EPA expected to open Smiths Beach development proposal for public comment in March

Smiths Beach project to open for public comment

Plans for the controversial development project on Smiths Beach will be open to public submissions this month, as confirmed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

Members of the public will be able to submit comments on the proposal for a window of seven days in March, with the specific opening date of submissions not yet confirmed.

The EPA will then decide on whether to undertake a new environmental assessment on December's proposal to build a new tourist resort, campground, surf club and residential development.

The development was proposed by a group of stakeholders headed by property developer Adrian Fini, for the site which has historically had other developments rejected over various issues.

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The new proposal has received strong criticism from the local Save Smiths Beach Action Group, over a number of planning points that they argue don't align with previous EPA requirements.

Community: The Save Smiths Beach Action Group is rallying the community to make comment on the proposed development in Yallingup. Picture: Instagram / Save Smiths Beach.

Community: The Save Smiths Beach Action Group is rallying the community to make comment on the proposed development in Yallingup. Picture: Instagram / Save Smiths Beach.

In 2009, the EPA provided a report with recommendations on a previous proposal.

These recommendations have now expired, with the EPA to determine whether or not to undertake a new assessment for the current proposal.

In making this decision, the EPA will consider changes in "the environment, scientific or technology knowledge arising since the initial assessment," an EPA spokesperson confirmed.

This decision will also consider public comments, as well as information found in the EPA's own investigations and the referral documentation provided by Mr Fini.

If the EPA decides not to assess the proposal, it advised that "normal development approval processes" will still apply.

However, after the state government passed planning reform laws in June 2020, developments valued over $5 million in regional areas go straight to the WA Planning Commission for approval.

This means the City of Busselton will not be able to vote on the proposal.

Proposal: Images released by the developer earlier this year depict parts of the proposed development on Smiths Beach. Picture: Supplied.

Proposal: Images released by the developer earlier this year depict parts of the proposed development on Smiths Beach. Picture: Supplied.

Action group spokesperson Dave Mitchell said a key community concern was that under the new plans, the project would expand further onto the headland than previously recommended by the EPA.

"The EPA must commit to a new review and explain why this developer can urbanise the fragile Smiths Beach headland," Mr Mitchell said.

"The same headland that the EPA has previously recommended should be excluded from any form of development on visual and environmental grounds."

Mr Mitchell said the action group would make submissions raising concerns about issues including:

  • A 48 per cent increase in permanent land clearing than previously approved.
  • Sewage is to be disposed onsite risking long term contamination, despite current approvals requiring a deep mains sewer.
  • 6.2 ha of the approved National Park and foreshore reserve will be developed against approvals and previous EPA rulings.
  • Increased loss of habitat for the critically endangered western ringtail possum and black cockatoos.
  • The unique and fragile Smiths headland will be developed for a hotel.

A website created by the developers said the new plan was designed to "minimise disturbance to vegetation and landforms."

"Our village area is deliberately shaped to preserve more high quality vegetation and significantly increase the total retained and managed vegetation compared to previous ideas for this important site," it said.

When the public interest period opens, comments can be submitted at https://consultation.epa.wa.gov.au