Council hopefuls divided on Wallcliffe resort

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

Three of the five candidates vying for election to the Augusta-Margaret River Shire Council say they would’ve backed last week’s proposed scheme amendment for Wallcliffe House, while two could not confirm their future intentions.

The council refused the proposal from developers Alexandra and Julian Burt last week, with the Voyager Estate owners wanting a zoning change to allow a five-star resort at the site.

Councillors who voted against advertising the amendment said the site was too fragile when the scope of the development remained unclear, and there were environmental as well as Aboriginal and European heritage considerations.

The proposal will almost definitely come back for consideration with potential changes once the new council has been sworn in.

Candidates Robert McDonald and Paula Cristoffanini said they could not confirm a Yes or No vote because they wanted more detail on the scale of the planned 50-bedroom boutique hotel, as well as the other uses considered.

They said pledging a position could tie their ability to vote with the facts when the item returned.

The three remaining candidates Peter Griffyn, Brian Daniel and Kylie Kennaugh, said they would have voted for advertising the scheme amendment.

Mr Griffyn said advertising the failed amendment would let residents offer feedback.

“Councillors ... should have allowed the community to review it and provide their arguments for and against, rather than assume they know what the community thinks or wants,” he said.

Former councillor Ms Kennaugh and Mr Daniel wanted the scheme amendment advertised.

“In rejecting the recommendation of its own planning officers, (the) council denied the community the opportunity for public consultation,” Ms Kennaugh said.

“Council policy has a strong commitment to community engagement, so it is disappointing councillors did not give the community a chance to be involved.”

Mr Daniel said the scheme change would allow environmental and heritage oversight, and the local economy would benefit from jobs and tourism.

“Improving and creating business opportunities and protecting our environment at the same time can and must be done for the sake of the prosperity of our beautiful region,” he said.

Mr McDonald and Ms Cristoffanini said committing to a vote could open them to charges of flip-flopping and they wanted more detail from the proponents.

“The Wallcliffe site is recognised as having huge value to our community, and visitors, due to its spectacular visual appeal and heritage,” Ms Cristoffanini said.

“Careful planning is required to ensure development does not detract from those values.”

Mr McDonald, a chalets operator who was previously a councillor in Exmouth, said he was keen to see the site reactivated.

“Margaret River certainly lacks a high-end hotel, which would reach another sector of the visitor market and complement many other existing businesses in the region,” he said.

“Given the sensitivities of the location, I feel that it’s very important for the full detail of the development be presented by the proponent and considered by the community and council so that all potential impacts to the environment and neighbouring properties, if any, are known and mitigated prior to approval.”

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails