Lavender farm owners face fight to open Carabooda restaurant

Karla Champion and Gary Wood from Yanchep Lavender with their dog Annie. Photo: Martin Kennealey d477303
Karla Champion and Gary Wood from Yanchep Lavender with their dog Annie. Photo: Martin Kennealey d477303

LAVENDER farm owners who want to build a restaurant in Carabooda will proceed to a State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) hearing after City of Wanneroo councillors rejected their application a third time.

Councillors cited concerns about conflict with surrounding vegetable farms when they rejected the Yanchep Lavender Farm application at the December 5 council meeting.

Farm owners Karla Champion and Gary Wood said they would continue their SAT appeal against the Wanneroo decisions, with the next meeting scheduled for December 15.

Miss Champion said they were disappointed the majority of councillors voted to refuse their application for a restaurant at 272 Old Yanchep Road.

They had appealed to SAT following the first council decision to refuse it in December 2016, and since the second council decision reaffirming that position in April, the applicants had revised plans.

The modifications included a plan for a fencing and vegetation buffer to reduce the effects of noise, odour and spray drift from intensive agriculture on surrounding properties.

They also proposed to display warning signs telling customers they were entering an intensive agriculture area where “there may be noise from farming equipment” and “dust generation”.

“The wind may also carry some odours or mist,” the proposed sign said.

“Take action if you have known allergies or if you feel ill, notify management immediately.”

Prior to the meeting, Quinns Rocks resident Bernard Neave gave a deputation about concerns held by himself and other market gardeners about having the restaurant beside existing intensive agriculture.

“It’s still not compatible with the surrounding uses,” he said.

Mr Neave said the hessian fence and shrubs proposed would only partially restrict overspray.

According to a council report, one of the adjacent properties grows broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and melons, while another grows cabbage, celery and lettuce.

The staff report had a recommendation of conditional approval, but that was lost and Cr Dot Newton’s alternative motion to refuse the application won favour from the majority of elected members.

During debate of the original recommendation, mover Samantha Fenn said both the “food bowl” growers and future economic development should be considered.

Cr Fenn said there were examples of restaurants and produce shops near agricultural land across WA, including the Swan Valley and South West.

“This is a working farm,” she said.

“We need to be able to provide the ability for our landowners to have some other income.”

Cr Newton raised her objections during that debate before moving the alternative when the original motion was lost.

“Our growers need our support,” she said.

“This is right in the middle of a primary producing area; it’s a totally inappropriate place for it.”

Mayor Tracey Roberts said the council “would fully support a restaurant and lavender farm but not in this location”.

Wanneroo MLA Sabine Winton, who chairs the North Wanneroo Agriculture and Water Taskforce, welcomed the council decision and said she hoped SAT would consider the issues raised.

Ms Winton said she was concerned about potential conflict between the two uses and highlighted a rural planning policy that required a 300m to 500m buffer around intensive agriculture.

“The local agricultural industry contributes $147 million to our WA agricultural exports,” she said.

“Wanneroo is a significant player – that’s worth 38 per cent of the total agricultural production from the Perth region.”

Ms Winton said there were health concerns related to having an outdoor restaurant near crops that were regularly sprayed but that people did not need to be concerned when eating the produce.

“I’m absolutely confident that the sprays that the growers use in Wanneroo are registered and endorsed,” she said.

Miss Champion said she and Mr Wood had lived on the property since 2005, which used to be a turf farm before increased water restrictions prompted them to look for alternative crops.

“We have lived there and we are still breathing,” she said.

“You wouldn’t think that there would be anything that bad in the northern corridor food bowl.

“We believe that we have done everything possible that has been asked of us for the concerns raised by councillors.”

Miss Champion said they had both worked in the mining industry and were conscious of health and safety.

They already have approval to operate the lavender farm, distilling products on site, and the current application includes building a restaurant with 42 parking bays that would operate from 10.30am to 10.30pm seven days a week.

It would employ six people and accommodate up to 50 people on Mondays to Wednesdays and up to 152 people from Thursdays to Sundays.

If the SAT appeal proceeds to a hearing, the City’s SAT planning policy requires it to hire an independent planning consultant.

“An independent planning consultant will be engaged to represent the City in SAT proceedings where a council decision is significantly different and fundamentally reverses administration’s recommendation,” it said.

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