Ningaloo Update, Thursday 19 September 2002

A case of planning gone wrong as EPA recommendations on Ningaloo marina expected any day

* EPA decision due soon…
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) deadline for recommendations on the marina resort proposal for Mauds Landing, near Coral Bay, has been extended to mid-late September. Keep an eye on for details. The community will have only two weeks to analyse the recommendations and submit appeals, if necessary. The final decision rests with Dr Judy Edwards.

Of course, this will be the second time that the EPA has assessed the marina proposal and much has been made of the reduced scale of the latest version. However, while the golf course has gone and the residential component is smaller (although still substantial), the marina itself is actually slightly bigger - making it nearly twice the size of Hillary's marina, which has a capacity of almost 700 boat pens.

The EPA's advice to approve the previous version was rejected by the then Minister, Cheryl Edwardes, on the strength of numerous appeals. Since then, the EPA has also been presented with an enormous amount of scientific argument and evidence indicating the damage that would be caused by the development.

* Developers run out of arguments
On the media front, the developers and their supporters are straining to find a rationale for the proposal after government - responding largely to pressure from the Campaign - committed about $10 million to fix Coral Bay's sewerage and boating facilities. The developers had exploited years of government neglect by claiming that they would solve these problems, but that rationale now rings empty and is out of date, like the marina itself. Reinforcing this, the Premier recently admitted publicly that his government should have acted much sooner.

* Future Ningaloo gaining support
Through its Future Ningaloo project, the Campaign has also been making strong progress on expanding the parameters of debate to the whole region so that sensible, common sense land use planning can occur, at long last. There is strong support in the region for these efforts to look at the 'big picture' and to realise the enormous potential of the region. It has all the ingredients to be an icon of sustainability, not just in WA, but nationally and internationally.

* Minister admits coastal planning system broken: real change needed
The Campaign made a strong contribution recently to the review of the coastal planning and management regime under which this inappropriate proposal (and many others) was spawned. The Mauds Landing proposal has been characterised by a litany of ill-informed and premature decisions, without real community participation. More recent and sensible government policies on the region were ignored as the juggernaut rolled on. Only now, after massive community pressure, has there been any opportunity to stop the development once and for all, so that we can all get on with urgently needed, informed and genuinely participative planning.

Acknowledging that the existing planning system is beset by problems, Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Alannah MacTiernan, responded to calls from all major coastal community groups for an urgent review of the system. These groups formed a new group called the Coastal Planning Coalition to progress systemic reform. The marina proposal for Mauds Landing has been held up as a case study in the review because it demonstrates what can go wrong when developments are promoted before planning is done, without rigorous socioeconomic and scientific analysis, and in the absence of real community participation.

The review made some progress but fell far short of what was needed. It has been summarised by the statement: "a wave of reform was needed and all we got was a ripple." A major submission, which includes a legislative analysis by a leading QC, was recently sent to the Minister. The community must keep pushing for the system to be reformed; otherwise the same mistakes will be visited upon us, again and again.

The Wilderness SocietyConservation Council of WAAustralian Marine Conservation Society Australian Wildlife Consevancy

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