‘We saw the world differently’: MP opens up on Pisasale era
DESPITE fighting "tooth and nail" over the direction of the city's future with corrupt former mayor Paul Pisasale, former Ipswich MP Rachel Nolan says she didn't dislike him as a person and felt sorry for his family after his dramatic collapse from the one nation's most popular local political figures to convicted criminal.
Ms Nolan said she became "reluctantly involved" in the downfall of the former council when she returned to Ipswich after a couple of years overseas.
She spent time in France, Ireland and Canada after losing her seat in 2012 but came back to the city to run a cafe in the CBD.
In 2015 she tried to have Pisasale expelled from the Labor party for "ongoing gross disloyalty" to the ALP.
"While Pisasale and I saw the world very differently and had really fundamentally different ideas about how Ipswich should be, I never really disliked him personally," she said.
"We actually always got along fine which will sound funny because we fought each other really tooth and nail.
"I certainly had a very tense relationship with Paul Pisasale and I didn't agree with the way he was taking Ipswich.
"Now that I see what's happened since, I realise the extent to which this was just a knock 'em down drag 'em out fight.
"I think any person having the fall that he's had and ending up in jail is sad for him and his family."
Despite this, there is no doubt the former Mr Ipswich did "enormous and possibly irreparable harm" to the city, Ms Nolan said.
As the owner of a cafe in the city centre for five years, she said she felt the impacts first hand.
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She would eventually close Cactus Espresso Bar at the start of 2019.
"I don't know why he did it," she said.
"The community has paid an enormous price for what he and others around him did.
"I am fundamentally satisfied with the outcome and I'm satisfied that justice has been done.
"We talk about what happened with that council like it has no consequences or victims. Pisasale is such a colourful character that even when he's done wrong people keep talking about him.
"Many, many people lost their businesses and lost their life's work."
As Ipswich City Council progresses its $250 million redevelopment of the CBD with the aim of resurrecting the heart of the city, Ms Nolan recalls a time early in her stints as MP when the Top of Town was building a strong community.
It wasn't overrun with people every day of the week but it wasn't the "wasteland" it is now, she said.
"This whole community that had been centred around the Top of Town and had this vision for a whole different possibility of Ipswich was ultimately defeated because once the Ipswich City Square fell apart the businesses neighbouring it couldn't survive," she said.
"Lots of people lost their businesses but lots of people lost the community in which they lived.
"Many people moved away.
"I found coming back here with the intention of sort of living this nice life and contributing but in a different way. (I found) myself standing in the middle of this disaster for the city.
"You'd walk down there on a Saturday morning and the footpath would be packed.
"While Pisasale was doing whatever he was doing, there was also this whole other idea of a modern and contemporary Ipswich that could build on the heritage and make the most of what we have.
"All my friends called it 'the village'. There was this thriving community."
Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.