The Noosa Independent | 3 Feb 14
TEARS of relief flowed freely at the Caloundra Chambers last Thursday, January 30, after Sunshine Coast Council voted to refuse the controversial Noosa on Weyba development application for land within it’s regional boundary.
Members of Friends of Lake Weyba were ecstatic when the decision was announced, with President Anita Brake saying, “It was great to see that Councillors took the advice of their expert staff and independent advisors and voted to refuse the urbanisation of a rare and beautiful environment.
“Councillors Steve Robinson and Christian Dickson gave impassioned and convincing speeches during the decision debate and we thank them for their support. Friends of Lake Weyba would also like to thank the 1,000-plus residents and community groups who submitted written objections”.
The Council vote was 8-3 in favour of a motion to refuse the application. Mayor Mark Jamieson, Cr Greg Rogerson and Cr Tim Dwyer argued in favour of the application and believed the development would have long-term economic and environmental benefits for the region.
“Despite intense lobbying from the developer, Councillors were not convinced that the development would protect the natural environment or benefit the broader Sunshine Coast community,” Ms Brake added.
The refusal has been seen as a landmark vote against urban sprawl and Division 9 Cr Stephen Robinson said one of the main reasons he supported a refusal was that the application was outside the current planning schemes, the new draft planning scheme and the strategic intent for the land.
“Furthermore, the intensity of the urban development placed a significant risk over a naturally and ecologically constrained site,” Cr Robinson said.
“After reading the council officer’s report, meeting the developer and listening to the concerns of nearby residents, I came to the conclusion that this was a good development concept but in the wrong area.
“For well over a decade, this area of the coast has been recognised for its environmental values. All of the Statutory Instruments, including the Maroochy Plan 2000 and the Noosa Plan and associated documentation, provide clear direction and intent for this area. I was persuaded by the officer’s summation of this key aspect to which I referred on the day, which states:
‘Given the site constraints (being significant vegetation communities and proximity to waterways and Lake Weyba) and the extensive infrastructure (roads and services) and associated earthworks required to accommodate the proposal, development of this land will have a negative impact on the values intended to be protected by the planning scheme. The current proposal of a more intense urban fabric does not align with the intent of the Strategic Plan’.”
Cr Robinson said the developer’s offer to provide 140 hectares of land for National Park was considered favourably. He noted however that, according to the Council officer’s report, the land was already well protected through zonings under the Noosa Plan and Vegetation Management Act.
“The report concluded: ‘The development options available under the current legislation are severely limited and the majority of the land is also flood prone, further restricting potential development’,” he stated.
“In other words, there really isn’t a lot you could do with the land as a developer and therefore it did not provide enough ‘incentive’ to approve an intense urban development in the middle of ecologically sensitive area.”
Division 6 Cr Christian Dickson joined Cr Robinson to give a convincing speech during the decision debate, but most Councillors voting in favour of the refusal had the same concerns, with Cr Robinson confirming that the comprehensive council officer’s report was very clear on the grounds for refusal.
“The community is to be commended for their efforts to raise awareness of the issue and to argue their position with so much passion,” Cr Robinson said.
“I was given the opportunity of visiting the site through the eyes of the community, including a boat trip on Lake Weyba, and found this to be critical to my understanding of the environmental values of the area.
“I think this is a great example of the community working together to ensure their voice was heard during a complex and controversial development application process,” he concluded.
The Noosa on Weyba development has been a long-term issue for the community, with the first court approval on a Material Change of Use given in 2004.
In February 2012, the area was declared a Biodiversity Development Offset Area by the State Government and, at a pre-lodgment meeting for the current Development Application in September 2012, the Council chairperson identified a significant number of challenges the developer would have to overcome the planning conflicts.
The current Development Application was made in December 2012 and as the assessment manager, Noosa Shire Council will now examine the whole of the Noosa on Weyba proposal with a final decision likely in early March.
It is probable at this point that the developer will wait until that decision has been made before considering further options, but if the application is unsuccessful and an appeal is made, Sunshine Coast Council would likely join Noosa Council as a party to the action.