Eco-village hope for old Water Corp site

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
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Residents fighting for tangible solutions to the region’s housing crisis want to develop a disused local Water Corporation site as an eco-village.

The land, on Terry Road near the Margaret River light industrial area, is stuck in bureaucratic limbo as State and local agencies review the location’s zoning.

While the 15ha lot was recently owned by the Water Corporation, it was “surplus to requirements”, according to the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage.

“The land is currently zoned as a ‘public purpose’ reserve in the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s local planning scheme,” a DPLH boffin said.

“DPLH is considering potential future uses for the site, including consideration of bushfire risk, site access and provision of services infrastructure.”

Just Home Margaret River chair and Shire councillor Naomi Godden included development of the Terry Road site in a call to action, asking the WA Government to offer practical solutions due to large numbers of residents displaced by the jump in house prices and rents during the pandemic.

“We had envisioned a low-cost eco village with a diversity of housing typologies and community infrastructure,” she said.

It remained unclear whether agencies were reluctant to take on costs associated with the site, but there was no ambition for the Shire to develop the eco-village itself.

Shire planning and development services manager Matt Cuthbert said the Shire had asked DPLH to transfer the vesting to its management.

“At this point, the State have not agreed to the transfer,” he said.

“The Shire will continue to advocate for increased investment by the State Government in community services to benefit residents.”

A DPLH spokesperson said consultation would be needed to guide the site’s future, which would require amendments to the Shire’s planning scheme, which is under review now.

Shire president Ian Earl said the State Government would be better off building new homes elsewhere and refreshing its limited social housing stock.

“An awful lot of money would need to be expended just to make the site useable,” he told the Times. “I don’t think there is any sewage there. It’s surrounded by bush and would need extensive clearing and (is) probably too far from town.”

Water Corporation South West regional manager Nicky Waite said the site’s future was a matter for the DPLH.

The equipment on-site was decommissioned more than 10 years ago, with remediation having occurred since then.

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