JEWEL BARGARA: The controversial high-rise has been called in by the State Government.
JEWEL BARGARA: The controversial high-rise has been called in by the State Government. Contributed

Minister reveals decision on Jewel high-rise

QUEENSLAND Planning Minister Cameron Dick has today called in the Esplanade Jewel development at Bargara, near Bundaberg.

Mr Dick said the mixed-use development, which proposed a maximum building height of nine storeys, had created significant concerns for the community regarding the approval route taken by council, the characteristics of the development, and the potential impact on the local marine turtle population.

"My obligations and responsibility as Planning Minister is to ensure planning processes and decisions in our state are transparent," he said.

"It is clear the Bundaberg Regional Council did not consider this application in accordance with proper planning process, and in fact may have potentially overlooked their responsibility to ensure transparent and robust planning decisions.

"The council adopted a highly unusual approach of allowing the development to proceed to a deemed approval, which is what occurs when the council fails to make a decision within set timeframes.

"In this case, that decision led to a deemed approval for a nine-storey development when council officers' report to Council recommended a five-storey development, which is in line with council's planning scheme.

"This means the development could now conflict with the local planning scheme, making it appropriate that I use my reserve call-in powers to reassess this decision."

Mr Dick said he had also received advice from his department that the proposed development impacted other state interests.

"My obligations and responsibility as Planning Minister is to ensure that state interests such as roads, heritage and the environment are protected," he said.

"In this instance, the impacts on marine turtles are of concern, particularly in relation to the impact of lighting on turtle nesting and hatchings.

"Bargara is a unique part of the world, home to Mon Repos, the largest rookery for endangered loggerhead turtles on the east coast of Australia and a key tourist attraction in Queensland which is economically significant for the region.

"We need to ensure the right protections are in place to conserve endangered loggerhead turtles in this area.

"The development in its current form could affect the nearby sea turtle populations, and I am concerned that the potential effects of the development may not have been adequately assessed."

Mr Dick said he had received around 100 representations from the community since issuing a proposed call-in notice for this development on 15 November.

"The community have expressed concerns to me about the development's impact on sea turtles, the nine-storey building height, and the unusual deemed approval process that led to the development's approval," he said.

"Community expectations are embodied in the planning scheme, which identifies five-storeys as an appropriate outcome for this area.

"Clearly the proposal is out of step with community expectations."

Mr Dick said the process for assessing this proposal will now start again, with the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning now assessing the proposal, instead of the council.

"I have decided to take the process for assessing this proposal back to the beginning, which means it will now be assessed by the department on my behalf," he said.

"The proposed development will now be reassessed against all relevant planning instruments, including Bundaberg Regional Council's planning scheme.

"A decision on this proposal is anticipated in the first half of 2019."

Mr Dick said a call-in is a rarely used reserve power that can only be exercised if the matter involves or is likely to involve a state interest and warrants ministerial involvement.

"Each year, tens of thousands of development applications are made and approved by councils in Queensland," he said.

"This is the first time I have used my ministerial powers to call in an application."

The site is located at 35, 37 and 39 Esplanade, 2 Burkitt Street, 4 and 6 See Street, Bargara.

The proposed development is for multiple dwellings (60 units and 10 townhouses), food and drink outlets (three tenancies), and a shop.