HUMMOCK HILL: Mayor expects State Gov to overrule council
MAYOR Matt Burnett says he expects the State Government will overturn a decision made by Gladstone Regional Council to reject a $1.2-billion island resort on the city's doorstep.
Queensland's Coordinator-General wrote to the council on Wednesday evening, notifying councillors he was officially considering overruling them to approve Pacificus Tourism's Hummock Hill project.
The move kicked off a two-week consultation period before a final decision is made.
But Cr Burnett said he was not going to lose any sleep over whether the council's decision to reject the project was overturned or not.
"They nominated it as a prescribed project so obviously for the State Government - and the Federal Government - it's a priority," Cr Burnett said.
"My planning team were well and truly expecting this to happen. And I'm not unhappy about it - we all want to see a $1.2b development.
"It's just our officers had very good reasons for returning a report that recommended against approving the project."
Cr Burnett said the council could sometimes give leeway to developments outside the planning scheme, citing examples of an extra storey on a high-rise or a small development in the wrong zone, which wouldn't disrupt anyone.
"But here we're talking a whole new town... and it does not meet the planning scheme by any stretch," he said.
Among his concerns were the cost of infrastructure upkeep for a new community without the ratepayer base to support itself - even if the company building the resort built some of the infrastructure in the first place.
Cr Burnett said he hoped the council's planning department would be able to work with the Coordinator-General's office to improve the project and pass on some of the lessons learned during the LNG boom and subsequent bust.
The Coordinator-General was the authority in charge of the decision to approve construction of three LNG plants on Curtis Island near-simultaneously, while the council was relegated to providing advice.
Wednesday evening's move means the Coordinator-General replaces the council as the decision-maker for Hummock Hill - in much the same way as it did for Curtis Island. In this case, however, the council will have to be directly overruled.
"There were definitely some conditions we would have put in place (on LNG construction) - let's start with staging them," Cr Burnett said.
"And I'd hope that this time around the Coordinator-General keeps that in mind.
"I just want to make sure we address the concerns."
The Coordinator-General's decision is now final and not subject to appeal.
A representative of Pacificus Tourism said the company welcomed the Coordinator General's decision to formally consider stepping in.
"(Pacificus) is committed to working with the state and local stakeholders, including Gladstone Regional Council," the representative said.
"If approved, the Hummock Hill Island Pacificus project will create a new world-class tourism hub, providing long-term jobs within the tourism industry in the Gladstone Region, further opening up the Southern Great Barrier Reef to sustainable tourism activities and more investment opportunities.
"Hummock Hill has already been granted all necessary Commonwealth and State environmental approvals vis public EIS processes."