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Let's deal with facts

13 June 2007

Letter by Bob Mckay,
Chairman Smiths Beach Action Group,
Busselton~Dunsborough Mail

I BELIEVE it is important to deal with fact and to avoid subjectivity in a healthy community debate about Smiths Beach. I will answer questions that Beryle Morgan has raised in her recent letter to the Mail (Morgan responds to Smiths Beach claims, 23/05/2007).

I would also like to correct a statement I made. It was not the South West Regional Planning Committee that Brian Burke was telling Norm Marlborough to appoint Beryle Morgan to, it was the South West Development Commission. For this error, I apologise.

The 1997 steering committee for the draft State Planning Policy (SPP) did not agree with the recommendation to investigate "substantial tourism opportunities" (development) at Smiths Beach. The steering committee resolved that "a review of the settlement hierarchy was not supported". This information is direct from the minutes of the steering committee meeting.

I alerted the minister of the day, Graham Keirath, and his successor Alannah MacTiernan of the significant change to the draft SPP.

The change was to the settlement hierarchy where the draft for public comment document states, "short stay accommodation of less than 500 people". The final document contains actual numbers (230 dwellings) of residential lots that were never included in the draft for public comment.

As a result of airing my, and the wider community's, concern about this change, the Minister of Planning instigated an amendment to the SPP where it applies to Smiths Beach.

Beryle Morgan was shire president when the council adopted this amendment to the SPP.

It is important to note that the developer sent a paid lobbyist to persuade councillors to vote against supporting the amendment to the SPP, and later the subsequent amendment to bring the local Town Planning Scheme in line with the SPP.

Mrs Morgan agreed with me at the time that the SPP process had gone wrong. I have kept a record of our email conversations dated the October 9, 2001. I quote from an email reply on the issue by Mrs Morgan, "Hi Bob to the best of my recollection, yes I think you have it right. Yes I agree with your letter but people are pretty much set in their ways as we have seen...". I have also discussed my concern with other members of the steering committee who also support my recollection that the committee did not discuss, or give approval for, a large development at Smiths Beach. The minutes of the meetings clearly show the intent of the committee.

Without this critical change to the Statement of Planning Policy, there would be no large scale development proposal for Smiths Beach. The fact that thousands of people (over 3000) lodged a written submission against the first proposal shows that this development should not be taking place.

Any development was only ever meant to be a low-key tourist development node, total population of less than 500.

The now amended SPP states, "Any proposed development at Smiths Beach must be determined with the overriding need to protect the visual and environmental values of the area".

The community has a right to see that the planning process, in which we participate in good faith, is followed properly. That the process is fair and transparent and not subject to the machinations of paid lobbyists driven by 'success fees' to achieve the largest development possible.

Mrs Morgan asked, "Why did the developer get to the stage where he felt the need to engage consultant/lobbyists to do this type of lobbying?". The obvious answer is that the size and scale of the proposed development has been shown, by expressed community sentiment, to be inappropriate. But the developer could not and will not accept that community view.

The community are trying to protect a high value, scenic beach for thousands of residents and millions of visitors. The Smiths Beach Action Group repeatedly state, we are not opposed to a development, but it needs to be smaller and more sensitive to the community's concerns. However, the developer has repeatedly rejected this approach. Therefore we see no alternative but to continue to oppose this inappropriate development.

Copyright 2007 by Rural Press Ltd. This report is for information only in order to inform readers about this report. 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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