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Secret deal to to rob Rainbow Beach community of valuable land exposed

The following article has been adapted from an article which was published in Gympie Life on 30 Sep 08.

Secret State Land Deal

The Queensland State Govt. is preparing to gift $100 million worth of public beach land to private developer.

Is the public purse now underwriting land developer risk in Queensland?

Recently released Freedom of Information (FOI) files reveal that senior State Government Departments are working behind the scenes to give hundreds of hectares of prime ocean-front public lands to a Rainbow Beach developer.

Additionally, the FOI documents — copies of internal State Government reports — indicate that some Departments support transferring the land 'pre-approved' for development. This means the local Council and local community would not only miss out on the value of the land, they would also have no say in what is developed on it.

Public land north of Rainbow Beach along Inskip Peninsula has very high recreational and economic value. The deal underway would give large areas of this precious public asset to Rainbow Shores Pty Ltd in return for the private corporation's leasehold interest in the low-lying, 200 hectare Rainbow Shores Stage 2 development lease.

The lessee has an active Development Application (DA) seeking approval for a 6,500 population suburban subdivision upon this lease. This DA appears highly unlikely to be approved due to rapidly changing social and environmental factors, including climate change and rapidly accelerating beach erosion.

Informed Rainbow Beach residents say this lack of eligibility for development makes the Stage 2 lease commercially worthless.

However, FOI documents clearly show Government agencies have managed to calculate Stage 2 land value at $100m. They have assumed the lessee's DA is already approved (which it isn't and most likely won't be); they have then totalled the net retail value of the thousands of urban allotments proposed in the DA, which do not exist and aren't approved.

This flawed calculation means the Government is now inclined to give away one hundred million dollars' worth of developable public land in exchange for land that cannot be developed.

The FOI papers call this transfer a 'like for like' exchange. Very clearly it isn't.

The error stems directly from Departmental assumptions about the Stage 2 lease entitlements that are either grossly mistaken or collusive with the developer. The lease clearly places the onus on the lessee to acquire all necessary approvals and permits. These are not acquirable under current policy and knowledge. This is the developer's problem, not the State's.

However State Agency involved in the deal are dumbly parroting the lessee's claims the lease was originally granted in recompense for surrender of mineral sand leases, and thus entails an obligation from the State. This is historical nonsense. The mineral leases were rendered unprofitable by the Fraser Government's cancellation of mineral sand export licenses. The Bjelke Petersen regime consequently granted Development Leases to the affected mining companies. This was more a corrupt act of favouritism to party supporters than it was compensation for anything of real value.

This aberration of fact and logic is only able to continue due to the covert and absolutely unaccountable nature of the process now underway. If it results in a land transfer of the type and scale indicated in the FOI documents it will be a terrible loss.

The list of areas drafted for possible 'swap' is extensive and includes allotments which residents say are vitally important to the balanced development of the seaside town into the future. This surrender would deliver nearly all future Rainbow Beach development potential to one private interest. This would lead to development forms that destroy the last seaside village remaining in SE Queensland, removing a unique social and environmental recreation option from all SE Queensland. residents.

Local residents ask: Why does the Government process exclude the concerns and knowledge of the local Rainbow Beach community? Why are the poor calculations being kept from public scrutiny?

Why does the Government pander to the lessee's claims but ignore the public interest?