Thursday, May 11, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

The High-Rise Debate Heats Up

Leaked Documents, Council Debates And Boardroom Applause

Building height regulations for proposed development in Airlie Beach were once again the source of boardroom debate on Wednesday with tensions flaring at the Whitsunday Regional Council Ordinary meeting.

Councillor John Collins made accusations that documents had been leaked to media before they were discussed within Council Chambers.

Mayor Julie Hall completely denied allegations stating that a photo used in an online article was from another event and not relevant to current discussions.

“I had nothing to do with that article,” she said.

A spokesperson from Save Our Foreshore (SOF), the action group that attended the Council meeting, said that they also knew nothing about leaked information and that the article was largely based on old information.

While the tension in the boardroom generated some distraction, it was soon down to business with the real reason for discussion brought to the table under the support of a large public gallery.

Mayor Julie Hall proposed the motion that the current wording, which included ‘maximum’ when referring to height restrictions, remain in the 2017 Whitsunday Planning Scheme.

This document, which contains the new Airlie Beach Local Plan, had been updated and, according to SOF, vital information that was controlling the height level of development in Airlie Beach was missing.

SOF believe that by reinstating the word ‘maximum’, it sets a precedent for those restrictions to remain.

It was also proposed that the character description relating to low rise buildings and a village feel remain included in the scheme.

The motion was carried 5:2 and the items remain included.

A lively public gallery applauded at the decision, many campaigners thrilled by the small but important win.

Although the details may seem minor, the action group believe their inclusion represents a vital piece of the puzzle for managing future developments and height restrictions.

“We are very pleased with the result at the Council meeting today,” said President of SOF Suzette Pelt.

“And really pleased with how the Councillors voted, it was also wonderful to see a full gallery and multiple applause.”

This event is timely, as the contentious Port of Airlie court case is scheduled to appear in the Planning and Environment Court later this month.

The case will see SOF take Whitsunday Regional Council to court over its decision to approve a high-rise development at Port of Airlie, a move that would see height restrictions increase from the recommended 18 metres to 47.7 metres for that development.

While the need for continued growth and development is a priority to all, so too is the way in which our region manages that growth and retains its “winning formular” which many tourists flock to the region for.

The one-day court hearing will take place in Brisbane’s Planning and Environment Court on May 15.

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