COMMUNITY groups and local residents are concerned the consultation period for the proposed surf ranch ear marked for a parcel of ex cane land adjacent to the Sunshine Motorway in Coolum, has not been thorough enough and the local community have been left in the dark as to the details and scale of the proposal.
World Surf League (WSL) and Consolidated Properties (CPG) are partnering to build a Kelly Slater Surf Ranch - featuring an artificial wave pool on 510 hectares of disused cane land at Coolum Beach - the proposal is also set to feature 1500 residential lots, commercial, retail and hotel complexes.
The land is zoned as a key resource area and will require state government approval to move the project forward.
Upcoming state (local) government election candidate for Davidson (Division) 9 Maria Suarez, has voiced concerns that many in the local community are unaware of the proposal and that the few community consultations thus far have been inadequate.
Ms Suarez is also concerned the methods being used to get the project across the line via state authorities are misleading.
"On the surface it looks like a positive project for the area... I've spoken with Consolidated Properties and KPMG and I'm asking questions."
"The consultation is more of a sales pitch than true consultation and it is solely promoting the benefits of the project where the details are vague or unavailable and the true nature of the project is at this stage questionable," Ms Suarez said.
A community survey for Coolum has recently closed, however those concerned over the proposal have stated that very few in the community knew about it.
"The problem is that the survey was promotional and didn't include any details about accessibility or price and wasn't widely distributed. The only social sites that had a link to the survey were on the Coolum Surf Club, Coolum Tourism and Regional Development Sunshine Coast Facebook pages, with resident and community associations left out of the loop - collecting responses solely from supporters doesn't pass the pub test," Ms Suarez said.
In response to these claims, CPG CEO & Chariman Don O'Rourke stated that the group have demonstrated their commitment to community engagement by undertaking 50 one-on-one meetings, online feedback, meetings with the local surfing community and Sunshine Coast Environment Council (SCEC) and an online survey to 500 people.
We are keen to continue to engage with the community about the community's views and for locals to influence the outcome and the nature of what we create," Mr O'Rourke said.
CPG also expect that any formal planning process will also include further community consultation.
SCEC have also raised concerns over the proposal with a spokesperson from the environmental lobby group stating that the project represents, "An intensive urban development on a floodplain with an ambitious and exclusive 'surf ranch' part of the overall concept."
The site lies within a particularly low-lying area of the Maroochy River floodplain where it already experiences tidal inundation as well as being extremely flood-prone.
Catchment-wide flood modelling for the dynamic Maroochy Catchment and climate change projections shows intensification of development on an already highly modified floodplain resulting in loss of flood storage capacity is likely to create significant impacts on already vulnerable communities," the SCEC spokesperson said.
CPG maintain that they are aware of the concerns being raised about flooding and have engaged the best consultants in Australia on the matter and will work with the government to meet all requirements.
"Essentially, creating a large body of water on the Surf Ranch site will allow flood waters to be retained and retarded before being discharged to Coolum Creek," Mr O'Rourke said.
"WSL is very committed to the environment, as their record in the USA demonstrates, and would not have engaged with our company (CPG) & Hutchinson Builders on a project that had any adverse environmental impacts. In fact, WSL has chosen the Sunshine Coast as a community in which they'd like to operate because they know local residents share their commitment to the environment and sustainability," Mr O'Rourke said.
The original Kelly Slater surf ranch is located in California and features "the perfect wave" as designed by the 11-time world surfing champ. The $1 billion Coolum surf ranch proposal is still in the early stages and will need state government approval before proceeding further.
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