Long time landowner left in limbo by flood rules

WHAT NOW? John Maher ponders an uncertain future at his McMahon Rd block yesterday.
WHAT NOW? John Maher ponders an uncertain future at his McMahon Rd block yesterday. Patrick Woods

JOHN Maher does not know what to do.

Since 2008 he has been paying rates on a residential block he bought in 2008 and on which he would have then been entitled to build a house.

He could not afford to then, but can now.

Now, about $15,000 in rates later, he finds his picturesque building lock in McMahon Rd has been rezoned for more industrial uses and a new higher flood immunity standard has been imposed.

So he needs council permission to build a house, even though his is the last vacant block in a street full of houses.

Mr Maher wants to build a house which, according to the estimates, might be flooded every 50 years, a level described as Q50.

Council staff said "no," Planning Committee chairman Ian Petersen negotiated that to a "maybe" and then it was approved in a vote, five to four. Happy ending, you might think.

But Mr Maher did not have time to submit plans before coat councillor Mark McDonald moved a repeal motion and won.

Cr McDonald argued that the council had a moral and legal obligation to stick to the higher Q100 line, for the benefit of future buyers.

Cr Petersen disagreed and pointed out that the post-flood reconstruction of Bundaberg would not be possible if the same standard applied.

Mr Maher is also supported by the man who wrote the Gympie region town plan, Michael Hartley.

The former council planning director, now a private Gympie planning consultant, said council staff had misunderstood the rules.

They said state planning policy compelled them to apply the Q100 standard of flood immunity. They persisted with this belief despite legal advice from Gantt Legal, which Mr Hartley said backed Mr Maher's rights.

Staff say any house must have stumps so high his house would tower over the neighbourhood.

Mr Hartley said the council was wrong in law.

State planning policy did not "mandate a Q100 immunity for a new dwelling in an established residential area affected by flooding," Mr Hartley said.

Topics:  gympie regional council

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