Pound problem continues to bite

Cr Stephen Schwarten at the corner of Peppermint Drive and McLaughlin Street. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Cr Stephen Schwarten at the corner of Peppermint Drive and McLaughlin Street. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka

A POLITICAL dogfight has broken out over the Rockhampton pound with accusations $250,000 was wasted on a proposed regional facility.

Cr Stephen Schwarten said this week that money was blown on the ill-fated Kawana pound project (in 2011-12).

He said that imposing a dog (and other animals pound) so close to a residential community was always doomed to failure.

Cr Schwarten's attack came after a week of political sniping over Rockhampton's outdated pound facility.

The RSPCA brought the issue into the spotlight after it called the council out on its lack of in-house animal adoptions.

On Tuesday, council committed to investigating potential locations for a new pound, with a report due back to the health and compliance committee on October 6.

When mayoral candidate Michael McMillan criticised council's handling of the issue, Mayor Margaret Strelow hit back, saying it was Cr Schwarten who opposed a $3.5million regional pound proposed in Kawana.

On Thursday, Cr Schwarten issued a statement that he had always advocated for an improved pound, but opposed the development after residents and business owners in the vicinity raised concerns.

Cr Schwarten said there was no public consultation, but advanced plans for a facility which "would have severely disrupted the lives of many, many people" had it gone ahead.

"The present day Deputy Mayor, Cr Tony Williams, had portfolio responsibility for this council department at the time and I have no hesitation in holding him responsible for the wastage of a quarter of a million dollars.

"There had to be all this huge upset that was caused for so many people, which then led to a mass demonstration of overwhelming community opposition to the proposal."

Cr Williams (inset) responded, saying he had been trying to achieve improved pound facilities since election in 2007.

He said volunteers at Capricorn Animal Aid were "overwhelmed by demand for their services, many of which council should be providing".

Cr Williams said events like amalgamation and de-amalgamation, as well as natural disasters, had stalled the progress of a new facility, but he understood why residents in the area objected.

"I can see why people were concerned, considering the inadequate open-air nature of the current pound and its location in a flood zone, leading to all sorts of problems they didn't want in their back yard," he said.

"Council spent $250,000 investigating sites, selecting the industrial estate and developing the design plan for a proper sound-proofed facility, in a flood-free zone that was unpopulated outside of business hours, on land it already owned.

"I am as keen as ever to work with my fellow councillors, residents and groups such as CAA and RSPCA to make sure that the new pound is built quickly, not only because animals matter, but also because we need to create jobs and boost our economy now more than ever, with the completion of the Yeppen flood works.

"We don't need to waste the $185,000 already spent on the design of the facility, as it can be built on any flood-free site, whichever is ultimately chosen by council. I trust that all councillors and candidates can overcome our differences on this important project.

"After all, we're all here for the same reason - to work for the people (and animals) of Rockhampton region.

"The $3.5million allocated for the new pound in the budget in 2019 could be brought forward. Council has done the studies and has the design plans.

"The animals need shelter and the city needs jobs. Let's get this show on the road."

Topics:  kawana pound rockhampton regional council

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