Improved conditions to protect endangered marine turtles from a development on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast have been secured through a recent court appeal. EDO assisted the Sunshine Coast Environment Council (SCEC) in a planning appeal against a controversial 2018 approval by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council for an intensive high-density mixed use-development in a sensitive beachside location at Yaroomba by multi-national developer Sekisui House.

SCEC appealed the Council’s decision along with fellow community group Development Watch in November 2018. The appeal followed a record 9000 properly made submissions against the development application and strong support from the community to take up the legal challenge. SCEC’s main concerns centred on the protection of the coastal habitat for endangered loggerhead turtles.

The matter was heard over three weeks in October 2019 in Queensland’s Planning and Environment Court. While the development approval was upheld, the two community groups pressed for, and achieved, improved conditions to protect endangered marine turtles. The final conditions include a mandated statistically valid pre-construction light survey, annual surveys during the turtle nesting season and post-construction surveys after completion of every stage. All of these surveys must show that sky glow has not increased more than one standard deviation from the mean of the original survey otherwise corrective action must be taken to return it to pre-construction levels. In addition, no direct light is to be visible on the beach.

Narelle McCarthy, SCEC’s Liaison and Advocacy Officer, concluded that “while we remain deeply concerned about the potential impacts from this inappropriate development, particularly on nesting and hatching loggerhead turtles, SCEC and the community will continue to hold the developer and the Sunshine Coast Regional Council to account.” 

“The expert legal advice and incredible support of the Environmental Defenders Office proved invaluable to SCEC, particularly in relation to addressing the significant risks to the population of endangered loggerhead turtles posed by this development,” said Ms McCarthy.

“Having EDO in our corner literally made all the difference. Their involvement reinforced the crucial role of community legal centres to democracy and community litigation on behalf of the environment.”