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Unauthorised Gracetown beach party shut down by police at Cowaramup Bay

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
A mammoth unapproved beach party at Gracetown last week has highlighted widespread concerns about population and visitor growth.
Camera IconA mammoth unapproved beach party at Gracetown last week has highlighted widespread concerns about population and visitor growth. Credit: Warren Hately/Augusta-Margaret River Times/Augusta-Margaret River Times

A mammoth unapproved beach party at Gracetown last week has highlighted widespread concerns about population and visitor growth.

Gracetown residents were alarmed when the party, advertised on social media, saw dozens of camper vans and other vehicles muster at Cowaramup Bay’s main swimming beach car park.

At sunset, dozens more vehicles arrived with revellers later blamed for littering and damage to dunes.

Video footage seen by the Times showed scores of vehicles banked up along Bayview Drive and people spilling onto the road.

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Police attended after multiple calls from the public, after which the festivities shut down and people left, with no charges laid.

A WA Police spokesperson told the Times the revellers were well behaved and promptly packed up once officers arrived.

“Once we turned up and spoke to them, they all shut down and went on their way,” the spokesperson said.

Police fielded multiple calls about the disturbance, with attendance estimates between 200 and 500 people.

Gracetown residents who asked not to be named said they were shocked and dismayed at the turn-out.

While they weren’t against people celebrating, Cowaramup Bay wasn’t built to handle such big crowds, official permits should be sought, and more consideration given to the amenity of neighbours.

Those concerns follow multiple recent complaints about visitors clogging up car parks at beach breaks under the control of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’ Parks and Wildlife unit.

Residents told the Times car parks at breaks to the north of the shire were regularly befouled by travellers who seemed to camp overnight with impunity.

This came despite strong concerns sparked by incidents in January and February 2022 when bush parties held in State forest sparked alarm among firefighters.

A DBCA spokesperson refuted claims Parks and Wildlife rangers were not enforcing laws, with 66 fines for unauthorised camping handed out during the summer.

“Parks and Wildlife Service rangers undertake regular patrols through coastal areas of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park to manage unauthorised camping,” the agency said.

“Coastal day-use sites within the national park were very busy across the recent holiday period.

“An important component of ranger interactions with the public includes education about permitted activities and potential impacts on the park environment and other users.”

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown said there was no request for help from rangers.

Ms Addison-Brown said rules were in place to ensure planned events were safe, environmentally sound, and minimised disruption.

“We issue permits for appropriate events ahead of time but illegal gatherings in action are a police matter,” she said.

“The Shire’s rangers after-hours call centre service will always advise the people to call the police in any matter where they believe public safety or public nuisance is an issue.”

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