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Town's war over 'rainbow staircase' that caught A-lister's eye

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 25/10/2018 Sheri Mimis

a close up of a garden: This colourful staircase has become the centre of a war of words in a Queensland beach town. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd This colourful staircase has become the centre of a war of words in a Queensland beach town. A heated war of words has erupted in the peaceful seaside town of Rainbow Beach in Queensland over a colourfully painted staircase, which has gone viral online and attracted celebrity attention.

The debate was started by local business advocacy group Team Rainbow, which received funding to paint a 72-step staircase at the popular tourist town.

 “I got involved in the commerce and tourism and said, 'hey guys, why don’t we put the rainbow back into Rainbow Beach',” Team Rainbow secretary Dr Darryl Gauld OAM told A Current Affair.

“It’s colloquially referred to as Rainbow, the town.”

When the rainbow colours first appeared on the staircase there seemed to be unanimous support throughout the Rainbow Beach community.

It was only after one of Rainbow Beach's most colourful characters, Bronwyn Noffke, added a few subtle words in black that some people started to take issue.

a man wearing sunglasses: Bronwyn Noffke stencilled her own words onto the steps, angering some of the locals. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Bronwyn Noffke stencilled her own words onto the steps, angering some of the locals. Ms Noffke is a mother, bar owner, breast cancer survivor and former cage fighter, and well known former resident of Rainbow Beach.

Her latest fight is over a heartfelt message she wrote on the staircase, which has become the newest tourist attraction at the seaside town.

“Every time that the world was beating me to my knees, going through chemo and everything else, I just remembered, how good is living? I used to say it to myself over,” she said.

Locals and tourists embraced Ms Noffke message, “How Good Is Living”, and it drew the attention of local police and even Hollywood celebrities.

She said when A-listers Chris Hemsworth and Matt Damon visited Rainbow Beach they both supported the message, with Chris Hemsworth being photographed on the staircase.

“People started tagging us and sending me pictures and I was like, what’s going on? We thought we’d start an Instagram account to see how it would go,” she said.

a person posing for the camera: An Instagram account drew hundreds of photos. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd An Instagram account drew hundreds of photos.

“I think in about three weeks we got 400 pictures.”

But not everyone is happy about the words.

In what has become a fiery debate, Dr Gauld and Team Rainbow have accused Ms Noffke and her supporters of vandalising public art, and taking ownership of their project.

a group of people sitting at a park: However, other locals praised the addition and don't want the words removed. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd However, other locals praised the addition and don't want the words removed.

“Why come along and vandalise it with graffiti. There was no consultation, no asking,” he said.

Mr Gauld is a renowned educator and justice campaigner, who last year received an Order for Australia in part for his advocacy for gay rights.

“Why don’t they practice being more inclusive and welcoming and friendly and accept newcomers to their town?” he said.

a man and a woman standing in front of a tree: A-lister Chris Hemsworth at the steps. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd A-lister Chris Hemsworth at the steps.

However, Ms Noffke said there was "nothing negative about that, there is absolutely nothing negative".

She had now started a local petition calling for the words to stay. It has so far gathered 400 signatures.

In a statement by the local Gympie City Council it had been stated that neither party sought approval for any artwork on the staircase.

Chris Hemsworth holding a sign posing for the camera: Hemsworth with Bronwyn Noffke. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Hemsworth with Bronwyn Noffke. Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth. © Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth.

“It’s unfortunate the issue has not been able to be resolved between Team Rainbow who painted the rainbow on the stairs, and the former Rainbow Beach resident,” the statement said.

“Team Rainbow requested the wording to be removed from their art installation as permission from the artist was not sought. 

“Council has offered a number of alternative locations for the wording ‘how good is living’ to support the former resident and the important mental health message.

“Neither party sought Council approval for the artwork, however council is happy for it to remain and work with the artists to ensure the art is maintained.”

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