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Council makes tough call on Christmas tree

Gympie Regional Council CEO Shane Gray has today announced that the Christmas tree, purchased and planted at Nelson Reserve last year, will not be lit or decorated during Christmas 2020.

“Council have sent a very clear message about budgeting and unfortunately to decorate and light the tree this year was not feasible without incurring unnecessary cost.

“I want to take this opportunity to apologise to those in our community for this.

“The simple truth is Council cannot afford it at the moment,” Mr Gray said. The tree and the lighting system were purchased in 2019.

Unfortunately the frame - which forms part of the design as voted by the community last year - needed to hold the lighting system could not be ordered or made in time for the 2019 Christmas period.

Councillors voted at the Ordinary Meeting held on 26 August 2020 to complete the frame and the project, however there was some concern regarding the remaining budget for the tree and Council’s current financial position.

The original budget was for $100,000, with $35,000 set aside for regional decorations via community groups across the region. This left $65,000 for the tree (including transport and planting), the light system, frame and construction.

To date, over $120,000 has been spent on the project with another $27,800 required to complete the frame for the lighting system, bringing the total cost up to just over $150,000; $50,000 over budget.

“What is needed to finish the Christmas tree for the community is not possible as the budget has already been exceeded,” Mr Gray said.

“The organisation has a very clear direction from Council on appropriate spending and unfortunately this project does not fit within the budget and will not proceed at this stage.

“Council is still very much dedicated to fostering community spirit this Christmas.

“We will of course continue to decorate the CBD and regional areas as we always do, and we will look at how we can utilise the lights ordered in 2019.” Mr Gray said.

Mayor Glen Hartwig thanked the CEO for ensuring financial accountability within the organisation.

“I was concerned about the integrity of the finances around the tree and am very glad the CEO has listened to Council and come back with a financially responsible decision.”

“Although it is disappointing that we won’t be able to complete the project due to our financial position, we must be financially accountable for our residents and our community."

"There’s no getting past that we went over budget and there are no funds left to complete the Christmas tree this year.” said Mayor Hartwig. 

A message from Mayor Glen Hartwig - Wednesday, 23 September 2020 A message from Mayor Glen Hartwig - Wednesday, 23 September 2020

I have the privilege of travelling the region and seeing just how wonderful it is. This was reaffirmed this week when I had the honour of welcoming around 30 new citizens to our region and country.

I was moved by the endless stories of how people had visited this area, fell in love with its beauty and people, and decided to move states or countries to live here.

We, as residents, know how good our region is and although we have sometimes been the butt of ill-informed jokes, the rest of the country is starting to understand just what we all know.

It has been my personal experience that the greatest asset this region is its people. Warm, caring, concerned about our future and invested in the stable growth and direction of the whole area, but most importantly concerned about each other. In these times, that is the most valuable commodity for any community and something that cannot be fabricated; you either have it or you don’t, and we have it.

I often have the pleasure of showing this region to visitors, family and friends. The common statement that I hear is, “You can feel the community here, you can tell people really care.”  

This region may have been spoken of in ways that were not positive in the past but it’s time we spoke of this region in a way that we have known it to be for years.

This is the best region to live - whether it’s the bush and countryside of the west, the surf and sand of the east, or the food and forest of the Mary Valley - there is something for everyone. We have the best of everything, but most importantly we have the best people.

As we all go about our daily lives, let us do it with pride in our region. We are not the poor country cousins; we are a vibrant, caring community that is a great place to live, work and enjoy the best that life has to offer.  

This region is the best region to live in. Let’s walk with pride.

Mayor Glen Hartwig