Community groups say no to Halls Crk housing
SUNSHINE Coast Council is set to put the Pumicestone Passage region back into the development mix after a meeting with Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney agreed to also consider land between Beerwah and the Bruce Hwy as an alternative option.
Council will vote on April 14 on whether to sign off on a new planning scheme which would include 1400ha of land at Halls Creek, south of the proposed Caloundra South development, for investigation as an area for future development.
That investigation will begin immediately, will be concluded by the end of this year, will involve community consultation and will be overseen by council and LNP Ministers Mark McArdle (Caloundra) and Andrew Powell (Glass House).
Council's likely retreat from its firm draft planning scheme position that Halls Creek not be considered for future urban development came as business, tourism, community and green groups yesterday rallied behind a call from former Sunshine Coast mayor Bob Abbot to fight to protect Pumicestone Passage and an inter-urban break.
The weight of that community opposition will play a critical role in determining whether Halls Creek is retained as future urban in the SEQ Regional Plan or whether land east of Beerwah and west of the Bruce Highway replaces it.
Mayor Mark Jamieson said discussions, which included the two Coast MPs, Moreton Regional Council representatives and the Deputy Premier had agreed on the importance of maintaining an inter-urban break.
"The challenge is in determining the boundary of the inter-urban break and consulting with the wider community in the Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay regions,'' he said.
"The State Government has also agreed to hasten the investigation around the Halls Creek and Beerwah East areas to determine the best option going forward.
"The Deputy Premier was eager to ensure that that investigation process occur as a formal part of the SEQ Regional Plan review timed to conclude later this year."
Meanwhile business, tourism, environmental and green groups who rallied to Mr Abbot's call made it absolutely clear where they stood.
Mr Abbot, now Noosa's deputy mayor, called yesterdaythurs for all community sectors to back preservation of the inter-urban break with a line drawn at the massive Caloundra South development which will eventually house 50,000 people.
The response was immediate and overwhelming.
Only the Maroochydore Chamber of Commerce was indifferent to growing concern that the loss of the inter-urban break between Caloundra and Caboolture and resulting impact on the ecology of Pumicestone Passage would deal a body blow to the tourism industry's "Naturally Refreshing" branding.
Amateur fisherman and the recreational fishing industry are also deeply concerned about potential impacts on water quality and resultant loss of fish breeding areas.
Bill Darby, Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd's southern regional advisory panel chair and chair of tourism and events for Caloundra Chamber of Commerce said the Coast's environment was its point of difference.
"The more I've learnt about Pumicestone Passage the more I've realised its importance to our ecology,'' Mr Darby said.
"It contains more bird varieties than Kakadu. We need to better understand what the area under consideration for development would mean to Pumicestone Passage."
Mr Darby said the loss of the inter-urban break would kill the region's point of different and leave it a sprawling northern suburb of Brisbane.
"Anything that threatens that is detrimental to our branding. If we lose the ecosystem we won't get it back,'' he said.
"Developers have already had a significant win with the urban footprint at Caloundra South. Anything south of that encroaches into an environmentally sensitive area''.
Mr Darby said it made no sense to allow more urban sprawl on bad land and even less to do so where there are environmental risks.
He wants a focus on recentralising density around existing infrastructure. Urban sprawl was costing too much to support with infrastructure and was an inefficiency that could be done without.
"Whatever we can do as a Chamber of Commerce to support the case, they can rely on us,'' Mr Darby said.
Mooloolaba tourism resort operator Peter Foran said a distinctive cut off line was needed and should be stuck to.
"I support Bob's line in the sand,'' he said. "Our brand is 'Naturally Refreshing'. That's our point of difference.
"The thing about the Sunshine Coast is that it's a quiet, relaxing, family holiday destination. We need to keep it that way.
"It's not just the locals who don't want another Gold Coast. Tourists like a relaxed, clean, refreshing holiday.''
Sunshine Coast Environment Council president Keryn Jones said it would seek an alliance with tourism and business groups to under score the risks Halls Creek development would create for Pumiceston Passage.
"The Sunshine Coast is book ended by the Great Sandy Strait and Pumicestone Passage two of only five Ramsar-listed wetlands in Queensland.
Coupled with the Conondale Ranges National Park, Ms Jones said the environmental assets delivered huge value to the region's economy and must be protected.
"If the water quality (in Pumicestone Passage) goes so will the wetlands,'' she said.
"This is not a Caloundra issue. The inter-urban break and the Passage are the gateway to the region.''
Ms Jones said the community expected more from its LNP representatives who condemned the former Labor Government for coming in over the top of council in relation to Caloundra South but were now allowing the same to happen in relation to Halls Creek.
Caloundra Power Boat Fishing Club secretary Ross Norman said there were a lot of concerns among its membership about Halls Creek development.
Mr Norman said the matter was yet to be considered formally by the club but around-the-table discussion had made clear members were unhappy about the prospect.
"The Passage supports a hell of a lot of recreational fishing,'' he said. "We need to keep stocks sustainable for future generations. To do that we need to keep the Passage pristine.