Yelarbon silo wars divide town

Stage One of Yelarbon silo project. One possibility.
Stage One of Yelarbon silo project. One possibility.

Yelarbon residents have been told to end the bickering or risk Council taking over total control of a $60,000plus silo-painting project.

The dirty laundry of "community division" was aired at the Goondiwindi Regional Council last week.

Deputy-Mayor, Cr Rick Kearney raised concerns that a project to paint the silos and to bring the community together, was having the opposite impact. "From the correspondence I have seen (from Yelarbon residents) this project is going to divide that community for some time to come," he said. "While I support the silo project I can see it creating disharmony and a rift within Yelarbon and I can see Council will get the blame." 

Some residents are angry about many things including the design, how decisions were made and by who, and a lack of consultation. Cr Kearney said it was anger and in-fighting which put the whole project at risk. So bad did the in-fighting, through a vitriolic social media campaign become, that three members of a committee to oversee the project resigned late last year.

Council said it then entered the debate to mediate any conflict and keep the project on track.

"The whole aim of the funding was to bring communities together socially and economically," Cr Kearney said. He questioned whether Council should rescind the offer of funding for the silos and put it towards another project which would build "harmony" not "disharmony".

"I'd like to know what other councillors think," he said.

From last week's discussion it appears no councillor would like to see that happen.

But their frustration with events was apparent.

"Yelarbon is a deeply divided community and has been for, not just the last 10 but 30," Cr Rick McDougall said.

The second voting option. Which would you pick?

The second voting option. Which would you pick?

He argued no decision would have been made on the silos if Council hadn't "stepped in".

A number of councillors on the small number of residents who have complained - "4 or 5".

"While this is a small but significant group you can't go with the squeaky wheel all the time," he said.

He believes time will heal.

"When this is all done, in five to 10 years everyone will be saying "What a wonderful thing it is'."

A number of councillors applauded the comment. 

Time will tell.

Council's Community Development Officer, Megan Long said it is the nature of art that you will not get consensus.

"But, we call upon all Yelarbon community members to recognise this rare opportunity in large scale funding, and to focus on the positives and contribute towards bringing the community together." she said.

" With the high quality artists shortlisted, we remain confident that the project which will be delivered by June 30, will be an improvement to the current silo and will achieve the overall desired outcome of encouraging highway travellers to stop in Yelarbon," Ms Long said.

Since Council has become involved it has negotiated with GrainCorp and Queensland Rail and also bought land to construct a carpark-viewing area.

The timeline according to Council:

The Yelarbon Silo artwork project has been discussed for many years in the community with no action.

Approximately 12 months ago Susie Shore commenced the project. She was was operating under the auspice of the Yelarbon Restoration Hall Committee.

She worked with a small group of interested parties to shortlist two artists, and they also workshopped the theme for the artwork. 

The preferred artist was voted on a community meeting, however with no budget to actually lock in the artist and concerns raised over the ability for the rest of the community to be involved in the process, at the next YCCC the decision to continue with him was rescinded - August YCCC meeting.

 Ms Shore, nor the Yelarbon Community Consultative Committee had details regarding Graincorp or QR requirements, and had not finalised an appropriate viewing area for the project.  At this August YCCC a new artwork committee was voted on and five people were tasked with starting the process again.

Shortly after this meeting a very public social media campaign was then embarked upon with legal action threatened. Council was asked to become involved.

At the October YCCC, three of the members of the newly-established committee,Susie Shore, Trevor Cole, and Joy Mundey resigned. The Yelarbon Hall Committee also declined to be involved.

At the October meeting, and again at the December YCCC meeting and via email to the YCCC group, Council invited anyone who wanted to be part of the committee advising on the project to nominate.  There was no voting process all were invited to participate.  Six people put their hands up. The committee now consisted of Tony Stepney, Mark Hyde, David Cooper, Jamie Tait, Terri-Ann Crothers and Will Officer, as well as Councillor McDougall. 

In early December 2018, Council received drought-aid funding and was able to allocate one-off funding to the Yelarbon silo project in 2018/19 to drive economic outcomes for the town.  The criteria on the funding has a  clear deadline of June 30. 

With funding being secured by Council in mid- December, and a tight deadline of 30 June 2019 for the funds to be fully acquitted, along with significant compliance being identified by other stakeholders (e.g. Graincorp & QR), Council said it needed to not just support, but now manage the project, in order to achieve an outcome. 

Open to all artists and advertised nationally, an Expression of Interest was drafted by Council.  The previously shortlisted artist was strongly encouraged to apply.  Unfortunately, he did not submit, rendering him out of the shortlisting process, the reasoning given to Council by the artist, was that members of the community had warned him that he wouldn’t be given a fair go.     

The Expression of Interest called for artists to consider any of the following as potential artwork:

  • Local landscape
  • Past and current culture of the people who live in the areaArtwork relevance today and for generations to come
  • Celebration of local character, heritage and history.

The criteria for shortlisting were:

  • Artist merit
  • Response to brief
  • Value for money
  • Experience

Due to the tight timelines, in January 2019 the latest committee met with Council and provided advice in relation to the above criteria for shortlisting two artists.These two artists were to work with the committee, to explore what Yelarbon meant to the locals, and explore different themes.  One of the artists spent several days in town talking to locals, and exploring the area.

At the February YCCC meeting, Council presented the implementation process.  This presentation was accompanied by a handout for all attendees, and over 200 copies were supplied to the broader community, through the post office, Yelarbon shop and Oasis Hotel.  No-one questioned the process.

It was also discussed at this meeting that the artists had numerous themes that they could adopt including history of the town, however, combined with the expectation that the imagery meet the primary purpose of attracting tourists, and that the Yelarbon CCC clearly articulated to Council that the imagery must be colourful, the shortlisted artists have chosen more landscape-based imagery with smaller references to the history of the region. 

The community has now been presented with two artists concept designs, they have been asked to identify their preference through a voting form.  The budget of $60,000 does not allow an artist to complete all eight silos, but with a full concept design presented to the community, they can see what the final result will look like when additional funding is secured.  The artists have both carefully considered the need for a Stage 1 (by 30 June 2019) that does not look unfinished.