ABC News

High-profile West Australians, including musician John Butler and surfer Taj Burrow, are among those opposing a proposed five-star development that would overlook Margaret River’s most popular stretch of beach.

Key points:

  • The five-star development is set to include 120 luxury suites, with a second proposal for guest houses
  • The development site overlooks two of Margaret River’s most popular beaches
  • Opponents want the development site preserved for recreational use
  • Hundreds rallied against the plan for Gnarabup on Saturday, congregating in the town centre before assembling outside the Shire of Augusta Margaret River council chamber.

Preserve Gnarabup spokesperson Clare Nicole Gleeson said the rally served as a message to “decision-makers” that “a large section of the community wants to see the land preserved for public purposes”.

“We say the site has more value without the development — and that’s from an economic, environmental and tourism perspective,” Ms Gleeson said.

“If we can’t stop the development, our fallback position is to at least reduce the scale and density of it.”

Premier Mark McGowan unveiled plans for the multi-million dollar, 120-room resort in June, spruiking the positives for the region amid the gloom of the coronavirus-induced economic downturn.

“It’s a great opportunity for our state and a demonstration of confidence in our tourism industry, and also our economy, through a very difficult period,” Mr McGowan said.

Group offers compensation

The beachfront site in the small south-west costal town has been slated for development for more than a decade.

The proposed resort still requires final planning approvals, but could include 45 luxury suites and 400 square metres of events space.

A second tier of “sensitively designed beach homes for permanent and short stay use” is also proposed for four adjacent plots that are situated behind a nature reserve overlooking the coast.

The lobby group has submitted a scheme amendment to the Shire of Augusta Margaret River calling for the development site to be preserved in its natural state, as well as a compensation figure of $5.5 million paid to the developers.

“We know that it’s not going to be a cheap exercise if the land is reserved, we’ve estimated the amount of compensation that will be payable,” Ms Gleeson said.

“It’s a matter for the elected members the council members to decide whether that’s a price worth paying.”

Shire of Augusta Margaret River’s director of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure, Nick Logan said the scheme amendment proposal would be presented to council if it contained “the necessary information to enable assessment and inform a decision of the council.”

‘Total misuse of public money’

Project developer Luke Sarancini says the compensation figure “grossly underestimates the likely compensation which will be many times the $5.5m they [Preserve Gnarabup] are quoting.”

“The Westin Resort & Spa and adjacent holiday villas will have an end value in excess of $130m when fully complete, so the land value component of that will likely exceed $30m,” Mr Sarancini said.

“On top of that we’d also be entitled to claim injurious affection, which is a well-established principle of town planning law in a compensation case like this.

“We would reinforce that this would be a total misuse of public money.”

Musician John Butler attended the rally in Margaret River, stating the “large turnout” was “proof the people of Margaret River do not want a five-star resort at Gnarabup”.

Surfer Taj Burrow, who lives in nearby Yallingup, was quoted in US surf magazine, Surfer, saying the resort was “too big and in the wrong place.”