Planning loophole 'used to rush secret’ Straddie deal
THE State Government has been accused of using a planning loophole to rush through laws allocating 300ha of bushland on North Stradbroke Island to Indigenous development just weeks before the election.
The Government shocked residents and stakeholders this week when it revealed pristine bushland in some of the island's most exclusive locations would be developed.
There are now fears more bushland on North Stradbroke and nearby Peel islands could be earmarked for development despite widespread backlash over this week's "secret deal" between the Government and island managers, the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC).
Treasurer Cameron Dick created a Temporary Local Planning Instrument under the planning scheme to fast-track the land allocation and avoid public consultation, taking residents, business owners and even the local council by surprise.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has promised to establish a Parliamentary Inquiry into Labor's island deals if it wins government next month.
"This secret land deal will have a major impact on the future of the island and the local residents who will be impacted most were left in the dark," she said.
Ms Frecklington said a bipartisan committee would hold hearings on the island and investigate the Indigenous Land Use Agreement and the value of the deal with QYAC.
Residents fear the bushland across Stradbroke, including on the hill above the tourism haven of Point Lookout, could be bulldozed to make way for Indigenous housing and tourism resorts - ruining the island's laid-back lifestyle.
Test cricket legend Matthew Hayden, who bought his waterfront property on the island in 1999, said the massive land release was "unavoidable" but would not work without more infrastructure and consultation.
He said he hoped the island's Indigenous corporation could work with Redland City Council, the State Government and local businesses.
"If done properly, this could be a win-win situation as there is only finite land and it is really paradise - it's got everything here," he said.
"I want the island to be a legacy for my kids and at some point you have to trust the collaboration between government and QYAC."
This week's bombshell planning change shocked the council, which was only notified days earlier of Mr Dick's intention to allocate the significant area of land for development.
Mr Dick defended the move, saying no land had been transferred and promised the community would have a say on any development application lodged.
"Any development application that is lodged with the Redland City Council will go through the normal assessment process including consultation with the community," he said.
However, Redland Mayor Karen Williams demanded the Government and QYAC "shows the community what will be built" on land allocated under the planning instrument.
"The use of a Temporary Local Planning Instrument in this instance is very surprising and essentially means the zoning of these properties have been changed effective immediately," she said.
"Council is concerned by the lack of information within the community as to what will be done with these properties and what the cost will be for the community.
"We also need to know what else is on the horizon, what other land is yet to be rezoned?"
Mr Dick said the temporary planning instrument was the "most effective way" to change the planning scheme.
Federal Member for Bowman Andrew Laming claims the land was allocated to include areas of bushland already illegally cleared on the island by its traditional owners.
"It's retrofitting illegal clearing," he said.
"Parts of Straddie were sold and you weren't told … there's no evidence they've talked to anyone except QYAC."
Across the island several sites - one with trees estimated to be 200 years old - have been cleared without explanation, frustrating residents.
There are fears the zoning of land behind Main Beach to facilitate a tourism resort could also open the gate for Chinese investment.
In 2016 the North Stradbroke Island Economic Transition Strategy, led by former Treasurer Jackie Trad, noted there were "many opportunities" for the island to capitalise on the growth in visitors from China.
Ms Trad and QYAC CEO Cameron Costello travelled to China in September 2019 on a tour organised by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
The delegation met Yango Group Co, a Chinese property development company, but the outcome of that meeting is unclear.
Traditional elders Norman Enoch and Maureen Myers first heard about the land deal in Thursday's The Courier-Mail and are now pleading with QYAC for a meeting about the details.
"We didn't know about it until it hit the paper - it frightened the hell out of us, I felt sick," Mr Enoch said.
"I'm a traditional owner and I still don't know what is happening on our land.
"We don't get consulted, we don't hear nothing (about) what happens at the board meetings.
"We've got no say in it because we've never had any say in it."
Mr Enoch said he didn't know what the deal would mean but was frightened the land would become littered with high-rises.
"If you want high-rises go to the Gold Coast, there was even talk of a casino," he said.
"The State Government is a lot to blame too, because they give them the power.
"They think QYAC is the peak body and they would rather deal with one voice than 100 voices."
Point Lookout resident Graham Stehn said the land allocation deal was "appalling", declaring the land should be kept in its natural state.
"They haven't said whether it's low rise or high rise, you wouldn't have a bloody clue, excuse the French," he said.
"It's just an absolute tragedy for all of us residents in South-East Queensland and for tourists who come here from everywhere."
Originally published as Planning loophole used to rush 'secret' Straddie deal