The upkeep of Tweed Shire’s public coastal lands and reserves could suffer unless promised funding from the development of a controversial tourist resort on Crown beachfront land south of Kingscliff, known as Lot 490, is handed over by the state.
That’s the fear expressed by councillors, senior staff and local community groups ahead of tomorrow’s NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) public hearing on the long-running plans for the 44-hectare site between Kingscliff and Salt.
But critics also say the resort plan, like many other recent ones along the Tweed Coast, is simply not financially viable and bound to fail.
Today, Tweed Shire Council planners will meet with the PAC hearing’s chair Paul Forward and fellow commissioner Abigail Goldberg to discuss what the shire could be expected to get from the lease of the reserve and its development into a $105 million resort.
The development proposal by Leighton Properties Pty Ltd was considered by the planning minister under the contentious Part 3A of the Environmental and Planning Assessment Act, but was referred to the PAC due to the level of public interest.
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 from concerns over environmental impact.
The development of the prime site bounded by Cudgen Creek and the beach at south Kingscliff, with Casuarina Way dissecting it, has been been mired in controversy since it was first mooted over 15 years ago.
Locals claimed public land was being taken over for private use, and the state government intervened over the road’s realignment.
Council’s chief planner Vince Connell said council had made its concerns clear about the development in previous submissions to the department, which had since reduced the scale of the resort.
But expectations the Tweed would benefit with the resort set to provide a major funding boost for managing coastal public reserves are now in doubt.
‘There was a previous undertaking by the state government that funds from the development of the site would be put back for the wider restoration and maintenance of the Tweed’s public coastal areas, that was the position several years ago by the state government, but that benefit could now go to the state,’ Mr Connell said.
Watchdog group Tweed Monitor says the state appears to have thrown out the very principles by which the prime site would be developed by ditching a promise for a continuing income stream to the shire for the upkeep of Crown lands and that the resort would be a ‘low-impact, eco tourism facility’.
Spokesman Jerry Cornford said the proposal ‘was formulated for the sole purpose of providing revenue for state government coffers’ and there was no financial due diligence of the proposal.
‘There is not a singe word or sentence, not a single financial projection of what, if anything, the resort will deliver,’ Mr Cornford said.
‘Leightons placed great emphasis on the fact that they needed 187 units to make the resort in any way financially viable. The provisional acceptance has reduced the number of units to 127, by nearly one third. If 187 units were only just viable, how can 127 units possibly qualify?
‘This proposal was formulated pre-GFC in a financial universe which does not now exist, and will not exist for decades to come.
‘Every tourist resort from Murphys Road in Kingscliff to The Point at Hastings Point has been in either administration or receivership since 2002. The existing facilities struggle to maintain a 505 occupancy rate. The last thing this coast needs is another competing resort.’
Mr Cornford said evidence from the environment department showed Lot 490 qualified as a vital wildlife corridor, and as the habitat of at least 12 endangered species.
‘The department’s own guidelines state that on these two criteria alone, this application should be refused.
‘The birds, wallabies and snakes that populate the site can currently range from Cudgen Headland up to Cudgen Lakes and further west into the hinterland between the coast and the Pacific Motorway.
‘If this site is cleared, they will be condemned to a slow death on the Cudgen Headland, by starvation, road kill and lack of a variety of breeding partners to continue their lines. Their last possible retreat, to the west, will be cut off by Kings Forest.
‘Crown lands and coastal reserves are not the province of any government or council to dole out to private individuals or corporations. Their very definition is that they be held in trust for the enjoyment and free access of all Australians, human and otherwise.’
Council staff will attend the public meeting tomorrow as observers.