Last year, MBI made some predictions about Development Applications (DA’s) to be submitted by the Sandstone Point Tavern to enable material changes to its operations. MBI predicted:

  1.   DA’s would continue to be submitted by Sandstone Point Tavern in order to make further changes to its licence to operate
  2.   Sandstone Point Tavern would not engage in any discussion with the local community who are being significantly impacted by the Tavern’s activities
  3.   MBRC would follow its normal practise and approve anything submitted by the Tavern regardless of whether it meets guidelines or not. MBRC would also follow its normal practise of ignoring any concerns raised by residents, and would continue to give little or no consideration to protection of the natural or built environment.

MBI predictions would appear to be right on. On December 8, and with virtually no discussion, MBRC approved DA2021 / 1375 – An application for approval of a Helicopter Landing Area for commercial use at Sandstone Point Hotel. A copy of the DA can be found here.

In reviewing this DA, MBRC notes that the DA does not comply with MBRC’s General Residential Zone (next generation neighbourhood precinct) guidelines. Details of those guidelines can be found here. But in accordance with its normal practice, MBRC overlooked this non-compliance. The review notes that there were 733 objections lodged against this DA. It notes that MBRC staff met on a number of occasions with the Applicant to review and /or modify aspects of the DA. But there is no indication that there were any meetings with the 733 objectors and there is no indication that any of the objections were considered. The overwhelming conclusion is that all 733 objections were ignored. The site for this DA is adjacent to areas that are environmentally highly sensitive and protected. A brief list of some of the major protective legislation can be found here. There is no evidence in the Review that any of these environmental concerns and/or legislative protections were considered. Neither is there any evidence that the DA was referred to any environmental agency (such as the State and Federal Departments of Environment) for review. The assumption, therefore, is that it was not done.

The flight path for helicopters into and out of this site takes them over Bribie Island Road which would be a major distraction and hazard for traffic on that Road. In addition, it takes helicopters across flight paths for migratory birds along Pumicestone Passage. There is a very high possibility of bird strikes which could be terminal for a helicopter. There is no evidence in the Review that there has been any review of these safety issues by CASA – the Federal body responsible for air safety. The assumption therefore is that the DA was not referred to CASA. The Review with its recommendations to Council can be found here.

The DA opens up the area for use for commercial helicopter operations. If past practises are any guideline, this DA will be followed up in future years by further DA’s to expand the commercial operations on that site. Maybe joyride operations are in the future plans. It is difficult to understand why MBRC is allowing the expansion of helicopter operations on this site when, elsewhere, councils are looking to curtail or even shut down such operations. Gold Coast City Council, for instance, recently asked a local operator why its licence should not be revoked. Click here for details.

Healthy Land and Water recently hosted the Showcase Conference 2021 to discuss the health of Moreton Bay. This Conference was addressed by a wide range of speakers including the Federal Minister for Environment, the State Minister for Environment, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane as well as representatives of the South East Queensland Council of Mayors and representatives of the 2032 Olympic Committee. A theme that was common to virtually all these addresses was the importance of preserving and/or enhancing the environment of SEQld to ensure it can be showcased at the 2032 Olympics. In fact, the Lord Mayor commented that the focus on the environment had been one of the “winning points” of the 2032 Olympics bid. A second theme in these addresses was the need to include everyone in this effort.

It would seem that MBRC has not heard those messages. It would be difficult to think of a DA that was more socially and environmentally irresponsible than this one. And the concerns of affected residents have been totally ignored.

So what happens now. There is an objection process in the Planning and Environment Court that is difficult and expensive and has to be lodged within days of Council approval. This DA took around eight months from lodging to final approval. During that time, the Applicant had access to Council staff on a number of occasions to review/discuss/alter aspects of the DA. The 700 objectors had no access. This DA was approved on December 8 – just before MBRC and other relevant Government Departments closed for the Christmas break. Was this approval on December 8 deliberately timed to make it difficult for objectors to compile and file an objection during that holiday period? Despite all the difficulties, the Pumicestone Area Noise Abatement Group [PANAG Inc] has filed an objection. A copy can be found here.  MBI will keep readers informed of any developments with this objection.

What do readers think? Is this an appropriate place for helicopter operations? Should more attention have been given by MBRC to environmental and social issues? Have they just been dismissed? Has MBRC extended special consideration to this applicant? Has MBRC abrogated its responsibilities to listen to its ratepayers? Will this DA open up the way for more commercial operations including joy rides?

Editor, MyBribieIsland