It started in the late 1980s when the State Government overruled Council’s decision to refuse an application to subdivide the Daintree Rainforest into more than 900 one-hectare, housing lots.
The applicant than took out an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal advertising 958 blocks of tropical rainforest for sale.
For $25,500 ($US18,000 in those days) buyers saw it as their opportunity to own a piece of tropical paradise – either for their dream retirement property, or as a great investment.
Two decades after the Daintree became a rallying point for the conservation movement, the work continues to ensure it remains a special part of the world.
When it came into effect in September 2006, the Douglas Shire Planning Scheme represented the culmination of 5½ years work to develop and implement a Planning Scheme that was compliant with the Integrated Planning Act.
It was one of the most controversial planning schemes proposed in Australia as it removed the development rights from over 330 vacant properties and it used a Temporary Local Planning Instrument (TLPI) that waived of the requirement for public notification – allowing Council to implement the development ban overnight.
This TLPI, which required State Government endorsement, was employed because in the lead up to releasing the Draft Planning Scheme for public comment, Council was aware of the risk of displaying the Scheme containing the controversial development controls. The TLPI prevented development applications that would dilute the planned development controls.
Whilst the properties are outside the World Heritage area, they share many of the same natural attributes. The need to cap development in order to preserve this extraordinary area was recognised by local, state and federal agencies.
The State Government committed the necessary $15 million for the Daintree Buyback Scheme. This money was used to purchase properties suitable for inclusion as national park or other conservation tenures.
Some remaining blocks have been purchased by conservation organisations. Some private landholders have had their land declared a Nature Refuge.
For those who continue to live in the area, the new planning scheme provides the opportunity to be part of the largest self-sustaining community in Australia; to be immersed in a highly sensitive ecosystem, one of the world’s oldest rainforests.