MRA fails to recognise a Threatened Ecological Community

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Year 2016 in Review

The campaign to stop the roads and the “Year 2016 in Review”

  • 2014 – The campaign to stop the roads began after the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA) published plans to extend the Esplanade north and south of Scarborough Beach through Quindalup Bush Forever coastal dunes, as part of its major redevelopment of Scarborough Beach.  With at least $100m proposed to be spent by the State Government and the City of Stirling this development was and remains of obvious and intense interest to residents, ratepayers, beach users and taxpayers of WA.
  • January 2015 – The MRA released a draft Scarborough Redevelopment Master Plan for public comment. Although the coastal reserves north and south of Scarborough were not included in the Master Plan Area (as the Bush Forever land is vested in the City of Stirling for recreation and conservation purposes), the plan did include the Esplanade road extensions through the reserves.

In justifying its proposal for this environmental vandalism, the MRA falsely claimed that the sand dunes were degraded and “weed and rabbit infested” and downplayed the significance of the Bush Forever Areas.  The MRA’s consultant’s Level 1 flora and vegetation survey is the lowest level possible.  The Environmental Protection Act requires a Level 2 survey.  The MRA is cutting corners on its environmental assessment and then quoting it to justify destroying these important sand dunes. The survey virtually ignores the significance of the dunes as a habitat for reptiles, birds and other animals and the variety of landforms and topography that make up the Quindalup coastal dune system north and south of Scarborough Beach.

  • February 2015 – The Friends of Trigg Beach and Friends of Trigg Bushland made carefully researched submissions on the MRA Draft Scarborough Redevelopment Master Plan specifically regarding the devastating impact these new roads and car parks would have on these locally and regionally significant Bush Forever coastal reserves.
  • During 2015 these two groups continued to campaign to stop the road extensions and lobbied local Councillors, the MRA, the Minister for Planning, local MPs and worked to raise awareness among local residents and beach users.

2016

  • Publicity was sought and received through Channel 7, Channel 9, ABC Radio and the Stirling Times, in an effort to raise awareness and to inform the public of the MRA’s plans which were being pushed through “under the radar” (Channel 7).
  • 18 March 2016 – Friends of Trigg Beach and Friends of Trigg Bushland met with Liza Harvey Member for Scarborough to convey our concerns about the MRA’s plans and to seek her support for ruling out the roads.  Ms Harvey said she needed to be convinced the roads were not necessary to improve car access to the beach and reduce traffic congestion on West Coast Highway.  Although at this and subsequent meetings Ms Harvey has been prepared to listen, her position remains unchanged.
  • May 2016 – When it became obvious the MRA and the State Government were determined that the Esplanade extensions would go ahead despite public opposition, a group of concerned residents and beach users in south Scarborough Beach set up a change.org petition and formed a new group called Save our Sand dunes (SOS).
  • Representatives of the three groups (Friends of Trigg Beach, Friends of Trigg Bushland and Save our Sand Dunes) began meeting on a regular basis to plan strategies for expanding our campaign.  We decided to form a new “umbrella” group called “Beach Not Bitumen” with a mandate to secure a commitment to rule out the roads from all major political parties before the State election in March 2017.
  • July 2016 – A FOI application to obtain documents from the MRA draft Master Plan “public consultation” subsequently revealed that 175 written submissions had been received (out of a total of 501) specifically about the Esplanade road extensions.  Of these 163 were strongly opposed to the roads expressing concern about the environmental impact on the sand dunes, abutting properties and the character of the beachfront.  The MRA’s response to the FOI request provided a summary of each submission.  These thoughtful submissions are worth reading and make clear there is a huge amount of opposition to the plan to replace sand dunes at Scarborough Beach with bitumen and cars.
  • The MRA’s report to its own Board chose to downplay these concerns and subsequently NO changes were made to the final Master Plan regarding the Esplanade extensions.  The MRA ignored public concerns raised in the public consultation process and continues to do so today.  Lack of transparency in the decision making processes undertaken by the MRA and the lack of respect for local environmental groups and community concerns are totally unacceptable.  The MRA appears to operate with impunity and to be accountable to no-one. The Minister for Planning appears to take very little if any responsibility for this powerful agency.  Ironically, this Minister is also responsible for the protection of Bush Forever Areas under State Planning Policy 2.8.  This policy states that conservation is the primary purpose of Bush Forever designated areas.  The Minister has demonstrated that she is more interested in the development side of her portfolio than in her responsibility for protecting Bush Forever areas.
  • 5 July 2016 – Chris Tallentire MLA, Shadow Minister for the Environment (Labor) was the first MP to take up BNB’s invitation to meet at Scarborough Beach.  He was appalled that the State Government would even consider building roads through the protected sand dunes and called the idea “crazy”.  Chris Tallentire said the roads would cut off people’s access to the beach and at the same time destroy the ecology of the area.  He was particularly incensed when we pointed out that the public submissions had been ignored and that no alternative and more sustainable options to reduce the perceived traffic problems and improve public access to the beach had been considered by the MRA.
  • August 2016 – Invitations to the Ministers for Planning (Donna Faragher) and the Environment (Albert Jacobs) to meet at the site were declined.  Ms Faragher had recently established a Scarborough Redevelopment Community Advisory Group to “…provide her with feedback on the design and planning of the proposed road extensions…” and referred all correspondence to this group.  Mr Jacobs washed his hands of the environmental issues and simply referred us to Minister Faragher.
  • BNB commenced fund raising and engaged a marketing group to design campaign material.   Posters, placards, postcards, T shirts and a banner were designed and printed enabling us to set up an attractive and colourful stall at the Summer X Salt Markets at Brighton Beach every second Saturday morning from 22 October to 17 December 2016.  We also had a “pop up” stall at the Scarborough Primary School Twilight Market.  All of which attracted a massive amount of support for our campaign.
  • 22 October 2016 – BNB was officially launched at the site of the proposed Esplanade extension south of Scarborough Beach.  We had a small but enthusiastic crowd present and gained some media coverage.  Our campaign was now in full swing.
  • 25 October 2016 – the Minister for Planning asked the City of Stirling to hand over control of the area required for the road extensions within 30 days of the date of her letter.  Council officers recommend this action be approved by the Councillors.  BNB supporters swung into action to lobby Councillors to refuse to hand over of Bush Forever land to the MRA for roads.  The Councillors deferred the handover which was greeted with approval from over 120 BNB supporters attending in the public gallery at the Council meeting.  At the same meeting we asked multiple questions of Councillors regarding the City’s role in the planned roads and the proposal to transfer Bush Forever land currently managed by the City to the control of the MRA.
  • 17 November 2016 – A crowd of over 100 Supporters gathered at Parliament House to hand over a 3001 signature petition against the roads to Chris Tallentire MP for presentation to Parliament.  Speakers on the steps of Parliament House included Piers Verstegen the Executive Director of the Conservation Council of WA, Anthony James spokesperson for Beach Not Bitumen and Chris Tallentire Labor’s Shadow Minister for the Environment.  Liza Harvey MP for Scarborough also spoke to the crowd but conveyed incorrect information regarding road reserves and the role of the Minister’s Advisory Group.  Ms Harvey’s position in support of the roads becomes clearer.
  • A photo is taken on the steps of Parliament House with the Opposition Leader Mark McGowan holding one of our signs.  Subsequent meetings with candidates for the Labor Party, Alannah McTiernan, Tony Walker and Caitlin Collins confirm the ALP’s position in support of our campaign and in opposition to the unnecessary and environmentally damaging new roads at Scarborough Beach.
  • 17 November 2016 – on the same day as our petition is presented to Parliament Minister Faragher issued a Media Release saying, alarmingly, that the Esplanade extensions would “…reduce congestion and increase amenity and accessibility of the foreshore…” however, she said she her Community Advisory Group are able to look at alternative options to the roads.  However, this is contrary to the Terms of Reference of the Advisory Group which was established to plan and design the new roads, and no change in the ToR has occurred to date.
  • 20 December 2016 – BNB met on site with Lynn MacLaren MLC Greens, Alison Xenon and Judith Cullity Greens candidates; where assurances were given of Greens support for our campaign to stop the roads.
  • 21 December 2016 – Meeting with Liza Harvey MP for Scarborough at her office.  Ms Harvey concluded by saying that she needs it to be formally established that the alternatives (many of which are included in our Fact Sheet and Q&A) can work before responsibly ruling out the roads.  We have not been given any assurances that Ms Harvey’s position in support of the roads has changed.
  • 24 December 2016 – BNB has collected:
    • 4745 signatures on a Petition to State Parliament,
    • 567 postcards have been delivered to the Minister for Planning
    • 57 signed letters to Liza Harvey Member for Scarborough
    • 83 signed letters to Minister for Planning Donna Faragher.

We are still collecting signatures on our Petition which can be found on the BNB website.

  • 21 January 2017 there are no signs to date the MRA or the State Government honouring the Minister’s commitment to the exploration of “alternative options” to the road extensions at Scarborough Beach.

The future:

Beach not Bitumen’s campaign to stop the roads is set to become more political in 2017 as the State Election approaches (11 March 2017).  It is clear that we must put our support behind those MPs and candidates who are committed to stopping the roads.  To date, the Labor Party and the Greens have assured us that these unnecessary and environmentally damaging roads will not proceed should they be elected.  The Liberal Government and local MPs have continued to support the roads, unless alternative options are available, but have not made any attempt to explore these alternative options.

21 January 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People want a beach, not bitumen

The sad vision of a barren urban wasteland devoid of trees, so eloquently described by your correspondent George Crisp (Letters, 22/12) also applies to Perth’s coastline.

Natural vegetated sand dunes are rapidly being replaced by roads and carparks.

Scarborough is a case in point, where the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority is planning new roads and parking north and south of Scarborough beach through Bush Forever designated sand dunes.

These plans ignore State and coastal planning policies that have bipartisan support and are in place to protect Bush Forever areas on the Swan coastal plain.

How is it that a State Government authority can ignore these policies and push ahead to build unnecessary and environmentally damaging roads and carparks in a regionally significant coastal dune system?

Is the MRA not bound by State planning policies?  Is the minister not prepared to implement the State Government’s coastal protection policies?

This is environmental vandalism at its worst.

Community outrage and opposition is growing to these plans to destroy what makes Scarborough and Trigg beach the most popular in the metropolitan area.

The MRA and Government should immediately look at alternative transport options for accessing Scarborough and Trigg that would enhance and not destroy the natural environment either side of the Scarborough redevelopment.

Robyn Murphy

The West Australian, December 23, 2016, page 46

 

Why did the MRA reverse the City of Stirling’s decision to close the road reserve?

On 1 May 2012 the Council voted to close the Esplanade road reserve north of Reserve St Scarborough and incorporate the land into the adjacent Class A Reserve (South Trigg Beach Reserve 46248).  (link to letter from CoS to StB 16 May 2012 and advertisement in the Western Australian 28 Jan 2012)  The Council’s reasons for closure of the 2.8 hectare road reserve were set out in a letter dated 16 May 2012:

  • To maintain an ecological link into adjoining “A” Class Reserve;
  • Existing flora and fauna has a continuous relationship with the current dune structure;
  • Existing entry and egress points along West Coast Hwy and Reserve St cater for any future development;
  • A “No Road” decision would bring this location into conformity with the southern end of the Esplanade (no road).

Despite the above, during the early stages of planning the Scarborough Redevelopment, the MRA intervened to place the road closure on hold, and in July 2014 took full statutory planning control of the area.  This stopped the road closure proceeding, overriding the City of Stirling and halting the amalgamation of the road reserve and the adjacent Class A coastal reserve north of Scarborough and south of Trigg Beach car parks.  The whole of this area is environmentally significant and has been declared a Bush Forever Area under State Planning Bushland Policy 2.8.

Although we have been told on numerous occasions that this reserve is “…outside the Scarborough Redevelopment Master Plan” the MRA clearly planned to use the existing road reserve to extend the Esplanade north to West Coast Highway creating a new intersection and a major road through an environmentally sensitive and regionally important coastal dune system.

This is an example of a State Government authority stretching its powers to override a democratically elected Council and ignoring environmental protections established by the Department of Planning’s Bushland policy.  What or who gave the MRA this extraordinary power, what and to whom is it accountable?

Robyn Murphy for the Friends of Trigg Beach – 29 September 2016