Joy at move to formally protect Scarborough dunes short lived

 Robyn Murphy, Steve De Puma and Marg Herring from Beach Not Bitumen with Nina McLaren from Friends of Trigg Bushland.
Robyn Murphy, Steve De Puma and Marg Herring from Beach Not Bitumen with Nina McLaren from Friends of Trigg Bushland.

A DEVELOPER wants to clear a coastal dunes area in Scarborough earmarked for protection.

The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage is currently seeking feedback on the permanent closure of a 3.3ha road reserve north of Reserve Street and its amalgamation with the adjacent South Trigg Class A Reserve.

But Norup + Wilson this week applied to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation to clear a 1160sq m portion of the land next to its apartment complex being built on West Coast Highway.

The application stated clearing was needed to “allow access and amended levels for development of adjoining lot” and introduction of a firebreak and emergency access.

Director Dave Wilson said the City of Stirling requested it apply and undertake remedial work on its behalf.

“It was evident that the adjacent land reserve required fauna maintenance and re-levelling to reduce an unprotected edge that resulted from a boundary realignment,” he said.

“Norup + Wilson support the viewpoint the land should be made into a reserve, which is why it is willing to commit significant funds to assist the City with the re-levelling and revegetation.”

Community groups have campaigned for the closure for several years, after the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA) previously proposed to extend The Esplanade north through the dunes as part of the Scarborough Beach redevelopment.

The State Government scrapped the plans last May.

A threatened ecological community of Rottnest Island Cypress Pines, including two 100-year-old trees, was discovered at the site in 2016 and afforded protection by the City of Stirling last year.

Beach Not Bitumen member Robyn Murphy said it had taken four years of campaigning to reach this point.

“Although it has taken some time, it is important that this now proceed without delay to ensure this area is protected into the future, as a rare and valuable natural area,” she said.

Friends of Trigg Bushland’s Nina McLaren said the road reserve was part of a Bush Forever site and the dunes had State-wide significance, which would be threatened if development was allowed.

“Preserving these unique coastal dunes and the rare ecological communities found in them is of paramount importance to conservation as well as tourism,” she said.

Ms McLaren said coastal expert Vic Semeniuk previously assessed the site, finding the dunes structure worth preserving, and was concerned this would be affected by the developer’s plan to change the land elevation.

“It is very important…the height and shape of the dunes and swales be preserved,” she said.

“That is part of the geo-heritage of the Bush Forever site; it is not just about plants.

“It is a unique and complex area, and there just isn’t any of that left in Perth.”

Ms Murphy agreed the site needed protection and was upset public comment on the permit closed on January 1.

“These two process are being undertaken simultaneously but one protects the area and the other is seeking to destroy it,” she said.

“There must be time for people to make comment on proposals to clear land on sensitive coastal dunes and it should be widely advertised.”

City acting chief executive Michael Littleton said a State Government policy required the land be cleared, re-profiled and replanted for an asset protection zone and firebreak for emergency vehicles, which was a condition of the MRA approval.

“This 19 metre fire suppressant zone is proposed to be 4 metres on the Beach Shack development land and 15 metres into the adjacent State reservation,” he said.

“Once the area has been re-profiled and a firebreak installed, the dunes will be re-vegetated with native species that are a lower fire risk.”

He said the developer would cover the costs.

Public comment on the road reserve closure is until January 2; email dougal.mcmullan@dplh.wa.gov.au, or comment on the clearing permit at www.der.wa.gov.au.