Family and friends have gathered to remember the life and times of long-time Sunshine Coast resident and community advocate Peter Parnell.
A memorial service was held for the former engineer, political aspirant and father of two at Maleny on January 15.
Peter moved to Noosa in 1972 and was an active community member for decades across the Sunshine Coast.
He was the first builder of strata title units in Noosa, where he engineered and constructed Leilani, El Kedra, Kalang and Bayona – the latter two with respected architect Frank Fanning. They all stand today.
Peter was also active in lobbying councils and politicians for sustainable development.
This started in the 1970s when, as chairman of the Noosa Residents and Ratepayers Association (Division 4), he was quoted in the media in 1975 as saying “don’t destroy the character” when discussing town planning.
That activism continued on many occasions in Maleny and the hinterland.
He was part of the group opposing the Woolworths development, citing concerns with damage to the Obi Obi Creek ecosystem.
“He never set foot in that Woolies as he was always staunchly opposed to that development”, his son Brendan said.
Brendan recalled his father reaching the peak of community activism while living on the range.
He unsuccessfully stood for government at local and federal level, switching from the National Party to being a Greens candidate for Fairfax, while also being an eco-champion, chairing multiple Landcare groups including Barung and Brandenburg.
“It’s been a major challenge to establish how many tree plants Dad led on the range. There’s probably tens of thousands along his road alone,” Brendan said.
Earlier, Peter had been an engineer with Civil and Civic when Australia’s then-tallest building, Australia Square, was opened in Sydney in 1967. This pioneered ground-breaking lightweight concrete construction methods, which he wrote a thesis on at university.
That was also part of the innovative Lennons Hotel construction in Brisbane, which was one of the first in Australia with a rooftop pool.
After an overseas stint with multinational engineering consultancy Frank E. Basil, based in Athens, Greece, where he would oversee major hotel, hospital and defence force constructions around the Mediterranean, Peter returned to Australia and Maleny became his final home.
As well as farming, Peter established his engineering consultancy in the early 1980s in Maleny and his works included projects at Australia Zoo, Aussie World, the Big Pineapple, Caloundra Lighthouse and thousands of waste water systems in the hinterland, as well as many subdivisions and soil tests across the Sunshine Coast.
Peter played a key role in the hinterland community.
He was chairman of Maleny Show Society, Maleny Tennis Association and Maleny’s Centenary Pool when it was opened by former local MP Mike Ahern. He actively led fundraising and government lobbying for all these organisations.
He also was a large commercial beef cattle breeder after acquiring the Coograli stud herd in 1981 and developing his Braford bloodlines that are now celebrated across some of Australia’s major Braford studs.
Peter pioneered higher Brahman content to be more tick and drought-resilient.
The Coograli stud turns 50 this year and has now relocated to Clifton on the Darling Downs and will managed by Stuart Brown.
Peter’s father Leslie served in both World Wars, initially with England in WWI and then with the Australian Navy in WWII.
Peter was born in Melbourne and went through school and university in Sydney, however, the Sunshine Coast was his home, first at Noosa and then at Maleny.
He is survived by son Brendan and daughter Erica, grandchildren Bianca, Liam and Isabella, and extended family.
Peter passed away peacefully on December 30 at Opal Care, Birtinya.
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