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A strong campaign to preserve Tully’s Igloo has been mounted

3/September/2021
The Igloo at Tully Showgrounds

IN the face of the Cassowary Coast Regional Council identifying the Igloo for disposal as part of its ‘Asset Rationalisation’ programme and its lack of pro-active, transparent, and realistic action and engagement with the Tully community, most particularly the current user, the inaugural meeting of the Igloo Preservation Group was held last Saturday, August 28, at the Tigers Leagues Club in Tully. 

The Igloo, as it is called locally, was formally named the JP Byrne Sports Stadium on its relocation to its current site at the Tully Showgrounds, after Councillor ‘Tip’ Byrne, who served thirty years in our local government and who was instrumental in the Igloo meeting community needs. 

Pickleball was introduced at the Igloo to provide a sporting option during wet weather when the tennis courts could not be used. In addition, the sprung floor of the Igloo provides a low impact alternative for those with physical limitations, thereby increasing the number of people who can become involved. Pickleball is a low impact sport that can be played by seniors and children alike. Indeed, Pickleball has been the recipient of government grants to support active ageing. The Tully Mission Beach Pickleball Inc.’s membership is rapidly growing, and players extend from north of Innisfail to south of Ingham. The Club has 44 paid members, and the Igloo has received 777 visits by Pickleball players in the last eight months. The Club has recently held two well-attended Open Days and has plans to hold another one in September. 

Of note, the Gumboot Theatre has recently engaged with the Pickleball committee for the joint use of the facility, and, if suitable tenure can be obtained from the Cassowary Coast Regional Council, would anticipate holding youth-based musical evenings, unplugged events (where local talent can get up and have a go), movie nights, and concerts by local and visiting bands, as well as live theatre. The Tully Bowls Club have also expressed an interest in holding indoor bowling events. Both Pickleball and the Gumboot Theatre are also actively pursuing other groups to increase the Igloo’s usage.

Importantly, one of Tully’s major employers, Tully Sugar Limited, fully supports the preservation of the Igloo and believes that it has, and should continue, to serve the wettest community in Australia and is an important factor in Tully’s excellent social cohesion. 

An email sent by the Cassowary Coast Regional Council to Edith Thomas, President of the Tully Mission Beach Pickleball Association Inc. on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, advised that the following recommendation was adopted by Council with respect to the Igloo: Remove from insurance register. If any group can demonstrate the principles and sustainability, pursue lease agreement that covers all financial liability. If not, plan to demolish as soon as practically possible.

The sport and services provided within this venue positively affect the health and wellbeing and the overall quality of life in, and the cohesion of, the Tully community and beyond.  It is the expectation of the residents and ratepayers of the Cassowary Coast Regional Council local government area, that the Council will support these organisations by providing low-cost use of the Igloo (by way of a Licence to Occupy or a Lease on reasonable terms) in order for them to be able to continue their sport and services and thus enable the Tully and surrounding districts to remain safe, cohesive, and strong communities. 

The major barrier to any non-profit group wanting to be part of any lease agreement for the Igloo is the ongoing insistence by the Cassowary Coast Regional Council of charging $40,170 per annum of depreciation, on top of maintenance costs, rates, and insurance. This is an unfair burden on a newly formed community-based, non-profit club.

It should also be noted that the Queensland Treasury Corporation’s ‘Depreciation – A quick Reference Guide for Elected Officials and Staff’ advises that depreciation does not determine what a Council charges users for a particular service. It is also rather disingenuous to charge over $40,000 per annum, which they themselves can claim, and for a building they wish to ‘rationalise’. And, if the Club did pay the depreciation as part of the lease or licence to occupy cost, where would this money be spent? On the Igloo? That seems unlikely.

The Igloo is an important asset to the Tully and district community. It was used to deliver aid to the Tully and outlying areas following the devastating impact of Cyclone Yasi. It has also been used by the Australian Army, during the International Rafting competition, and for events such as weddings, dances, indoor markets, ballet, basketball, and gymnastics, amongst many others.

Whilst it is acknowledged that a similar complex was built in the Tully State High School grounds in 2011, this is owned by the Queensland Department of Education and its use is restricted to out-of-hours and parking is very limited. The Pickleball players are also not allowed to leave line marking on the floor and would therefore need to tape out the court each time they played and then remove the tape at the end. It would also be difficult to use this facility following a natural disaster if the school was operational.

The purpose of the Tully Igloo Preservation Group is to:

1 Preserve the memory of the Igloo, and the importance it has played in the community throughout the years, by capturing stories, anecdotes, and photos.

2 Preserve the Igloo as a building by demonstrating the importance of the building to the community through:

  • An application for National Heritage listing.
  • Documenting the level of community support (e.g.: letters, email, petitions, and meetings). 
  • Identifying a range of uses for the Igloo, creating a multi-use building and thereby meeting the objectives of the CCRC Asset Rationalisation Project without destroying a valuable community asset.

Current members of the group are Marcus Thomas (Spokesperson, representing the Gumboot Theatre), Christine Boric (Tully Chamber of Commerce), Melissa La Spina (Tully Chamber of Commerce), Edith Thomas (President of the Tully Mission Beach Pickleball Association Inc.), Jane Henley (Gumboot Theatre), and Jillian Cable (Business Consultant). 

Ron Hunt (on behalf of the Tully Chamber of Commerce) and Beatrice Bultreys (on behalf of the Tully Mission Beach Pickleball Association Inc.) have prepared a submission to the Heritage Council for the Heritage Listing of the Igloo, which was sent late on Saturday, August 28.

The group is seeking further members, letters of support for the Igloo to remain a community asset for use by its residents, and information on the Igloo’s heritage, from the community. It is also particularly interested in receiving suggestions for the future use of the Igloo from members of the community.

If you are interested in joining the Tully Igloo Preservation Group, or are willing to provide a letter of support, or information to assist, please contact the Spokesperson, Marcus Thomas, on 0435 811 594 or via email: Marcus.thomas2@bigpond.com

It is hoped that the Mayor and all Councillors reconsider the Cassowary Coast Regional Council’s approach to the ‘rationalisation’ of this asset and towards the non-profit organisation primarily using the Igloo, and engage in a supportive manner, with the view to retaining this asset and entering into an arrangement with users on low terms reflective of the benefits brought to the community. If the Council genuinely believes in supporting social cohesion, engagement, and a community focus, it should continue to provide the facilities to promote these to ensure the ongoing well-being and safety of its residents. This is not too much for residents and ratepayers to ask.

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