Fire fears ignite row

A MASSIVE residential and tourism development at Cherrabah Resort east of Warwick which could house up to 4000 people does not need its own fire station, Southern Downs councillors were told yesterday.

At the last Planning and Environment Committee meeting of the current council, officers presented a 90-page report on the planned expansion of the Cherrabah resort by its Chinese owners.

The proposal - which includes five-star hotels, luxury villas and an airstrip - has been several years in the making and if it grows to its predicted size will be the third-largest community in the region, after Warwick and Stanthorpe.

In the best-case scenario, Cherrabah would have at least 2000 permanent residents and the capacity to house as many tourists.

The application was approved by council in June last year, with China-based owners the Joyful View Garden Real Estate Company objecting to dozens of conditions imposed by the council covering road upgrades, water and environmental issues.

Joyful View has since been in negotiation with the council over the bones of contention, with officers yesterday handing over their proposed changes which include major concessions on what the developers must provide.

But one item on which councillors were firm was council's insistence that an auxiliary fire station must be part of the redevelopment for safety reasons.

The condition had been deleted by council officers after they received advice from the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) that Cherrabah could be adequately protected by fore crews from Warwick and Killarney.

Cr Cameron Gow - who is active in Stanthorpe's rural fire service - was adamant a station was non-negotiable, questioned if the QFRS officers who visited Cherrabah had "adequate information" about the scale of the massive redevelopment.

Mayor Ron Bellingham was equally insistent, saying the nearest rural fire brigade was 13 kilometres away and that the Cherrabah area was prone to bushfires.

"What will be needed at Cherrabah is a fire service of at least a rural standard, or at the very least the land dedicated for a facility," he said.

Planning director Ken Harris said it could also be argued that Cherrabah would need its own police station and school, warning councillors that they could face a court battle.

Councillors agreed to keep the fire station condition but gave ground on others, including required upgrades to local roads, random water quality inspections and vehicle movements during the construction phase.

Water has been a major source of controversy, with Cherrabah gaining State Government approval to draw up to 127ML every year for 10 years from underground aquifers to be treated on-site.

A condition that untreated bore water only be used in times of drought was yesterday watered down, with Cherrabah allowed to use it during "unforseen crises".

Cherrabah likewise objected to a requirement to allow council to annually inspect its water and sewerage treatment plants, the aerodrome, waste management facilities, noise and pest plans and compliance with a Bushfire Management Plan.

Instead, the resort will only need to submit to such inspections "at alternative timeframes" agreed on by the planning department.

The plan

  • Tourism and permanent resort accommodation (913 lots)
  • Post office and cafe
  • Retail and golf course
  • Conference centre
  • Restaurants
  • Caravan park
  • Sports centre
  • Aerodrome

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