Premier advises a viable plan can be produced for a sustainable future for Wedge & Grey

Premier advises a viable plan can be produced for a sustainable future for Wedge & Grey

Colin Barnett in late December 2015 reaffirmed commitments by former Ministers for the Environment, Hon Donna Faragher and Hon Bill Marmion, to develop a compromise plan for the shack settlements at Wedge and Grey.

This follows a statement in June 2015 by the current Minister, Hon Albert Jacob, that a significant number of shacks at these settlements would be retained. The Premier also stated that proper consideration of cultural heritage values of the communities would be undertaken.

The State Liberal government came to power in late 2008 and in March 2010 the first direction was given to DPaW (formerly DEC, CALM) to work with the shack associations to produce a viable plan.

The Wedge Island Protection Association (WIPA) and the Grey Community and Conservation Association (GCCA), representing the recreational shack communities, openly engaged with the agency but became frustrated with the apparent lack of willingness to resolve issues and develop a viable plan. Repeated attempts to identify why progress was so slow were met with excuses of ‘lack of clear government direction’ or ‘State Solicitor advice’.

In early December 2015, WIPA and GCCA expressed concern in a meeting with senior staff of the Office of Premier, that Parks & Wildlife (DPaW), the current agency delegated the responsibility to produce the plan, was struggling to adequately resolve planning issues and was being tardy with both consultation and the planning process.

Planning activity has been inconsistent and disjointed with infrequent consultation and minimal response to feedback given.

A draft DPaW Zone Proposal was released in February 2014 after 15 months of preparation without any opportunity for input by WIPA or GCCA. Subsequent submissions by the associations highlighted shortcomings and proposed how to overcome them.

DPaW submitted a Preliminary Planning Report (June 2014) to the Minister in July 2014, apparently ignoring the issues raised by WIPA and GCCA. It appears DPaW are adopting the BBC ‘Yes Minister’ script.

Scheduled Working Group meetings with stakeholders during 2015 were either cancelled by DPaW due to ‘roadblocks’ (DPaW terminology) or ineffectual in reaching consensus on resolving differences.

Essentially the changes needed to the DPaW planning approach can be summarised into four areas;

  • The fully researched European cultural heritage values (GML Report 2012) needs to be formally recognised through the State Heritage Office and conserved by listing on the State Register of Heritage Places during the front end of DPaW planning
  • Shacks sites need to be retained in-situ or in suitable alternative locations in order to preserve community heritage. The Aboriginal heritage site is adequately protected.
  • Long-term shack leases need to be equitable and viable (not differential based on arbitrary Zones)
  • Coastal planning policies (SPP2.6) should be properly applied with coastal processes being the only criterion for shack removal and only when a threat is imminent.

The objective of the community associations is to ensure the long-term existence of the unique qualities of both the Wedge and Grey shack settlements, for all visitors to experience by developing a management model and plans which are sustainable socially, economically and environmentally.

WIPA and GCCA, with consultant input, have developed a management framework which focuses on:

  • Preservation and conservation of the current physical and social character of the two last intact major shack settlements in Western Australia whilst upgrading shacks to meet agreed relevant health and safety standards
  • Broadening and delivering the opportunity for the general public to share and experience the unique shack culture together with nature-based tourism and visitor facilities
  • Enhancing the symbiotic relationship between the communities and the environment and recognising the need for balance
  • Encouraging a collaborative approach to management between the communities and the relevant land managers to ensure a sustainable plan can be delivered.

WIPA and GCCA submitted further detailed professional advice to DPaW on these matters but during formal discussions in February 2016 no resolution has been reached. Planning policy interpretation and asbestos management is now the focus.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]