Group calls for help to put brakes on council proposal
A PROPOSAL to change the use of land on the Airlie Foreshore has sparked a battle between the Whitsunday Regional Council and Save Our Foreshore members, who object to the council's application.
Whitsunday Regional Council is proposing to expand the existing Coconut Grove/Airlie Esplanade roundabout and redesign of the cul-de-sac at the intersection of The Beacons Road, Coconut Grove and Ocean Grove, with both proposals using public land.
Save Our Foreshore president Suzette Pelt was concerned about the loss of important public land, which she said should be available for community use and enjoyment.
"We are concerned with the public land aspect and the assumption that it can be used by council," she said.
"They've done this application on the assumption they'll be able to just take the public land. It's all these little bits of public land being taken for private use.
"What these developments are doing is incrementally taking away bits and pieces of public land. It is the incremental loss of an important resource for our community and tourists. It is greenery and parkland being turned into bitumen.
"People are losing the parkland so that service vehicles can use it."
However, Whitsunday Regional Council Director of Development Neil McGaffin said the transfer of land use was not from public use to private use.
"This isn't about taking public land and giving it to private landowners, it's to change effectively one public function to another public function, in this case, from a recreation reserve into a road reserve," he said.
Mr McGaffin said following public consultation, council would consider all submissions received and decide whether the proposal should be referred to the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Dr Anthony Lynham to decide whether the reserve would be repurposed.
Ms Pelt was also concerned about the redesign of the road would be used "to service a private and commercial hotel development" application for a 12-storey hotel.
"The 12-story development is currently with council, and to their credit they are asking a lot of tough questions," she said.
"People in Airlie don't want anything much higher than Coconut Grove, 12 stories plus the roof infrastructure means it's basically 13 stories, that's massive."
Mr McGaffin acknowledged that council had received an application for a 12-storey, 50-metre-high development, but that it had been returned to the developers for further detailed information to be provided.
When the additional information is submitted, Mr McGaffin said it would be open for public consultation before being presented to council.
Mr McGaffin said regardless of whether the land was repurposed, the proposal for the hotel development could still go ahead if approved by council.
"If the Minister resolves not to agree to the change from recreational reserve to road reserve, there will be more design work needed to make sure access is up to an acceptable standard," he said.
"The development application for the hotel can continue regardless, but council will be asking for some rework to see how they would provide suitable, safe access."
Ms Pelt's concerns were also raised at an ordinary council meeting yesterday via a written submission, with the Department of Planning addressing her questions in length.
"Council is aware that the process to change the purposes of a reserve require public consultation, which is currently underway," the department statement read.
"To counter for the disparity in the time to processing this application, council specifically included addition 1.7 in the development approval to ensure that the subdivision cannot go ahead unless the minister agrees to change the purpose of the reserve.," he said.
"References of the submitted plan to road opening were prepared by the applicant as was the subdivision layout. Those notations do not bide council or the state to the creation of the road without first obtaining approval by the minister under the Land Act 1994.
"Should the minister not agree to change the purpose of the reserve the areas that are shown in pink on the subdivision plan, will remain as public, recreational and open space reserve. If this occurs the subdivision will need a redesign."
The details of the development application can be viewed here, and submissions must be lodged by 5pm, Friday May 1.