23 June 2020
The Sunshine Coast Environment Council (SCEC) maintains a strong focus and resolve on the protection of the coastal habitat for endangered loggerhead turtles despite the adverse decision handed down in the Planning and Environment Court by Judge Nicole Kefford on 25 May. The judgment upheld a controversial 2018 approval by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council for an intensive high-density mixed use-development in a sensitive beachside location at Yaroomba on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland by multi-national developer Sekisui House.
The peak not-for-profit environmental advocacy organisation for the Sunshine Coast region for the past 40 years, SCEC appealed Council’s decision along with fellow community group, Development Watch in November 2018. Following subsequent proceedings, Development Watch became the First Appellant and SCEC the Second Appellant.
The appeal followed a record 9000 properly made submissions against the development application to override the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014 and strong support from the community to take up this costly but necessary challenge.
With high-powered legal teams engaged by the well-resourced Sunshine Coast Regional Council as the Respondent and Sekisui House as the Co-Respondent, it was a mammoth effort by a lean but well-credentialed legal team acting for the First Appellant and SCEC’s Narelle McCarthy, who has no legal training, self-representing the Second Appellant.
“The expert legal advice and incredible support of the Environmental Defenders Office proved invaluable to SCEC, particularly in relation to addressing the significant risks to the population of endangered loggerhead turtles posed by this inappropriate development.” said Ms McCarthy, SCEC’s Liaison and Advocacy Officer.
“Coolum and North Shore Coast Care (CaNSCC) members are disappointed by the court decision however our volunteers will continue to monitor and collect data on Marine nesting turtles and turtle stranding’s for Queensland Turtle Research (within the Department of Environment & Science.)” said President, Ms Leigh Warneminde. CaNSCC are very grateful and thankful for the effort and support from both SCEC and EDO for their ongoing commitment to address the protection of endangered species on the Sunshine Coast and beyond.”
EDO solicitors went above and beyond in their efforts to assist SCEC mount the strongest case possible in relation to marine turtles. This included critical, high-calibre lay witness affidavits from local turtle carers as well as ensuring we were able to meet the tight court timetable and procedures.
CaNCSS never imagined monitoring turtle nesting on the Sunshine Coast would culminate in a court appearance, which in itself was a learning experience.” Ms Warneminde said.
“The professionalism, dedication, and obvious expertise of EDO were evident in the manner in which I was able to present our case. This was particularly important for our prioritised marine turtle issues before and during the intense three-week trial.” Ms McCarthy explained.
“Having EDO in ‘our corner’ literally made all the difference. Their involvement reinforced the crucial role of community legal centres to democracy and community litigation on behalf of the environment.”
A lengthy court review on 15 June for final orders by Her Honour Judge Kefford saw the First and Second Appellants press for, and achieve, improved conditions to protect endangered marine turtles. “While we remain deeply concerned about the potential impacts from this inappropriate development, particularly on nesting and hatching loggerhead turtles, SCEC and the community will continue to hold the developer and the Sunshine Coast Regional Council to account.” Ms McCarthy concluded.
Narelle McCarthy, Liaison & Advocacy
Sunshine Coast Environment Council Inc.
M: 0424 465 487
 The final conditions include a mandated statistically valid pre-construction light survey, annual surveys during the turtle nesting season, and post-construction surveys after completion of every stage. All of these surveys must show that sky glow has not increased more than one standard deviation from the mean of the original survey otherwise corrective action must be taken to return it to pre-construction levels. These surveys must be undertaken using the methodology set out in the Master Sea Turtle Management Plan and Master Sea Turtle Lighting Plan reviewed and endorsed by the experts. In addition, no direct light is to be visible on the beach. An education program and written materials are to be prepared for visitors and (future) residents. The surveys are not only to be undertaken during construction but continue through the operational phase of the development.