Opposition to controversial plans for a $105 million resort on prime public beachfront land just south of Kingscliff by speakers at yesterday’s Planning Assessment Commission hearing was unanimous.
Twenty-two people spoke against the plans by Leighton Holdings, which has secured a 99-year-lease over the 44-hectare site known as Lot 490 between Kingscliff and Salt.
Locals have for years fought against the plans by the state, which had promised beforehand to use the income from the development for the upkeep of the Tweed’s coastal Crown lands and reserves.
The planning department has recommended approval for the resort on Casuarina Way, but knocked back the number of originally proposed units and bungalows from 180 to 127 because of concerns over environmental impact.
While some speakers welcomed a reduction in the resort’s scale, others said its density should be reduced even more or shouldn’t go ahead at all because of its environmental impact.
The PAC heard how the development of the site had been mired in controversy from the outset. Locals said they had fought over the years contentious plans by prospective developers for a casino and a 600-room high-rise hotel on the bush site.
Around 90 people attended the hearing before commissioners Paul Forward and Abigail Goldberg.
Kingscliff resident and spokesman for the Northern Rivers Guardians, Scott Sledge, told the hearing that his group, with 500 members, offered three options for the site.
Leave it alone
The first option was to leave the land as it is, with protection for wildlife habitat; the second was for establishing walking and cycling tracks to picnic shelters for passive recreation; and the third was to reduce the density of the resort to around 50 units.
Mr Sledge said such a smaller resort ‘should be truly “ecological” with standalone provision of electricity, water catchment and composting toilets’.
He said all the ‘facilities’ of the larger resort would be ‘duplications of those already existing at Salt/Casuarina to the south and Kingscliff to the north’.
He also said that even by reducing the scale of the resort down from the ‘massive’ 180 units to 127, the density and style of the accommodation would be ‘more reminiscent of Changi Prison during WW2 than ‘’celebration of beach culture’’ as per Leighton’s vision’.
He also said that ‘only an advertising agent would describe these cheek-by-jowl ticky-tacky boxes as “bungalows”’.
‘With the tiniest of eaves to keep the sun off, these units will become ovens in summer,’ he said.
‘The resort could be safari-tent style: low-cost, low-impact accommodation connected by walking/cycling tracks, with all servicing done using electric vehicles such as golf carts.’
Mr Sledge also took aim at the use of the word ‘ecological’ by the developer, saying that ‘just calling a project an eco-village doesn’t make it one’.
‘What is ecological about large swathes of bush being bulldozed to make way for house sites, driveways, facilities such as swimming pools and parking lots?’
He said, ‘Crown land belongs to the state, which holds it in trust for the people, and should not be allotted to private interests unless it can be shown there will there is some major benefit to the people’.