September 17th 2012
How we might save the Island's last recreation camp
“Alternative management arrangements” is how Campbell Newman’s Queensland Government budget papers describe what is now in store for the Magnetic Island Recreation Camp at Picnic Bay, where locals have heard that jobs are about to be lost.
Since last week, Magnetic Times has been seeking clarification from our local LNP Member, John Hathaway, as to just what is intended for the Recreation Camp, which, we hear, is to be closed on December 31.
With no response yet, we can only guess that some sort of business or community organisation or agency might be sought to continue the work of the camp which has welcomed thousands of young people over many decades to Magnetic.
The camp is the last of a number which were once a major drawcard for young people to Magnetic Island from all across north Queensland.
Townsville Deputy Mayor and Magnetic Island Councillor, Vern Veitch, believes this is so and is not likely to succeed.
“It’s very short sighted.” says Vern who added, “It won’t work putting it out for tender. It’s a community service that can only be provided by government.”
“The Camp plays a significant role in the economic and social network of Picnic Bay and will have a significant impact across Magnetic Island.
The budget papers reveal that, “The Government will achieve savings of ... a further $2.9 million over three years through the alternative management arrangements for Leslie Dam, Magnetic Island and Yeppoon Active Recreation Centres".
Without hard figures to work from Magnetic Times has relied on local guesstimates that between 3 and 4,000 people visit the camp each year. Apart form the ferry and bussing business impacts, Magnetic Times understands that there are at least 14, mostly part-time positions for catering contractors working for the Camp, who will no longer be required. Beyond these there will be local plumbers, electricians, cleaners, painters, carpenters and freight services losing business. There are also beach hire businesses, supermarkets, grocers, market stalls, and gift shops where camp visitors spend their dollars.
Interestingly the Camp has recently been extensively refurbished with a new commercial kitchen and several other large improvements.
The camp has also been in previous government's sights for off-loading and it has only been through the concerted protest and lobbying by Magnetic Islanders that the camp has been maintained.
Magnetic Island Community Development Association President, Lorna Hempstead A.M., is seeking answers to a number of questions over what kind of model the government is proposing for the camp but says, “I have grave concerns for any agency or local consortium that were to take it on. Without the umbrella coverage of a major organisation, one-off insurance for professional indemnity and public liability, particularly for child care, would be extremely expensive”.
Vern Veitch said, “Every level of government has a role to develop our economy. Townsville City Council runs the RSL and Tony Ireland Stadium not for profit but for community benefit.
“For many, the camp is their first visit to Magnetic Island. To take that away affects the viability of the Island’s number one industry: tourism.”
Vern believes that locals who are concerned at the likely loss of this major Island drawcard and the impact its loss might have on the Island’s economy, should contact John Hathaway.
“He’s the local member and it’s a state issue. It can’t be palmed off to the Council.”
Readers interested in contacting John Hathaway can email him here: firstname.lastname@example.org or call his office on 47724711.
Story and photo: George Hirst