Tweed Shire councillors have deferred a decision on controversial proposals for dry-marina facilities for more than 150 boats at Chinderah, after a raft of concerns on how they would affect the riverside village were raised during debate last night.
Issues such as parking by boat users, a crowded river, legal implications, environmental impacts, noise, amenity and cost to ratepayers of road and boat-ramp maintenance will now be looked at in detail after councillors put plans for the boat-storage facilities on hold.
The larger of the two plans, for 116 boat-storage berths, showrooms, two cafes and caretaker residence is proposed for land adjacent to the river at Jenners Corner, a prominent and historic old highway stop.
The other is for 38 berths, two homes plus commercial premises on nearby blocks of land also on Chinderah Bay Drive.
Both projects were recommended for approval by council planners, but on the urging of Cr Katie Milne and deputy mayor Michael Armstrong, councillors voted 4-2 (Crs Carolyn Byrne and Phil Youngblutt against) to defer the issue to obtain further information.
A new report by staff will look at boat usage and safety on the river expected to flow from the developments, the potential for legal liability if a boating collision occurs, impacts on riverbank erosion and seagrass beds in the area, noise, stormwater and waste treatment.
It will also look at cost to ratepayers of road, parks and boat ramp maintenance as well as the implications from a Land and Environment Court case years ago which rejected a proposal for a contentious 115-berth marina at Chinderah.
That case was spearheaded by Cr Milne before she became a councillor, who reminded her colleagues last night that now, as then, community groups in the area were strongly opposed to further increases of boating activity on the river and wanted to maintain its ‘peaceful nature’.
Cr Milne said studies had shown that more boating facilities would ‘unleash latent demand’ and the two development applications would do just that.
‘I also have concerns for potential liability for safe boating on the river, we need to know boat users are safe,’ she said.
Cr Armstrong said he ‘didn’t want the people of Chinderah to end up with extra problems’ and wanted to ensure ratepayers were ‘not footing the bill for extra work on our roads, parks and boat ramps’.
But Cr Youngblutt argued there was ‘some confusion’ as the facility was ‘not a marina’ but a storage facility for boats and people ‘wrongly assume that by storing more boats you’ll end up with more boats on the river’.
Mayor Barry Longland disagreed, saying that in the draft Local Environment Plan 2012, a marina was defined as a boat storage facility.
Cr Youngblutt said the facilities would be used by bigger, more expensive sea-going boats which would not be used often by their owners, and it would cost to park there so not used by the ‘ordinary person’ who owned a ‘tinny’.
He said owners of these expensive craft would more likely come from other areas such as Brisbane and Sydney ‘to go cruising’.
Cr Byrne, who moved the recommendation to approve, also maintained the facilities were ‘not a marina’ but a boat-storage yard with display area, cafes and a caretakers residence which would ‘give the opportunity for Chinderah to have some development and activity’.
She said it was ‘unlikely’ to have much environmental impact on the river and if residents were worried about noise and visual amenity, buffers and plantings could address that.
But Cr Armstrong said it worried him Cr Byrne’s argument made no mention of the link on ‘where the boat was stored and where it would be used’.
He said it was just ‘not logical’ that someone picking up their boat from the storage facility there would then drive up to 40 kilometres to launch it.
‘What concerns me is the costs (to ratepayers) associated if Cr Byrne is wrong and 116 boats all use the nearest possible boat ramp,’ he said.
‘We’re running into a problem here, where do people park?’
He said ‘every single ratepayer of the Tweed’ would have to bear the cost of maintaining roads, ramps, pump-out facilities and the like and locals ‘would have to clear up the mess’ as a result.
Cr Milne said the community ‘will be even more precious about their river’ if development at Chinderah increased, especially industrial-style developments such as those proposed.
She said there was no doubt the facilities were ‘dry-land marinas’ and classified as such in the zoning plans.
‘I imagine also there’d be legal implications from the court case which would be relevant to this activity as it provides more berthing for boats than the Chinderah marina did,’ she said.
‘The river is very special to this community, they engage with it in many ways on a daily basis, even if you view it from your car as you drive along it,’ she said.
The two proposals, by Gold Coast businessmen who own the blocks of land, follow not long after council’s push ahead with plans to build a 30-metre pontoon on the riverbank nearby, the largest on the river which will provide 60-metres-plus of mooring space.
Cr Milne said the three boating developments together would not just affect the look and amenity of Chinderah, but also compound environmental impacts on the river’s seagrass beds.