Somerset Regional Council councillor Sean Choat at Savages Crossing.
Somerset Regional Council councillor Sean Choat at Savages Crossing.

Councillors ‘fobbed off’ by resources minister on river plan

Urgent calls from Somerset councillors to help kerb anti-social behaviour at the popular Mid Brisbane River have been "fobbed off" by the natural resources minister.

In December last year, Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann wrote to the minister for assistance in funding the Mid Brisbane River project and inviting the department to see the damage first-hand.

But a response more than four months later from Scott Stewart has angered councillors who will "take the cannons" when they get a chance to meet with the minister.

In Somerset Regional Council's meeting on Wednesday, councillor Sean Choat, who made the push to action the issue late last year, said the minister's response was an "absolute disgrace".

"Fobbed off, nothing to see here, mind your own business," Cr Choat said as he described the minister's letter.

He urged CEO Andrew Johnson and deputy mayor Helen Brieschke go "take the cannons" when they meet with the minister for resources.

Minister for resources Scott Stewart MP. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Minister for resources Scott Stewart MP. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Cr Choat's frustration was echoed by Cr Bob Whalley, who labelled the minister's letter as "downright rude and dismissive".

Cr Whalley said face-to-face meetings with "higher level delegations" achieved better outcomes rather than being fobbed off in a letter.

"I endorse us going down there. I think the minister needs to be told this is downright rude and dismissive," he said.

"We've been trying to get a resolution and outcome on this river for a number of years now. For him to come back with that is certainly disgusting.

"He should get off his butt and actually investigate properly and talk to the relative people involved rather than taking the advice from high-level bureaucrats that don't care about this region."

Councillors agreed in November 2020 to write to the new minister.

In December, they agreed to temporarily close Savages Crossing and Twin Bridges to vehicles by installing barriers along the reserves as well as portable CCTV cameras.

In Cr Lehmann's initial letter, he wrote the council would need to ultimately navigate the capital and ongoing costs, and more importantly the inhibiting jurisdictional limitations.

Cr Lehmann detailed how the inappropriate and toxic behaviours had damaged the Mid Brisbane River and how the problem was increasing.

The mayor also commented how various attempts to resurrect the issue had been put into place in the past, in particular, joint initiatives with the Queensland Police, but were costly and crossed multiple land tenures.

In Mr Stewart's response he wrote that the department was aware of the issues and the department could assist to respond to camping issues on an "ad hoc basis".

The minister told the council to consider the installation of "permanent and effective vehicle barriers" as a deterrent for long-term camping.

Councillors on Wednesday agreed to the CEO and deputy mayor requesting a meeting with Mr Stewart to discuss the impacts of the Mid Brisbane River.