Rejected QLD retirement village back before Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley

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Developer Anscape’s controversial plan to build an 84-unit retirement village 300km north of Brisbane beside a critically endangered bird habitat is back on the cards.

As we reported here, the proposal to build the Turtle Cove Haven Retirement Village River Heads near Queensland’s Hervey Bay was knocked back by the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley in August 2020, due to the likely adverse impact it would have on the Eastern Curlew, a rare migratory bird often found on the nearby Great Sandy Strait, a wetlands site recognised under a United Nations convention to be of international significance.

Anscape Pty Ltd had originally lodged the plans to build 500 independent living units and a high care facility for 80 residents back in 2013. This was later halved to 250 units and then 190 units, but both plans were also rejected.

Anscape has now scaled down the development to just 84 independent living units, an onsite sewage treatment plant and internal roads, which are set further back from the birds’ habitat.

Despite the changes, two wildlife groups – BirdLife Australia and the Queensland Wader Study – are preparing to fight the latest development, arguing that the development will still affect the birds.

“They’ve increased the buffer from 200 to 250 metres, but we don’t see that as being sufficient to alleviate the impacts on the birds,” BirdLife Australia’s Andrew Hunter told the ABC.

Anscape director Brian Clarke says he is confident however that the development can go ahead without affecting the birds.

“We’ve abided by everything we’ve been requested to do, which has cost me a fortune,” he said.

“It’s become a political football. I’m 78 now, I’ve had a couple of heart troubles. I’m just sick of fighting.”

The Minister is expected to decide this week if the new application will have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance.

If so, the development would assessed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which could result in it being knocked back again.