A $1.4 billion tourism and residential project in far north Queensland is a step closer, in what the Newman government describes as the state's biggest ever tourism development.
Premier Campbell Newman announced the Coordinator General had given state approval to the proposal for Ella Bay near Innisfail.
The proposal, which includes bridges and underpasses for cassowaries, will now be sent to Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke for consideration.
The government says the project includes three resort precincts, four residential precincts, a retail village, an 18-hole golf course and a cassowary research and education centre on the site of a 450-hectare cattle property.
"This is all about jobs and investment for the long term," Mr Newman said.
"This is a proposal that has been around for some seven years."
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said 38 conditions had been set and he was satisfied environmental concerns had been addressed.
It requires federal approval to proceed.
Mr Seeney said Mr Burke would have 30 days to assess the project from a federal point of view.
The proposed resort precincts feature 540 units and villas while the residential areas are expected to include 540 homes.
Mr Newman said construction would take 15 years and the developer expected to employ a peak workforce of about 400 in the eighth year.
Once finished, the project would create 800 full-time jobs to operate the precinct and 240 part-time peak season jobs.
He predicted the development would generate $256 million in annual spending by visitors staying in the region along with $50 million in state tax and duty revenue.
Mr Newman said he was confident the tourist resort would be a success given it was only 90 minutes from Cairns International Airport.
He said the developer, Satori, had "given every indication they want it to happen".
"I guess the time to do these things is not at the height of the boom. The time to do things and build these things competitively, to get the best outcome and the best price, is when things are at the bottom of the cycle, so this is the right project at the right time," Mr Newman said.
Satori’s proposal is adjacent to the Wet Tropics Queensland World Heritage Area and close to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
Mr Seeney said the Coordinator General had imposed conditions to reduce impacts on water quality.
The project has a lengthy history. It was declared as a project of state significance in 2005 and public consultation on the environmental impact statements occurred in 2007 and 2008.
The Coordinator General’s final report, dated yesterday, says of the 470-hectare site, the proponent proposes a development area of 132 hectares.
The rest of the site will include about 61 hectares of open space, golf course and parkland; 155 hectares of conservation covenant (protected corridors throughout the site for wildlife) and 62.8 hectares of land to be transferred to National Park, according to the report.
The resort would be able to accommodate 2000 tourists at full capacity.
“Flora surveys identified four state-listed threatened flora species, one endangered regional ecosystem and 13 ‘of concern’ and four ‘least concern’ regional ecosystems,” the report says.
“Queensland database searches identified 36 state-listed threatened flora species likely to occur in the project area.
“Thirteen state-listed threatened fauna species were recorded in the Ella Bay development area and access road including the endangered southern cassowary and common mist fog.
“Twenty-one state-listed threatened species were also identified as likely to occur in the project area, based on suitable habitat, local records and Queensland database searches.
“Activities associated with construction and operation of the Ella Bay development and access road are likely to disturb some habitat of these threatened species. Of these species the cassowary is likely to be the most affected by the Ella Bay development through loss or isolation of habitat, increased human presence and interaction with traffic. The majority of impacts on fauna are likely to be associated with vegetation clearing activities and works during the construction stages of the project.
“Construction activities are expected to disturb approximately 3.75 hectares of vegetation comprising 0.95 hectares for the development of the integrated resort and 2.80 hectares for the access road. This would include ‘non remnant’, ‘of concern’ and ‘least concern’ regional ecosystems and vegetation classified as essential cassowary habitat.
“In addition to the loss of habitat, clearing is also expected to isolate around 2.02 hectares of cassowary habitat. No endangered regional ecosystems and critically endangered threatened ecological communities have been included in the disturbance footprint. These ecosystems occur in areas marginal to the development site and adjacent to the proposed access corridor and would be appropriately protected through the use of setbacks and buffers along the boundaries of the development area.”
The report says the developer is required to implement management strategies.
“The proponent has committed to revegetating 50 hectares of land across the Ella Bay site and rehabilitation of 64.3 hectares. All development would be set back a minimum of 100 metres from National Park areas and riparian borders of watercourses to further minimise impacts to Ella Bay National Park, Wet Tropics World Heritage areas, riparian areas and watercourses.”
The document says each precinct and the internal roads within the precincts will be fully fenced to exclude cassowary and other fauna moving through conservation management zone corridors, thereby limiting fauna and human interactions.
“All main internal roads servicing the resorts will also have elevated bridges/fauna underpasses, culverts and low speed gated crossings to allow connectivity of fauna corridors. Unfenced roads with low volumes of traffic will include restricted speed limits and traffic calming devices, signage and/or raised speed platforms to reduce impacts on fauna.”