THE town of Pickering Brook is dying say landowners who are calling for action to revitalise the once thriving community.
Resident Garry Beard said the inability of landowners to subdivide or develop tourist ventures was a major factor in the town’s demise.
“In the past the area had significant importance in the production of fruit for export and local markets,” he said.
“It sustained itself with two primary schools, a supermarket, a butcher, a post office, hairdresser, service station/hardware store and a mechanical workshop.
“Now all that is left is one school, a convenience store with limited supplies, a small coffee shop and a mechanical workshop.
“These cannot supply basic necessities to the community so residents travel nearly 14km to the nearest supermarket.”
Mr Beard said a large number of once productive orchards had been cleared and left fallow.
“The Department of Agriculture’s view that land in Pickering Brook should remain as rural agricultural zoning because it is part of WA’s food bowl is grossly overstated and outdated,” he said.
“There is no longer enough water for irrigation to sustain large orchards and the return on investment is no longer profitable.”
Mr Beard said subdivision would allow more people to move into the area.
“Half acre lots would suit residential development which would be affordable for young families who wished to enjoy a country lifestyle close to the CBD,” he said.
“Five acre lots would support small cottage industries, eco tourism and agri-tourism ventures.”
Pickering Brook resident Ray Furfaro said the district had potential to become a tourist destination to rival Margaret River.
“It is no longer financially viable for most people to make a living from their orchards and impediments to developing the area as a tourist destination is a major factor in the town’s demise,” he said.
“A quarter of people that come to WA are looking for a pristine environment to visit but we are being blocked from subdividing and setting up tourism ventures.
“Unfortunately our town is seen as a little speck that no one is interested in.”
Fellow resident Sue Marchesano has been trying to subdivide her cleared 4ha property in the town’s centre for 20 years.
“The area is no longer the thriving orchard area it was back in the ‘70s,” she said.
“The saddest part is landowners are getting older and they are pouring blood, sweat and tears into picking all the fruit to send to market and are barely making a living.
“Children look at that struggle and they don’t want to stay on the land.”
City of Kalamunda Mayor John Giardina said two proposals by the City to develop Pickering Brook’s town site have been rejected by the WA Planning Commission (WAPC).
Cr Giardina said current State planning policies were overly restrictive in terms of development in the City’s rural areas and needed to be reviewed.
“The Pickering Brook town site area is an important anchor to tourism in the hills and this function cannot be further enhanced without WAPC approval,” he said.
Planning Minister Rita Saffioti hoped to have an announcement in the near future on possible ways to progress the town.
“Having grown up on an orchard in Roleystone and now in the position of Planning Minister, I am extremely keen to continue working with Pickering Brook and Carmel landowners to work towards an agreed vision for the future,” she said.
“I agree there is a lot of potential for the area from a tourism, heritage and agricultural perspective – and we will be looking issues like subdivision as we work towards a collective vision.”