Minister for Infrastructure and Planning Stirling Hinchliffe said the populace of Cairns and the southern growth corridor of Mount Peter was today a step closer to getting a master planned community, following Federal Government support for assessment of its planning blueprint.

Mr Hinchliffe said the area between Edmonton and Gordonvale south of Cairns had the capacity to provide 50,000 homes for the fast growing region.

“I welcome the decision today by the Department for the Environment, Heritage and Arts that supports a strategic assessment of matters of national environmental significance from the Mount Peter structure plan,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

“Regional planning can be a complex process, so today’s announcement about improved coordination between all levels of government is a significant step forward to achieving a good planning outcome in this high-growth region.

“The strategic assessment of the structure plan puts us on the road to ensuring residents living in the Cairns southern growth corridor get the master planned area their fast-growing region deserves, while ensuring all the necessary environmental conditions are put in place.’’

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said Mount Peter could soon become a great place to live, work and play with the capacity to achieve 40 per cent job self-containment within the Cairns southern growth corridor.

Mr Pitt said good planning was about striking a balance between sustaining the environment and fostering economic development.

“I know first hand that areas within and surrounding the Mount Peter master planned area have significant environmental and heritage values that are linked to its proximity to world heritage listed rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef,’’ Mr Pitt said.

“Consideration of these issues up front with the Federal Government mean development in the master planned area will not require a separate assessment for matters of natural environmental significance at each development phase.

“This will see Edmonton shift from being a dormitory suburb, still reliant on the rest of Cairns for employment and will generate significant employment that may also reduce traffic congestion by removing the need for many people to travel daily to Cairns.

“Planning for Mount Peter will continue to take place over the next two years, with large-scale physical development of the corridor expected to commence after that— and continue for at least the next two decades.’’

Mr Hinchliffe said planning for the Mount Peter master planned area was another opportunity for the Queensland Government and Cairns Regional Council to work closely together.

“The Far North Queensland region is expected to grow by approximately 5,000 people per annum,” he said.

“Three-quarters of the 100,000 people who are expected to move to the FNQ region over the next two decades, are expected to settle in Cairns.

“In the Far North Queensland Regional Plan, an urban footprint was set that promotes a compact urban form and sustains the rural production and regional landscape.

“It provides for up to 50,000 people in Mount Peter to accommodate population growth until 2031. This is in addition to land allocated in existing planning schemes

“By focusing urban development inside the urban footprint, it will foster the growth of communities that continue to be in balance with the environment.

“It is critical that the timing and ultimate use of land in the Mount Peter area is well-managed to avoid ad hoc development—and achieve optimal integration of housing, transport and industry.”

Master planning involves the preparation of a structure plan, which sets out the broad environmental, land use and infrastructure development intent of the area.

The Mount Peter master planned structure plan will undergo a State interest review by mid 2010. This review will include consideration of waterways and biodiversity.

The structure plan will then be publicly notified to allow further comment and input—before being finalised and incorporated into Cairns Regional Council’s planning scheme.

Mr Pitt said the Far North Queensland Regional Plan had also played a pivotal role in protecting the region’s outstanding regional landscape and rural production values.

“The Queensland Government has provided a strong framework that will support the region’s needs for employment and housing affordability into the future,” he said.

“This plan also provides the necessary planning frameworks that offer continued growth for the region and ensures that industries such as the tourism and agricultural industries will continue to stimulate the local economy.

“When the Government launched the Far North Queensland Regional Plan and the regulatory provisions a year ago, we said it would support tourism development and jobs—while protecting the Far North’s natural beauty for future generations of Queenslanders to enjoy.

“We are delivering on this pledge—providing more flexibility for sustainable tourism while protecting areas of high ecological significance.”