Community leader says controversial Sunrise Beach development “cannot proceed”

While Blue Care, the developers, have already bulldozed part of the Glossy Black cockatoo habitat at Sunrise Beach, the battle over the rest of the big site may not be over.

Retired barrister and Peregian Beach Community Association President Barry Cotterell says, in his view, the developer is currently unable to proceed. 

“We are calling on Noosa Council to notify the community and Blue Care that the developer is not permitted to proceed with any clearance of Lot 9 at Grasstree Court Sunrise Beach until an alternative to the unsuitable “receiving site” is agreed which complies with the development approval (DA).”

What is the problem?  Mr Cotterell says the community is concerned that the developer will move to clear Lot 9, now that it has cleared Lot 6, in order to remove the reason for the continuing community outrage arising from the devastation of this habitat of an endangered species.

This saga began in 2011 when Sunshine Coast Regional Council (SCRC) greenlighted the development, simply requiring Blue Care to establish a Vegetation Clearing Offset Program to propagate seedlings to replace the feed-trees for the endangered Glossy Black Cockatoo.

Mr Cotterell says that was an “Offset Program” and not a “Habitat Offset Program”. He says it was designed to facilitate the development proceeding and the clearing of trees, not to protect a high conservation value habitat or the endangered Glossy Black Cockatoos that depend on it.

The Offset Program was to be established at a nearby location with similar soil properties on public land owned by Council which had previously been used as a dump site.

He says “Despite the DA being approved in 2011, amazingly, the developer appears to have paid no attention to the suitability of the ‘receiving site’ until this year and now that ‘receiving site’ has been determined to be unsuitable due to contamination, at least in relation to further offsets after Stage 1.”

Lot 6 – bulldozed for Aged care home. Lot 9 – residential development

However, the most recent DA approval of 24 November 2020 by Noosa Council contains Conditions which require that separate Vegetation Clearing Offset programs must be developed to reflect the staged delivery of the development, in particular the staged development of lot 6, and the subsequent development of lot 9.

It specifically states that;

“No clearing is permitted unless in accordance with the approved staged Vegetation Clearing Offset program”.

Since the DA was approved in 2011, the State Government has enacted the Environmental Offsets Act 2014. While the Act does not apply to the prior approved DA, Mr Cotterell says the principles should be applied by Council when an offset site is being considered for the DA.

The first object of the current environmental standards is for the impact to be avoided, then mitigated, before considering the use of offsets for any remaining impact.

Stages 2, 3 and 4 of the development cannot proceed unless or until  the developer can identify an alternative “receiving site” and Mr Cotterell says this needs to satisfy the current environmental Offset principles.

The problem with selecting an alternative “receiving site” will be the inability to minimise the time-lag between the impact and delivery of the offset as a viable habitat.

So, what next ?

Mr Cotterell says there is still a compromise option open to Council and Blue Care. 

He says the developer could avoid significant impact on the habitat of the Glossy Blacks by dedicating that part of the remaining development site where many feed trees are located as a ‘receiving site’, and then mitigate the impact to achieve a conservation outcome that counterbalances the significant residual impact from the development.

“This battle is not over, and neither the Council nor Blue Care is off the hook” he says; “this is a compromise that Council should be pursuing”.

Barry Cotterell. Retired barrister, President of Peregian Beach Community Association

Leave a Reply