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WILL RISING SEA LEVELS SINK DEVELOPER LUKE SARACENI’S PLAN FOR $75M RESORT ON MARGARET RIVER BEACHFRONT?

The West Australian

Developer Luke Saraceni’s vision for the Gnarabup resort, which doesn’t include the proposed housing development. Credit: Supplied

Critics of a proposed beachfront development at Margaret River are in a dispute with the developer over where the shoreline will sit in 100 years time, with opponents claiming some houses could end up underwater.

Developer Luke Saraceni’s five-star resort planned for Gnarabup is set for a site which is more than 200m from the water, with adjacent beach houses sitting even closer.

The Preserve Gnarabup group claims the council’s Coastal Hazard Risk Management and Adaptation Plan shows that the area’s new shoreline — or the area which will be heavily affected by storm surges or erosion — will move inward 130m to 175m over the next century.
The report, conducted by Shore Coastal in 2013, suggests the hotel will at that point be 12.5m to 50m from the potential new shoreline or heavily eroded area.

Some of the proposed villas along Reef Drive would be only metres from it and some villas near Seagrass Place potentially submerged by water. The group claims it is another reason for the council to reserve the land and stop the proposed $75 million development.

“We are not anti-development,” Preserve Gnarabup solicitor Clare Gleeson said. “This site just doesn’t make sense for development.

“Also, if this site is developed, there will be no public access and coastal foreshore reserve between the beach and private property within a few decades.”

Council predictions show the area which will be heavily affected by storm surges or erosion over the next century. Credit: Shire of Augusta Margaret River/supplied

Mr Saraceni yesterday lashed out at the group, claiming they were “clutching at straws” by relying on an old report which he claimed was not credible.

He confirmed the 2013 report suggested that his proposed villas at the southern end of the development could be “touching the water” in a century.

But he said preliminary results from a new assessment he had commissioned showed the changing shoreline would not move as far inward as the 2013 report had indicated. He said the upcoming report showed the changing shoreline would not affect his proposed development at all.

Mr Saraceni claims the 2013 report failed to take into account that some of the foundation in the area was limestone, rather than beach sand, which would undermine the degree of erosion in the area compared with other parts of the coast.

“They have not properly mapped the coastline, they have treated it as if it is all sand,” he said of the 2013 report.

“They have not considered the limestone foundation which acts as a natural sea wall.”

The coastline could move a further 130m to 175m inland. Credit: Rosemary Barnard/supplied

Mr Saraceni rejected claims from the Preserve Gnarabup group that the changing waterline would also weaken the limestone foundation.

“We have structural engineers and geotechnicians who look at that and we would not be so stupid to build on a foundation that was not safe,” he said.

The Preserve Gnarabup group have also pointed to a case last year in which beachfront developers had to hand over some coastal land to the State Government so that the beach could be saved for residents who live there in 100 years time.

In the landmark case, the State Administrative Tribunal told developers, including New Orion Investments, to hand over a coastal foreshore reserve in Two Rocks to ensure the public management of the coastal processes amid climate change.

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