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Queensland: Douglas Shire Council reverses decision which prevented residential development by Daintree landowners.

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Wednesday 15 September 2004

Queensland: Douglas Shire Council reverses decision which prevented residential development by Daintree landowners


TONY EASTLEY: While the Coal ition looks to enhance its environmental credentials on forest policy in Tasmania, its bid to woo urban green votes may have hit a snag elsewhere. 


Yesterday a development ban on freehold land adjoining the Daintree rainforest was suddenly scrapped by the local Council. Environmentalists, scientists and tourism groups have argued that further residential development would put the internationally renowned world heritage area at risk. 


Local Federal MP - Liberal Warren Entsch - last night told AM that he strongly supports the rights of property owners to build on their Daintree blocks. 


From Brisbane, Petria Wallace reports. 


PETRIA WALLACE: The Daintree has been a prominent issue in several past federal elections. 


The local council's decision to give the green light for building on the freehold blocks neighbouring the sensitive world heritage area, has put the environmental icon back in the news.  


Queensland's Environment Minister Desley Boyle has threatened to step in if the Douglas Shire doesn't keep the development ban. 


DESLEY BOYLE: All of the people on those 400 or so sites could come in with development applications, and many of them could be large and inappropriate. 


PETRIA WALLACE: Yesterday the local Liberal MP Warren Entsch raised eyebrows when he attended a meeting at the Council on the day it reversed its moratorium on development. 


DESLEY BOYLE: My information is that he hasn't been to a council meeting in a very long time. 


PETRIA WALLACE: Warren Entsch says he was only there to challenge "outrageous" allegations that he had used his influence with some councillors to undermine the ban on development. 


Until now, the MP has said he didn't want to voice an opinion on the issue because it's a matter for local government. But speaking to AM last night, he revealed his strong support for the Daintree landowners. 


WARREN ENTSCH: People that are wishing to build… I'm not talking about mansions or multi-storey developments, in most cases they're talking about very small residential homes. 


PETRIA WALLACE: The MP argues it's possible to build more houses on the fringe of the world heritage area without compromising its conservation. 


WARREN ENTSCH: Oh, I've got no doubt at all that it's very, very possible. I've got no doubt at all. 


PETRIA WALLACE: Warren Entsch is scornful of dire warnings about the impact of further development, also dismissing the urban green voters the Coalition is hoping to woo. 


WARREN ENTSCH: This is a place that has been settled since 1880. They have not been like the mob in Sydney and Melbourne and other metropolitan areas. They haven't crapped in their backyard, they have cleaned it up, they have looked after it to a point where only a few years ago it was still in such a good condition that it was listed with the World Heritage. 


PETRIA WALLACE: Councillor Dave Egan led the push to overturn the development ban, bringing on the vote while the Mayor Mike Berwick was on leave. While the anti-development Mayor could not have altered the vote, he says the decision will prove disastrous. 


DAVE EGAN: If you put 400 houses with their clearings and their dogs, cats and cars and sewerage systems and water supplies and the weeds, the pests that inevitably come in, you cannot maintain a rainforest ecosystem. 


PETRIA WALLACE: Mike Berwick's calling on the Federal Government to oppose any further development. 


MIKE BERWICK: The Federal Government needs to be quite clear and say we're committed to saving Daintree. 


PETRIA WALLACE: A spokeswoman for the Federal Environment Minister says the Coalition does not agree that all future residential development is incompatible with protecting the rainforest. 


She says landowners who want to build on their land and also agree to protect it, may be eligible for federal financial assistance under the $6 million Daintree package announced last month. 


TONY EASTLEY: Petria Wallace with that report from Brisbane.