Stockland Corporation (ASX: SGP) has taken the first steps towards securing environmental approvals on a 1,231ha Sunshine Coast site that is currently used mostly for grazing, and used to be a pine plantation after the land was cleared for forestry half a century ago.
Located south of Caloundra, the site is known as 'Aura South' and sits adjacent to Stockland’s master-planned community Aura east of the Bruce Highway, although at distances of 1.6km to 6km the developer claims any buildings would not be visible to highway traffic.
It is an area that has been recognised by the State Government in South East Queensland (SEQ) Regional Plans since 2009 as an option to accommodate future population growth and meet the region's demand for long-term housing needs
Stockland has now submitted Aura South for independent environmental assessment by the Commonwealth, and has pledged to rehabilitate 400ha of land on the site if it is approved for future development, including the reintroduction of native plant species.
The developer emphasises studies conducted over the past decade have not detected any koalas or migratory birds on the land.
As part of its Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act submission, Stockland has committed to protect the Pumicestone Passage between the coast and Bribie Island, with enhanced buffers to ensure water quality is protected. The passage is three kilometres east of the property's perimeter.
Stockland senior environment and community development manager Mark Stephens says extensive environmental investigations have been undertaken on the site for over 15 years which has informed the application Stockland has submitted to the Federal Government.
"We have submitted a balanced and sustainable proposal which will ensure environmental protections are secured in advance of any future detailed planning. The EPBC is a rigorous and scientific-based assessment that includes several opportunities for the community to have their say," he says.
Stephens said the land is highly suitable to be considered for development, given it is elevated, largely flood free and can leverage the significant investment undertaken by the State Government for roads, schools, as well as taking advantage of the existing amenities in the neighbouring suburb of Aura.
"Stockland’s vision for Aura South is for it to be one of the most sustainable communities in the country. We look forward to an open dialogue with the community and all levels of government to share our vision and approach to protect the environmental values of the site through the EPBC assessment process," he says.
"We have a 20-year history of creating connected, sustainable communities on the Sunshine Coast that has seen nearly 21,000 homes created for Sunshine Coast families.
"This includes the planning and delivery of critical community infrastructure, including town centres, bridges, arterial roads, and major parklands, which will facilitate additional housing and employment opportunities."
The site is also located approximately 1.5 kilometres north of the ShapingSEQ Regional Inter-Urban Break – a 16-kilometre green buffer separating the urban areas of Caboolture and the Sunshine Coast.
"We recognise the Inter-Urban Break, which is identified in the 2017 SEQ Regional Plan, and the Aura South proposal does not impact upon this in any way," Stephens says.
"Stockland’s application proposes to establish a regenerated natural buffer zone on the southern side, which has an ability to increase the Inter-Urban Break in the future should Aura South be supported."
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