Friday, March 17, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Supreme Court On Cards For Port Of Airlie High Rise Dispute

Further delays in mediation have prompted Save Our Foreshore (SOF) to vow that they will “go all the way to the Supreme Court” in their fight with Port of Airlie and the Whitsunday Regional Council.

SOF are challenging the decision to approve a 47-metre high-rise hotel at Port of Airlie when the town plan caps all development in that zone at 18 metres.

Since the Council decision to approve the development last year, SOF has taken the matter to the Planning and Environment Court where they have been fighting a legal battle ever since.

It is estimated that their legal fees will cost over $150,000 and SOF say they are grateful for all public donations.

“We can’t thank our supporters enough,” said Suzette Pelt, President of SOF.

“Every donation, small and large, adds up to being able to fund nearly 12 months of legal action to date and ongoing.”

Last Friday SOF appeared in a court-directed mediation session with Port of Airlie/Meridien and Council.

“The message we took was that the maximum height is 18 metres and the town plan must stand,” said Suzette.

“And that’s what we will continue to take, all the way to the Supreme Court if needed.”

“We are committed to representing the community and public interest in this shameful development proposal that not only conflicts massively with the town plan but also puts our iconic Whitsunday and Airlie Beach low-rise, village character at risk.”

Developers are planning to construct a luxury five-star hotel complex and large conference centre on the site and they believe that the height level is necessary to attract a prestigious hotel brand name.

Airlie Beach has not had a significant hotel development in many years and the counter-argument on the subject is that the town needs this sort of development in order to compete with places like Hamilton Island.

At the moment Airlie Beach has a maximum function room capacity of 110 people, whereas Hamilton Island can cater for up to 700.

Therefore, by increasing our mainland function room offering, Airlie Beach could attract an entirely new form of corporate client.

The question is, however, with the local airport already bringing in over 500,000 passengers per year – does Airlie Beach need to entice a new demographic when it is already popular in its own right?

SOF certainly believe this is the case, asserting that it is the “village feel” that attracts people to the town and stating this would be destroyed if a high-rise hotel is built at Port of Airlie.

“People live and invest in the Whitsundays because of its unique lifestyle and character,” said Suzette.

“There is no issue with aspirational plans to develop five-star hotel accommodation but in the right place, in the right style and according to the town plan is not too much to expect.  

“There are massive flaws in this proposal.”

Suzette stated that the court case may cost ratepayers between $250,000 and $350,000 and pointed out that the Meridien group behind the development is in receivership.

‘We can’t understand why the council would be backing a company already in receivership,” she said.

Whitsunday Regional Council were asked to comment and stated that “as the matter is currently before the Environmental and Planning Court, Council is unable to comment”.

Demonstrators protest at the site of the approved 47-metre high rise development last year

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