Plan to save Wedge and Grey island shacks

Environment Minister Albert Jacob with the Preserving Wedge and Grey for WA crew.
Picture: Martin Kennealey   d466005
Environment Minister Albert Jacob with the Preserving Wedge and Grey for WA crew. Picture: Martin Kennealey d466005

CAMPAIGNERS for the long-term protection of Wedge and Grey islands shacks brought their wishlist to Perth on Friday.

The Preserving Wedge and Grey for WA campaign wants all political parties to sign up to five commitments aimed at saving the shack communities and helping them become cultural heritage tourist destinations.

Campaigners visited Burns Beach on February 24 and met Liberal MP Albert Jacob, who is both environment and heritage minister.

Wedge and Grey representative Murray Knowles said they had more than 15,000 supporters who were connected to the communities and lived in the northern suburbs.

“Our supporters want their elected representatives to commit to preserving a unique piece of WA’s cultural heritage and seize a longer term opportunity to create a destination that will give visitors from overseas and interstate a lifestyle experience they can’t get anywhere else,” he said.

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Mr Knowles said the five commitments were common sense decisions that made the difference between destroying a unique piece of WA heritage and preserving it for the benefit of the broader community.

Those commitments include support for the long-term evolution of Wedge and Grey settlements as tourist and recreation destinations that maintain and use the heritage character of existing shacks and cultural lifestyle.

The campaigners also want an independent planning project manager appointed to finalise master plans for implementation by 2020.

They want support for a formal listing of Wedge and Grey settlements on the State Register of Heritage Places.

They also want most of the existing shack dwellings retained and existing shack owners given universal lease tenure of 21 years with a 21-year renewal option.

Mr Jacob said his 2013 election commitments still stood and he would continue to work towards delivering those.

He said that included ensuring there was a high level of shack retention, bringing existing shacks up to building standards and not allowing any new shacks.

While acknowledging concerns about how the planning process was progressing, Mr Jacob said, if re-elected, he would meet with owners on a quarterly basis in his capacity as Environment Minister.

He said the Government could not commit to the 21-year lease for all shacks due to erosion issues.

“Some of those shacks are quite literally about to fall into the ocean,” he said.

“Current sea level rise modelling suggests that there will be more of those in future years. If someone is in a high risk area, they will be offered a five-plus-five year lease.”

Opposition environment spokesman Chris Tallentire said Labor had also met with associations.

“We understand the frustration and uncertainty that the current process has caused for shack owners, and the distrust and cynicism the current process has generated,” he said.

“We also recognise the willingness to make shacks available to visitors as a potential tourism experience.

“WA Labor is committed to getting the process back on track and with meaningful and timely action so that the issues of shack owners can be addressed.”