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Smiths plan is open to public

06 September 2006

Letter to the Editor, by Neill Stevens, project manager, Smiths Beach project

Detailed responses to the points made in the letter

In his latest letter "Smiths back on radar" (August 23) Frank Gaschk gives further evidence that he is not accurately informed about what is happening with the tourism and residential project planned for Smiths Beach.

His assertion that the developers are showing the community that they are unable to follow proper and orderly planning is simply wrong.

The facts are that for the past 12 months the developers and their consultants have been working very closely with the Busselton Shire planners and the Western Australian Planning Commission to refine the Development Guide Plan (submitted in August 2005) to ensure absolute compliance with:

Mr Gaschk is also wrong to say the most recent plan was submitted to council in May 2006. The revised DGP is likely to be submitted in the next month or two.

We are keen to get the plan out to the public as soon as possible and look forward to informed public input when it is advertised.

In relation to the decision of the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT), Mr Gaschk's assertions could not be further from the truth. The facts of the matter are:

It is also timely to correct other false assertions Mr Gaschk has recently made about the community consultation process.

In May, Mr Gaschk wrote that "the leaky marketing to community supporters of the plan has started again. Supporters are now free to spread biased, supportive views about the plans amongst the wider community, who have no access to the information."

He was in fact referring to a presentation made to the Dunsborough and District Progress Association which was well publicised and open to the public, following an invitation from the association. Whether association members choose to support the plan or otherwise is up to them. At least they will be making an informed decision.

Mr Gaschk should also be aware that the same presentation was made to the Smiths Beach Action Group two months earlier.

The Smiths Point project team is committed to continuing the most extensive community consultation ever undertaken for a coastal development in Western Australia.

We have previously invited Mr. Gaschk's participation in this process. That invitation to become informed remains open.

The wording of the text has not been modified from the original report in The Busselton~Dunsborough Mail. Text has been highlighted as links to further discussion.

1) Provision of accurate information to the public, and in particular community members with a registered interest, is the responsibility of the developer and their consultants who are paid to do that job. Any perceived inaccuracies in comments from interested community members by the Smiths Beach Project manager would be a direct result and further proof of inadequate community consultation by the developer.
[return to the letter]

2) Mr. Stevens has read my words as an assertion. They were written as an observation. This point applies throughout the letter. [Return to the letter]

3) The use of the words describing the inability of the developer to follow proper and orderly planning are not inaccurate. They were initially quoted from a submission to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) by the WA Planning Minister regarding the developer's application for a single house dwelling. The words were then recycled to reiterate that the developer had followed a planning path that was "inconsistent with the orderly and proper planning of the subject site". The SAT judgement makes for interesting reading. [Return to the letter]

4) Mr Stevens does not expand that the reason and requirement for the developer to work closely with the the shire planners is because the developer had up until that time presented two proposals that did not meet the basic planning guidelines set for Smiths Beach when they tried to work on their own. [Return to the letter]

5) The more accurate description of the methodologies is: The Busselton Shire Council need a framework with which to assess any future development proposal at Smiths Beach. The methodologies, which were proponent (developer) formulated, along with expert amendments from WA government departments, are that framework. Interested community members had input in the process. To claim upfront that the methodologies are primarily a framework that is "community endorsed" is misleading. Government agencies and the developers were the authors of the methodologies framework, not the community. If the developer goes on to claim that the community had successful input into the process, there is documentary evidence that shows that the developer made little effort in amending the methodologies in view of submissions from community groups. The dot point is an example of the developer's employee using and twisting the name of 'community' and implying endorsement of their methodologies by the community in a false manner. [Return to the letter]

6) The carefully chosen word used in the "Smiths back on radar" letter was 'dismissed'. This is the same word as used in the State Administrative Tribunal's judgement dismissing the application by the developer. The truth is that the application was dismissed. I did not say the application for the single dwelling was refused by the SAT. My observations and concerns are accurate. [Return to the letter]

7) An accurate observation that I have repeatedly put forward is that the developer's form of community consultation is selective at best. The process the developer's consultants and employees term community consultation demonstrates an extent that does not reach the whole interested community who have registered to participate in the process. As a further observation, this so-called community consultation has, at times been evasive and exclusive to the point that the main recognised community stakeholder group was unable to view copies of the August 2005 development plan withheld for weeks after the developer had selectively presented it to its preferred community group. This observation is made based on the lack of communication from the developers to a concerned community member who has been directly contactable via the Save Smiths Beach campaign web site. That avenue for contact is available even if the developer's consultants choose to ignore the contact details registered via their own web site, and when the details were 'lost', directly dictated over the phone to their community liaison consultants. This is my personal experience and I'd be interested to know if others who registered their contact details have been invited to these public presentations?

Further, a presentation, is a form of market advertising. Consultation, however, implies that the community is being listened to, that we are being consulted. If we add all the observations together a conclusion that can be drawn is that the developer is not consulting adequately with the community. They are presenting their plan to their selected 'community' in a superficial attempt to claim community consultation requirements have been fulfilled. Historical, real changes to the Smiths Beach development plan are observed to be the forced result of planning legislation requirements, which required wider community input via public submissions, not via the community consultation alleged by the developer's consultants. [Return to the letter]

8) The complete context of the partially quoted comments can be found by reading the letter in full. The "Revised plans. Same tactics" letter is one of the attempts to point out the selectivity and inadequacy of the developer's community consultation. Despite claiming the process to be extensive, the extent of consultation is failing to reach all the registered, interested, willing participants in the community. [Return to the letter]

9) If this assertion has any basis in truth then it is a sad indictment of community consultation practices being performed by coastal developers in Western Australia. [Return to the letter]

10) When? This audacious claim left me momentarily flabbergasted. So what is the whole truth on this claim?: My input to the process has been by public submissions, what you see on this web site and by writing letters to the print media. I have been invited once in six years to attend an information presentation and this was after I contacted the developer's consultants enquiring why I had never been contacted.

I even phoned the developer's community enquiry officer (12/09/06) to check if I had been invited to any presentations since the last proposal was withdrawn for revision in November 2005, and it was confirmed that we had not been in contact with each other since a bit of e-mailing on other matters regarding getting some images for this website in October 2005.

I had received an invitation once only at my own instigation to a presentation in September 2005 for the Development Guide Plan that didn't get approved for advertising. Mr Stevens claim is more than 365 days away from the truth. He ends his letter with this as his final "truth" and as such comprehensively demonstrates that scepticism is best applied to any of his claimed "facts".

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