Dog fight imminent

Benaraby resident Gail Forrest is angry council is making her pay for a turning lane off the Bruce Highway.
Benaraby resident Gail Forrest is angry council is making her pay for a turning lane off the Bruce Highway. Chrissy Harris

A GLADSTONE region woman collared by red tape is begging authorities for leniency.

In December last year, Gail Forrest moved to a Benaraby property to start a boarding kennel and cattery.

In June this year, Gladstone Regional Council (GRC) told her to cease trading.

A court decision demanded Ms Forrest pay $78,000 to the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) to upgrade the intersection leading into her business, located off the Bruce Highway.

Although she agreed to pay, Ms Forrest said she initially planned to use a bank loan, but was unable to obtain one.

“With the global financial crisis, the bank said they could not give me a loan,” she said.

With her house already “mortgaged to the hilt” to get the business up and running, Ms Forrest said she could not afford to pay the fee.

“I'm not handing over any more money,” she said.

However, the animal lover was up for a dog fight.

“I asked them what would happen if I keep trading and they said I'll get a fine,” Ms Forrest said.

“I don't care - I will go to jail if I have to.”

Although Ms Forrest told The Observer she was no longer trading, she said she could not understand why an upgrade would be needed if business resumed.

“My busiest day was December 27 last year. We had 13 cars come into the kennel,” she said.

“Council talks about helping out small businesses, but there have been obstacles in my way since day one.”

GRC Director of statutory planning Andrew Kearns said while Council sympathised with Ms Forrest's position, the intersection was under the control of the Main Roads Department.

“The condition imposed upon Ms Forrest was to upgrade the intersection in question because it was deemed to be unsafe. This decision was agreed to by Ms Forrest when the matter was heard by the Planning and Environment Court,” Mr Kearns said.

“While Council appreciates Ms Forrest's financial difficulties, council must by law ensure that the court condition is complied with. If Ms Forrest is unable to meet the condition to upgrade the intersection, she must unfortunately cease business until such a time as the condition is satisfied.”

A DTMR spokesman said the department assesses development applications based on traffic which will be generated by a development, the impact on the community from this increased traffic, and the connectivity to the state-controlled road network.

“It is standard practice across the state for developers to contribute to required road upgrades to manage the increased traffic that will be generated from their development,” he said.

“The Benaraby Boarding Kennels and Cattery development application was for a kennel comprising of 100 dogs and a cattery comprising of 40 cats.

“A development of this size will generate significant additional traffic and it is important that the agreed road works are completed to ensure the safety of all road users,” the spokesman said.

“Should the developer wish to make application to council for a smaller business, the department would assess the operation on the revised details proposed.”

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