Gracemere blanketed in smoke from a number of fires near Stanwell and Kabra.
Gracemere blanketed in smoke from a number of fires near Stanwell and Kabra.

Exploring the needs and wants of Gracemere

Thomas Jefferson said he liked the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.

It seems to me that we have to be careful that we don’t lose either. We must respect and appreciate our past if we want our future to be fair and to have that layer of richness that sets regional life apart.

I love listening to Wade Mann and Aunty Nikki and other elders of the Darumbal community when they tell stories of the indigenous people who settled and cared for our area for thousands of years.

Likewise, stories of the first European settlers in this area often come across my desk. And those stories often begin with, or are built around, the Archer family and their humble slab hut homestead overlooking the “mere” on their new holding.

Named for a much-loved wife, Gracemere is the birthplace of the Central Queensland that we know.

Earlier this month council hosted a roundtable for residents and business owners of Gracemere who came together to help craft a strategy that will enable Gracemere to grow, and grow well.

This was a similar process to the one that developed the Mount Morgan strategy recently adopted by the council.

The Gracemere roundtable allowed residents to have dir­ect input and see their ­responses in real time on a large screen. The software that we used then scanned ­responses looking for common themes.

Words that were repeated in multiple comments were printed in bolder and larger type in a constantly changing display. Information sent to the software was then captured and collated so that we could see themes developing.

(Residents who weren’t able to make it to the roundtable were able to send in their responses and ideas for a number of weeks afterwards as well.)

There were no great surprises in the responses that we received during the roundtable, or from the online data that some submitted shortly after, but there were some strong common themes.

There were clear messages about the congestion in Lawrie St as the Gracemere community makes its way to work or to drop the children at school.

There was also comment about the need for a high school. These are both State Government responsibilities and the council will continue to advocate for these at every ­opportunity.

And the ever-constant and well-justified call for change to the postcode featured strongly as well.

There were clear messages for the council about what we are doing well and where we need to lift our game too.

The community spoke about the need for extending our water services. There are a significant number of smallholdings close to Gracemere who have traditionally provided their own water supply, but as the area has become more closely settled it makes sense for the town water supply to be extended.

In the past 12 months, the council has begun the rollout of water service to some of these properties and there are more in the “pipeline”.

Message received.

The community was very appreciative of the commitment that we have made to building family-friendly spaces with Cedric Archer Park, having received a commitment in excess of $5 million over the past four years.

Cedric Archer Park now has the region’s best water play area, the best skate park, and once the Touch of Paradise lake and plantings are complete, it will have one of the most beautiful settings for family picnics and wedding photos too.

Next year a “pump track” – a loop of asphalt bike path, which incorporates bumps and “berms and rollers” and is great for bikes, scooters and skateboards – will follow.

There was a strong call for even more activities for youth, with calls for a youth hub or a PCYC or similar. Residents spoke about the need for places to go and relax, a desire for choice in rest­aurants and coffee shops. The overall message seemed to me to be about the need for Gracemere to be supported and develop its own village feel.

And given the very significant growth rate in this ­vibrant community – none of these “asks” is unrealistic.

Gracemere has a population of more than 11,000 – substantially larger than Yeppoon. Of course Yeppoon has other surrounding communities too, but it does give some measure of the importance of Gracemere in the ­regional hierarchy.

The roundtable is the first step in developing a strategy to guide the future of the town. The council has heard the message and is very keen to work with the community to make Gracemere a place that residents are proud of.

A strong Rockhampton ­region needs a strong Gracemere, and the community’s voice is vital to creating the ­future residents want.

On a separate note, I’d like to acknowledge that this week marks the first anniversary of the Gracemere and Kabra fires. It was a terrifying ­moment for many as they gathered a few precious things and made their way into town. Many rushed from the city back to Gracemere to gather children and pets before they joined the queue to safety.

As we look at the devastation that’s been caused to parts of Livingstone Shire we are reminded of how incredibly fortunate we were.

We wish Livingstone Shire and the residents all the best as they pull through this difficult time, especially leading into Christmas.