Margaret River Mail

Opposition to potential resort development at Gnarabup continues to be loud and clear after around 300 people took to the water in protest on Saturday.

The message from the mass Paddle Out was “No to development of luxury housing and a resort on this critical community asset”.

WA Premier Mark McGowan announced back in June that there would be a five star Westin resort which would include 120 room hotel.

The resort is proposed to open in 2023, creating hundreds of construction and ongoing jobs in the area.

Preserve Gnarabup spokesperson Beth Carlessi said the community had been against the development for more than 30 years and the Paddle Out was an example of them uniting in opposition.

“Everyone who lives in Margaret River or the millions of people from over the world who have visited, know that Gnarabup is a critical community asset and tourist attraction. On our wild coast, famous for its surf, Gnarabup is a small, safe swimming beach,” she said.

“Today we came together again – on the water to say no to development just above the bay, on the Gnarabup Headland, literally a couple of hundred metres from the shore.

“Gnarabup is already an extremely highly used community and tourism asset.

“It is often crowded with beachgoers – even in winter.

“There are other places in the Margaret River region to build a resort and luxury housing.

The Paddle Out is the latest in a series of community initiatives by the Preserve Gnarabup campaign to stop development of the Gnarabup Headland into a proposed housing estate and resort.

Ms Carlessi said the group was not against development but would like to see Saracen Properties look at other sites instead.

“This site means too much to our community,” she said.

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The group have asked the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River to prevent development of the site by reserving the land or compulsorily acquiring it for the community as foreshore reserve.

It is expected the Shire Council will consider the proposed amendment at a council meeting in December 2020.

“This site just doesn’t make sense for development,” Preserve Gnarabup member and solicitor Clare Gleeson said.

“The local government has the power to reserve the land and halt the development.

“The current proposal of the 120-room resort is only the beginning. Many people don’t realise that the developer is planning to build residential and tourism housing on the lots adjacent to the resort site. The resort is just the start.”

Preserve Gnarabup opposes development of the site because:

  • It includes an Aboriginal heritage site on one of the lots (the site is lodged with the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage);
  • It will impact on flora and fauna including the critically endangered Western Ringtail Possum;
  • the land has never been assessed by the WA Environmental Protection Authority;
  • the increase in sea level from climate change will necessitate further land being required for foreshore/public use at Gnarabup and Back beaches;
  • the loss of the only safe, protected beach in the region – a decrease in amenity for local people and tourist and impact on the character of Gnarabup;
  • the impact of the increased population on public infrastructure in Gnarabup (single road in and out of the township, waste water treatment, water supply, beach access; etc);
  • the lack of adequate fire safety measures in Gnarabup – rates as an Extreme Risk ara by the Shire; and
  • the views of the traditional owners.