Margaret Strelow will make her case to councillors today, but objectors will also have their say before a vote on the controversial proposal.
Margaret Strelow will make her case to councillors today, but objectors will also have their say before a vote on the controversial proposal. Chris Ison

Debate over cafe push

COUNCILLORS today will decide the fate of former mayor Margaret Strelow’s vision for a way to help the city’s destitute and down-at-heel.

Whatever they decide will be controversial, but they will at least have plenty of advice to ponder before they vote on Ms Strelow’s application for a take-away cafe and community facility on the edge of Rockhampton’s CBD.

Objectors will have two chances to make their intent known during presentations and Ms Strelow will make one more plea on behalf of her concept for the Chat Room Cafe, which she describes as a social enterprise that would serve quality hot food to those in need at prices subsidised by its profits from other users.

Planning officers recommend refusal.

Some councillors may decide it is too close to home and, because of their close association with the woman who was effectively their leader for eight years, absent themselves from the vote because of a perceived material interest.

A group of business owners, who run enterprises near the old electrical store at 300 Bolsover St, which Ms Strelow has already bought, has vowed to take the matter to the Planning and Environment Court should the council ignore the advice of its officers and approve the project.

Ms Strelow is supported by many of Rockhampton’s church groups and argues that the social need for the cafe should outweigh any technical breaches of planning schemes.

When the matter was discussed on March 8, the former leader of Rockhampton City Council made a passionate case for councillors to accept the worthiness of her idea.

“Affordable nutrition is a real challenge for some in the community,” she said.

But if they follow strict planning guidelines, the councillors can only consider the hard facts and their own officers have highlighted seven failings in the application.

Mayor Brad Carter has agreed to break with tradition and allow today’s delegations to be recorded for broadcast by radio and television stations.



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