Sekisui Showdown: Where do they stand?
THE THIRD of four focus group meetings being held as a precursor to the next Sekisui House proposal at Yaroomba has revealed a little more on where the key players sit.
The latest meeting focused on "Environmental Issues for Yaroomba Beach Site" which saw the "core group" of stakeholders joined by the likes of local environmental group members, marine and environment scientists and business community figures.
WHAT WE KNOW:
- Sekisui House engaged in discussion group meetings with community, business and industry reps
- Today's meeting overshadowed by revelations of Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale pushing then-Premier Campbell Newman on Yaroomba proposal
- Residents still uncertain over what plans will be delivered to the community for consultation
- USC enviro professor says Sekisui should be catalyst for coastal development discussions
- Sekisui House maintain they will do better, admit they erred in some aspects first time around, and are looking at different mixes in accommodation types on the site
Sekisui House has said it's operating from a 'blank page' this time around and the discussion groups were designed to help establish the framework for exploring options on the site.
Today's meeting was all about the environmental issues, among them, lighting issues, managing green space on the site, coastal dune protection and issues with nesting turtle populations.
Here's how some of the key figures felt post-meeting:
Councillor Christian Dickson, Sunshine Coast Council's Planning and Development portfolio holder:
"Today was heavily about the environment, so protecting the turtles, the dunal system, the sight lines from David Low Way and the beach front," he said.
"If you look at the Sunshine Coast, the urban sprawl that we have got at the moment is problematic, it makes people put more emphasis on sights like this.
"Essentially the trade-off here at the moment is how much height do you give in terms of allowing that prosperity versus the actual, on the ground, the environment, the potential here to enhance the natural area? So it is a bit of a trade-off."
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Cr Dickson said he was awaiting a proposal that looked to deliver five-star green ratings while keeping in line with community expectations.
"If you talk about the expectations of locals, they don't want skyscrapers on the beach and that's certainly something that council hasn't supported," he said.
"If they're going to come back with 10 or 12 storeys again than maybe council's already made its mind up in that respect."
Cr Dickson said there had to be "some compromise" in letting the proposal be heard, but if the community condemned it, council had to represent that, before offering a piece of advice to the hopeful developers.
"If I could offer them one piece of friendly advice that's to embrace the locals, make sure that you are talking with them, engaging with them, because at the end of the day we represent them," he said.
Luke Cameron, Coolum Business and Tourism treasurer, local resident, business owner and stockbroker:
Mr Cameron said there'd been a lot of healthy discussion in the meetings so far and felt there were "real human needs" that required addressing in Coolum, particularly around employment issues following the decline of Palmer Coolum Resort.
Following today's meeting Mr Cameron said the local business community was genuine in its desire to see the site developed.
"I do speak to a lot of them almost every day and there is a general consensus that they would like to see this site developed and they would like to see it developed in a sustainable way," he said.
"If I had to drill it down to one problem with the previous proposal it was the height issue.
"If they're addressing some of these issues about sky glow and light ambience, if they're addressing these issues specifically…then if it's sort of a similar proposal but in a different context…as long as they're addressing some of these issues I think that's important."
Mr Cameron said inconsistencies in planning had also been discussed and he believed a better outcome could be achieved with the principles being used by the developers presently.
"I think it's time that the tourism and business community in Coolum got a shot in the arm and I think development on this site of some description would be a good way to kick-start that," he said.
Professor Thomas Schlacher, University of the Sunshine Coast Professor of Marine Science:
Prof Schalcher said today's discussion had centred around the "multiple environmental issues" which pertained to the site.
He said it was important the site wasn't viewed in isolation and that the Sekisui House site needed to be viewed as a "starting point for a broader and more educated discussion" on preserving the ecosystem of frontal dunes and beaches.
"That discussion needs to go well beyond the boundaries of this site, it needs to go from Noosa National Park to the south of Caloundra," he said.
Prof Schlacher said inappropriate coastal development had already occurred throughout much of the coastal strip and questioned whether a masterplan for coastal beach ecosystems could be developed.
He said focusing on one site only was "nonsensical" and that many of the issues could be managed, including light pollution, through engineering solutions.
"By and large we accept that light pollution on the coastal strip is not a good thing," he said.
He said light pollution needed to be addressed to assist nesting turtles and he was pleased the conversation was going on around those issues now.
Mark Bizzell, Coolum Residents Association president:
Mr Bizzell said the Sekisui House consultants had put across a good case for all the aspects of the proposed development.
He said the community was grateful for the invite, but felt there could've been more input early in the piece.
He was sceptical as to whether any major difference would be presented when proposals were actually delivered by the developers and said he felt they could "do a better job falling within the town plan".
Mr Bizzell said he felt Sekisui House were basically just "giving a couple of people lip service from the community" and the community was not going to relent easily on the stance it took against the original proposals.
"It's important to remember sort of the special location of the site," he said.
Mr Bizzell said it'd been difficult to attend the meetings without any concrete plans being discussed.
"It was a bit like going to the new release of the Mercedes Benz and they're talking about the paint job and how fast the engine will take you and the decor and everything like this," he said.
"It's a campaign to sell a product and we're just not too sure what that product is at the moment."
He reiterated the community's position that it would not accept any plans that were over the allowed density and height, arguing any relenting on that would set a precedent for the rest of the region.
Sekisui House senior development manager Evan Aldridge:
"We've had a really fantastic, productive discussion across the three groups," he said.
"Today was all about looking at the environment and sustainability frameworks. That was quite a long discussion.
"We're very confident that we can set a new benchmark when it comes to beach side development."
Mr Aldridge said he wanted to introduce systems to make the development more sustainable in the long term and deliver a development that would actually improve the area.
He said management of lighting, introducing a greater mix of different types of accommodation across the site and maintaining existing vegetation and linking it to the dunal system would help deliver a "more robust" ecosystem.
"We've got the opportunity to do something really great and that's what we want to achieve," he said.
Mr Alrdridge said they were "starting from a clean sheet of paper" and the discussion groups were helping set the framework they would work within.
He said the discussion groups would be engaged again once proposals had been developed before and plans were put out to the wider community.
"I think it'll go a long way to sort of getting a good win-win for everybody," Mr Aldridge said.