SUNSHINE Coast Council has unanimously supported the refusal of three applications for a Coles supermarket, a McDonald’s and a new petrol station to be built in the industrial part of Beerwah.
According to Division 1 councillor Rick Baberowski, this emphatic rejection by the council at its meeting on Thursday, July 22, has confirmed its strong commitment to supporting the integrity and commercial viability of the existing Beerwah business centre.
“The community did find it quite difficult to get their heads around because, obviously, it was led by the very strong appeal [of] ‘wouldn’t you like to have some strong brands, a Coles and a McDonald’s as part of your community offering’,” Cr Baberowski told the meeting.
“But what wasn’t as clear was the impacts of a major out-of-centre development … that would inevitably undermine the existing regional activity centre in Beerwah,” he said.
“I am very sure that the community will still feel that they would like to have the convenience of a major brand supermarket and perhaps fast-food outlet but that would have been a mistake in my view – a major out-of-centre development that would have fragmented [Beerwah].
“The economic peer assessment that was done in this report demonstrated that it was not needed now and it is unlikely to be needed for some years to come.”
Division 9 councillor Maria Suarez raised the point that a substantial amount of money had been spent in the existing Beerwah town centre and asked, if the development were to go ahead, what would be the impacts on that investment.
Cr Baberowski confirmed that Beerwah received about $5 million through the placemaking project.
“It was to strategically address an earlier problem caused by the [rail] overpass when it was built, which made it more difficult to access the town centre. That did have an impact [on Beerwah],” Cr Baberowski told the meeting.
“Essentially there was a loss of confidence in the township’s viability as a destination and the tenancy mix suffered.
“The placemaking program showed our confidence in the major activity centre. But what sense does it make if you go through that rebuilding of the local economy and the township’s confidence, if you then build a major out-of-centre development that is positioned to essentially take advantage of the road network to capture a lot of that economy before it even reaches the town.
“You’re not really growing the market. It seems to me that it’s reasonable to assume that if you’re building a major out-of-centre centre like this one, you’ll essentially take a lot of that spend that is currently expended in your existing activity centre and move a proportion of it to a new one, rather than retaining it or expanding it.
“I’m really comfortable that the community will accept this decision and acknowledge that those other bigger brands will come via either a Roys Road connection to Aura or a Beerwah East development, or an in-centre development using the available land that is appropriate,” Cr Baberowski said.
Division 10 councillor David Law supported the recommendation to refuse the applications, citing the severe impacts development has had on Nambour.
Cr Law said Nambour was split by large commercial retailers and the town was still struggling to recover.
“There are many empty leases in the middle of town, some which would accommodate the sorts of businesses that have moved to the edge of town.
“I support the officers’ recommendations as this would potentially repeat those errors that occurred in Nambour,” Cr Law said.
Cr Baberowski ended the discussion by saying that it was the right decision to protect the economy that existed in Beerwah in the areas where the planning said it should be.
All ten councillors and the Mayor voted to support the planning staff, the planning scheme and the existing businesses in the Beerwah town centre by voting to accept the recommendation to refuse the applications.
The next edition of GC&M News (August 3) will provide more information about this decision.