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Residents fired up

By Mark Beale

OUTRAGE over a perceived lack of community consultation on Whitsunday Regional Council’s draft planning scheme has prompted council to extend the deadline for submissions a further two weeks until October 16.

The extension was

announced after Thursday’s community meeting at the Whitsunday PCYC, where a furious majority castigated council over its proposal to increase building height

restrictions to four, eight and 12 storeys around Airlie Beach.

The room seethed with indignation over the proposal, even before Director of Planning and Community Dan Staley took the stage.

“So they want to turn this into the Gold Coast, huh?” said one attendee to another.

“Ridiculous!” came the reply. It didn’t get much better from there.

After additional seats were brought out to accommodate the 90-odd people in the room, Mr Staley thanked everyone for attending, making note of the large turnout compared to other community consultation meetings.

“Yeah, because nobody else got screwed,” called one person in reply.

Taking it in his stride, Mr Staley ploughed on with his presentation, turning his focus to development and growth.

“A planning scheme seeks to manage and regulate development,” he said.

Looking to the future, Mr Staley said the Whitsunday Region currently had a population of 34,380, which at a modest estimate would grow to 47,200 by 2036, or 55,000 at a higher rate of growth.

He said the increase in height restrictions would allow for growth and development, providing jobs to the region’s burgeoning population.

“We need to be able to grow our employment. It wasn’t just height for height’s sake. It was height for jobs’ sake,” he said.

Mr Staley’s message was not well received by the crowd.

Steve Halter raised the issue of rates on sea-view properties.

“The area there, the light blue, is the highest rates in the country,” he said.

“Yet you want to come and block that view.

“Where have you been when you did this town plan? Is it all about jobs and developers and Chinese or is it about the locals?”

Roger Down, showing a picture of a 12-storey high-rise building Photoshopped onto an image of the Airlie Beach foreshore, said Airlie’s identity would be destroyed forever.

“The council I now find from the website has had this plan available since November 2014.

“It has only been distributed to self-interested groups … we, the public, the residents, have had nothing.

“That man stands there and has the gall to say you can put in a submission in five days.

“Stop this greed, listen to the people in this room, extend the period for submissions, notify the community and allow them to make their minds up,” he thundered.

Allan Gravelle was another to raise his voice.

“I’ve been here for 35-odd years,” he explained.

“If anyone in all honesty can tell me that they weren’t aware of the fact that this community does not want high rises in the main street of Airlie Beach, then I will be absolutely amazed.

“If anyone had looked at the records, if anyone had seen what had happened in the past, done a little bit of research, looked at the history of previous developments, you’d be perfectly aware that the concept of putting 12-storey buildings in the Port of Airlie and eight-storey buildings along the foreshore would not float.”

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