Wedge is much more than just a physical location with beautiful beaches to enjoy on a good day and pristine productive waters offshore.
The community which has evolved over the last 70 years reflects a lifestyle which has all but disappeared elsewhere and gives the settlement a unique sense of place.
This uniqueness is documented in the GML Heritage Assessment (report April 2012 – link) and is what the shack associations are campaigning to save.
Contrary to beliefs held by bureaucrats, the self supporting settlements are open communities and visitors are welcome. There is no demand for traditional government services. This perhaps is perceived as a threat by the bureaucracy and lifestyle freedom with self regulation is a difficult concept for some to grasp. Conformity, regulation and compliance seems to be more important.
Since 1998, WIPA and the Grey shack association, have been consistently trying to work with the managing government agency (CALM, DEC and now DPaW) to bring about a compromise plan which retains this sense of place as opposed to removal of shacks and destruction of the vibrant community. The plan would also accommodate visitor facilities, enable ‘shack stays’ and be delivered earlier to provide ‘formal’ public access.
Shack leases were issued in 1995 originally for 6 years to terminate in 2001, but due to political lobbying were extended for another 10 years. They were then renewed on a rolling 12 month basis until the current arrangement of a licence till June 2016. These temporary extensions were necessary due to no resolution by the bureaucracy of a compromise plan.
The next State election will be in March 2017.
Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) have had specific direction since March 2010 from the Barnett Liberal government to produce a plan. It has not eventuated and a further licence extension is proposed by DPaW till June 2017, ie post election.
WIPA and GCCA can see no reason why a decision cannot be made regarding long term tenure and plans for the establishment of public facilities before the end of 2016. Solutions to the perceived ‘roadblocks’ (identified by DPaW) have been proposed by the associations and shack owners are waiting for approval to commence shack health and safety upgrades.
DPaW are intent on engaging numerous expensive consultancies to draw out the process and seek ways to justify minimal shack retention.
Politicians need to be accountable to ensure an agreed compromise plan is finalised during 2016.
If it appears the response from government (politically and bureaucratically) is inadequate, then WIPA and GCCA will mount a public campaign during 2016.
What can you do?
A formal European heritage assessment of the Wedge and Grey settlements was completed and presented to government in 2012 (GML Report April 2012). The findings were unequivocal that State level cultural heritage values exist and should be protected through listing on the State register of Heritage Places. The process has stalled through the State Heritage Office due to delays in establishing a heritage policy for the sites because of DPaWs lack of a management plan.