People power wins on the Sunshine Coast as billion-dollar beach development gets shut down in court.
Locals in the quiet beachside suburb of Yaroomba on the Sunshine Coast are this weekend celebrating a huge win in the Queensland Supreme Court against a Japanese developer.
The Sekisui House development at Yaroomba was a high-rise monster with a huge coastal footprint. They were planning a seven-storey, five-star hotel, 753 residential apartments, 98 two-to-three storey homes and a retail complex. It was hard to imagine the scale of the development and how imposing it would be towering over Yaroomba Beach. The developer’s own artist impressions of the resort featured comically cut and pasted characters and stock photos.
This was all due to be built in the green pocket directly behind Yaroomba Beach, adjacent to Coolum and one of the “Sunshine Coast’s last remaining untouched jewels,” as former Yaroomba resident, Belinda Baggs described it. The beach is a nesting site for endangered loggerhead turtles, a popular retreat for surfers and local beachgoers, and part of the ceremonial lands of the Gubbi Gubbi people, who weren’t consulted on the development.
Locals are jubilant the development won’t go ahead, at least not at the scale proposed. “The wait has been worth it,” said Kathryn Hyman from Save Yaroomba. “We want to thank the entire community for coming together for this prolonged fight which turned into a marathon rather than a sprint. This pristine beachfront land and the laidback lifestyle of the area is so rare on the Sunshine Coast and was worth fighting for.”
Yaroomba campaigners outside the Queensland Supreme Court to hear the judgement on their appeal. Photo: Sunshine Coast Environment Council
To understand the depth of feeling locally around the Supreme Court’s decision this week we need to turn back the clock a few years to when this saga started. The Sekisui development was initially approved by Sunshine Coast Council in June 2018 by a split vote of six-to-five, despite huge community opposition. There were 9288 submissions against the development, a Sunshine Coast Council record). By then a number of community groups had joined together to fight it, including Friends of Yaroomba, Save Yaroomba, Development Watch and the Sunshine Coast Environment Centre, which received a Patagonia environmental grant.
The SCES and Development Watch – described by Sekisui as “activist groups” – then lodged an application against the development in the Planning and Environment Court which was rejected. This left them with an appeal to the Queensland Supreme Court as their last resort. The only problem here was the eye watering cost of the legal challenge. This is where the community stepped up and raised half a million dollars to fund it.
“At the beginning of this David versus Goliath battle we would never have believed that we could raise a total of $500,000 to fund this legal battle,” said Kathryn Hyman. “We chipped away with small events, some Save Yaroomba merchandise and then an online campaign. At that point we were in uncharted waters but the fact that we raised half a million dollars is a tribute to how much the community wanted to fight this approval by its own Council.”
“There’s a new vibe in the area that comes from people banding together to accomplish something big and meaningful”
The hearing before the Supreme Court happened back in March last year, and locals have waited since to receive the judgement, which landed this week in their favour.
The win has not only put the brakes on the Sekisui development, but it’s also bonded and empowered the local community. “There’s a new vibe in the area that comes from people banding together to accomplish something big and meaningful,” said Friends of Yaroomba’s Jim Moore.
“We’ve shown that when property developers throw money at a community that does not necessarily buy their consent or support. It was a very tough road, exhausting at times but, with so many people pulling together, we got to where we needed to go.”
Banner Image: Sunshine Coast locals have been fighting the development of Yaroomba Beach since it was first proposed in 2017. Photo Cooper Brady