 responses received, including representatives of all 45 privately-owned properties bar one (due to ill health).
An Issues Paper was prepared and distributed for the meeting.
Invitations to attend were sent to many stakeholders. On the day, we had 60 community members and 13 stakeholders, including our Mayor, George Seymour; Deputy Mayor, Darren Everard; new Local member, Adrian Tantari, Council CEO, Ken Diehm; Council Executives Gerard Carlyon, Brendan Guy, Mark Vanner, Umur Natus-Yildiz; QFES, Shaune Toohey; QPWS, Marc Dargusch; QPS, Shane Fitzpatrick; QAS, Paul Clackett; and FIDO, Peter Shooter. The BAC was a last-minute apology due to a family health issue.
Russell Murray professionally facilitated the meeting, and we were aiming to get a high-level agreement on the need for, and key aspects of, a Town Plan for Happy Valley.
By achieving agreement on key aspects of the Plan, we could start the research, planning and negotiations needed to ensure our village remains resilient and viable into the future.
The meeting was a voyage of education and understanding, where we enjoyed great open discussion and sharing. Some of the key outcomes:
- Unanimous agreement on the need to preserve the unique village-like atmosphere of Happy Valley.
- Unanimous agreement to work towards the legal recognition of Happy Valley as a township and the allocation of that part of the USL within the R14 Town Reserve necessary for the long-term requirements and benefit of the Happy Valley community.
- Strong support for the need to develop a new Town Plan for recognition and approval by all levels of government.
- Agreement on many issues such as boarding of roads, drainage, sewerage, water supply, parking, safe pedestrian access, traffic flows, people-friendly shared spaces, relocation of the waste transfer station, community becoming more involved in the maintenance of public areas, weed control, and public walking tracks.
- That the good work in hazard mitigation would be maintained, including support for the Happy Valley Hazard Reduction & Bushfire Management Plan, regular maintenance of all fire breaks and bushfire buffer zones and installation of more water tanks for fire purposes.
- That Happy Valley is an emergency service hub and that a plan be developed.
The Fraser Coast Council CEO, Ken Diehm, summed up at the end of the meeting: “After 35 years in Local Government, this is my first experience of being in a Community planning meeting organised by the community. Congratulations. You have demonstrated great passion, pride and ownership of the Issues. The most important issues, as I see it: Village Character; and the need for legal recognition of the Town. Fraser coast is a big Local Government area, and we try to build better communities. And you are doing it. It is sometimes hard to know what the issues are for a community, and we have had a crash course today. We can’t commit to funding all of the issues you have raised, but with great vision and working at all levels of government, we can address many of the issues over a period of time.”
If anyone would like a full copy of the minutes, contact the Secretary, Scott Bell.
Contributed by Scott Bell, Happy Valley Community Association