In early February I examined the Mareeba Shire Councillors’ Register of Interests and discovered that Mayor Borzi owns EIGHT blocks in Kuranda.
Those register entries are no longer current. As of Tuesday 18th February, the Mayor owns TWELVE blocks in the Kuranda area.
One of the these blocks is in the Myola Zone.
This is the block of land that has been in the media recently. It is the block about which I claimed the Mayor had an undeclared conflict of interest during the closed Special Meeting of January 29th 2008, which approved the Myola Plan with the Mr Borzi in the Chair.
The Mayor’s Myola block is not only inside the Myola Zone. It is at the gateway to the proposed new suburb. A valuable property indeed, one imagines, if 10,000+ people move into the Myola valley.
Where are Mr Borzi’s other Kuranda blocks? I now know the answer to that question.
Here’s the map, as at early February:
Three of Mayor’s blocks on the Kuranda side of the Kennedy Highway are shown in grey; the other four in purple.
A few comments may be useful for those who don’t know Kuranda.
Taken as a whole, these seven blocks form a crucial buffer of forest between the Kennedy Highway and the village. Without intact forest on this land, I believe Kuranda would find it hard to continue portraying itself as the “Village in the Rainforest”. Instead, it would be apparent to all who arrive by road that Kuranda has become just another suburb.
The largest, Highway-side block would undoubtedly be bitumenized by road widening and the complex interchange planned as an integral part of the 4-Lane Highway proposal.
That’s if the Highway goes ahead.
The Mayor, a long-time Highway supporter, has expressed irritation with the State Government for recently casting doubt over this.
The Mayor’s blocks on Morton Street are contiguous to the largest Highway-side block. These smaller blocks, I’m told, are zoned ‘Village’. That means they can be developed for housing. This zoning occurred when the Mareeba Shire Planning Scheme was gazetted in early 2005.
Council met in December 2004 to approve the new scheme. Mayor Borzi did not, it appears, declare any conflict of interest at the time. Given that the matter under consideration was a Shire-wide planning scheme, he may well have been entitled not to declare his interest. Such is the law, it seems. Not tough enough, in my opinion – but Mayor Borzi can’t be blamed for that.
At any time since 2005, the Mayor could have commenced development on these blocks, but instead he chose to leave them vacant. I imagine it has been beneficial for his image in Kuranda that he’s left the blocks undeveloped until now.
Whittling away at the forest on these blocks (which most Kuranda residents didn’t know he owned) would not be popular. It jeopardizes Kuranda’s unique rainforest setting and in the long-term, I believe, it would be a serious blow to the local tourist industry.
Days after I discovered the location of these blocks of land, I read through the Minutes of the Council meeting of February 19th 2008.
To my amazement, I discovered that in early February, after controversy about his Myola block had erupted, the Mayor put in an application to ‘reconfigure’ four of these Kuranda blocks on Morton Street into eight. Those are the blocks marked in purple on the map above.
His ‘reconfiguration permit’, approved by Council on February 19th (with Mayor Borzi on this occasion quite properly absent from the chair) also makes provision to put services into the blocks. It seems apparent it is a prelude to development.
It may be that this latest action by the Mayor and Mareeba Shire Council followed all the due processes required under Queensland legislation. If so, I think the law sucks. How can it be right for a subdivision to go through Council with no prior public advertising or notification – other than a one line note in the Council Agenda?
I warned in an earlier media release that without urgent State intervention, there is a danger that Mareeba Council, in its dying days, would make many decisions that are contrary to the public interest and driven by vested interests.
In this case, it appears the Mayor application went straight to the top of the queue? Over the years, many residents have not been so fortunate. Council is not always quite so efficient!
My concerns that Mareeba Shire Council has not been thoroughly investigated have intensified because of this latest incident.
Far from going on the defensive, the Mayor appears to be facing down an increasingly outraged Kuranda community.
The decision on the Mayor’s Kuranda blocks was one small part of another long agenda. What else went through that meeting? What was decided at the more recent meeting on March 4th?
I don’t have the reources to check all this out. Is anyone else watching, studying and digging? How about the State Government?
This latest turn of events caused me to write once again to Warren Pitt, the Queensland Minister for Local Government. I believe the January 29th Special Meeting decisions – at minimum – should be overturned on procedural as well as planning grounds.
The referee – in this case the Queensland Government – should be the first recourse to enforce the law and oversee fair play. Interventions by third parties should, I believe, be a last resort.
The Mayor, however, appears unperturbed and pugnacious.
After I exposed the Myola conflict of interest issue, his statement in response mentioned subdivision. I thought that was bluster. Once again, I appear to have misread Mayor Borzi. It now appears he wasn’t joking at all.
Watch this space for more developments.
The retiring Mayor seems to like playing hardball with the public interest.
Soon he may find find he’s playing with forces that, unlike Mareeba Shire Council between 2000-2008, are ultimately beyond his control.