The developer of a proposed controversial 355-unit tourist park at south Tweed Heads has been given another chance to show the $35 million project won’t impact on Aboriginal and cultural heritage of the vegetated site.
The state government’s northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) this week deferred any decision on the project, which shire planners, the owners of Gold Coast Airport, as well as community and environmental groups have urged be rejected.
Parts of the site on high ground adjacent to the Pacific Highway are believed to have been previously used by local Aborigines as a traditional men’s place.
It’s the first major development to take advantage of the $17 million extension of Kirkwood Road expected to open this year, with its main entrance close to the new access to be built for the nearby highway.
On Tuesday, panel chairman Garry West agreed with the developer’s request for the company to complete a cultural heritage assessment of the area, which Council had sought as required by state planning policy.
‘We believe the developer should be able to complete it and present it back to Tweed Council for assessment. To refuse it, as recommended at this stage, is not acceptable,’ Mr West told Echonetdaily.
The development, to be spread over a 17-hectare parcel of land straddling the western boundary of the highway, is being proposed by a Queensland-based property funds manager and was assessed by Tweed Shire Coucil.
The land is owned by Proportional Property Investments Pty Ltd, whose directors are Gold Coast-based accountants Owen Yong Gee and Sian Zeukelis.
Their representative, Daryl Anderson Consulting, was supported by a large team of around ten other consultants, who were each allowed time to address the panel on the various aspects of the project.
Known as River Heights Tourist Park, the project will include onsite car parking for 375 vehicles and community facilities such as a store, functions centre, swimming pools and barbecues.
Council planners recommended refusal mainly because of the development’s potential cumulative impact on the environment and on Aboriginal heritage relics likely to be found on the site.
They also rejected it because the site is under an aircraft flight path and noise would be an issue, which Gold Coast Airport managers also fear, and that it contravened state legislation on cultural heritage.
Tweed Heads Environment Group (THEG) agreed with planners, saying the clearing of the project site of the exotic understorey to assess past Aboriginal occupation had not been done at all.
THEG secretary Richard Murray said that by proposing the project as a ‘tourist park’, the developer may be trying to ‘bypass’ normal residential building controls for urban water use, noise protection measures and adequate car parking.
Mr Murray said neighbouring residents would suffer a major loss of amenity as many who bought into the area years ago expected the land zoned private open space would remain so ‘and not change to an unacceptable usage’.
Mr Murray said the site was directly under the aircraft approach to Gold Coast Airport ‘where considerable expansion of aircraft flights is to continue with more frequent and larger aircraft’.
‘The site is between the busy and noisy interstate highway and increasing Fraser Drive traffic,’ he said.
The environment group also questioned the developer’s claim that Tweed City shopping centre was only 1.6km away from the project site, saying the actual walking distance was around 4.5km via Dry Dock Road and 5km via Leisure Drive.
The units at the park are in one- and two-bedroom configurations, in duplex buildings up to three storeys.
Bulk earthworks proposed include excavation and cuts of up to 27 metres in the middle of the site.
An initial assessment of the site found the potential for Aboriginal heritage items and the ridgeline area is seen by traditional owners as an important pathway link between the coast and Terranora Broadwater.
The developer consultant’s report says that subsequent Aboriginal monitoring of the Kirkwood Road extension had identified several stone axes on or near the tourist-park site boundary.
The consultant who prepared the report said it was his understanding the area ‘is now being interpreted as a likely traditional men’s place’ and further consultation was needed.