Concerns that Gnarabup resort project will get rushed through

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The architect's image for the proposed resort design.
Camera IconThe architect's image for the proposed resort design. Credit: Christou Design Group

Gnarabup resort developer Luke Saraceni says protesters have limited options to stop the project going ahead unless the WA Government intervenes or doesn’t back the final vision for the site.

As protests against the proposed resort development at Gnarabup continued to grow this week — with Surfrider Margaret River poised to join the fight and Nature Conservation Margaret River signalling concerns with the bid — Mr Saraceni said he was fully committed and a revised development application would be lodged with the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River within the next 90 days.

He did not believe Preserve Gnarabup had any avenue to oppose the resort proposal except for submissions during public consultation, with the zoning and permissions already in place.

“The only thing they could do is have the Government buy (the land) and we don’t want to sell it,” Mr Saraceni said.

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“Margaret River needs a five-star resort.”

Preserve Gnarabup spokeswoman Bethwyn Carlessi said her group was finalising a review of their options, including lodging a scheme amendment request to rezone the site as a nature reserve.

“We will write to the landowners Five-Star Margaret River Pty Ltd in the meantime and give them notice of our proposal,” she said.

Mr Saraceni noted Margaret River had some of the worst youth unemployment in Australia.

About 100 jobs were promised, and local producers, artisans and artists would have opportunities once the Westin Margaret River Spa & Resort was built.

Surfrider spokeswoman Tracey Muir said group members were “obviously very concerned”.

“It seems it is getting rushed through because of COVID-19 and genuine community consultation is not occurring,” she said.

“It will leave a lasting impact on our coastline and permanently change the sense of place.

“It is vital that careful consideration is given to such a fragile part of our coast,” she said.

“What was deemed appropriate nearly two decades ago can no longer be viewed in the same light.”

The Coastal Residents Association and Nature Conservation acknowledged existing approvals meant they wanted the best outcome for residents and the environment.

Nature Conservation chairman John Cresswell said his group was aware the resort was a “major concern to many in our community”.

“The Gnarabup coastal strip is under increasing pressure from population and climate change and we are keen to ensure any future development safeguards the fragile coastal heath ecosystem, its vegetation, its wildlife and its sense of place,” he said.

“Nature Conservation understands that details of the current proposal are not yet fully available, however (we) would expect any development proposed to have full regard for the current State Coastal Planning Policy and the Leeuwin Naturaliste Sub Regional Strategy, to implement best practice environmental management, and importantly to provide adequate opportunity for community consultation and involvement.”

Coastal Residents Association president Adrian Wilson reiterated last week’s demand for tough scrutiny of the planning proposal for the resort and associated village development.

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