Save Our Foreshore spokeswoman Suzette Pelt is “disappointed” the new Whitsunday Regional Council has voiced support for the proposed Shute Harbour Marina Development, saying it would be environmentally devastating.
Last week, council voted it would not object to the State Government’s extension of a development lease for the proposed marina.
“This is a major change in thought from previous years, when the council was hugely concerned with the implications this development could have,” Ms Pelt said.
Save Our Foreshore Shute Harbour spokesman Rory McCourt said it was telling that the three councillors who voted to object to the renewal of the lease – Jan Clifford, Ron Petterson and John Collins – were all based closer to the site.
Ms Pelt said that, in 2013, about 2700 people had signed a petition in protest of the marina.
She said dredging at the location would have negative impacts on the water quality in the Whitsundays.
“We have surveys on the seagrass, mangroves, coral in the area – all these will be dredged,” she said. “A huge rock wall will be built over the World Heritage seabed.”
Ms Pelt said she was concerned that, as in the case of the Port of Airlie Marina, which went into receivership in 2011, the developers could go bankrupt and leave a mess. “There’s a very bad track record of marina developments going broke in the region,” she said. “We’re just not sure that some of the new council… understand the full implications of this.”
Shute Harbour Marina project developer Mark Daniels however welcomed the council’s support.
“We look forward to working in collaboration with it in the delivery of landmark development for the region, delivering a range of benefits to tourists and the local community,” he said.
“It will provide a major employment boost for the local community.”
In response to questions about Save Our Foreshore’s concerns, Mr Daniels said:
“This matter is being reviewed by our board of directors later next week and we will be better placed to respond after that time.”
Mayor Andrew Willcox said he was willing to speak to Save Our Foreshore representatives before the next council meeting, but said he saw no issue with the development as long as “all the right boxes” were ticked.
“Council’s getting behind as many projects as what we can.
“We’ve got high unemployment in this region and we’re looking for all opportunities,” he said.
1988: Shute Harbour Marina is proposed, an investigation lease is issued.
1993-2009: Leases for the project are withdrawn or expired and renewed seven times.
April 2014: Project listed as “prescribed project” by former Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney. Council loses control over decision.
July 2014: Council votes to object to a lease renewal.
April 27, 2016: Council votes in support.
SOURCE: WHITSUNDAY TIMES