Jamieson reveals how Sekisui project almost went ahead
WHILE the immediate fate of Sekisui House's Yaroomba development is settled, plenty of questions were raised yesterday when councillors strongly rejected planning scheme amendments to accommodate the controversial proposal.
Mayor Mark Jamieson, in explaining the council's process over the past two years, said the then-LNP State Government would have approved of the council slipping a planning scheme amendment into the town plan back when Sekisui House first delivered its proposal.
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"Construction may have even commenced by now," Cr Jamieson (pictured left) told the packed public gallery.
In a lengthy special meeting at the Caloundra chambers, councillors sent a resounding statement to Sekisui that its current proposal was not acceptable.
Following the advice of council planning officers, councillors voted 10-1 in favour of upholding the current planning scheme.
Division Three councillor Peter Cox was the only one to vote in favour of allowing amendments to the planning scheme.
Cr Jamieson reiterated his commitment to economic development before taking aim at the tactics of local community groups.
He also took a swipe at the media, and even a fellow councillor, before voting in favour of the advice of the executive officers.
"Councillors, you should be under no illusions that the former State Government would have intervened in this project," he said.
"In a meeting at Parliament House, January 2014, which I attended with former Premier Newman and senior Sekisui House executives, the Premier said he'd call the project in to ensure it went ahead.
"I advised those in attendance against such a move as the community would have been outraged, and rightly so, as they were entitled to have their say about their future.
"I cautioned Sekisui House needed to engage with and win the support and confidence of the local community through the design and development of such an important site at Yaroomba.
"They both heeded my advice which again was a win for the Sunshine Coast community, because council still had control of the process, through which the community would have their say."
Member for Maroochydore Fiona Simpson said Cr Jamieson's comments were "old news" given the commitment she had been given and made public, also in January last year, by Mr Newman that under no circumstances would he call the development in.
"I got his commitment that the LNP wouldn't call it in," Ms Simpson said.
"I'm not aware of any conversations between the Mayor and the former Premier since I had that commitment.
"I'd be surprised if they're (Cr Jamieson's comments) not referring to old news.
"Quite frankly it's inconsistent with the commitment that I received."
Former Infrastructure, Planning and State Development Minister Jeff Seeney declined to respond to questions on the matter of whether Sekisui House was set to be called in, but hinted that it had not been on the former government's agenda to his knowledge.
There had been questions whether yesterday's council meeting would go ahead after Sekisui House contacted the council last Friday morning to revoke its request for amendments to the planning scheme.
Cr Jamieson said there was no reason why the meeting could not continue and was pleased the issue had been dealt with for the time being.
"It (amendment consideration) happened to relate to a piece of land in Yaroomba owned by Sekisui House but ultimately it's a decision for council about our planning scheme so given the importance of the issue in the minds of so many people on the Sunshine Coast, council's decision was to press on as we did today," he said.
A number of councillors spoke to the motion not to amend the planning scheme at the meeting, including Christian Dickson, whose portfolio includes regional planning.
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Cr Dickson said while he still believed there was a better use for the Yaroomba site, he could not support the Sekisui House proposal to amend the planning scheme as it stood.
During his lengthy address, Cr Jamieson admitted he felt Sekisui House had failed to "put their best foot forward" with the polarising proposal, and lamented their efforts to engage with the community.
He hinted that the Japanese development firm would not be afforded the same drawn-out process in future.
"I think you go to the well once in terms of proposed amendments to the plan and that's now been done and dusted," he said.
Previously a supporter of the contentious proposal, Cr Jamieson conceded that the site in dispute was perhaps not ideal for intense development, as evidenced by the report handed down by the council's executive staff.
"I accept those developments need to occur in the right places," Cr Jamieson said.
"Yaroomba is one of them, but perhaps not for that scale of development."
Sekisui House senior development manager Evan Aldridge said the company was disappointed at the outcome of the special meeting.
Mr Aldridge labelled it a "missed opportunity" for the region.
He said Sekisui House had begun discussions with the council two years ago over the proposal, after the site had been identified under the council's strategic framework as a coastal Tourism Focus Area.