Council moves on Wallcliffe project

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Wallcliffe House is set to make a major comeback.
Camera IconWallcliffe House is set to make a major comeback.

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council has elected to start the scheme amendment process for the potential redevelop-ment of fire-ravaged Wallcliffe House.

Councillors voted 5-2 on Wednesday night to initiate the amendment, triggering further public consultation before a final decision.

Shire president Ian Earl stressed starting the process would give residents the chance to comment.

He chastised dissenting councillors and residents — as he did when the proposal was first knocked back last September — for wanting the bid refused. “They claim that they know better and are the only ones to speak on your behalf,” he said.

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“This is a watershed moment for our shire.”

The revised amendment by Voyager Estate owners Alexandra and Julian Burt reduced the total number of rooms in the proposed hotel development to 40.

The new amendment removes some chalets planned for the sensitive foreshore area, but still allows a hotel, chalets, an exhibition centre, a reception centre, a small bar, tearooms and a restaurant.

Ex-councillor Lyn Serventy and conservationist Peta Goodwin made impassioned pleas to refuse or rework the amendment.

And Cr Naomi Godden — who, with Cr Julia Meldrum, voted against the item — echoed their calls to refuse the bid, seeking instead to undertake a thorough investigation of the cultural, historical and environmental values of the site.

Cr Godden said aspects of the scheme amendment went against council policies, as well as the State’s Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge Sub-Regional Planning Policy.

Mrs Serventy said once initiated, the amendment would lose protections afforded by the Local Planning Scheme.

“By removing controls that protect significant values of this site from your scheme and trusting in the process of development application, you are ... kicking the can down the road,” she said.

A minor amendment to the proposal by Cr Paula Cristoffanini confused some pro-amendment councillors who appeared unfamiliar with the text of the report.

Cr Godden also lost her bid to cut short Cr Kylie Kennaugh’s detailed review talking up the developer’s credentials.

Although the council has repeatedly argued economic viability of projects is not grounds for planning decisions, the benefits to tourism and jobs were central to the debate. Delegates including Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association co-chief executive Steve Harrison and South Regional TAFE chef trainer Amanda Smith talked up the project’s boost for the region’s profile.

Mrs Burt, the heiress to Michael Wright’s mining fortune, also addressed the council, promising detailed consultation and jobs for Aboriginal elders as “storytellers and educators” at the future “boutique, low-key yet luxury hotel”.

Read Mrs Burt’s statement in full below.

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