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• Melissa Warne with Cr Mark Edwards

A horrible island accident that claimed the life of young Russell Island resident, Ethan Stephenson, was the inspiration for Melissa Warne to do something about it.

Melissa is a long-time island resident and a friend of the Stephenson family.

She started a campaign that recently saw Redland City Council, in an almost unprecedented move, decide unanimously to support the construction of footpaths on the Southern Moreton Bay Islands, and Russell Island in particular.

Ethan was killed when struck by a car whilst walking home down Centre Road on Russell Island earlier this year.

Melissa, and many others, believe that Ethan would still be alive today if there was a footpath down Centre Road.

Ethan, carrying his skateboard, was walking along the edge of the roadway.

It is alleged a vehicle, driven by George Holsord, hit Ethan as he was nearing his home.

The driver is currently facing court on charges of dangerous driving of a vehicle causing death.

Melissa was so incensed, that she decided to do something about it, learning some important lessons on how to get things done, along the way.

"The first thing I did was some research.

"I went back through 14 years of documents and discovered that every plan for the islands included the construction of footpaths, but, in reality we had only received a fraction of what we were supposed to have obtained.

"When it came to basic infrastructure, we were missing out.

"Then I started a petition, which received strong community support."

Melissa admits to being a bit 'hot headed' at the time.

"I was a bit that way when I first met Mayor Karen Williams about the issue, which I now regret.

"I then received some amazing guidance and support from Cr Mark Edwards and I realised that I would achieve far more by working with council, rather than against it.

"He worked with me for weeks and guided me via countless emails so I was able to present a case to council the right way. It was a lesson, really, on how to work with council rather than against it," Melissa Warne said.

A trump card was the presentation to council with addresses by Cr Edwards, Melissa and Ethan's best friend, 14-year-old Lachlan Hill (see story opposite page).

Some tough council operatives and staffers reckon there wasn't a dry eye in the chamber at the end of their presentations.

The decision was 'unanimous'. It was unique because on most island issues, there is usually opposition from some quarters around the council table.

Melissa is thankful to Cr Mark Edwards for his role in the positive council decision.

"And I have to say Cr Edwards was just phenomenal.

"He is the best thing to ever happen to these islands," she said.

Melissa Warne says the campaign isn't over yet.

With some island supporters, a group made itself visible at the first hearing in the case against the driver of the car.

"We are about awareness and education on the islands.

"Clearly there are safety issues involved, and one of them is an island campaign to reach out to young people that if they are going to ride bikes and skateboards they 'have to' wear a protective helmet.

"We want parents to ensure their children wear protective headgear at all times, and look forward to an education plan in the near future," Melissa said.

Cr Edwards said that Centre Road, Minjerribah Road and Glendale Road, covering the length of Russell Island, will get a footpath on one side.

He said the decision would allow council to respond to safety issues that currently exist on the Bay Islands.

“We will now begin scoping costs for accelerated infrastructure, which importantly includes footpaths, as residents have voiced that this is a clear priority for the future of the bay islands,” Cr Edwards said.

“This is a safety issue and this decision will allow us to do something sooner rather than later.

Council voted to continue the existing SMBI levy and also to pay back borrowed funds in the SMBI Capital Reserve over a four-year period, rather than three years, essentially freeing up more money to spend now on the islands and the footpath program.

Cr Edwards said that Council was looking at innovative ways to build the footpaths so they can happen as quickly as possible.

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