A 3D rendition of the proposed Invergowerie development planned for Pialba.
A 3D rendition of the proposed Invergowerie development planned for Pialba.

APPROVED: Council says yes to historic 16-storey development

HISTORY has been made in Tavistock Street where the Fraser Coast council on Wednesday night gave preliminary approval to a "transformational" development for Hervey Bay's CBD.

The developer of the site at 16-18 Charles St now has four years to action the application which includes a 16-storey residential tower, 150 units, rooftop bar and restaurant and several ground floor retail and hospitality spaces.

This is after Councillor Paul Truscott moved a motion to reduce the operational period from 10 years to four in an effort to encourage work to start on the project which was first floated 14 years ago.

In one of the most passionate debates in the council's recent history, there was talk of the "Hervey Bay of tomorrow" and whether the green light was or wasn't in line with the "will of the people."

Ultimately it was noted the developer had made a multitude of positive changes since first submitting the futuristic application in 2007 including reducing bulk and scale.

Executive Manager of Planning and Growth Jamie Cockburn told the council the other buildings in the application had been reduced from eight storeys to four, the 16-storey tower, on advice from the architect, would not be visible from the Esplanade and the redesign allowed for better pedestrian flow through the complex.

Cr David Lee believed it was a good starting point for a contemporary city centre.

Cr Denis Chapman went further and said he wanted the developer to "get cracking" and help the councillor revitalise the city centre as it actioned the Hinkler Regional Deal.

He said "we need a change" and to show developers coming to spend money in this region that this was a council of "common sense".

Cr Daniel Sanderson he could feel the sentiment shifting and while the council was charged with a "massive decision", it was one made for the future generations to come.

He said while there was always going to be differences of opinion - "this is a legacy and a momentous decision and I am fully supportive".


A proposed development in Pialba.
A proposed development in Pialba.

Having been re-elected as deputy mayor an hour before, Cr Darren Everard said people who wanted to live in this kind of development needed to be given the opportunity and there was "no point in looking in the review vision mirror" when "we are about to transform the Pialba CBD".

The Chronicle understands that while technically the height guide for the lot of land is eight storeys, this does not mean the planning department is bound by that one element.

Instead, it is assessed on a "performance outcome" basis meaning planners are required not be fixated on height but to look at the project and its benefits as a whole.

One element (eg the height) isn't enough to fall the proposal over and this lot was also considered to be "in the vicinity of" the cultural precinct where buildings can be up to 20 storeys.

Councillor David Lewis and Mayor George Seymour were the only councillors to oppose the motion.

Cr Lewis said while he wasn't against the proposal, he would have preferred a "better application" (including a limit of 12 stories and its impact on nearby buildings like the neighbourhood centre).

He told the council the Coles complex in Pialba was likely at one point considered "transformational" but the decision to allow the large concrete wall to front Main Street had turned out to be a planning disaster. 

He also said "Noosa is doing fine" (without buildings as tall as these) and as the 16-storey proposal wasn't compatible with similar buildings in the area and would stick out like "a mouth with one tooth".

Mayor George Seymour said that when the planning scheme was being debated by a former council, at the time headed by a "very pro-development" mayor, projects as high as these were "in no way" discussed or put forward during community consultation.

He said he didn't believe ignoring the height guide was in line with the "will of the people".

He also said he was also the only councillor on the last council to vote against the "vague" height rules.

One of the newest councillors, Jade Wellings, she had not voted for the planning scheme as she had not been on the on the council when it was debated and while she would have preferred something not as high, any developer deserved to have confidence in the rules.

She accepted the mayor felt the Coast currently had an "uncertain" planning scheme but that multiple planning experts had assessed the application and all reached the same conclusion.

She said the 150 units would help ease the current housing crisis and while living in town may not be for everyone, it would appeal to students who wanted to be close to university, retirees not yet ready for aged care and it was still possible to do positive things which attracted professionals without becoming the Gold or Sunshine Coasts - something she believed wouldn't happen in her lifetime.

Recognising she and her colleagues would "wake up to emails" from locals who both agreed and disagreed with the decision, she encouraged those in the latter category to "do something about it, get on-board with the planning scheme review and make a submission about it".

Cr Wellings also said she was in real estate when the planning scheme was approved 10 years ago and at that time, she looked at the council decisions being made and thought "what are they to progress us? Nothing".

She said now she had "a seat at the table and a chance to make a difference" she was "proud" to support the motion.

Cr Truscott said he had those same sentiments for many years and it was "time to move forward".

Councillors James Hansen Phil Truscott and Zane O'Keefe also voted in favour.

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