Blue Mountains 'news' made to fit


By Denis Kevans

KATOOMBA — Readers of the Blue Mountains Gazette must be increasingly bemused by the paper's commentaries on ongoing development disputes.

Ralph Williams, structural engineer, was mayor of the Blue Mountains until the September 1991 elections. While mayor, he launched a prosecution of alderperson Peter Quirk for alleged "conflict of interest".

Williams was on the board of directors of Ombrane Holdings, a land purchasing company, and guided through Blue Mountains City Council the environment plan for the entire Blue Mountains. Ombrane directors bought scores of blocks of land in the area.

Quirk was convicted of seven charges by a magistrate in Katoomba. All seven convictions were later dismissed in the Penrith court, and Quirk was awarded $100,000 costs against the BMCC.

During this time, the Blue Mountains Gazette found Quirk guilty in its headlines and printed confusing stories about the case.

Quirk got offside with the Gazette and developers by opposing their more insane developments, which included a "crocodarium" for Boddington Hill near Wentworth Falls, and the bulldozing of Paul Sorenson's spectacular gardens at Leura to enable A.V. Jennings to build 172 home units.

Williams, then mayor, was gung ho for the Jennings project, saying the gardens were "a mishmash of rubbish". He had the structural engineering contract for the project.

Blue Mountains developers are still thirsting for Quirk's blood. In the Gazette each week, they demand that the BMCC appeal the costs awarded to Quirk and that any BMCC alderperson not supporting such action be levied to pay the amount.

Meanwhile, local residents are angered by a Department of Social Security building Williams built at Katoomba which differs from the building plan. The plan was rushed through council after council planning staff refused to approve it.

The building resembles the plan so little that the BMCC's legal officer has said that "at worst, the building approval is void".

But the Gazette discovered an "independent report" which said the plan and building were not so different. The report was based on information given out by the BMCC.

The Gazette finally outdid itself when it ran the headline, "Williams did not misuse power — ICAC". The article gave the impression that the Independent Commission Against Corruption had investigated him and come up with nothing. In fact, Williams was not investigated by ICAC. He was questioned in a general way for less than 20 minutes.