A NEW $2.5-million, 126-bed backpacker hostel has been approved for construction across the road from Hinkler Central Shopping Centre.
The approval comes as Tomato Backpackers, based on Hinkler Ave, North Bundaberg, looks to expand its business into the Central Business District.
Tomato Backpackers owner James Lee said he purchased the 1482 square metre block on the corner of Maryborough and George Sts in September last year but first discussed with the Bundaberg Regional Council the potential for his plans to be approved on the flood-affected land.
"I emphasised that it was very close to Hinkler and that it was a commercial block," Mr Lee said.
After lodging an official application with the council, Mr Lee's approval was granted this month for his two-storey hostel to cover about 500 square metres of the land.
Cr Sommerfeld explained the reasons for the approval.
"While the subject site was inundated in the 2013 flood event, at the highest part of the block adjoining George St, the depth of water was only approximately 24cm," he said.
"The proposal plans show that all floor levels will be built 300mm above the 2013 flood level, as required by the Temporary Local Planning Instrument (TLPI)."
Cr Sommerfeld said the councils TLPI made it clear that intensification of residential uses in high-hazard areas was not acceptable, but said the approved site was zoned commercial.
"The subject site is located on the fringe of the flood hazard area and given the slowing moving, shallow nature of floodwater on this site, it is not considered to be within a high-hazard area," he said.
"The areas of high flood hazard are mapped in the TLPI, and are largely located in areas of extremely fast moving water or in areas where waters reached extreme depths."
The approved hostel plans also include a ground floor cafe and swimming pool, but Mr Lee said he wouldn't be starting construction just yet.
Mr Lee said he wanted to ensure the region's farming industry was in a good place before he committed to the costly project, "because nearly 95% of our occupancy is farm workers".
Tomato Backpackers in North Bundaberg has 84 beds and the new development will bring its total capacity to 214.
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