One of a clutch of critically endangered loggerhead turtles that have hatched on Buddina Beach.
One of a clutch of critically endangered loggerhead turtles that have hatched on Buddina Beach. Facebook: Nature Connections SE

Approval decision puts Coast turtles at risk

TURTLES were doomed to become extinct on Sunshine Coast beaches unless there was concerted effort to protect habitat, according to Leigh Warneminde of the award-winning Coolum and Northshore Coastcare.

She has called for changes to State Government laws to protect significant genetic populations of endangered and threatened turtle species.

Her warning comes in the wake of Sunshine Coast Council approving a contentious Buddina high-rise development despite concern about its impact on a prominent loggerhead and green turtle nesting beach.

A CONCEPT image of a Sunshine Council-approved Buddina development, independent town planning advice has said should never have been given the green light.
A CONCEPT image of a Sunshine Council-approved Buddina development, independent town planning advice has said should never have been given the green light.

Before the decision, every councillor and the mayor was provided independent town planning advice that was clear conditions proposed over the approval to mitigate impacts on turtles were probably unlawful.

The independent advice said "turtle friendly lighting” did not exist and that all available critical nesting data which identified Buddina as one of the most significant nesting beaches on the Sunshine Coast had not been used.

"There is inadequate information available to council to impose lawful conditions which achieve compliance with relevant assessment benchmarks,” the advice stated.

Councillors voted in favour of the development 6-5.

Friends of Buddina now plans a public meeting to test the appetite for a court or other challenge to the decision.

Spokeswoman Tracey Goodwin-McDonald said conditions imposed under the approval were "fanciful” and "ultimately unenforceable”.

They include that the unit development's 73 units have outside lights turned off and blinds drawn for seven months of the year.

Ms Goodwin-McDonald said the condition referred to windows facing the beach, but there were none, only sliding doors.

She said while the development application was code assessable, it and other developments like it didn't comply.

The town planning officer's report found only that the application "generally applies”.

"Hard measures in the code are only acceptable outcomes,” Mrs Goodwin-McDonald said. "Then it becomes performance based which is very subjective with plenty of wriggle room.”

Buddina residents dressed in black protested outside Sunshine Coast Council chambers ahead of approval of a 70-unit apartment development.
Buddina residents dressed in black protested outside Sunshine Coast Council chambers ahead of approval of a 70-unit apartment development. John McCutcheon

She is now seeking a venue for a town meeting to look at ways to challenge the decision.

"It is difficult to imagine how council will ensure compliance with those requirements (in relation to lighting),” the independent planning advice stated.

"This is particularly the case where, according to the officer's report, the development benefits from generously-sized balconies which would no doubt encourage residents to use those spaces for barbecues, evening meals, outdoor entertainment etcetera.

"Furthermore, the nesting and hatching season over the warm months from October to May is the time of the year where residents are most likely to utilise their outdoor balcony areas.

"To rely on residents to switch off lights and close blinds by 8pm, every day for seven months of the year, is fanciful and incredibly difficult to enforce.

"Conditions akin to these, which produce a high compliance burden on council, have been found to be unlawful by the courts.

"In circumstances where such conditions are fundamental to the acceptability of the development, as is the case here, the conditions have been struck out by the courts and the development permit has been found to be void.

"Council should not approve a development where it is only acceptable if fundamental matters are closely managed, by 73 different occupants, on a daily basis.”

Only Crs Hungerford, Rogerson, McKay, Baberowski and Connolly voted against approval. Crs O'Pray, Dwyer, Cox, Robinson, Dickson and Mayor Mark Jamieson voted in favour.



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