Augusta-Margaret River Times

A new community group has formed with the intention of fighting the Gnarabup resort proposal and the effective development of a new coastal village centre.

Preserve Gnarabup will also have the support of the Coastal Residents Association, which met this week, and conservationists from the Margaret River Regional Environment Centre.

Fightback efforts have also been bolstered by a petition which had more than 13,500 signatures at time of going to press.

The moves come as developer Luke Saraceni confirmed this week the resort — and plans to develop another four land parcels adjacent to the site for more villas, apartments, and shops — would definitely go ahead despite perceived limited local opposition.

Zoning for the developments is already in place, and development applications will come later this year as part of an overall precinct design which differs only slightly from projects floated by previous owners, which won State Government support despite a Supreme Court challenge early last decade (see page 3).

Preserve Gnarabup spokeswoman Bethwyn Carlessi said her group wanted to see the land rezoned as a nature reserve.

“Preserve Gnarabup will be doing everything within our power to stop the development along our precious coast,” she said.

“There is much outrage and upset in the local community over this proposed development.

“Group members feel that the development of our wild and raw coastline goes against the wishes of many people in the community and the sense of place that community members feel here.”

Coastal Residents Association president Adrian Wilson said he was personally appalled by the proposal, and the committee wanted any development near the coast to have the “best outcomes” possible for residents. “CRA believes that in the light of climate change, sea-level rise and coastal hazard mitigation, the rezoning of this sensitive coastal land for development would be rejected today,” Mr Wilson said.

“Given that history has delivered the current zoning, additional requirements on this development must be met to ensure it meets the expectations of the community now and into the future.”

CRA said coastal erosion, degraded beach infrastructure, and existing pressure from high-demand use of Gnarabup Beach and the boat ramp all needed consideration.

“This development has the potential to attract many more vehicles, especially if there is a conference component,” Mr Wilson said.

The residents want to see a full traffic plan for the coastal strip, reduction of speed limits on Mitchell Drive, protection of native wildlife, and a redesign of Gnarabup’s maligned reverse carpark entry.

Margaret River Regional Environment Centre also released a statement on the proposal this week (see Letters, page 6).

Other residents opposed to the project also said a second access road to Gnarabup was needed to miti-gate construction traffic and fire risks.

Residents are also worried about a potential uptick in boat traffic endangering swimmers, as well as any potential helicopter landings by high-spending guests.

Mr Wilson said waste disposal and energy use would also need to be addressed.

Although the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River was unlikely to have the final say on the project, sustainable development and infrastructure director Nick Logan said developer contributions would be sought

Mr Logan said mitigation of bushfire risks would be addressed during the planning process and the development would require public art contributions “and potentially other contributions that would be determined through the development application process”.