TURTLE TOURISM: The protection of turtles is set to play a key role in shaping the region moving forward.
TURTLE TOURISM: The protection of turtles is set to play a key role in shaping the region moving forward. Jason Isley

Jobs or environment: Jewel puts us at crucial crossroads

OPINION by Adam Wratten

I FEAR development in key parts of the Bundaberg region is going to be placed on hold for the time being while community leaders work through solutions to complex issues that have emerged out of the Jewel highrise saga.

The waters can become muddy when environmental concerns are pitted against those of development.

We only have to look at Adani to see this.

The Jewel application has been controversial from the start and it is now forcing our region to look deeper at what's really important and what we value.

After many twists and turns, Planning Minister Cameron Dick last month delivered the project certainty with his ruling that a high-rise at Bargara could go ahead, but at six storeys rather than the proposed nine.

Mr Dick has also committed to a Temporary Local Planning Instrument for Bargara.

A temporary plan will override the current planning scheme for two years while a more permanent approach is worked through.

The Minister's office says the purpose of the TLPI is to limit the height of new developments at Bargara to five to six storeys due to its close proximity to a Sea Turtle Sensitive Area.

It will also prescribe lighting controls on new developments to better protect the turtle population.

Bargara is just a stone's throw from the world famous Mon Repos.

Turtle tourism is big business for Bundy.

More than 30,000 people book in each year to see the turtles at Mon Repos.

The Queensland Government has shown a commitment to turtle tourism in our patch with $16 million for upgrades at the Mon Repos turtle centre.

The council, which has worked tirelessly to get the region's economy firing again and creating new jobs, has made a submission to the government about the TLPI.

It raises the question as to whether the government should look at similar regulations across the state, given turtles can nest along the Queensland coastline.

The council also questions whether the nearby Bundaberg State Development Area will be subjected to the same standards?

If so, the state and council have differing views on the impact of this.

The state says it will likely have minimal impact.

Given the importance the SDA has as an economic game-changer for the region, this should be looked at further.

Currently loading and unloading happens at the port at night. It's hoped in the future that the SDA will become a hive of activity.

One can picture a scene of cranes lifting containers on and off big ships, lighting up the night sky.

We need to fully understand what increased regulations in the SDA would mean.

My fear is they could potentially hamper development opportunity for the whole region.

It's hard enough in this competitive world to get a foot in the door, never mind doing so when everyone else has a big advantage.

I'd also love to know if major lighting at the port would have an impact on turtles at Mon Repos?

Meanwhile, the council has highlighted a situation on the Sunshine Coast where the council there has approved, by a 6-5 vote, a development at Buddina.

Turtle advocates argue the development will impact the turtles.

Will the minister now call in this eight-storey project? It's a fair question.

Finding the right balance is going to be key moving forward.

Should the state protect turtles in more areas than just Bundaberg?

Is there a value in Bundaberg being the only place where turtles are protected?

Are these measures going to stymie future development?

Unfortunately it appears it's going to take time to answer some of the questions that have arisen. I'm not convinced we have the science yet to be definitive in answers.

So how do we rightly judge the actions of a council that from the outset has advocated its push to bring development to the area when it must do so with one hand tied behind its back?

One thing is clear. Developers are not going to be rushing to make any decisions on investing at Bargara or the SDA until the picture is clarified and this climate of uncertainty is addressed.

Have your say online at www.news-mail.com.au

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