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14 January, 2021

Rain failed to dampen protest

POURING rain did not deter more than 150 residents from attending a public meeting in Mission Beach on Wednesday to express concerns about a proposed helicopter base in the heart of the ecotourism town.

Residents concerned about the proposed helicopter development met to discuss the proposal. PHOTO: Jeff Larson

People are worried that the proposed aviation facility on the Tully-Mission Beach Road will have a negative impact on property prices, tourism, the World Heritage environment and wildlife, including cassowaries, and the peaceful, laidback lifestyle.

Peter Rowles, president of Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation (C4), which organised the meeting, told the gathering the lack of clarity around the development application by Victorian-based Kestrel Aviation and the contradictions between it and the planning report to Cassowary Coast Regional Council were cause for concern.

“There is still insufficient information for an informed vote on this deferred application when it is presented at next Thursday’s Council meeting,” Mr Rowles said.

Much of the conflicting information concerned whether the base would be a tourism venture using light helicopters to ferry visitors between Cairns and Townsville and the offshore islands or whether, as stated in the planning report, Mission Beach would be a base for heavy-lift helicopters used in firefighting and emergency services.

Calls by C4 to Kestrel Aviation to gain clarity on the development proposal had not been returned.

“Emergency services and medivac operations are already catered for by contracted companies with established bases in Cairns and Townsville,” Mr Rowles said.

“We are not against new business – we encourage economic growth of the Cassowary Coast region – but the proposed location of a noisy helicopter base will have a negative impact upon existing businesses, residents, tourists and wildlife.

“There are aviation facilities available at Tully and Innisfail and either of these sites would be a better option.

“Mission Beach is the centre of tourism on the Cassowary Coast so this development has implications for the whole region.

“We live in one of the few places in the world where two World Heritage areas (Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef) lie side by side and visitors from all over the world are attracted to this region because of its natural beauty and biodiversity.”

Mr Rowles made a point of welcoming local Division Three Councillor Trudy Tschui, who had come to listen to the meeting. He encouraged everyone to read the development application and planning response and to note inconsistencies,   contradictions and omissions, and to email councillors with their concerns.

Petitions with around 750 signatures asking the Council to refuse the development application had been presented this week, and representatives of C4 and Mission Beach Cassowaries had made a deputation to the whole Council on Tuesday.

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