Business News
Augusta-Margaret River Times

Protest group Preserve Gnarabup has lodged its bid to have the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River acquire land earmarked for a resort development on the Margaret River coastline, but the developer says the group has “grossly underestimated” the site’s value.

As foreshadowed by the Times last week, on Friday, Preserve Gnarabup’s lawyer Clare Gleeson lodged a scheme amendment application to rezone five land parcels owned by property magnate Luke Saraceni.

The application comes as Preserve Gnarabup prepares for a public protest rally on July 18 (see Page 3).

If the amendment bid to rezone the sites to nature reserve wins council support, it would pave the way for ratepayers to acquire the land, halting the development process.

The group’s application puts the asking price at $5.5 million, but Mr Saraceni told the Times town planning law included a clause relating to “injurious affection” which would require much greater compensation, though Mr Saraceni again said he had no desire to sell the properties acquired last year.

“That would definitely apply in this case, because we have signed up a five-star hotel,” he said.

“The amount of compensation is grossly underestimated.

“I would say it would be north of $30 million.”

Mr Saraceni said residents seeking to protect the environment could put that public money to better use elsewhere, and he questioned whether ratepayers would want to see money spent acquiring the resort site and adjacent parcels earmarked for mixed-use tourism apartments.

Ms Gleeson questioned Mr Saraceni’s $30 million estimate and said an independent valuer would be recommended if the scheme amendment won support.

“They paid $5.5 million last year so it’s difficult to see how the market value could have increased so much, particularly where there has been no change to the planning framework since they bought it,” she said.

“The land has never had a high market value because of the costs of developing it and the site constraints.”

Ms Gleeson said the formula to determine the final compensation involved comparative land values with and without the reservation zoning.

Shire sustainable development and infrastructure director Nick Logan confirmed lodgement of the group’s bid, which would be checked by officers like any other scheme amendment.

“If staff are satisfied that the proposal contains the necessary information to enable assessment and inform a decision of the council, a report would be prepared for council,” he said.

“This report will detail whether it would be appropriate to initiate the amendment for the purpose of consultation.”