Surfrider says rejected Gracetown plan shows coastal fire risk is too great for Gnarabup resort proposal

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Preserve Gnarabup's Beth Carlessi.
Camera IconPreserve Gnarabup's Beth Carlessi. Credit: Warren Hately/Augusta-Margaret R/RegionalHUB

Protest group Surfrider Margaret River says evidence it has unearthed about the State Government’s failed Gracetown development shows fire risk must overrule any support for the Gnarabup five-star resort proposal.

The protest group’s successful freedom of information bid unearthed documents that confirm DevelopmentWA walked away from its ambitious 25-year plan for Gracetown two years ago, due to the lack of a second coastal access route and associated bushfire risks.

Surfrider’s Preserve Gnarabup campaign spokesperson Beth Carlessi told the Times a closer look at planning decisions across WA raised serious questions about the safety and viability of the Luke Saraceni-led project at Gnarabup.

The Gnarabup proposal includes the five-star Westin Margaret River Spa & Resort project and has drawn significant criticism from locals.

Preserve Gnarabup’s argument was further bolstered by a WA Planning Commission decision late last year not to support a contentious structure plan for Stoneville in the Perth Hills partly due to bushfire concerns, she said.

“The Gracetown development presents the same extreme bushfire risk issues faced by the proposal to develop more land at Gnarabup and increase the population there,” Ms Carlessi said.

“The Preserve Gnarabup campaign takes comfort from the fact that the WAPC set conditions that the Commission wouldn’t approve the Gracetown subdivision unless bushfire risk could be reduced with the development of second access road.”

A Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage spokesperson stressed decisions about Gracetown and Stoneville were unrelated to consideration of the Gnarabup resort and associated village plan set to be decided by WAPC’s State Development Assessment Unit.

“In making any decision, the WAPC will have regard for a number of State planning policies, including State Planning Policy 3.7 Planning in Bushfire-Prone Areas, as well as public submissions and submissions from regulatory agencies and stakeholders such as the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River,” the spokesperson said.

“The development application can only be considered for determination by the WAPC after the Environmental Protection Authority’s Public Environmental Review process is complete and the Minister for Environment has made a decision on whether the proposal can be implemented.”

However, Ms Carlessi said when agencies such as DFES had already refused to support the project, any approval was ill-considered.

Development project manager Joel Saraceni said Gracetown and Gnarabup were two completely unrelated projects.

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