Noosa council looks set to reject an application to build a wave pool on the Noosa North Shore. Photo Lachie Millard
Noosa council looks set to reject an application to build a wave pool on the Noosa North Shore. Photo Lachie Millard

$20K A NIGHT: New wave pool to cater for elite

The chances of celebrity surfers paying up to $20,000 a night to exclusively surf a Noosa North Shore wave pool may have sunk after four councillors have rejected the concept.

Dedicated surfer Cr Tom Wegener was among those who agreed with the council planning staff's recommended rejection of the project.

It has been likened to Sir Richard's Branson's Makepeace Island for its ability to attract high-end tourists.

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Having last week spoken in support of this Beach Rd development proposed by Sunshine Coast builder Mark Bain, Cr Wegener said at the general committee meeting he had since detected "cracks" in the arguments for the 40,000 sqm pool.

Cr Wegener was joined by Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie, Cr Brian Stockwell and Cr Joe Jurisevic in the 4-2 vote because of the potential impacts on a Noosa North Shore, which councils for decades have designated fit for only low-key developments.

Councillors will not cast their final vote on the application until this Thursday's ordinary meeting.

 

Cr Tom Wegener in general committee explaining why he would vote against the Noosa wave pool.
Cr Tom Wegener in general committee explaining why he would vote against the Noosa wave pool.

Council planners rejected Mr Bain's contention the wave pool was ancillary to the proposed two-bedroom tourist accommodation development described by Mayor Clare Stewart as a "surfers' retreat".

Planners consider the pool to be the main attraction for the site.

Cr Stewart and the council's other keen surfer, Cr Amelia Lorentson, voted to support the retreat and the pool, arguing it would be a major asset to Noosa's tourism sector capable of generating millions of dollars.

Cr Lorentson was allowed to take part in the discussion and vote after declaring a perceived conflict of interest due to a family friendship with Mr Bain, and after an election sign supporting her was displayed on a commercial property where Mr Bain was the landlord.

The councillor also said he'd appeared in a video used in her election campaign, but she had received no funding from Mr Bain.

Cr Stockwell questioned whether or not the development was right for the location.

He said the Noosa North Shore development control plan was created after a previous development furore with a proposal for 7000 people and international airport and bridge going across the Noosa River.

"We said 'no, that's not what we want for the North Shore'."

Cr Stockwell said as soon as people crossed the Noosa River they were in the wilderness of the Great Sandy region due to development controls brought in as a buffer between the urban areas and Cooloola National Park.

Cr Wilkie said the council was being asked to place a wave pool on land that was at least a hectare of threatened species habitat in a precinct which has been preserved for many decades for nature-based recreation experiences.

"In this case there appears to be no overwhelming public benefit that would justify approving this application in this location," Cr Wilkie said.

He said in the future there may be an application on a more appropriate site that the council could consider.

ESCAPE: Surfers can be left feeling flat at Noosa, but a wave pool would deliver all the time.
ESCAPE: Surfers can be left feeling flat at Noosa, but a wave pool would deliver all the time.

Cr Wegener said he owed it to community and the councillors to explain why he had been "supportive of this development in some ways".

He said development would offer a surfer's "ultimate goal" of riding classic Noosa waves all the time and he initially thought "what a great vacation place for surfers because they're going to score".

"And it's the only one in the world, so it would be an absolute world leader in this way," Cr Wegener said.

He said cracks started appearing after he read through the plans a few times, particularly in relation to developing koala habitat.

"Well then does it really have a benefit to the people?" he said.

"Does this particular wave pool raise the standard of living for us residents?

"Probably not because I don't suspect any of us are actually going to make it into this wave pool."

Cr Lorentson said Mr Bain was not proposing to open the retreat and wave pool up to the public.

"It is not Wet'n Wild, it is not the Kelly Slater wave pool, it is not the wave pool in Yepoon, or the wave garden in Tullarmarine Airport, it is a retreat and a pool that will be built to scale," she said.

"It will be built into the existing environment and it will have the smallest physical footprint.

"It will be used solely by the owner and his family for three consecutive months of the year and rented out to private individuals maximum 12 at a time for people who are wanting to stay at the house and have exclusive use of the pool," she said.

Surfing councillor Tom Wegener.
Surfing councillor Tom Wegener.

Cr Lorentson said the pool, which would have a four surfer limit for sessions, would be screened from the beach and the roads and the pumps and blowers would be located under a hill slope.

"This is a world first and will attract media attention and media coverage and big names in surfing and celebrities who love to surf … an exclusive getaway retreat," she said.

Cr Lorentson said the guests would be prepared to pay up to $20,000 a night for that experience, similar to Makepeace Island guest rates in peak season.

She said high end visitors would spend up big in Noosa and tell their friends of the experience.

"This is what our Tourism Noosa strategy refers to when they talk value over volume tourism product, less people who spend big and drive our economy," Cr Lorentson said.

"We have an opportunity to support an application for a developer to underdevelop his property.

"This is our chance to help a man build his dream and deliver the unforgettable.

"For a development proposal I don't think it gets better than this."

Cr Stewart said conditions could be placed on a development approval to address such things as the water treatment and noise concerns.

She believed the accommodation was consistent with the newly-adopted Noosa Plan and argued against the staff assertions that it was not low key.

"The site is 14.85ha, the pool would take up 2.7 per cent of the site, it cannot be seen from the road, it is a long drive in and it is completely hidden," Cr Stewart said.

"It is large but it is unobtrusive in every sense of the word."

She said no one wanted to build a bridge to the North Shore, and the infrastructure was small compared to what was already built in the area like the pub and an equestrian centre.

She said the development would not be of the same scale as Makepeace which was also a private resort held in high regard.

She said councillors had been sent an email from a member of the public saying approval of the development would be a betrayal of their elected positions.

"What would be a betrayal of my position would be if I listened only to specific groups who are of a certain mind, rather than the whole of the shire," she said.

"I need to think about the jobs that this will bring, the tourism it will create, the money it will put into our local economy through tourism.

"This proposal will inject millions into our local economy at a time when our economy needs it more than ever before."

Cr Karen Finzel was not present at the meeting for family reasons.



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