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‘Low-key’ luxury by the sea

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Premier Mark McGowan reviews the Gnarabup Beach Resort plans for the TV cameras at Gnarabup on Tuesday morning.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan reviews the Gnarabup Beach Resort plans for the TV cameras at Gnarabup on Tuesday morning. Credit: Warren Hately Picture:

Developer Luke Saraceni unveiled closely guarded plans this week to revive a stalled proposal for a five-star resort at Gnarabup which was once subject to a Supreme Court challenge.

Security Capital Australia and the Saracen Properties chief bought the site overlooking the Margaret River coast late last year and attracted nine of the world’s leading hotel chains keen to run the luxury resort designed by Christou Design Group.

Marriott International’s Westin Hotels would manage the $100 million resort, expected to open in 2023 offering 120 rooms including 45 luxury suites.

A 200-seat restaurant and two other food and beverage outlets, a day spa, a V-shaped pool, and 400sqm of events space would allow conferencing facilities at the prime coastal location overlooking Gnarabup Beach.

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The previous iteration was widely opposed by residents and conservationists because of the scale of the proposal on coastal land within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge.

In 2002, the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council backed the now-defunct Leeuwin Conservation Group in a failed Supreme Court bid to get WA Planning Commission approvals overturned.

Flanked by WA Premier Mark McGowan and Tourism Minister Paul Papalia on Tuesday, Mr Saraceni and Westin Perth general manager Peter Brampton said the new “low-key” Westin Margaret River Resort & Spa had changed since the failed Gnarabup Beach Estate, and would enhance the location while driving jobs in Margaret River.

Mr Papalia said the plan was a vote of confidence in the WA economy post-coronavirus and would drive tourism to the next level.

“It’s a confirmation of just what a quality destination Margaret River and Australia’s South West is,” he said. “Before the COVID crisis, we had seen two years running of record levels of out-of-State visitor numbers.

“More tourists came to WA from interstate and overseas than ever before in history, and Margaret River was absolutely essential to attracting those visitors.”

About 300 jobs would come during construction, with more than 100 jobs once the resort opened.

Mr McGowan said the “very exciting project” would be sympathetic to the landscape.

“It would attract tourists from all over Australia, and when our borders open, no doubt all over the world, and this will be a great addition to the local tourism infrastructure,” he said.

“This is one of those projects that will create exactly that sense of confidence and optimism that WA is renowned for, and it’ll be a great place, and a great employment generator.” Mr Papalia said the project would adhere to all planning guidelines, with the plans now under review.

Mr Saraceni said plans had changed from the previous proposal and tourism zoning was now in place.

“It’s been through the Supreme Court. It’s been through that process,” he said. “We’re going to keep it low-key. It’s no more than a two-storey hotel.

“It’ll be an asset that I think people will be happy to have because we will be promoting the natural products, the wines, the beverage and the food that comes from this local region, and I think people will generally, once it’s finished, they will be happy with it. They’ll be very proud of it.”

A development application would be lodged in coming months.

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