UPDATE: Conflicts of interest declared as Council rejects moratorium on Paradise Palms development
A legal attempt to block development of the Paradise Palms Golf Course at Kewarra Beach was today rejected by the Cairns Regional Council CEO, who was given the decision making power when eight members of the ten-strong Council declared conflicts of interest in the matter.
Current and former members of the Cairns Unity team, including Mayor Bob Manning, Deputy Mayor Terry James, Cr John Schilling, Cr Max O’Halloran, Cr Jessie Richardson, Cr Richie Bates and Cr Brett Moller declared that Paradise Palms owner Darren Halpin had provided pre-election donations to their party.
Cr Brett Olds also declared a conflict of interest because Ian Parmenter from residents group Save Paradise Palms had contributed funds to his election campaign.
"It appears that we have conflicts of interest affecting the majority of Councillors," Cr Manning said.
"Council will next move a motion to delegate these matters (to the CEO) as required by section 176 of the Local Government Act."
The motion was passed six votes to four.
Council officers had recommended Councillors reject the submission by Save Paradise Palms for a Temporary Local Planning Instrument (TLPI) in the form of a moratorium, because the information it contained didn't satisfy the criteria for the making of a TLPI under the Planning Act.
CEO John Andrejic followed the officers' recommendation.
Outside the Council chambers, Paradise Palms resident Denise O'Connor expressed her disappointment with the proceedings.
"Where's the representation for the community?" she asked.
"I thought the CEO was there to advise and give advice to the Council, not make decisions for the elected Councillors who represent the community."
Residents opposing a new master plan for the Paradise Palms golf course site at Kewarra Beach are calling for Cairns Regional Council to introduce a moratorium on any development, amid concerns the plan won’t comply with State Government policy.
The owner of Paradise Palms, Darren Halpin, has announced he wants to build a high-end tourist resort, small water park, housing and a school on the 96.3 hectare block.
Holding Redlich’s Andrew Magoffin, the lawyer acting on behalf of residents bordering the site, has told Tropic Now the plan is at odds with State Government agricultural planning policy.
“It’s mapped at the state level as class A and B agricultural land,” he said.
“That’s reflective of soil types, mapping of soil types across the state, and of course certain soil types lend themselves to agricultural activity.
“The main issue is the State Planning Policy as it relates to agricultural land, land mapped for class A and B should not be put to uses that would fragment that land and jeopardise the ability for that land to be put to agricultural use in the future.”
Mr Magoffin said Cairns Regional Council’s current Planning Scheme doesn’t reflect the mapping and needs to be amended, which is why a temporary local planning instrument in the form of a moratorium is needed.
The issue will go before a general meeting of the Council tomorrow.
“So what’s happened since the Planning Scheme commenced, the State Government has added a couple of policies in relation to agricultural land and the Planning Scheme has not been updated to reflect those policies from the State Planning Policy," Mr Magoffin said.
“Council must appropriately integrate State interests in their Planning Scheme.
“The several months or years that it could take to amend the Planning Scheme is too long to address conditions on the ground now.”
One of the main concerns is the buying or selling of property under the development premise.
Mr Magoffin said some residents have been approached with an offer to buy land neighbouring their properties, to extend their blocks.
“The moratorium is needed to prevent the re-configuring of lots and sale of lots to current residents bordering the golf course, which could be a mistake for them if the planned development can’t go ahead anyway,” he said.
“Also with the cessation of the golf course use, there’s concerns about negative impacts occurring in that local government area as a result of social and economic impacts but further if the landowner was to undertake works on the golf course to strip turf et cetera, that could lead to erosion issues and water quality issues and those are potential environmental impacts.”
A development application is yet to be lodged by Mr Halpin, however he has previously indicated it would be submitted in late April or early May.
Temporary local planning instruments can remain in force for up to two years, after which they can be renewed.
“There’s going to be a tension there if or when the owner does make a development application,” Mr Magoffin said.
“Can the Council lawfully approve the DA if its development is not compliant with State Planning policy?
“This could go on for quite some time.”