Friday 18 April 2008

Paradise being palmed off

There's some dirty laundry hanging out from the previous Cairns City Council, as the second golf course on the northern beaches is under threat of extinction.
On Monday 8th April, this advert appeared in the Cairns Post.
A 'Material Change of Use' means that Development Applications (DAs) involve changing the current CairnsPlan zonings.
Most of the Paradise Palms Golf course is and was originally zoned Sporting and Recreation. That was until two years ago when the last Council did a backflip for Developer Hedley and changed part of Lot (Lot 4 on RP800876) to Commercial. This is so that his four-storey dual key apartments could go in next to the Club house as well as other commercial facilities such as a gym, shops etc.
Only Councillors Gill and Cochrane voted against this decision in Council on the night. At that time, Councillor Cochrane was the only one who showed any guts and said publicly (after the decision), “This is zoned Sport and Recreation. This report mentions several times that this development is contrary and goes against the CairnsPlan and I support that view.”

Most of the lots already have or are to have tourist or residential accommodation on them as per Paradise Palms master plan.

The Combined Beaches Community Association believe that part of Lot4RP 8600786 is now being taken which is the number 9 hole of the golf course area. This area will be made into residential living. The first MCU involving this Lot set a very dangerous precedent. There were a total of 106 submitters against this DA being approved, but Hedley got their way and Council rolled over to the wishes of their favourite son.

The advert is also misleading to the general public.
It lists Lot numbers that the general public are not familiar with. We've checked some of these against the Queensland Information System and these Lot numbers did not come up (Lot 349 on SP105747, Lot 1-84 on SP212600, Lots 1-3 on SP207017).
This means that these Lots have been reconfigured and new lot numbers assigned, so unless you were very familiar with the Paradise Palms Golf Club layout, you would not know exactly which lots are being developed.

Recent discussions between a resident at Paradise Palms and a planner revealed that they “are taking the Golf Course by stealth.”
This is nothing new to those who fought hard and vigorously against the first Multi Unit development, however, to have it confirmed at such a short time after the first battle, should be sending alarm bells to everyone interested in enjoying golf in this region.

So you can see that the Paradise Palms Golf Course is on a slippery slope to be being totally taken over for residential living unless residents rally now to save this wonderful sporting open green space facility.

If you take a drive up Paradise Palms Drive, just off the Captian Cook Highway north of Cairns, to the roundabout at the Clubhouse and check out the signs near the closed road that heads into the hills.

There's is a Development Application to alter the assessment level of 'Houses' from 'Impact Assessable' to 'Code Assessable' on the proposed nine-lot subdivision in the north-west part of Lot 5 CP891005.

This is called the 'Lookout' as advertised on the glossy sign nearby.

The DA may appear an innocuous request to formalise the subdivision houses, but don’t be deceived. There are two very important differences between “Impact” and “Code” assessment. The first is that Impact Assessment requires public notification (and an appeals process), while code assessment doesn’t. The second is that impact assessment requires applicable State, Commonwealth, and Council laws and regulations be considered. Code assessment is assessed only against relevant CairnsPlan codes.

Why is Impact Assessment needed?
Well, the land that this subdivision is being built on is part of the Conservation Planning Area within CairnsPlan, and all developments on that land category are supposed to be Impact Assessable.
Indeed, higher density residential developments such as this are not supposed to occur at all. Even at code assessable level, the subdivision plans don’t comply with the ‘Conservation’ codes. They don’t even comply with many aspects of the other applicable CairnsPlan Codes, such as hillslopes, vegetation conservation/waterways significance and possibly bushfire risk.
The Development Application is aimed to deny the public any future say in these matters.

How did this happen?
Briefly, the original subdivision was approved by the previous Cairns City Council in 2004 under their old Planning Scheme. This was despite the land being designated ‘conservation’ in the draft CairnsPlan at the time. But since 2005, the land has been ‘conservation’ above 50m, which includes all of proposed lots 2-9 and half of lot 1. It is Residential 1 below 50m (the other half of proposed lot 1).

The subdivision land also has conservation significance recognised in State and Commonwealth legislation. The forest type is regionally restricted and fragmented because it hugs the footslopes and has been heavily cleared in the past. It is within an “of concern” regional ecosystem and is mapped as “Essential Habitat Area”.
Under State legislation, vegetation is not supposed to be cleared in the latter.

The land abuts Kuranda National Park and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Four building envelopes are close to the Wet Tropics boundary, and some of the land is steep with stability risks.
All runoff from the hillside lots enters an adjacent riparian corridor, which is within an Endangered regional ecosystem. The nine proposed lots are within an area of about 2 ha with an access road to be ‘street lit’ up the ridge of our “scenic rim”. The subdivision land rises to an elevation of 78 m and will become visible from many areas.

Work has been progressing sporadically on the subdivision since late 2005, amidst a number of problems and impacts including land clearing, rock hammering, trenching, erosion, and surface sediment runoff. The developer and consultant were taken to court by EPA and fined in October 2007 for environmental nuisance due to sedimentation of the adjacent Deep Creek.

This is the first Development Application on a Paradise Palms Masterplan development that is open for public comment to our new Council.
It should and can set a precedent. However, the “Lookout” subdivision is hidden away and only abuts two landowners. Something must be done now to make sure that the level of assessment for this area is not further downgraded.
It must remain Impact Assessable so the public right of comment and appeal is upheld, and that wider laws and regulations are fully considered. It needs the public to make submissions to ensure that the Cairns Regional Council rejects this application, to fulfil both its election promises and public expectations.

If this is approved, the Conservation Planning Area code within CairnsPlan will be meaningless.
There was an amendment to CairnsPlan which was not part of the 'Draft Submission for Public Comment' which has been perceived as primarily benefiting a developer.

In June 2007, residents were invited to comment on proposed changes to the CairnsPlan (Draft CairnsPlan 2007).
The Draft Plan reads in part:
  • “3.6 Cairns Beaches District
    1.6.1 Description and Intent…
    Tourist accommodation and associated small scale retail and commercial facilities are intended to be located in proximity to the waterfront, particularly at Trinity Beach and Palm Cove. These areas may also accommodate permanent residents who are attracted by the locations and the facilities. There is also the opportunity for development of tourist accommodation in several locations along the Captain Cook Highway.

    Kewarra Beach is also intended to remain primarily as an area for conventional residential living. There is the opportunity for development of additional tourist accommodation adjacent to the waterfront in the northern part of the suburb.”

In relation to the above description, there were no amendments proposed to the Kewarra Beach area.

However, in the Special Meeting CairnsPlan minutes of 27 September 2007, (#1568599) the following resolutions were passed in relation to “3.6.1 Description and Intent Statement":

  • 2. That Council not make the requested change to identify Paradise Palms as Major Tourist Accommodation on Map 2 – Tourism Strategy.

    3. That section 3.6.1 Description and Intent Statement be amended to read :
    Tourist accommodation and associated small scale retail and commercial facilities are intended to be located in proximity to the waterfront, particularly at Trinity Beach and Palm Cove, and also in proximity to the golf course at Kewarra Beach, west of the Captain Cook highway between Moore Road and Discovery Drive. These areas may also accommodate permanent residents who are attracted by the locations and facilities. There is also the opportunity for development of tourist accommodation in several locations along the Captain Cook Highway.”

The Combined Beaches Community Association contends that the amendment was not documented in either the Draft Plan for 3.6 Cairns Beaches District, nor in the Cairns Beaches District Plan, Planning Areas Map.

These two sections of the Draft Plan would have been the main areas that residents or submitters would have checked. The Cairns Beaches District is a specific district which details the preferred pattern of development, planning areas and overlays for this designated area.

The only reference to a change to the Beaches Planning area appears to be a map (Map 2, Tourism Strategy) which indicates a purple star (Major Tourist Attraction and Facilities – Appendix 11) in the area. There are no amendments or inclusions within the Draft to support these so called 'Major Tourist Attractions and Facilities'.

At the ordinary meeting on 20 December 2007, Council approved a development application for the establishment of 153 permanent residential units in a tall building on the south-western periphery of the Paradise Palms Golf Course. This is off Moore Road, Kewarra Beach.

This application was inconsistent with the land’s Residential 1 planning area necessitating an MCU and also conflicted with various provisions of the CairnsPlan (refer page 59 of Minutes)

The Minutes also documented that this approval was 'reflective of the amendment occurring to the description of the Cairns Beaches Planning District which identifies that these forms of development can occur in proximity to the Paradise Palms Golf Course.'

The Combined Beaches Community Association contend that the Council, after the Draft and Submission process, re-wrote the Cairns Beaches District Description and Intent, without public consultation.
This late addition without public consultation or notification, to include...
  • "and also roximity to the golf course at Kewarra Beach, west of the Captain Cook highway between Moore Road and Discovery Drive
... only be construed as facilitating a developer’s application.
For your information, here's the Cairns Beaches - District Assessment table. It shows the Initial level of assessment for material change of use.

Now that the former Novotel golf-course, that was the recipient of numerous national awards, has effectively been destroyed as a tourist facility, it is essential that our new Council keep an proper watch for all residents of what tourists actually come here for.
If developers concrete everything over, they may as well stay home in Tokyo, New York, New Zealand or London.

Hopefully, we won't have just more of the same from this new Council under Mayor Schier and the rest, after their expensive ratepayer-funded junket at Palm Cove.

This will be one of many test cases to show their true colours. We can live in hope.

The closing date for the public to lodge submissions is next Monday, 28th April.


Anonymous said...

There’s a lot to digest here, but isn’t this simply a case of Cairns Regional Council either agreeing to the Material Change of Use or rejecting it? And if they reject it, isn’t that the end of it? Anyone?

Anonymous said...

What Tom Hedley has done to Cairns for personal profit is just criminal.

When is someone going to take this guy out behind the barn?

Anonymous said...

A letter written by a visiting American Golfer....
“Great Course now Destroyed by Developers - Paradise no More!”
Paradise Palms Country Club

A TripAdvisor Member
Santa Monica, California
Dec 19, 2005

"I played Paradise Palms about four years ago; it was said to be one of the top five public courses in Australia. It was a great, creative, and tough course and I enjoyed playing it immensely.

I just played the course again, and they've made substantial changes to it that have basically destroyed it as a "pro-type" challenge. In talking with the clubhouse staff, the course (previously owned by a Japanese company) was purchased by a local developer known for downscale apartment construction. In order to squeeze in a giant apartment complex (filling the tropical forest hillside with concrete), they've shortened several holes and reconfigured others. The course is now TOO SHORT for pro use, and turning the first hole into a par three is just a crime.

Another local course at Palm Cove (formerly Novotel Golf Course) has been completely sold off to developers for apartments as well. This means that the beaches area of Cairns will no longer be a proper destination for golfers.

I can't imagine what is going in in Cairns, where developers are running rampant with high-density projects. This is a country the size of the USA with the population of New York. There would seem to be little reason to be converting golf courses, which are basically public parkland, into housing.

Paradise Palms, is paradise no more!"

Anonymous said...

Re Anonymous comments.
Yes, the DA application is alot to digest. One could only pick it up from CRC on a disk and it involves at least 4 lots of land including the Golf Course.

Of course, we would not be in this position of having to defend this golf course for the second time, if the previous council had not overturned the Planning Scheme and set the precedent, not to mention changing the CairnsPlan so that the current DAs fit into the planning scheme. The fact that this developer is trying again so soon, means that the golf course is indeed to be carved up into residential parcels and sold off at a huge profit.

Whilst we are hopeful that the new Council will not allow this to happen, we cannot be complacent and rely on this. It is up to everyone who cares about this issue to make a stand, and show this new council, that the public do not want our only large sporting facility including an 18 holed internationally renowned and unique golf course on the Northern Beaches of Cairns to disappear where others have gone before, when there is plenty of land for residential living between the Barron and Smithfield yet to be built on.
The Paradise Palms Country Club as it is now known has over 1,000 members and is well patronaged by international and Aussie visitors alike.

Anonymous said...

A lot of golfers are going to NZ for their golfing holiday.
On my recent vist back to NZ, I overheard some golfers talking in the Departure lounge. They had played many of the golf courses in NZ and were going back to the States to tell their friends to go to NZ.
They went for Golf but found much more.

Anonymous said...

Its a catch 22. To keep this golf course in tip top shape would cost heaps.

I'm keen on golf but I've never played Paradise Palms, it simply costs far too much. I'm also a local, when I'm in form I could probably land a good 3 wood on the course from my place, but in the 16+ years i've lived at this address I have rarely seen the course busy, even fewer patronise it in the last couple of years.

It will never be viable as a golf club while the green fees are so high but I doubt it will ever get back into the top 10 courses without generating additional income in some manner.

Whatever happened to Tom's promise to get the clubhouse up and running as a restaraunt / function venue etc. I remeber when he bought it he stated he was not much interested in golf and I suspected this was on the card. The intent has always been pretty clear.

This aint a bogey its a bogus.

Anonymous said...

I have read all you have on this site regarding the Paradise Palms Country Club & Golf Course and I too am worried that one day it may be carved up, but I would like to draw your attetnion to a few errors, firstly the new course will be longer and better than the old and the restrauent is open and the food is fabulous as are the wine dinners that they host every month. And the golf course is very busy so the person who says that business has slowed over the past few years has obvioulsy not tried to get on the course - it is nearly always full!!! I urge anyone who cares about keeping our sport and recreation areas for the next generation to write to your local member, council and Cairns Post letter to the editor.

Croc said...

Lets post it like it really is and cut the smoke screens.

I just received my copy of Mays Rock News Division3 news letter.

In that Rock News Cr Pyne states his salary at $88590.00 which it is but he goes on to say there is a regional amalgamation loading but he neglects to spell out what that is.

It is $8230 so put that with his salary that takes him to $96820.00 not to bad.

He posted this to dispute the rumor that councillors were paid over $100k pa.

Well Rob you are correct but I tell you what it's pretty close mate.

Anonymous said...

good stuff croc!
And how come the so-called full-time councillors are allowed to have other jobs and 'roles" and nothing is done about it! Remember a public service full-time week is probably a 36hr pw as well. One's got to remember as well that the CRC Councillors will also get many free meals, travel and other things paid for, these perks will push it over $100k

Anonymous said...

Hey Croc, I didn’t ask for it - and I believe it (the amalgamation loading) decreases dramatically the next year and then ceases (permanently). I stand to be corrected on the detail, as this has not been part of my recent focus. Certainly I will never be paid $100K or more.

In answer to the question by ‘a person’ they all work full time or should. I certainly took a nuisance dog call at 1.00am this morning. If any councillor does take on another job that is inappropriate, but the Local Government Act makes it clear who should pass judgment on a councillor that does this – it is the constituents of a culprit in question.

As far as free meals go, about half-a-dozen sandwiches is the limit of what I have been exposed to so far.

I don’t have much time to visit this blog these days, but keep up the good work in making Council accountable.

Warm Regards,

Cr. Rob Pyne.