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Vale Peter Parnell


It was fitting that it was a misty Maleny day to draw the curtains on the life of long-time Sunshine Coast hinterland resident and community advocate, Peter Parnell.


A memorial service was held last Monday January 15 at Maleny’s RSL Hall to remember the life and times of the former engineer, political aspirant and father of two.


Peter moved to Brandenburg Road, Bald Knob with his family in 1979 and was an active community member for more than 40 years.


Peter’s son Brendan recalled his father reaching his peak of community activism while living on the Range - he stood for government at local and federal level, switched 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 Brandenburg Road alone,” Brendan said.


Peter established his engineering consultancy in the early 1980s in Maleny and his works included projects at Australia Zoo, Aussie World, Big Pineapple, Caloundra Lighthouse and thousands of waste water systems in the hinterland, as well as many sub divisions and soil tests across the Sunshine Coast.


In the early 1980s Peter and his then wife, Suzie, joined with former IGA owners John and Alison Frew to launch the Maleny News, local newspaper which was published fortnightly. This has been morphed several times and transformed into today’s Hinterland Times.


Peter played a key role in the hinterland community. He was also Chairman of Maleny Show Society, Maleny Tennis Association and Maleny’s Centenary Pool when it was opened by former local MP Mike Ahearn. He actively led fundraising and government lobbying for all these organisations.


Peter was also active in lobbying councils and politicians for sustainable development. This started in the 1970s when living in Noosa, where he was second chairman of the Noosa Residents & Ratepayers Association (division 4). 


He was quoted in the 1975 Noosa News saying “don’t destroy the character” when discussing town planning in an article titled “Builder seeks simple life”. 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. 


Peter had been an engineer with Civil & Civic when Australia’s then tallest building, Australian Square, was opened in 1967 and this pioneered ground-breaking ‘lightweight concrete construction methods’ which he wrote a thesis on at university. That was also part of the innovative Lennon’s Hotel construction in Brisbane, which was unique as the first tall building had a waistline and was one of the first in Australia with a roof-top pool.


Peter moved to Queensland in 1972 and was the first builder of strata title units in Noosa. There he engineered and constructed Leilani, El Kedra, Kalang and Bayona - the latter two with respected architect Frank Fanning. They all stand today. 


After an overseas stint with multi-national engineering consultancy Frank E. Basil based in Athens, Greece, where Peter would oversee major hotel, hospital and defence force constructions around the Mediterranean, he returned to Australia and Maleny became his final home.


He also was a large commercial beef cattle breeder after acquiring the Coograli stud herd in 1981 and developing his Braford bloodlines which are now celebrated across many 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 two world wars, initially with England in WWI and then with the Australian navy in WWII. He was born in Melbourne, went through school and university in Sydney however the Sunshine Coast was his home, firstly at Noosa then Maleny.


Peter is survived by son and daughter Brendan and Erica, and grand-children Bianca, Liam and Isabella.


Peter passed away peacefully on December 30, and the family would like to thank the care time at Opal, Birtinya.


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