Parking row hits Oasis
AMONG the motels, neon signs, fast food restaurants and shops on the Bruce Highway's main commercial strip through Rockhampton, is an oasis of calm and religious reflection.
But for how long?
The Oasis New Life Church is fighting for the right to carry on preaching from premises close to a motorcycle showroom on George Street.
And it might require divine intervention to survive.
For although council planners approve of 24-hour burger worship in the vicinity, they say the main transport route through the city is no place for religion.
The church's application to change the use of the premises to a place of worship with community facilities, should be rejected say the council's planning department.
In a report to a meeting of the strategic planning committee this week, councillors were told the church had been operating from the location for a number of years without the necessary development approvals.
"This application is the result of many complaints received from adjoining business owners about parking problems being experienced in the locality," says the report.
It goes on to say that the South Rockhampton Commercial Highway is intended for businesses that rely on highway exposure under the city plan.
"The intent is to primarily accommodate motels, service stations and fast food outlets, which primarily attract or service visitors passing through the city."
The council's planners say the main problem is parking on the Bruce Highway and around surrounding commercial premises.
But councillors decided to invite church leaders to a future meeting to plead their case and answer questions before making a decision on whether to force the church to leave.
There were 141 submissions to the council about the application and only three of them were against the church's proposals.
Pastor John Rewald, who founded the church in the former music shop and studio eight years ago, said he welcomed the opportunity to address councillors.
"The only problem is for six hours on Sundays when we hold three services and there is potential conflict with businesses which trade on Sunday.
"But we have gone the extra mile during 18 months of negotiation and we have agreements with a number of businesses to use their car parks.
"There are at least 85 spaces available and that is plenty," he said.
A typical congregation for Sunday's main service at 10.30am was about 130, he said.