MAJOR CONCERN: Fears $1.2b project will impact ratepayers
GLADSTONE Regional Council has major concerns about the $1.2 billion Hummock Hill Island resort project, which was approved by the State Government today.
Coordinator-General Barry Broe overruled the council's refusal of the development application, allowing the project to go ahead, subject to 45 conditions.
Gladstone Region mayor Matt Burnett said he had serious concerns about the project, in particular with the residential aspect which includes 770 dwellings.
The Pacificus Tourism project, 30km south of Gladstone, will include accommodation for 2700 tourists and 1200 residents once the 17-year construction phase is completed.
Of the 26 recommendations the council made to the Coordinator-General, 23 were implemented.
The three areas not included were a request for the development to be contained in a Community Title Agreement, the cost of maintaining assets or infrastructure to be the responsibility of the proponent in perpetuity, and for public areas to be in the ownership and responsibility of the proponent.
Cr Burnett was among the five councillors to vote to refuse the development application in May.
They cited issues with the residential dwellings and infrastructure needed, environmental concerns and the potential for ratepayers to be left with the costs, if it is not completed. Now he worries Gladstone's ratepayers could be hit should the development be only half-constructed.
"This is not just an eco resort, it is by and large a residential subdivision, in a beautiful part of the world, but it's in the middle of nowhere," he said.
"This project is in the middle of nowhere, there is no water, no roads, no sewerage and no bridges, so what this could do to the community is concerning.
"We are the ones who supported cruise ships coming to Gladstone, we support the tourism industry, we want the jobs and we want the development but we don't want it to be at the cost of our ratepayers."
Pacificus Tourism chief executive Peter Scarf estimated necessary infrastructure would cost $200 million, and included a bridge connecting the resort to the mainland.
Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said as part of the conditions the proponent would be responsible for building and maintaining infrastructure for the 17-year construction period.
Mr Dick said another condition was a maintenance agreement would be negotiated between the developer and the council, to be in place once a sufficient rates base was established at Hummock Hill to deal with ongoing costs.
By stepping in, the Coordinator-General took the project out of the Planning and Environment Court.
Mr Dick said this would have saved Gladstone region ratepayers potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in what could have been a four-year court battle.
But Cr Burnett said had it continued through the court system, he believed the council's refusal would have been upheld.
"At the end of the day, we all want to see developments in our region," he said.
"However (the) council has a responsibility that these developments do not impact on our ratepayers in the future.
"I think what we'll see is a residential subdivision will happen and an eco tourism resort may never turn up."