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Smiths Beach a wipe-out under plan: surfers

30 December 2000

The West Australian

Dirty, smelly, polluted water is not what first comes to mind when people think of famous Californian beaches.

But world-class WA surfers Taj Burrow, Jake Paterson and Melanie Redman have seen it all. They know that cuts do not heal after surfing at Huntington Beach and they know swallowing water can makes them sick, never mind the ear and throat infections.

That is why they love returning to the clean, beautiful, uncrowded beaches of WA's South-West.

They were horrified when they came home from Hawaii last week to hear about plans for a big development at Smiths Beach, south of Yallingup.

The surfers believe Smiths Beach would be devastated if the proposals went ahead.

They have joined the groundswell of public outcry against the plans.

Burrow feared any mass development of the beach would cause increasing amounts of pollution. He said he liked to escape the dirty waters and fast lifestyle associated with many of the beaches he surfed while on the world circuit. He kept coming back to the area because it was the opposite to what he was used to on tour. "It has some of the best surf in the world, he said. He said the development sounded ridiculously big.

Redman said Smiths Beach was like a bit of paradise. She believed to allow such a big development would open the way to more development in the area. "It is not suited," she said. "It would lose a lot of its tourism potential."

Paterson said if the area was developed, it would lose appeal. He said the plans for development should be less dense and perhaps focus on big lots rather than lots of units. There needed to be controls so the area did not lose its character.

The strong feeling in the surfing community adds support to the Smiths Beach Action Group.

Group spokeswoman Melia Brent-White said she was angry when she heard about the plans. She knew it was important to act quickly because submissions must be made by February 19. Ms Brent-White, 20, said the development would have a massive environmental impact and would greatly affect the rural community. It would change the way the area looked and operated. She organised the first public meeting to raise awareness - and it was attended by more than 350 people.

THIRD TIME UNLUCKY FEAR FOR CAMPERS

It happened at Noosa and then again at Hastings Point, north of Byron Bay. The Thomsons have seen it all before on the east coast.

Big development moves into a beautiful holiday spot and the little people are pushed out.

The Thomson family, of Joondalup, fear that a proposal to develop the pristine Smiths Beach will have the same result - they will no longer get to enjoy their humble, affordable holiday at the Canal Rocks Beach Resort campsite.

As it is, the Thomsons have had to book their caravan site a year in advance since the park's size was reduced to make way for expensive units five years ago.

They said they had camped at the site for the past 10 years and liked its friendly, family atmosphere.

Robyn Thomson said the "little people" would be affected most, those who could not afford expensive houses or accommodation. She feared there would be nothing left for people who just wanted to camp.

"It feels like the rich syndrome," she said. "It happened in Noosa, the rich people wanted their way."

Mrs Thomson said her family went to Noosa every year when they lived in the eastern States, staying at a campsite between the river and the ocean. Then exclusive homes were built, the owners did not like the campsite and it was closed down.

The family moved their holidays to Hastings Point in NSW - and the same thing happened.

"This is the third time," Mrs Thomson said. "The camp grounds here have a great atmosphere. Most people come on a regular basis. People are really concerned they will lose somewhere to go."

Leigh Thomson said the council should take notice of the effect development had on the east coast. When the environment was disturbed a sandfly problem developed.

"Here it is pristine and tranquil," he said. "You can walk down to the beach and look back and all you see is bushland."

DEVELOPERS SAY ALL WILL BENEFIT

The size of the proposed development at Smiths Beach south of Yallingup has drawn criticism from locals and holidaymakers alike.

People fear such a development would have a detrimental impact on the environment, causing pollution, destroying pristine bush and forcing out native wildlife. It would draw thousands more people to the area, creating significant traffic and needing substantial infrastructure.

But the developers, Canal Rocks, say both tourists and residents will be catered for by the development.

The proposal is designed to cater for growing tourist and residential demand expected in the area over the next 15 to 20 years.

Plans released for a 60-day public comment period show the development includes 230 residential lots, 460 holiday units, an outdoor festival area, village and community centre, upgraded coastal paths and public parking.

An extra 8ha from the development area would be dedicated to the adjoining national park.

Canal Rocks chairman David McKenzie told The West Australian recently that the plan represented 15 years of extensive community consultation and workshops.

He said it would involve extensive conservation and revegetation initiatives and aimed to minimise overall aesthetic impacts on the area. It was meant to provide real benefits to the district.

Copyright 2000 by West Australian Newspapers Ltd. This report is for information only. No charge for such use is made and the material is not being used for commercial purposes. The text has not been modified from the original report.

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