By Jess Baker
Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) will soon begin community consultation on plans to relocate one of the Granite Belt’s most iconic landmarks, the Big Apple.
Councillors unanimously voted to endorse public consultation and investigation into the potential relocation and refurbishment of the structure at last week’s ordinary meeting held 24 February, following requests from two Granite Belt businesses.
The decision comes as a shock to many members of the region, but perhaps to none more so than Vincenzo’s owner Jason Mattiazzi.
Jason said he and his family paid a total of approximately $20,000 for the Big Apple to be relocated to their property in the early 2000s under the premise Vincenzo’s would be its “forever home”.
“The Stanthorpe Shire Council told us back then, ‘if you want (the Big Apple), pay for the reinstallation’,” said Jason.
“I was actually the one who tightened the bolts on that post.”
Despite the promise of permanence by a previous council, Jason said the Mattiazzis have not been involved in any discussions with SDRC related to the potential relocation of the Big Apple.
“We think it’s very unprofessional that no one from Council has notified us of their plans,” he said.
“Shifting (the Big Apple) shouldn’t even be on the agenda.”
At this stage, two Granite Belt businesses have requested the Big Apple be moved to their individual properties – both of which are located on the New England Highway.
One of the businesses, located at Thulimbah, said in its request to Council that it would not be funding the costs of relocating, maintenance, engineering and insurance for the Big Apple and would instead seek assistance from Council to manage and support the relocation.
The other business, located between The Summit and Applethorpe, said it would refurbish the Big Apple at its own cost and would not require funding from Council.
Jason Mattiazzi of Vincenzo’s said he strongly objects to the proposed relocation of the Big Apple, calling discussions “a complete waste of time”.
“How do you think ratepayers are going to take to the idea they’ll have to help pay for the Big Apple to be moved across the road?” he asked.
“Council needs to think about the back pockets of the rate paying people, not just the back pockets of the applicant businesses.”
Jason said there are a number of reasons the structure should remain at its current site, including the fact it is a known tourist attraction and landmark.
“And it’s on all the maps… so there are all these added costs of relocation that have to be considered,” he said.
Jason said it is also important to remember the Big Apple does not just represent Stanthorpe, it represents all of the apple growers in the region and it should therefore be located where the apple farms are.
Councillor Stephen Tancred voiced similar concerns in last week’s ordinary meeting, referring to the structure’s established prominence in the region.
“The Big Apple is part of Stanthorpe’s DNA,” said Cr Tancred.
“If we can’t keep a lot of people happy, to keep it where it is is probably a good thing… especially because it’s already on a lot of maps and websites that tourist operators have put out for people to navigate their way around the region.”