Beach protest sparks outrage

Beach protest sparks outrage, by John Andersen - 4th Febraury 2005
(Credit: Townsville Bullentin)
(Media assistance and support by Greg Tingle - Mediaman)

There's trouble in paradise over a plan by the Whitsunday Shire Council to give the green light to a development proposal on the Airlie Beach foreshore.

Opponents of the plan -- fighting under the banner of Save Our Foreshore -- say council is backing a plan by Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, FKP and the Eumundi Brewing Group to build a $36 million integrated development comprising accommodation units, restaurants and retail space over four storeys. The proposed Outrigger Airlie Beach Lagoon Resort would be built largely on car park land between the Airlie Beach lagoon and Airlie Creek.

Tourism operator Suzette Pelt, a board member on Tourism Whitsunday, is leading the charge to stop the plan dead in its tracks. She said the Save Our Foreshore group would be asking the State Government to investigate how the Whitsunday Shire Council came to throw its support behind the venture.

The Townsville Bulletin phoned the Whitsunday Shire Council yesterday and asked that Mayor Mario Demartini contact the paper and answer a number of questions regarding the foreshore development proposal. Cr Demartini did not respond.
Ms Pelt said council was being obstructive and was not making information about the project available to the public.
``We feel like we are being hoodwinked. There has been no transparency. Our aim is to stop this project,'' she said.

She said there were many business people involved in tourism in the Whitsundays who would normally welcome new capital coming into the area, but on this occasion were against the Outrigger proposal because of its unsuitability to the Airlie Beach foreshore.
Jan Clifford of Airlie Beach and Whitsunday Marketing said she dealt with tour operators over a wide area of Queensland and said that from Mount Isa to Maryborough to Cairns, people in the tourism business were against the Airlie Beach foreshore being taken over by a resort-style development.

Ms Pelt said opponents of the project were not anti-development.

``What we are saying is that it is not an appropriate development for the site. This will not attract people to Airlie Beach,'' she said.
She said the land was zoned park and recreation and was Crown land that was managed by the Whitsunday Shire Council as a car park.

Ms Pelt said she feared the development, if it went ahead, would also include a major gaming room component. She said this would not be suitable, given the proximity of a children's playground and the public lagoon.

She said under a previous plan for the area, any development on the land was supposed to complement green spaces either side of the car park.

``It was supposed to be an attraction that fitted in with the land on either side, but when this surfaced it just took everyone by surprise.'

She said if it went ahead, Airlie Beach's two-storey main street would become four-storey and that all of the view corridors through to the sea would be lost.

``The village atmosphere which is integral to Airlie Beach's strategic plan will be lost,'' she said.


Townsville Bulletin


Save Our Foreshore