Shire of Augusta-Margaret River buckles to calls to extend public comment on contentious planning scheme

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River has extended the comment period on the region’s new planning scheme.
Camera IconThe Shire of Augusta-Margaret River has extended the comment period on the region’s new planning scheme. Credit: Warren Hately/Augusta-Margaret River Times/Augusta-Margaret River Times

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River has singled out “misinformation” among reasons for a backflip on extending the public comment period on the region’s new planning scheme.

After rejecting a request for more time from the Witchcliffe Community Association recently amid mounting concerns from groups about fine detail and zoning terminology in the draft Local Planning Scheme 2, on Tuesday planners extended the public comment period by another month to February 28.

The extension represents the longest consultation period in the local government’s recent history as planners conceded the document was “complex”.

The move comes a week after Preserve Gnarabup revealed a significant error in the scheme maps affecting land adjacent to the proposed Westin Margaret River Resort & Spa.

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The protest group has argued the revelation fuels uncertainty about other changes to the scheme, including the deletion of tourism-specific text they fear could pave the way for wholesale residential development of the headland.

Other community groups have also voiced concerns about changes in the new scheme that will be considered by councillors mid-2024 after an additional review by the WA Planning Commission.

This week’s Shire notice said the public comment period was being extended because of “the complexity of the document and misinformation circulating amongst the community about its implications for Gnarabup”.

The extension was welcomed by groups including Preserve Gnarabup, the Margaret River Coastal Residents Association and the Witchcliffe Community Association as well as rural landholders in the Scott River/Alexandra Bridge area.

Preserve Gnarabup, under the banner of Surfrider Foundation Australia’s South West branch, said the extension was needed given the local government’s initial rejection of the error identified by the group, and now confirmed by WA Planning Commission.

Spokesperson Beth Carlessi said the draft LPS2 needed to be scrutinised for other potential errors.

“We hope that our elected councillors will assist our community to ensure that the scheme reflects the long and extensive State and local planning that has been done on Gnarabup, including ensuring the local planning scheme reflects the local planning strategy,” Ms Carlessi said.

MRCRA president Adrian Wilson told the Times “a time extension and extra communication” were needed.

“With the high-stakes nature of the proposed major development at Gnarabup, an extension in the comment period will help residents come to terms . . . (with) any changes, which have now hopefully been corrected,” he said.

Shire sustainable development and infrastructure director Nick Logan said extra notes were now available on the local government’s Your Say website.

The maps provide comparisons between LPS1 and the proposed new scheme.

“The Shire is committed to a thorough consultation, with input from the entire community to ensure we create a planning scheme that guides future development and delivers the best long-term outcome for our community and the environment,” he said.

“We welcome and encourage the community to provide feedback, voice their concerns, or express their views through the submission process, and our staff are always happy to answer questions from the public.”

WCA president Todd Giles urged residents to get involved and make a submission during the public comment period.

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