Developer’s million dollar offer to save koalas denied
VETERAN businessman Norm Rix has launched an extraordinary attack on the Gold Coast City Council, saying its koala levy is "bullshit" and out-of-town developers are treated better than locals.
Mr Rix, 83, says he is being slugged $1.94 million in environmental charges for his 207-lot, 18.52ha development on Amity Rd, Coomera, but had little confidence the money would go towards koala preservation.
He said he offered to spend the $1.94 million planting trees at a koala habitat on Yawalpah Rd to help the endangered species, but was denied.
"This is bullshit that has come out about the koala bears," Mr Rix said.
"There are hardly any left. Council should have acted 30 years ago to do something about it. Now it is too late, and they have put a ratepayers' levy on it."
The council this year decided to charge ratepayers a $3 koala tax to buy land to protect their habitat.
Developers pay money to the council as part of the Queensland Environmental Offset Policy, depending on the environmental value of the land.
Mr Rix, who claims he found just one koala - which he named Norma - while clearing land at his Amity Rd site, said "money should be spent directly in the area allocated for the koala bear".
"We wanted to plant three trees per square metre for the amount of money we were paying to the council, but that was not acceptable to the council.
"That way we know the money is being spent on the koalas. As it stands, I doubt the money I spend will assist the koala bears."
Instead, Mr Rix said the council was putting the money in a pool and using it for initiatives such as the pedestrian and cycle bridge linking the Gold Coast Cultural Precinct to Chevron Island.
"When I read that in the paper, and how they are selling Bruce Bishop car park … that makes me bitter, very bitter indeed."
Planning committee chairman Cameron Caldwell rejected Mr Rix's claim that the money would not go towards enhancing the koalas' environment.
He said the funds would go towards revegetation and other purposes.
"Council protects areas of high environmental value from development and requires dedication of such land to the city," he said.
"Where environmental values are damaged through development, offset payments to council are required to be paid by the developer.
"Offset funds are held in trust and constrained for revegetation and other related purposes."
Mr Rix said the charges levied on developers, including $28,500 per lot for infrastructure, and $600 per lot for the National Broadband Network, are making it increasingly difficult to make development projects stack up financially.
"I haven't put a shovel in the ground and these are the charges from the council and state and federal governments. And they wonder why land is getting so expensive."
Mr Rix said he had been riled by the treatment of other developers, especially regarding the environmental charges.
"I find it most unfair where some developers are treated differently to others," he said.
"With the Westfield-QIC development (Coomera Town Centre) it was government legislation to allow all the koala bears to be cleared with no charge to the developer."