In what was always seen as a David and Goliath battle, local community groups who took developer Sekisui House and Sunshine Coast Regional Council to court over a contentious development at Yaroomba Beach heard welcome news last Wednesday, with the Supreme Court ruling in favour of the community groups.
Development Watch (DW) was quick to announce that they were thankful that the Supreme Court had got the verdict right.
DW submitted that the Planning and Environment Court had erred in its judgment, one such error being the lack of consideration of over 9000 objections to the Development Application (DA) and community expectation.
“The Supreme Court found in favour of DW and we thank the court for getting this right. This decision has restored the community’s faith in democracy and the law,” a spokesperson for DW said.
The Sunshine Coast Council in a six-to-five vote approved the Yaroomba Beach development proposal in June 2018. The DA was then taken to the Planning and Environment Court which ruled in favour of the development and from there it was taken to the Supreme Court.
Court documents state that the judgement was made after three errors of law were identified which related to building heights proposed in the development and community expectations about the development and the number of submissions against the DA.
The Supreme Court verdict means that the development will now go back to the Planning and Environment Court for a review.
“Let’s hope the Planning and Environment Court makes the right decision and we can put this protracted dispute to rest. People need to get on with their lives knowing they have a Planning Scheme that will provide certainty,” the DW spokesperson said.
FRIENDS OF YAROOMBA RESPOND
Kathryn Hyman from Friends of Yaroomba stated that the win meant that the voices of the community could not be overlooked.
“The judges recognised that 9,000 people should not be ignored and that multiple seven-storey highrise buildings on the beachfront are not what the community wants.
“This pristine beachfront land and the laidback lifestyle of the area is so rare on the Sunshine Coast and was worth fighting for. The Town Plan is in place to give direction for everyone, including big developers. The community was brave to pursue the legal fight against its own council and the deep pockets of development company Sekisui. We feel totally vindicated by the Qld Supreme Court,” Ms Hyman said.
Legal costs are not cheap and it is estimated that the community groups raised in excess of $500,000 to fund the battle.
“We were in uncharted waters but the fact that we raised half a million dollars is a tribute to how much the community wanted to fight this approval by its own council. They thought it was wrong and so they supported Friends of Yaroomba, Development Watch and Sunshine Coast Environment Council.”
Division nine councillor Maria Suarez who was not the elected councillor when the DA was first voted on said that the community should be commended for using the systems available to them to challenge a planning approval decision.
“I congratulate the various groups and individuals and acknowledge the enormous amount of work and effort that was required by them to research and resource their efforts.
“The timing of the court’s decision coincided with the commencement of community consultation for the new Planning Scheme. It highlights how important input to the new scheme is to ensure our various communities have clear and defined planning parameters for the look and feel of their neighbourhoods in the future,” Ms Suarez said.
SUPPORT FOR THE DEVELOPMENT
The news on Wednesday of last week was not welcomed by all with Sandy Zubrinich, Chair of the Sunshine Coast Business Council stating that decision was a blow to the local tourism industry and for jobs.
“The Sunshine Coast has not benefitted from a new five-star resort development since the early 1990s, while the region’s popularity as a tourism destination continues to grow. We are a regional economy that depends on hospitality, tourism and retail to provide entry-level jobs for our youth.
“These industries would all have benefited from this development and additional delays in approvals will have an impact on jobs growth.
“In reality, the region is in desperate need of multiple new, high-end resorts within the next decade in the lead up to the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Resorts such as this bring high-yield visitors to the region as well as business events that deliver visitation mid-week, which greatly benefits a tourism industry still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.”
SEKISUI TO ASSESS OPTIONS
Developer Sekisui House said that they would consider their options with Project Director, Evan Aldridge stating that they could continue with the process through the Planning and Environment Court, or to develop the site according to the alternative 2009 Hyatt approval for a gated residential apartment and housing estate with buildings up to four storeys.
“Given the previous approval issued by the Sunshine Coast Council in June 2018 and subsequently the Planning and Environment Court’s decision in June 2020 to uphold the approval, we are disappointed with the court’s ruling,” Mr Aldridge said.