Wednesday 23 September 2009

11th hour deal done to save waterpark proposal

An eleventh-hour deal has been negotiated between the Cairns Regional Council, promoted by Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane, and the developer, former Cairns City Councillor, Paul Freebody, to save his proposed waterpark, that was roundly refused by the initial Assessment Manager.

It's not uncommon but is rare, for two recommendations to be presented to Council. However it will confuse and certainly persuade some to support the political nature of the latest recommendation.

This is a compromise recommendation to save the waterpark development application from defeat, Councillor Robert Pyne says.

"It would make it more of a preliminary approval to my way of thinking, with some of the hard questions remaining unanswered," Councillor Pyne says.

Here's the detailed new draft proposal, that Margaret Cochrane asked Council's Development Assessment Manager, Simon Clarke to prepare.

It is in direct contrast to Clarke's damming and direct conclusions that he submitted to Councillors last Friday in a 70-page document, where he said the site at Dillon Road, just South of the Yorkeys Knob roundabout, was not suitable.

"The provisions of State Planning Policies and CairnsPlan do not support the establishment of urban uses in this vulnerable non-urban/rural location," Simon Clarke wrote in his report.

He said that granting approval for this development would create an undesirable precedent.

"While there may be a case that there is a need for such development in the Far North, that need is not considered to be so overriding that it justifies the establishment of this water park in this location," Simon Clarke recommended. "Due to the site’s proximity to the Barron River and location on the flood plain such raising or bunding results in significant upstream effects."

"While the most significant effects of the upstream increases would predominantly affect similarly zoned Rural 1 sugar cane land, the implications in approving this development are nevertheless significant. The Barron River Delta is known for flooding events and is set within the Rural 1 Planning Area due to this in order to avoid the establishment of such uses which are incompatible with flood events. The Description and Intent of the Barron-Smithfield District specifically states that the Barron Delta should continue to be utilised as productive agricultural land because of susceptibility to flooding."

However, the hurried 17-page Draft Recommendation that was prepared and distributed late yesterday to all Councillors, in advance of this morning's meeting, agrees to grant the development approval, subject to a substantial string of pre-conditions.

They include:-

  • a total redesign of the development to "demonstrate that the afflux from the 100 year rainfall event does not cause a worsening of flood stormwater to adjacent properties."
  • A revised, detailed hydrological report required and must include sufficient information to assess the impact of the development on Flooding and Stormwater Flow Paths adjacent to the development;
  • The development layout must be amended to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Council, how the proposed levee bank system will work;
  • Undertake a local drainage study of the site to determine the drainage impacts on upstream and downstream properties and the mitigation measures required to minimise such impacts;
  • Upgrade Dillon Road to a "major collector standard," and show how the effects of
    increased traffic will not detrimentally affect existing cane harvesting operations;
  • Undertake an Acid Sulphate Soil investigation in the area to be affected;
  • All floor levels in all buildings must be located 150 mm above the Q100 flood immunity level of 6.4 metres;
  • A water supply and sewerage infrastructure plan and supporting information including hydraulic network analysis must be submitted for assessment;

These additional conditions have to be approved prior to a development permit for any construction being issued.

The new draft recommendation also demands that a minimum of 763 car parks be allocated on the site. Freebody's submission had only 340 and 20 staff parks, however told the Cairns Post that there would be over 100 staff working at the waterpark.

Simon Clarke, Council's Assessment Manager, along with objectors, said the site was far too small to house the proposed development, and that this would cause significant problems.

The new draft recommendation also demands that the developer pay a monetary contribution
for the upgrading of the road, additional financial contributions for "community purpose infrastructure, stormwater mitigation, drainage services, stormwater quality, and a public art contribution".

A final condition is also included that when the waterpark goes broke, after spending the extra millions to fund the new conditions, all structures and buildings over 8 metres, must be demolished and removed from the site. I guess that also includes Paul's ego.

When I first wrote about Freebody's proposed waterpark nearly a month ago, he subsequently threatened and bullied me.

Councillor Julia Leu, who is expected to appose the application at today's meeting, says the numbers will get it across the line. "If that happens, a complaint to the State Government may result in greater scrutiny or it being recalled."

For her support, I can exclusively reveal that Paul Freebody has guaranteed Councillor Margaret Cochrane the first ride down the 33 meter Thunder Down Under Ride, so long as she promises to wear Paul's regulation knee-high lady's swimmers.


Smithfield Sam said...

These are conditions Paul Freebody can't meet.

Don't get your knickers in a twist.

The waterpark? She's over.

Matt Heirink said...

Just when it looked like the Council planners were doing their job without political interference, a reality check!

This is disgraceful behaviour that should be seriously investigated by the State Government. The ink is barely dry on Desley's pride and joy new FNQ Regional Plan and Cairns Regional Council has already thrown it out the window.

It is now abundantly clear that Council planning decisions are based on political pressure and corruption.

Ross Parisi said...

Smithfield Sam, you are right, the draft conditions if applied to their full extent would render the project financially untenable. But you see we do not have a level playing field.

Once the project is approved in principle, it will be almost legally impossible to cancel the approval without the risk of going to Court and Council loosing the appeal.
A 'negotiated decision' would water down all the onerous conditions one by one till it becomes viable at the expense of orderly Town planning.

Council might as well approve ex Councillor Freebody's application in the first instance!

Finally, if this application is approved with conditions the Barron Delta will be open season for all types of development.

That will be sad day indeed!

Northern Beaches Warrior said...

Re Matt's comments above
"It is now abundantly clear that Council planning decisions are based on political pressure and corruption"

DUH! that is exactly what has been going on in the Northern Beaches, when Sno Bonneau was our Councillor.

Lets see, Rock wall, Clifton Views, Argentea, Foley Road, Clifton Cottages, Frost developments at Clifton and Kewarra, North development, Paradise Palms Golf Course rezoning and loss of several Conservation areas.

We have been bleating about these issues for ages, and it would seem that not alot has changed since Val got in. With a politically divided council and a pro-development council, our environment remains the biggest loser.

There are very strong relationships between some Councillors and developers, and between Council planners and developers and or their consultants, and this is why our environment is disappearing at a very rapid rate.

No policy or legislation at local, state or even federal level has been used or has been effective in policing and halting what has monumnetal environmental destruction all over Cairns. The FNQ Regional Plan is just a waste of paper. The Council planners head up all the developers of upcoming changes so that DAs are put in ahead of schedule so that all these new polices are not applicable to them.

Very disappointing for those interested in saving just some of the Cairns environs!


smithfield SAM!!!

colin riddell said...

I don,t know paul freebody from a bar of soap , but if he wants to invest $30million in cairns get out of his way ,this town is going broke !
Will provide work for lots of people.

Friend of the Delta said...

TRS SECURITY, you grammar and rants read and sound very much like Freebody, typically diplomatic.
Let us get back to the real issue of increase flooding. I live on the Northern Beaches and every extra development approved and built will add to the existing flooding and my livelihood.
I hope the Council will make a decision for the long term and not just short term expediency.