Last week my office was contacted by a constituent who said that the land around her house was slipping, with big cracks opening up. The problem affected several neighbouring properties as well, with big cracks in the ground and retaining walls collapsing. The caller reported that her swimming pool had tilted due to the movement of the land. The problem is not confined to one street. The land in question is on the side of a hill and there are another five homes directly below in the path of anything that could slip down the hill from above. We are not just talking about a few rocks; we are talking about people’s homes.
The next day a resident in Nambour was the victim of another landslip, with the collapse of a retaining wall behind the property. Fortunately, the company that owns the land above is taking responsibility for that landslip and will repair the damages. The matter is not so simple for my constituents.
Those higher up on the hill are blaming the approval of the development below them for the landslip, and I share their concerns. They are facing uncertainty over who will pay for the damages that have been caused.
These incidents raise serious questions about the way we approve growth in this state.
Too many times we see development applications refused by councils but subsequently allowed by the court system.
There is at least one other example of this in my own electorate. Buderim is built on and around a hill. Much of it is steep land. When you build on that land, you increase the possibility of a landslip. There is pressure on councils to approve development of parcels of land that would have been considered too steep in the past. Engineers can solve lots of problems, but there is only so much that retaining walls can do when there is a lot of rain and the soil is prone to slipping.
Sometimes the only sensible answer is to say, ‘No, the risk is too great.’ And this does not just relate to approval of developments on steep land; we also need to be concerned about flood-prone land. Again, there is pressure on councils to approve development of land, including former cane land, that floods in times of heavy rain. Yes, you can fill the land to raise it above the predicted flood levels, but that just creates potential problems for adjoining properties.
The Bligh government wants to force growth on the Sunshine Coast. It is demanding the fast-tracking of development of greenfield sites that will bring another 75,000 people to the region. Those developments are not on the side of a hill, but one is in the Mooloolah River catchment area. Some of the land has been designated flood-prone and not suitable for development, but there is a large area that will be built on.
Are we rushing development that may cause problems in the future? With the impact of climate change making us change our computer models for flood levels, why not take a little longer and more care in deciding where we should be allowing development to occur? I am sure that my constituents who are facing an uncertain future because of a landslip caused by the development of land that probably should have been left alone would agree. This type of development should have been knocked back, but it has slipped through the Land and Environment Court. The court approves these things. I think it is something the government needs to take into account. It is all well and good to let people buy houses on these developments, but who is going to pick up the tab? Is the government going to pick up the tab?
At the end of the day, the government is totally responsible for the development that occurs in Queensland, particularly greenfield site developments.