The developer behind a controversial plan for a $100 million resort on prime public beachfront land just south of Kingscliff has decided not to go ahead with the proposal, leaving the door open for the 42-hectare crown reserve to be kept as a nature corridor or developed as a low-key holiday retreat.
The decision this week by Leighton Properties not to proceed with the resort on the site on which it has a lease over, known as Lot 490, has been welcomed by Tweed residents who campaigned against it for years.
But the fight to preserve it as a wildlife corridor or a much less impacting development is not yet over, with Tweed Shire Council set to discuss soon what options it could recommend to the state government for the site.
The relocation of a council caravan park to the site has already been mooted by one pro-development councillor, while the Save Lot 490 Coalition says if it must be developed it should be a low-impact camping facility.
The resort plan was approved last August by the state’s Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) despite widespread opposition from residents and environmental groups.
Leighton Properties has secured a 99-year-lease over the site between Kingscliff and the Salt development after the state government promised to use the income from the development for the upkeep of the Tweed’s coastal Crown lands and reserves.
The planning department last year 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 its environmental impact.
Save Lot 490 Coalition spokesman Jerry Cornford told Echonetdaily the decision by Leighton appeared to be a reflection of the economic climate and other developers would ‘perhaps come to the same conclusion’ realising that ‘no-one else can make a buck out of it’.
Mr Cornford said the two main options appeared to be for the crown reserve to be restored for wildlife habitat or ‘if something has to go there’, a low-key project to earn money for coastal reserve upkeep.
‘Locals would probably like to see an extremely low-impact camping facility catering for the high-end corporate market,’ he said.
‘A nature-based camping area with a lesser footprint would be acceptable, with kayaking tours on the creek which still leaves the remaining wildlife in place as there are lots of endangered plants and animals there.’
He said ‘glamping’ (glamour camping) was popular overseas and could work on the site.
It catered for upmarket tourists staying in low-impact ‘safari pads’ with a central eatery or entertainment area doubling up as a conference centre for the corporate market, combined with natural attractions such as canoeing and whale watching, walking and cycling tracks and picnic shelters for passive recreation.
Cr Warren Polglase told ABC North Coast this morning that relocation one of council’s caravan parks would be considered by councillors, who also act as trustees of the Tweed Coast Holidays Reserves Trust.
The Kingscliff north caravan park could be one option for relocation given the battering it took from the fierce storms of the past two years with beach erosion forcing removal of several cabins and taking a large chunk of its foreshore away.
The trust has also proposed a new beachfront caravan park for south of Norrie’s Headland at Bogangar/Cabarita which has been strongly opposed by residents who want to keep that crown reserve as a natural wildlife area for passive recreation.
Lot 490 has been mired in controversy for years with locals at one stage fighting a contentious plan by prospective developers for a casino and a 600-room high-rise hotel on the bushland site.
During the PAC hearing last year, Kingscliff resident Scott Sledge criticised the developer’s use of the word ‘ecological’, 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?’
Mr Sledge told the commission that ‘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 is some major benefit to the people’.