OOPS: Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett has lashed Deputy Premier Jackie Trad - for doing something he wrote to her asking for.
OOPS: Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett has lashed Deputy Premier Jackie Trad - for doing something he wrote to her asking for. Darren Jew

Bennett wrote minister letter asking for turtle protection

THE State Government has accused Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett of "playing politics" for likening Planning Minister Jackie Trad's direction to Bundaberg Regional Council as "communist Russia".

Mr Bennett made the comment on Friday afternoon after Ms Trad and Environmental Minister Steven Miles sent out a released stating the council had been advised it would need to amend its planning scheme to do more to protect the vulnerable loggerhead turtle population along the coast, specifically at Burnett Heads.

But it's been revealed Mr Bennett wrote directly to Ms Trad's office in March on behalf of Burnett Heads residents who raised concerns about the lack of protection for breeding turtles under the new Bundaberg Development Planning Scheme, specifically the Central Coast Urban Growth Area Local Plan.

"Residents are aware of a development application to develop five acres of land along the turtle trail," the letter read.

"On behalf of local staff and volunteers associated with turtle protection, I respectfully seek the minister's assurance that the existing overlays will secure protection through lighting restrictions and other conditions to our endangered nesting turtles."

The letter referred to the subdivision of one lot into 12 at 70-80 Shelley St, which was approved in June.


PLANNING SCHEME: Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett questioned the state government about planning scheme overlays to protect the turtles in March. Photo Contributed
CORRESPONDENCE: The letter Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett wrote to Jackie Trad in March. Contributed

Yesterday Dr Miles said that, just eight months ago, Mr Bennett asked them to take action to protect the turtles and, now that they had, he was playing politics.

"The decision we made was based on a number of public objections, including from Mr Bennett, so to suggest that this decision was a surprise is disingenuous," he said.

"Mr Bennett should stop the political grandstanding and recognise this for what it is - an important decision to ensure the protection of one of the Burnett region's most precious natural and economic assets."

But Mr Bennett said he stood by his comments and that it was Ms Trad's heavy-handed approach towards the council that was concerning.

"The issue's not about the turtles and the development," he said.

"It's about how Jackie Trad's gone about being so dictative to our council, after three years of planning and consultation, at 4.45pm on a Friday, she tells us we must change our planning scheme."

Mr Bennett said his letter in March was simply seeking clarification about what overlays were in place to consider turtle nesting and he had faith the council would impose conditions to address those issues.

"The Deputy Premier signed off on the planning scheme and now she's saying she's not happy with it and wants us to amend it."

A spokeswoman from the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning said in 2015 the State Government reviewed the proposed planning scheme amendments and obtained technical advice from other state agencies.

"At the time the zoning was changed and based on this expert advice, there were no reasons to expect that the new policies within the planning scheme were anything other than adequate to ensure the council could manage the impacts to the nearby turtle rookery from development," she said.

"Since then, new technical information in relation to the impacts of lighting on the turtle rookeries has come from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing."

Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey said the council would work with the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning to ensure the scheme met the government's latest environmental requirements.

"The council has been asked to provide a submission of response by December 16," he said.

Under the Queensland Sustainable Planning Act, existing approvals are protected from any changes to a planning scheme.