'MUFFLED VOICES': Council can't listen to people's fears
A CACKLE of laughter echoed through the room at today's Bundaberg Regional Council briefing meeting.
The bizarre response was a direct result of a development planning manager telling an assembly of councillors and residents that the letters members of the public had sent regarding the nine-storey Bargara development could not actually be taken into account.
"As the application is code assessable, it is not subject to public notification requirements under the Planning Act," group manager development Michael Ellery said.
"This means that council cannot lawfully consider the numerous letters that have been received ... when deciding the application."
Seven people wearing 'anti nine-storey development' stickers attended today's meeting to hear what the council had to say about the controversial development.
Leader of the concerned Bargara activists, George Martin, said in light of the town planners' recommendation to cut the proposed number of storeys, the council's next move was "critical".
"The recommendations are what we had hoped for, but we still don't have a decision from the councillors," he said.
"(Our concerns) certainly weren't raised in the meeting."
"(But) even though our voices are muffled, in terms of this code-assessable application, I think they've still been heard and I think the councillors are well aware of our sentiment."
Briefing meetings are open to members of the public but people are not free to speak during the sitting.
When asked whether his and the rest of the group's stance against the high-rise was just a knee-jerk reaction to change, Mr Martin disagreed wholeheartedly.
"It's not a case of rejecting change, it's a fact of considering we have a flat coasted landscape," he said.
"Five-storey buildings at present are prominent along that coastline, if we open the door to a nine-storey building, then the next developer comes along and they have visions for a 12 or a 20 or a 25, so essentially the nature of the coastline that attracts people is going to be jeopardised."
Also opposing the high-rise, Shelley McDonald said Bargara's village-like township was what attracted visitors to the region, which was "an economic driver in itself".
"It's not built up like Noosa or the Gold Coast, which is why people come here, so why deter them with this?"
Mr Martin added that designs for the high-rise, which detailed plans for artificial lighting, would impact turtles if approved.
"20m is the absolute height I would hope for ... But this is still a better outcome than nine (storeys)," he said.
Not so lenient was opponent Pam Soper, who said it "should be refused outright".