Mayor voices concern over redeveloped Turtle Centre parking

BUNDABERG Mayor Jack Dempsey says the state is delivering a world-class turtle centre at Mon Repos, but fears it could deliver a “poor user experience” because of a parking shortage there.

Cr Dempsey accused the Environment Department of walking away from negotiations to acquire land that backs on to the centre from Bundaberg Sugar, which would be perfect for parking.

The mayor’s thoughts were part of a powerfully worded submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the redevelopment of the Mon Repos Turtle Centre.

In a copy of his submission which was obtained by NewsMail, he said nearby parking would resolve concerns that visitors would have to be bussed in to the site, contributing to the poor experience.

In his submission Cr Dempsey also outlined the inconsistent approach the state had adopted by enforcing tougher regulatory requirements on the nearby Turtle Sands Caravan Park than on the centre.

He said the centre now had fewer parking spaces.

“Unfortunately, no adequate options were identified in the planning for the project to provide appropriate visitor parking,” Cr Dempsey said.

“Rather, the redevelopment of the centre will see a reduction in the total number of on-site car parking spaces provided.

“This is contrary to standard development practice in Queensland, where it is a basic requirement that development provides for their own car parking requirements on the development site.”

His submission reiterates the importance of establishing parking facilities to ensure that visitors’ overall experience when attending the centre is prioritised.

The mayor also raises another transport issue that will further compromise visitor satisfaction after the department advised that the front gate to the centre would be closed during the evenings in summer.

As a result, tourists and visitors will be relying on public transport to the centre from locations that are yet to be determined.

Cr Dempsey said the department was delaying negotiations with Bundaberg Sugar.

“Frustratingly, council has on several occasions supported discussions between the department and Bundaberg Sugar to secure freehold possession of the land behind the centre for the purposes of establishing car parking,” Cr Dempsey said.

“Council can confirm that Bundaberg Sugar is open to the resumption of negotiations for the provision of land behind the centre to the department for the purposes of expanded car parking.

“We request the Department recommences negotiations with Bundaberg Sugar to acquire land for the purpose of establishing turtle-sensitive car parking facilities necessary to enhance the visitor experience.”

The submission expresses the council’s support for the new centre, illustrating the benefits its presence will bring to the region.

“The basis for this support is the opportunity to expand the region’s eco-tourism industry through leveraging our world-class environmental assets, and proximity to the Great Barrier Reef,” Cr Dempsey said.

“Council’s long-held support has been demonstrated by delivering or securing more than $5.75 million in funding for the centre, or associated sea turtle conservation projects.”

His submission also raises the inconsistency between the process involved with the redevelopment of the centre and adjoining Turtle Sands Caravan Park.

“Council, as the assessment manager, has witnessed the applicant for Turtle Sands Caravan Park being put to extreme lengths to satisfy State Government agencies about the merits of the proposal, even though it is a smaller scale redevelopment than the Mon Repos Turtle Centre, with arguably fewer impacts,” Cr Dempsey said.

“Further to this, the approach taken in approving the centre also appears to conflict with recent statutory action taken in introducing a Temporary Local Planning Instrument.

“It is not clear whether the redevelopment of the centre complies with these new regulations that every other development on the Bundaberg Region coastline must achieve.”

Unlike the turtle centre, the caravan park was requested to provide in-depth information and a traffic and ground water impact assessment.