February 2019: Whitsunday Regional Council implicated in public foreshore land-grab
It has been revealed that the Whitsunday Regional Council may have breached the State Land Act by re-zoning the Paluma Road Urban Bushland public reserve into commercial industrial land. Community members are angry that their concerns have not been taken seriously by either local Councillor Ron Petterson or by the Council as a whole.
The Queensland Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the status of the land as Urban Bushland Public Reserve. Our understanding is that under this status, the Council, as the trustee, is only the manager of the land. They cannot change its use or its purpose, yet according to their letter to residents, it is clear that the Council believes that as Trustee, they can do what they like. In fact the Town Planning legislation and the Land Act are two entirely different pieces of legislation. SOF is calling for an investigation into how this happened and got this far, despite several levels of scrutiny. It also begs the question: what else in this town plan is not above board?
To see the full press release please click here.
Feb. 2019: SOF submits objection to Council regarding Shute Harbour Marina Development
On the 12th of Februsry 2019 Save Our Foreshore submitted a letter to the Whitsunday Regional Council interim CEO, Mr Bruce Davidson, regarding Agenda Item 12 to be considered at the Council meeting on the 13/02/19, regarding an application from Shute Harbour Marina Development Pty Ltd for Preliminary Approval for Material Change of Use to Vary the Whitsunday Regional Council Planning Scheme, on L: 22 SP: 208207 T: PT TL239765, L:23 SP: 208207 T: PT TL239765 and located at Shute Harbour Road, Shute Harbour.
Save Our Foreshore Inc (SOF) has a well documented history of opposing this proposal; the grounds stated for the objection are as below:
This is a 1980s proposal that is totally unrealistic in today's world given our, now extensive, knowledge of climate change and environmental impacts on an already stressed inner and outer reef system. Four major issues for the community are:
To read the full objection document please click here.
Council seeks community’s long-term vision for Shute Harbour
Community Consultation will be taking place over the next month to allow residents to put forward their ideas for the long-term future of Shute Harbour. The marine facility at Shute Harbour was damaged extensively during Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie, with funding for major repairs recently granted by insurers and through the jointly-funded Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA). Before major restoration works take place over the next year, Council would like to know what the community feels is important for the future of Shute Harbour. At this stage, Council will only be able to restore the damaged terminal buildings, seawall, jetties and pontoons, however there is an opportunity for future-proofing the site. Mayor Andrew Willcox said the consultation process would allow for all ideas and suggestions to be recorded and considered during restoration. “We may not have the funds right now to expand upon the repairs, but we can make sure we don’t rule anything out for long-term planning,” he said. “We want to get this right, and put ourselves in the best position possible for any future development.” “By future-proofing the facility, we can make sure we budget appropriately for any upcoming development at Shute Harbour.”
Read SOF's submission.
December 10th 2013:
Can we expect more of this?
April 4th 2013: URGENT! Save World Heritage Shute Harbour
The Save Our Foreshore organisation is totally opposed to what it sees as nothing more than yet another public waterfront land grab for high end residences - using a marina as its justification.
If this development on our public foreshore is approved, many thousands of locals and visitors will lose an irreplaceable environmental and scenic treasure, primarily so that a private developer can on-sell reclaimed blocks of World Heritage seabed land to third-party developers.
Submissions to the Supplementary EIS for the Shute Harbour Marina development close on the 29-04-2013.
Go to the Shute Harbour page to find more information and complete a Supplementary EIS submission.
SOFI at the Airlie Markets on Saturday 06-04-13
October 6, 2011 - Update to Members
What you can do
On August 30- 31, changes to the plans for the central section of the Airlie main street redevelopment were made public and shown to SOF for the very first time – 5 days before tenders were called.
Now our community is being asked to choose between another two options neither of which had been seen by the community before they appeared on council’s survey website Tues 4 Oct. This really is a community consultation shambles.
Save Our Foreshore Inc (SOF) is concerned that important changes and decisions are being asked of our community without full and detailed information being made available.
SOF has a long record of telling the truth and the facts. With this information, you helped us stop the devastating oil shale mine on our coast (2008) and the first multi-story hotel land grab on our public foreshore (2004). Many professional and academic experts recognise our ethics and offer their services and expertise to SOF at no cost.
Our FACT SHEET on the lack of need to allow this 4 story hotel on our public parkland is attached (and on the website). Please take the time to read it and share with as many friends as possible. One fact is that the lagoon carpark is gazetted public open space, controlled by the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) and that council only has the right of temporary use as a carpark. So it is not council’s land – it is yours, and any swap has to be approved by the Minister for DERM, Rachel Nolan MP AND then only with community support.
Option 2 (straight road) shown in the biased council survey, is the only option to save this public land. It is also the least expensive option (survey also misrepresents costs and refers to paving and landscape materials only). By leaving the existing building where it is, the owners publicly stated preference to be bought out can still happen, but it can never happen if the building is relocated and redeveloped into a 4 storey hotel.
Imagine the view without ANY building in, or in front of our park!
If after reading the fact sheet you come to understand exactly what the issues are and how we stand to lose a priceless public asset, there are things you can do to ensure we do not lose our future parkland.
What can I do?
- to ensure the rest of our community has the same opportunity to obtain the facts please forward this email and attachments to every Whitsunday resident/ratepayer/visitor/non-resident you know.
- copy and paste the objection letter to the Minister shown below and email it to:
- Be sure to add your Name, Address AND Date to the email
- VISITORS/NON RESIDENTS: please send the specific email attached for your use.
- Print out fact sheet and have it with you to hand out at any time. Smaller version included to save printer ink and paper!
- Let us know if you’d be available for a photo shoot in the lagoon carpark date TBA
- Volunteer to help at our information pink caravan “SOFI” – 2 hour shift max Saturday morning markets commencing 8 Oct 11
- For either the photo shoot and/or to volunteer please reply to: email@example.com
We hope this email has clarified some issues for you and that you are able to help get the facts of this matter out into our community. However, if you would like any further information please don't hesitate to contact us.
September 27, 2011 – Letter from James Riddell
Below are two proposals we did for the central car-park site many years ago. The quality is not great because in those days it was difficult to distribute large images. The originals have been archived and are not easily sourced.
I have not been around for much of the debate regarding the main street upgrade, however the plans I have seen, with a bend in the road, seem rather strange.
Airlie has about the shortest main street in the world! It is 600 metres from round-a-bout to round-a-bout. To want to shorten it further strikes me as futile. It is nice when one drives into Airlie that the whole of the main street can be encompassed with one glance. Also the proposed round-a-bout at Waterson Way will further fragment the street.
I believe that the duality caused by a bend in the road would be disconcerting - a town of two halves - rather than the lively, inviting whole that is currently so attractive. I believe it would be difficult for anyone to argue against the benefits of the current situation.
The suggestion that a bend in the road wound better help the storm water problems currently encountered, seems fanciful. Again, I would like to hear the arguments, and see the engineering figures to support this. Basically, this is nonsense.
Also, a bend will add to costs unnecessarily, make car parking more difficult, (if there is to be car parking along the street), and drivers will need to pay more attention to negotiating the curve, rather than enjoying views while still driving safely. Another factor to keep in mind is the fact that many of our tourist have grown up with cars driving in opposite lanes, and often step into the street looking the wrong way for cars. At the best of times the main street is a bit of an obstacle course.
I believe that the bend in the road is not only unnecessary and more expensive, it will actually detract from the amenity and atmosphere that currently exists, and that will be further enhanced with a sensitive main street design.
It is important that the citizens of Airlie understand that the land which is currently a temporary car park, is theirs, it is allocated for recreational use, and it should not be traded at all, or certainly not without very good recompense.
Apart from the schemes we have done (as shown above), I do not think a concept proposal for this recreational land has ever been done, or commissioned by WRC. So the public have never really seen the potential of their asset. This seems rather remiss when the land is being bargained with developers (as with NKP), or in the current scheme where it is being encroached upon.
I doubt the public would allow any encroachment of their asset if they had the opportunity to see it at its full civic potential rather than just seeing it as car park. (I have noted that developers have taken full advantage of this ignorance in the past.)
The allotment that currently houses the chemist and supermarket would be a tremendous asset to the community if acquired by WRC. But even if it remains in private hands it could be developed sensitively, to the benefit of the community, with compensatory concessions being given to the developer. I would suggest that approximately 50% of the ground floor remains open, as arcades, with views through to the parklands and ocean beyond.
It would be also possible to move this building back on the allotment and create the landscaped area in front, (rather than bending the road and putting the landscaped area on the other side of the road. But I don’t really believe that either is a good idea.) The community was steamrolled during the lagoon debate. The lagoon changed from a tidal affair that needed to be located next to the ocean, into a salt water swimming pool that could have been located anywhere. So unfortunately our most beautiful beach was lost unnecessarily. I would not like to see such foolishness repeated.
I believe the bend in the road will be detrimental to the prevailing and potential atmosphere of Airlie, as well as being an unnecessary cost. (If it goes ahead I would expect the eureka moment in 20 years time when the main street is re-redeveloped, will be removing the bend!)
I can see no necessity to encroach on the public land behind the main street allotments, and I believe the public should be made aware of it’s current potential, rather than have this asset continually denigrated as an ugly car park.
At some stage WRC will need to negotiate concessions with the owner of the block of land between the main street and the public land, and the only way to fairly proceed with those negotiations is to get a valuation of that land, so I would suggest that this is done ASAP.
It also seems strange that the apart from what DMR have already designed, there seems to be nothing new in the design except that the whole of the main street design is focused around one private allotment. As nearly every allotment abutting the main street needs upgrading, any of these owners could have been approached, and benefits and compensation negotiated.
A series of arcades through to the beach side could enhance circulation in and around the main street to liven up both it, and the beach side.
The proposed main street design, as I understand it, seems quite myopic, and does not seem to focus on the benefit to the public at large.
I should like to see other options, with actual community benefits explained.
I trust this is helpful.
Jim Riddell, B.Arch, FRAIA.
September 25, 2011 – Update to Members
Possible "Plan B" agreement
SOF has been working hard with stakeholders in the past weeks and many opinions have been considered and ultimately dropped because of cost or fragmentation of the public open space adjacent to the lagoon.
At Jan Jarratt MP for Whitsunday’s invitation, the SOF executive met with Jan and Des Davey at her office in Proserpine last Friday morning. From this meeting we believe agreement on a “Plan B” is about to be reached for the central Airlie main street design.
The timetable remains on schedule.
“Plan B” is a plan we are happy with, including Des Davey, whose building can stay where it is and he will not be forced to redevelop.
The plan is for the road to keep a gentle curve through the central area which remains within the existing road and footpath reserves, allowing for landscaping as planned in other parts of the reshaped road.
The benefits of “Plan B” are many, but importantly this will be less disruptive to Main Street businesses and does not physically divide the town; these are two of the business operators’ main concerns.
SOF’s engineering advisor has said there should be considerable cost savings in “Plan B” as the extreme road works needed to flood proof one building are no longer needed. This will be helpful given we are told the budget is already blowing out.
We know that following a late motion put by Clr Gaudry at the last council meeting, council officers are already working on “Plan B”:
It is also known that several flood reports identify the main creek flooding problems are caused on private properties to the south (upstream) of Shute Harbour Road. These were known to the previous council and current council CEO John Finlay has told us council is still pursuing their legal options to have these problems rectified.
Most importantly, the public parkland, which nearly 1000 people marched to protect just a few short years ago, currently used as a temporary carpark, is not affected.
It could be suggested that any cost savings made by not having to incur the massive and disruptive engineering of the central area to flood proof one building could be put towards funding Stage 3 of the streetscape. This stage develops the public open space into the multi-use parkland for events, festivals and concerts, which people have been asking for and which will bring in on-going and long term revenue for the town and wider community.
What happens to the supermarket building in time will be a commercial decision by the owner.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require any further information or clarification of this situation or to distribute this information in any way you wish.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
September 20, 2011 – Letter from SOF to Council CEO
20 September 2011 John Finlay CEO, Whitsunday Regional Council By email: firstname.lastname@example.org Re: Airlie Beach foreshore public parkland
In reponse to the recent meetings with council, community, main street planners and supermarket building owner Des Davey, we advise the following:
There have been a number of opinions put out for consideration regarding the road design, a re-location of the supermarket building and parkland. This group in a spirit of compromise to assist in flood mitigation and at the same time open up sea vistas from Airlie’s main street has for a number of years indicated that a 90 degree realignment of the commercial building along Airlie Creek but still fronting Shute Harbour Road would be acceptable. This was seen as a viable “win win” for all parties. But as advised in our update to members and supporters (9/11/11), since the public meeting (31/08/11) when new concepts were shown it has been confirmed that this option is neither acceptable to the landowner nor possible as was revealed last week owing to a high voltage underground power cable.
Planner Gary Hunt was aware of the objection to the location of buildings in the parkland in the concept drawings from our first meeting. Later on, despite it being abundantly clear that the area was a “sacred site” to be kept as parkland, it was seen fit to place a proposed 4 story building more or less centrally in the site and fragment the parkland so as to render it unusable in the ways the community has said they want ie a multi-use parkland which caters for events, concerts and festivals and a children’s water park to complement the lagoon.
We do note details have changed in the various presentations over time and differ also from that currently on Council’s website, which in turn can be confusing. While people support the overarching plan generally, there are details that are clearly problematical and need to be resolved. It was disingenuous of the planning team to have held back information and made these significant changes known to the community just days before tenders were issued.
We believe the current issues that have arisen at the last minute would have been avoided if council had not chosen to vote against having the elected divisional councilor for that particular area as part of the planning group. Likewise, it would have been helpful having a member of the community representing the public interest on the group.
The public parkland reserve is not part of the flood problem and cannot be sacrificed for the benefit of a single commercial entity as proposed. However it could be part of the solution, for example as a natural floodway. This and other flood management options are discussed in reports held by council. (But we note, not referenced in the bibliography of the concept plan). None require the fragmentation of parkland and deep curve in the road to remedy the flood issue. Rather, all discuss engineering and design options in the southern catchment ie upstream of the main road which consecutive Councils have failed to address.
Discussions with engineers clearly indicate it is quite possible to maintain the “sinuous” curve and plantings in the main street through the Airlie Creek area and still remain within the existing road reserve.
Finally and importantly, other than the suggestion by the supermarket building owner to “buy him out”, none of the opinions discussed with the parties meet the provisions of the Land Act’s most appropriate public land use and tenure. And given the community response to date, are extremely unlikely to satisfy the Minister that the purpose of the parkland would not be diminished by the proposals.
Now that Council has moved to resolve the car parking problems in Airlie Beach (and is to be commended for this) it is time for once and for all to return the temporary carpark to its designated use as parkland as soon as possible, for the benefit of the residents and visitors to the area.
September 14, 2011 – Letter from SOF to Council CEO
Mr. John Finlay CEO
Whitsunday Regional Council
RE: 7. Notice of Motion
7.2 VALUATION OF PROPERTY ON SHUTE HARBOUR ROAD RECOMMENDATION That Council engage an independent licensed valuer to provide a valuation on the Shute Harbour Road property owned by Mr Des Davey with the intent of acquiring the property in the future.
What possible justification does Council have for going against the Notice of Motion put up by Division I Councillor Clifford, who represents the affected community?
If we don't know the value of the property, how can we possibly know we can't afford it?
Suzette Pelt President
SAVE OUR FORESHORE INC
September 9, 2011 – Brunker launches attack on SOF
As in the Save Our Foreshore FKP and No Oil Shale campaigns, it was predictable that attempts would be made to disparage and discredit Save Our Foreshore Inc by spreading misinformation.
Yesterday on both radio and television the Mayor of Whitsunday commenced to do just this.
Attached is a transcript of the Channel 7 television news item prepared from a recording.
The facts are as follows.
This news report claimed "the mayor has been meeting with the Whitsunday Save Our Foreshore group".
Fact: The mayor has not had any meeting/s with SOF in regards to these recent developments. He was expected to attend last Wednesday’s meeting but did not.
The report continues with the mayor claiming (in reference to the option to buy the supermarket site) SOF has said "you know, the skies the limit"
Fact: SOF has never made this statement and always assumed a current valuation would be obtained and a fair price negotiated with Mr. Davey. The mayor's comment was misleading and totally untrue.
The mayor's following comment is "unfortunately we’re going to miss out on a key bit of infrastructure in Airlie’s Main Street". As to what "key piece of infrastructure" the mayor is referring; we are at a loss to know. But this comment insinuates this would be caused by discussions with SOF and can only be taken as an attempt to bully and again mislead the community.
It is now known the DERM 10 metre set back from the creek was always a requirement. Then at our meeting last Wednesday we were informed there is a 66KVA main electricity trunk line underground behind Mr Davey’s building which would prohibit any 90 degree turn of the commercial footprint. In any case Mr. Davey has stated categorically he will not agree to such realignment.
If council had taken account of this community's proven interest and passion for the Airlie Beach foreshore public land when these problems became obvious to council and the architects, then discussions could have taken place many months ago and not presented at the 11th hour to both SOF and the community.
In a spirit of compromise SOF had previously indicated that a 90 degree realignment of the commercial footprint along the Airlie Creek but still fronting Shute Harbour Road, would be acceptable. This option is no longer possible because: 1. DERM requires 10 metre setback from the creek; 2. we are told Ergon will not allow buildings over buried trunk line; and 3. Mr. Davey will not agree.
But all parties, including architect Gary Hunt and the SOF executive, agree with the statement made by Mr Davey at the community meeting 31 Aug that "the easiest solution would be to just buy me out"
Since the community meeting Wednesday 31 Aug we met Friday 2 Sept for discussions with Des Davey and last Wednesday 7 Sept met with him again at council chambers along with Gary Hunt, WRC CEO John Finlay and Infrastructure director Gary Martin.
At the meeting 7 Sept the proposed site for relocation in the middle of the public land which was presented to SOF 30 Aug and to community 31 Aug, was not mentioned by Mr Hunt or council. It is assumed DERM has formed the opinion that there was no community support for relocation to this site and consequently this option is no longer on the table.
SOF is working to achieve a solution which is acceptable to our community and once details have been clarified we have undertaken to canvass your preference. We do need to wait for more information from council and the planner before advising you in detail of their suggestions.
In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact us if you'd like further clarification of the actual situation.
In reality, this public foreshore land is situated on a floodway. If, and when it does again flood, it will eventually dry out naturally. This way, either as a temporary carpark or redeveloped for public open space this does not present a problem to the community. The Davey building has the flooding problem.
Also contrary to misinformation being spread throughout our community, the Airle Beach Main Street redevelopment has not been held up. The tenders were called last Monday and once the tender process has concluded work will commence with realignment of the Waterson Road roundabout and several adjacent streets.
We reiterate that SOF give it's full support to the Airlie Beach Main Street concept and looks forward to the speedy redevelopment of a new and revitalised Airlie Main Street.
September 8, 2011 – News Transcript; Mayor
Transcript news report local TV Channel 7 6pm News - Thursday – 8 September
Whitsunday mayor says he’s not confident an agreement can be reached on part of Airlie Beach’s Main Street revamp.
The mayor has been meeting with the Whitsunday Save Our Foreshore group to negotiate round council’s proposal to transfer a building onto public park land.
………grows on trees; it doesn’t; we have the Ratepayers association obviously worried about rates like we always do; we have Save Our Foreshore saying “you know, the sky’s the limit”. It’s ridiculous, and unfortunately we’re going to miss out on a key bit of infrastructure in Airlie’s Main Street
A Save Our Foreshore spokesperson replied claiming the problem is the private landholder’s and should not be the community’s. But she says the group is prepared to negotiate in good faith for a better outcome.
E. & O.E.
August 31, 2011 – Update to Members
WE HAVE NOW SEEN THE CURRENT CONCEPT DRAWINGS (nb: NOT PLANS )
COMMUNITY NEED TO ATTEND WEDNESDAY 6PM PCYC
RE: AIRLIE BEACH MAIN STREET REDEVELOPMENT:
As mentioned in our previous email; SOF, in the interests of our community, supports the Airlie Beach Main Street redevelopment and had agreed in principle to the existing commercial premises being turned and relocated along Airlie Creek. Last week we were advised by DERM that a 10 metre setback from the creek would be enforced under the Queensland Coastal Plan. We have now seen the proposed relocation site.
WHAT IS PROPOSED:
4 storey building:
includes 3 floors of hotel apartments
Centrally located in the public land currently used as the lagoon carpark;
Caused by the curve in the road being more substantial than expected
To enable this curve public land would be taken from the central area and placed in front of Magnums
It appears that public land would also be used for access to the commercial buildings
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS?
In the proposed site the relocation of the commercial buildings fragments the central area of the existing public land and breaks the continuous sweep of public foreshore.
This proposal would restrict the future development of this public land for parkland and recreational use , particularly for large outdoor events.
A multi storey building in this location would impose on the amenity of the lagoon and foreshore building heights
The Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) are looking for our community to express their opinions in regard to the relocation of the existing commercial premises.
DERM will not approve any relocation without community support.
Our community fought long and hard to protect this public land for later redevelopment for public use and parkland.
Following lengthy discussions yesterday with the plan architect SOF has offered this alternative option.
If the road curves within the existing road reserve (as is already planned to do further up the road) then the existing commercial site can relocate as proposed by SOF members in the first instance to align along Airlie Creek but setback the required 10 metres from the creek. The main street frontage of any new building would be reduced but remain on the same street alignment. The road flood-proofing continues as planned.
Alternatively, the building could remain where it is and the road flood-proofed with small changes made to divert floodwater away from this problematic building.
In either option, we are advised that such small changes would not affect or delay the proposed date for the issuing of tenders.
Regardless of the outcome of this particular issue, the plan architect agrees that there is no reason why Stage 1 of the redevelopment of the Airlie Main Street should not commence on the time proposed.
Again, you are urged to attend the community meeting 6pm Wednesday 31st August at the PCYC.
August 29, 2011 – Update to Members
AIRLIE BEACH MAIN STREET REDEVELOPMENT: - UPDATE
Relocation of existing commercial buildings -
Legislation will not allow these to be relocated along Airlie creek as originally proposed
Current legislation requires 10 metre setback from the creek
At this stage DERM has not approved any "land swap" required for relocation of the existing commercial buildings and will not do without community consultation and support.
A community meeting has been called by council "to give the community a final say" The Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) in particular want to know this community's views before making a decision on any proposed "land swap".
To date all concept drawings have shown the alternative site for the supermarket building alongside the creek and this is the concept SOF had agreed in principle. In fact, this concept came in the first instance following suggestions made by members and supporters during the initial Save Our Foreshore campaign.
We have only recently been informed that the building cannot be relocated as agreed due to the setback from the creek required by the recently legislated Qld Coastal Plan. This information has been confirmed by conversations with DERM management.
At the time of this email no concept drawings or plans reflecting changes to the relocation have been made available to SOF for consideration.
However, we are informed that the required setback would relocate the "multi-storey building" as reported in last week’s Whitsunday Times, near the centre of the public land currently used as car park.
A meeting has been arranged of the SOF executive and the architect of the proposed Main Street redevelopment on Tuesday afternoon 30 Aug and another with DERM on Wednesday afternoon 31 Aug.
Until these meetings have taken place SOF does not have the facts necessary to make any official statement in regards to this current situation. .
But the construction of any multi-storey private development near the centre of this site is hardly likely to support this community's long fought campaign to preserve this public open space for redevelopment for public use and parkland; or even achieve the "green heart" central to the Airlie Beach Main Street redevelopment plan.
The Airlie Beach Main Street redevelopment is supported by SOF and a resolution of this matter needs to be made as quickly as possible.
To this end, you are urged to attend the community meeting on Wednesday 6pm at the PCYC.
August 26, 2011 – Let’s get a couple of things perfectly clear.
The first is that the implementation of the main street upgrade is, in no way, dependent on the planned relocation of the Davey supermarket building. They are two separate issues. The upgrade can start and, if necessary, finish with Mr Davey’s building remaining where it is.
The second is that, contrary to a lot of disinformation doing the rounds, the Save Our Foreshore group is not against the main street upgrade. We do not want to stop or slow it down. We are not spoilers or anti-development. In fact from day one, SOF have been a major supporter of the project. We fully understand how tough our tourism market is currently and recognise the need to do something about it immediately.
We sympathise with Mr Davey’s dilemma and we would like to see council and community help him to find a solution. It is however Mr Davey’s dilemma and should not be our community’s.
Mr Davey owns a building on a piece of land that is flood-prone. Each time we have heavier than normal rain his shops flood. Simple as that. This affects his tenants’ livelihoods, impacts on insurance policies and diminishes the value of his property. In its current state it is a severely devalued piece of land.
As everyone, even Messrs Davey and Hunt, agrees, the best solution would be for government to buy Mr Davey out and demolish the building. We’re told by the powers that be, however, that this will not happen. Instead the planners of the new streetscape have seen fit to give Mr Davey, in exchange for his piece of problematic land, the absolutely, unequivocally, very best location in all of Airlie Beach.
This incredibly significant decision, incidentally, was made known to SOF and the community for the first time on August 30th, less than a week before tenders were to be called.
The location Mr Davey has been given is at the very heart of our community’s precious and finite public foreshore land. It is the focal point. The epicentre.
Mr Davey’s building is, on the other hand, at the periphery of our public land. The public foreshore he is being offered was, just a few short years ago, the site of another planned development; the FKP project. This community fought against it for several years. At the time over six thousand people signed petitions, and thousands marched in the street - and the community won. And yet now, we see the whole thing happening all over again.
Why is Mr Davey being given the most prestigious site in town in exchange for a marginal, problematic piece of land? Why is this happening when there are clearly other options?
We are told it is because of drainage. We are told it is to open up the view. We are told it is to beautify the town. Well, all this can happen without sacrificing our most precious town asset. SOF have suggested a more than viable compromise. The suggestion is that the curve in the road is reduced to fit within, or close to, the current road reserve. This would address any flooding issue.
Mr Davey’s building is then turned through 90 degrees and sited on the roadside, ten metres out from the creek revetment. At the public meeting Mr Davey rejected this as an option.
Well, given he is being offered the best public foreshore site in town, he of course would. Perhaps if that site ceased to be an option he would reconsider.
The alternative site SOF are suggesting would give Mr Davey a main street frontage, it would give him waterfront park aspects on two sides, one with an added creek frontage, one with lagoon frontage. And he’d get a fourth side with absolute waterfront across a landscaped park. A significant section of his building would be closer to the shoreline view than is now the case. This is not a bad exchange for a building that is currently situated in a flood-prone and uninsurable location.
With this SOF solution, the community gets a better seaview from the street and keeps the heart of its park, the flooding issue is addressed, the streetscape is kept beautiful and Mr Davey solves his problem.
With the current proposal, the community loses the heart of its park, the public spaces are divided by roads and ramps, there is ambiguity where hotel garden and public park intersect, the views along the foreshore corridor east and west are blocked completely by a four storey building and a dangerous precedent is set.
Once the public foreshore in this location is given over to a private individual it will only be a matter of time before developers along the rest of the foreshore will claim their own extra share of the immediate foreshore. And for those who say this can’t happen, they must have more faith in governments than most. Even an officer of DERM has conceded this is a likelihood.
In the event that, in spite of the sensible nature of the suggested compromise, Mr Davey decides that, if he doesn’t get the prime site, he’ll rebuild where he is - well, so be it. It’s not an ideal solution, but the main street is the main street. It has buildings all the way along it. One more will not destroy it. Another building on the site will almost certainly feature view corridors through the ground floor. Based on the town plan this is the only way Mr Davey could get an extra storey, which he would surely want.
While we would still be looking at a building from the main street, as we do now, once we walked twenty metres either through or around the building, we would, once again, have the unencumbered enjoyment of our public foreshore facilities and seaviews. Not perfect, but far better than losing the heart of our public space forever.
It is very easy, when times are tough and businesses are struggling for us to turn our back on our precious and finite public places.
“Shopkeepers are desperate. Bugger the foreshore,” is becoming a more and more frequent cry. “Our businesses are hurting. Let’s just give Des Davey the bloody land and get on with it!” But, while we all sympathise with the shopkeepers and businesses and understand their anxieties, there are 20,000 other people out there called the community and many of them value their public foreshore and want it protected.
Because the problem is that once we lose that public land - when the economy is, once again, breezing along and the bad times are forgotten - the land will still be lost.
And it’s simply not necessary. SOF have suggested a more than viable compromise. All that’s required now is for the other parties to show the same kind of co-operative good will. It is really time that our various levels of government started taking the side of the communities that elect them and not just that of their developer friends and their facilitators.