Gary Parsons speaks about the Bribie Island desalination plant threat and his retirement

October 29, 2015

Moreton Bay Regional Council Division 1 Councillor Gary Parsons speaks to 101.5 FM’s Andrew McCarthy-Wood about his retirement announcement, recent opinion poll, and the returning threat of a desalination plant on Bribie Island.


Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yes, you are listening to 101.5 FM. This is the Morning Magazine. Well, there’s been a subject that has come up this morning and it’s, it’s a surprising one in fact because it’s about the desalination plant potentially being built off Bribie Island and it is, something that’s been a, a hugely debated subject in the past and a lot of the local communities particularly around Bribie Island thought that was the end of it. They were never going to hear it again, about it again. We’ve got Councillor Gary Parsons on the line to have a chat about it. Gary, how are you?

Gary Parsons: Good day, Andrew. Good day, viewers, listeners. (laughs)

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. Yeah. Listeners, viewers, you know they can do all sorts of things these days.

Gary Parsons: Hey, Andrew I believe they’ve raised this old chestnut again, mate.

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yes, they have, they have. Now just before we get into that, you announced your retirement yesterday.

Gary Parsons: I knew you’d sneak that one in little brother. (laughs)

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: (Laughs) Well, I’d just like to point out that I’m …

Gary Parsons: How about we do the water one first and we talk about that after, eh?

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Ahh, because we’re going to get to the good stuff are we?

Gary Parsons: Yeah, we’re going to smash it, yeah.

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: That’s excellent. Well, just before we do jump into that, umm, is running a poll on, and it’s asking did Councillor Parsons serve Division 1 well? I think you’d be pleased to hear that 83% have actually said yes, so you’ve got a higher approval rating than the Prime Minister.

Gary Parsons: Snapping ducks. (laughs)

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: (Laughs)

Gary Parsons: I’ll stay on that subject. Listen, Andrew to the community out there I’ve always been a grass roots character. I’ve always been head down, tail up. It’s not selling myself. What it’s about is, you know, I was elected for four consecutive elections and it’s been an absolute honor. It’s a team effort. It’s my wife Sharon and I and, Andrew, you know Sharon and the thing about it is, we work as a team. We work with the community.

You know, I did a 15 year apprenticeship before I was even at the age of 52 given the honor of serving the community and, I worked with the likes of Martin Jonkers Sr. who’s passed away just this year and we raised money for Blue Care Line and St. John’s, excuse me, PCYC and all these different things and you work your way through and when we started at the community market from Bribie, you know, we were in Woolie’s Car Park and then it went to 7 days and we got the flick. I worked with John Cornet and Sharon and I would do the last Sunday of month, we’d do Sharon an age palliative care nurse, age palliative care nurse and we were there to change nappies and wet beds and do those things.

They were things behind the scenes you do. You know, and people know it now but that’s what it’s about. It’s about being grassroots and with the community and mate, it’s been an absolute honor and ahh, you know, a lot of projects that come into fruition and then in the coming years they’re locked in like stages. I’ve always staged my works which has been a great way because if you, if you want to land all your projects, some of them, you have the whole project for the whole year, whereas if you do stage works you’re able to please and people can see what’s coming in the future and you roll it out. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, you know, and you just keep pecking away at it, you know.

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. Look Gary you’ve said that you are very much a grassroots councillor or a grassroots politician. When you see something like a desalination plant all of a sudden appear again, when, all those years ago, and you were around at the time you’d remember Shane Moon …

Gary Parsons: Well, I’ve got some documentation … Sorry for cutting in on you, bro.

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Go for it. Yeah.

Gary Parsons: I’ve got some documentation here and the commissioner Elizabeth Noseworthy, I call it Nogsworthy, but Noseworthy, she was there at the time and she came into council and prior to this we just finished the sand … You know, sand gets depleted in certain areas taken away in movements and we’ve done this, we’ve had absolute, the experts, consultants, professionals come in and look at the sand movements from on the surf side. The sand movements go down, around the corner and up the passage. That’s the sand movements, and they depleted so we you know, we’ve had to dredge sand in and at the moment we’re looking into pumping sands similar from Noosa or Sunny Coast down at the Gold Coast, We’re looking at different options, but we have done the tidal movements with sand and when Elizabeth Noseworthy came in with all her honchos about 2008, 9 we just amalgamated and we all sat down there and off they went and they demonstrated how they were going to punch out from the top of Woorim, well, just up in the residential part of Woorim. They’re going to punch out a pipeline or two, so far out and the maximum was thirty meters.

I heard John Oxenford before, and he’s right on the money. Twenty, thirty meters. They’re going to pump it out into that area and it would disperse there. Well, I let it go and I listened to all what they said and we’re going to put a pipeline across and we need a meter pipeline so we’re going to have to build a new bridge to carry a meter pipeline that will take the water back off the island and then they said, “Oh hang on we’ve got a corridor there, which is a power corridor. We can put the waterline in that and then we’ll go up Avon Avenue and Sunderland Drive. Well, they didn’t have a clue. They didn’t even look at the logging road or other things like that and it wasn’t, I didn’t suggest it, but you know, they didn’t have a clue.

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: So, Gary Parsons, with all of those technicalities that ahh, that are concerns and that have been widely reported, like right now, how do you see the sentiment of the community if, you know the government does start saying, “Hey, look we are seriously looking at this area for a desalination plant.” Do you think the community will accept it?

Gary Parsons: No and I won’t, but I’ll just finish on how, how it leads in, Andrew and listeners. What it is, is we had a, anyway … What happens was umm, you know, that ground would disperse and come down all around the corner, around the passage and it would absolutely destroy Bribie Island. It would destroy the environment and so on and so on and so on, and John spoken about that and he’s dead right. It’s the tidal movements. The thing about … we had a period there where we had the droughts and we put a ball field in. Right? Look at our ball field. It’s been mothballed now but it’s an operating ball field. Well, we put that in.

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: If that’s mothballed, is that something that can be turned back on?

Gary Parsons: Well, maybe. That’s something that they need to talk about. Then they want to put a desal plant, and then like, this is like another knee jerk solution to solving the water issue. The main thing that came out of all this was the north-south umm, what do you call it the north-south pipeline which was put in place which was when we were in drought down here, Sunny Coast had a fair bit of water and there’s a north-south pipeline and you know the grid master can flip the valves and the water can go to any particular area you want. Maybe that needs to be fine tuned but this is a knee jerk reaction. It was proven and all her consultants were around her when I got up and had a chat and I said, “Look, we’ve done this detailed analysis on tidal movements with sand. Now, if we can push sand around that brine, that thickening or that soup will be thicker density of um of um, the salt and it will come around into the passage and it will destroy everything,” and John Oxenford said you know, I’m in line with BIEPA, and back then you know, I think it was Karen Sullivan at the time Lisa France was against it, but it was a flick past from the Sunshine Coast. Up in the Sunshine Coast they go straight out, it only has to go out a certain way and it’s straight out into the ocean and it was a flick past from the Sunny Coast down to here and why would you do it in this fragile environmental area.

You know, it just doesn’t make sense and I’m happy to stand on the soap-box and lead what ever anyone wants to lead because umm, when that lady looked at all that she goes and went away and closed the door, shut the book and it was the end of story. Ahh, we demonstrated that, you know, later on they came back and we had a beautiful agreement with the government. I think it was a 41 million you know, ball field that we had to get up by a certain date and we delivered it oh, I think it was December of one year if we were going to be falling so much money. It was a joint handshake operation and we did it. We got reimbursed there but the thing about it is there’s a ball field sitting, there’s a north-south water corridor. You know, the pipeline, the grid master can flick the water any which way he wants to and ahh, and they come up with this old chestnut again.

Now, if you’ll excuse me but I am just absolutely livid and I just umm, fully support you know, you know, everyone one standing up and fighting against it. It’s, it’s you know, it’s it’s you know, the lifestyle of Bribie Island, what we get on like Moreten Bay, where people like to love to live, work, play and learn because you’ve got another, another Uni thing coming in at the moment but live play work and learn. You know, they’re just going to take out …

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Councillor Gary Parsons. There’s about 30 seconds. We’re headed up towards the weather and you’ve made your views very, very clear in relation to the desalination plant, but just really, really quickly, what is your one biggest achievement you’ve made while your time’s been as a councillor?

Gary Parsons: Andrew, I don’t think there’s one. There’s numerous and I think it was being able to work with the community on the many projects that have been delivered, be it, you know, the stage master plans, be it the umm, sporting thing at the umm, community building. All the different things like that. I think the beauty of it was, we got to work together and we come up with ahh umm, you know, a beautiful outcome for this loverly part of the world, mate. I think that it’s hard to put my finger on one thing, but there are so many things that you just look around and it’s very hard as a councillor, you got to balance this and I’d say to anyone who looks forward to jumping into this role, it’s a 24/7 commitment to serve the community and that’s what it’s all about and it’s about working and serving with the community and uhh, you know, if somebody steps forward and they’re running for all the right reasons, umm I’m happy to step on side with them and support them.

Andrew McCarthy-Wood: There you have it that’s councillor Gary Parsons. You’re listening to 101.5 FM. He had a fair bit to say about the desalination plant and also as of yesterday he had announced his retirement from politics as a councillor for the Morten Bay Regional Council representing division 1.