Julian Wilson of Coolum surfing in Heat 4 of Round 1 at the 2019 Freshwater Pro on September 19, 2019 in Lemoore, CA, United States.
Julian Wilson of Coolum surfing in Heat 4 of Round 1 at the 2019 Freshwater Pro on September 19, 2019 in Lemoore, CA, United States.

‘Don’t use pandemic to push surf ranch’: Opponents warn

Community groups fighting a proposed surf ranch going ahead on flood-prone former cane land have urged the State Government not to use COVID-19 as an excuse.

A statement released by Organisation of Sunshine Coast Association of Residents president Melva Hobson and Sunshine Coast Environment Council liaison Narelle McCarthy last week urged the State Government not to green-light the project proposed at Coolum West.

The statement claimed the developer, Consolidated Properties, was seeking approval to urbanise the flood plains, with the highly-touted wave pool only realistic if a 1500 residential lot and mixed-use development was also approved.

"The proposal is clearly an example of urban sprawl with a wave pool as a secondary or 'selling' point but spuriously promoted as a tourism project and is not supported by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council and many community members," the joint statement said.

In May World Surf League Australia boss Andrew Stark said the $1.1 billion development could ultimately replace the former Hyatt Regency Coolum resort.

The man behind the push for a $1.1 billion Surf Ranch at Coolum, Andrew Stark. Photo: Patrick Woods
The man behind the push for a $1.1 billion Surf Ranch at Coolum, Andrew Stark. Photo: Patrick Woods

The proposal included a 5-6 star eco-resort and a second 3-4 star resort on the 510ha site, as well as a farm-to-plate food and beverage experience, environmental centre, retail village, school, a community and sports centre, outdoor entertainment venue and residential development.

The proposal was still under assessment by the Department of State Development.

Mr Stark also hosed down flooding concerns, having engaged one of the country's leading flooding consultants in Professor Trevor Johnson.

"I don't think we would have gone this far and invested the amount of resources we have on this project without credible information that it can be done safely and in a way that mitigates flooding issues," Mr Stark said in May.

Ms Hobson and Ms McCarthy said they appreciated the difficulties being faced by the construction industry as a result of the pandemic, but coronavirus "should not be used as an excuse to allow the development of flood plains".

"These areas are already vulnerable," their statement said.

"There is plenty of opportunity for activity in the CBD and we would encourage construction companies to explore those opportunities."

SCEC's Narelle McCarthy. Photo: Patrick Woods
SCEC's Narelle McCarthy. Photo: Patrick Woods

They said part of the land had been designated by council, in partnership with the State Government and Unitywater as the Blue Heart, a blue carbon initiative, which they described as a "worthy initiative" that should be progressed to its maximum extent.

The pair said the community groups had sought a meeting with Minister for State Development Kate Jones to discuss their concerns.

Hutchinson Builders boss Scott Hutchinson also told the Daily in May the region was crying out for a project of this scale.

Melva Hobson.
Melva Hobson.

Kelly Slater was set to bring his wave pool technology to Coolum as part of the project.

The first stage of development had been flagged for 2021 if State Government approval was obtained.

High profile surfer and Coolum product Julian Wilson had previously hailed the project as a "premium addition" to his hometown.

The 2018 world tour runner-up said a wave pool could help surfers progress more quickly and offer a competitive advantage for locals.