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Adrian Fini group ‘disappointed’ in City of Busselton council rejection of Smiths Beach village project

Warren HatelyBusselton Dunsborough Times
An artist’s rendition of the new Smiths Beach coastal village.
Camera IconAn artist’s rendition of the new Smiths Beach coastal village. Credit: supplied/RegionalHUB

The developers of a complex project at Smiths Beach rejected last week by the City of Busselton council have rejected criticism about a lack of fine detail in their proposal while expressing disappointment in the decision.

A spokesperson for the Adrian Fini-led consortium driving the project which will face direct arbitration from the WA Planning Commission’s State Development Assessment Unit said proponents had “regularly” offered councillors more “detailed information and briefings”.

“While we’re naturally disappointed in the position taken by Busselton council towards the coastal village proposal for Smiths Beach, we will continue to collaborate with the City when opportunities arise,” the spokesperson said.

“We will be reaching out again to ask what precise information individual councillors require and to offer them another briefing on those points.

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“Given their comments, we are disappointed that councillors did not take up our invitation prior to the meeting to receive further information, answer questions, or seek clarification on any detail that concerned them.”

Last week’s meeting heard councillors, led by Cr Sue Riccelli, say requests were made for more detailed environmental impact assessments as well as more information on waste management, bushfire risk, traffic plans and how vegetation on the western scarp would be protected during construction of luxury homes on 3000sqm blocks.

The developers said the City was “publicly signalling that it is not interested in working with us to deliver a global standard tourism asset, along with important community facilities and amenities”.

However, the project team was undeterred and awaited the eventual State Government decision, with Smiths Beach one of several project identified as items of key important to WA’s tourism industry.

“It is regrettable that Busselton councillors are now signalling to the tourism sector that they are not supportive of innovative or environmentally led tourism investments that seek to attract future visitors to the region and that will ultimately deliver important financial and employment benefits during more normal economic times,” the spokesperson said.

Last week’s meeting also heard protesters, including Smiths Beach Action Group founder Bill Mitchell, warn councillors they had to stand up for the City’s planning scheme and related documents or risk being steamrolled again in the future.

Responding to the decision, a SBAG spokesperson lauded the council who “stood firm in supporting the State and local planning schemes that the developer is attempting to avoid through the ‘fast-track’ SDAU process”.

“SBAG commend the council on the time and effort taken in assessing the development, listening to the community, and upholding the rules that will ensure Smiths Beach is developed in the correct and sustainable manner,” SBAG said.

“Of note was the council’s numerous and varied concerns about the development proposal that ‘is inconsistent with the relevant planning framework’ and ‘will have unacceptable landscape and environmental impacts’.”

The group also echoed council concerns the project did not meet the “shovel-ready” criteria for assessment by the SDAU.

While the project was identified by City officers for significant changes before it could be considered, last Wednesday’s meeting heard strident concerns around the potential for beach erosion and too much encroachment on the existing foreshore.

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