Coolum doctor hits a developer’s wall
That is how Coolum doctor Wyn Lewis describes the attitude of developer Coolum Lakes Pty Ltd, which – despite phone calls and a registered letter – refuses to discuss the lowering or partial removal of a bund (embankment) that causes flooding on his land after heavy rain. Dr Lewis said he had been forced to build a new home on his 2.6ha property because his original home was regularly flooded as a consequence of the bund being built.
The 2km-long, one and a half metre-high bund is on the adjacent Malibu Farm, over which Coolum Lakes holds a long-term contract.
The company owns about 600 hectares of land, west of the Sunshine Motorway, and hopes, when the political climate is more amenable, to develop the land for a mixture of commercial, residential, industrial and tourism uses.
For more than 30 years, Dr Wyn Lewis tended to thousands of ill and injured people in the Maroochy North Shore region.
In those care-free days he was known as the “barefoot doctor” for the very casual attire he wore in his surgeries at Marcoola and Coolum Beach.
He was forced into retirement a couple of years ago when he had a stroke and since than has had three heart “procedures”.
Though he might not be as fighting fit as he used to be, the good doctor is fighting mad.
Dr Lewis says the main problem is that the bund, by not allowing the release of the water that flows from the north in a southerly direction, “as it has from the year dot”, causes his property to flood.
“There is no reason to have that wall in place now because there has been no farming activities in years,” he said.
Dr Lewis believes Coolum Lakes is not concerned about his flooding problems because it hopes repeated inundation will force him to sell to the company.
But the doctor, whose property resembles a nature reserve, with an amazing array of flora and fauna, says he is “not going anywhere”.
“I’m prepared to make a fight of it,” he said.
“I don’t see why someone who has lived here for 30 years should be subjected to the amount of discomfort and nuisance that these people are creating – and for no valid reason.
“Building a levee in a floodplain is a pretty anti-social thing to do. I don’t know if it’s legal either – there was no environmental impact study done.”
Dr Lewis said the former Maroochy council had called in Lachlan Grantley of Coolum Lakes and Malibu Farm owner Jay Chandler to show them various rainfall patterns and the much higher level of flooding of surrounding properties with the bund in place.
“So they’re well aware of the consequences of their actions, or non-actions,” Dr Lewis said.
“They just sat there and listened and went away and did nothing.”
Dr Lewis believes the developers have “thumbed their nose” at the local council and instead, will lobby the state government to amend the SEQ Regional Plan, which currently prohibits development west of the motorway.
But Mr Grantley said the bund was fully approved and was put up prior to Dr Lewis building his house.
He said Mr Chandler had even suggested to Dr Lewis to raise the levels of his land before he built his house.
“From our point of view, ultimately we’re in there to try and develop the site and we’re still aiming for some time in the future,” Mr Grantley said.
“And it’s obviously part of our development proposal to take all of the floodwaters from upstream, and actually treat and store them within our development and then pass them out to the river again.
“If the development got approved and the works were done, he would have no worries whatsoever. Even in the highest flood event, he wouldn’t even get touched.”
Mr Grantley said he was not particularly interested in buying Dr Lewis’s property at the moment.
“Yes, we probably will one day but we’re in no hurry to buy it either because we can’t see the approvals coming quickly.”