Damian Dunlop

Maybe Bill Gates could help?

TWEED’S koalas might need to win Lotto several times over if the dream of Greens Party councillor Katie Milne to resume the huge Kings Forest development site is ever to come true.

Tweed mayor Warren Polglase yesterday estimated resumption of the 880 hectare site south of Kingscliff would cost “hundreds of millions of dollars” and said he doubted if super-rich Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates was interested in helping out.

Mr Gates, who is one of the richest men in the world after founding the Microsoft computer software company, was touted by Greens Party Councillor Katie Milne at this week’s council meeting a philanthropist who could help out with resumption costs.

Last year developer Leda Holdings, which is headed by Sydney-based property billionaire Bob Ell, estimated the joint land value of Kings Forest and its other huge development site, Cobaki Lakes, west of the Gold Coast Airport, at over a billion dollars.

“It would be a price that Bill Gates could quite easily pay but I don’t think he would be interested in buying it,” Cr Polglase said.

“And I don’t think the state government in its current position would have enough to be able to do it.

“There are some things in life that are achievable and then there are some things that are wishes.

“This is in the wish list area ... and something that is probably highly unachievable.”

Cr Milne said resuming the site could be the ultimate way of saving Tweed Coast koalas, though conservationists and Leda disagree on how many koalas actually live there.

Leda says it will keep 336 hectares for environmental protection and plant hundreds of koala food trees while developing 4500 homes on another 396 hectares.

Mr Ell, in signing off a development application to the state government, said the project would cost $1.5 billion and create 15,000 construction jobs.

Councillors at their Tuesday meeting voted to call on the state government to impose extra conditions, such as banning cats and dogs, in any approval of the site, similar to rules applied to the Koala Beach estate at Pottsville.

Yesterday Jenny Hayes, the spokesperson for Team Koala which has been fighting for extra protection for koalas, revealed she was surprised by Cr Milne’s bid to resume the land.

“I had no idea she was thinking on those terms,” Ms Hayes said.

“I can’t see the resuming happening. But I’m hoping the (proposed) golf course could be an area where there is a koala park where people could come and see the koalas.

“There are so many golf courses now. I could see the developer make a lot more money by having some sort of koala park there.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Cr Milne was asked by Cr Barry Longland if she was really suggesting the state government should “buy back the entire site”.

Cr Mine said “anyone” could help out.

“There are a number of ways of doing this,” Cr Milne said.

“We can approach people like Bill Gates. There are a number of people out there – international benefactors – who are keen on koalas’ conservation.

“I know it’s a big call. I just don’t think we need to be backward about coming forward about this,” she said.

Only Cr Milne voted in favour of the resumption call.


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