The state government has released new guidelines for coastal development, with conservationists hailing the move as a critical policy change, while an industry group labelled the policy changes as seriously flawed and unbalanced.
Planning Minister John Day announced the policy changes in Esperance today, with the document set to give developers guidance for land use and development decision making along the state's 20,000 kilometres of coastline.
Mr Day said the policy would guide the width of foreshore reserves to ensure they can accommodate for changes to the coastline over time and guarantee recreational areas would not be squeezed out by development.
“It strikes the right balance between ensuring access to the coast for leisure and recreational activities, managing the need for housing and commercial development to accommodate our growing population, and protecting the environment,” he said.
But the Urban Development Institute of Australia said the plan was “seriously flawed” and unbalanced.
UDIA WA chief executive Debra Goostrey said the policy emphasised what can’t be done to develop Western Australia’s coast and focused on pushing development back away from beaches.
“For a state that loves the beach lifestyle, this policy can only be seen as draconian as it relies heavily on significant coastal setbacks to mitigate risk rather than exploring innovative interim solutions to make the most of our valuable coastal assets,” Ms Goostrey said in a statement.
“The need for high-amenity beach facilities, including cafes and restaurants, in close proximity and view of the waterline for use by the community must be recognised and allowed for in growth areas along our coast line and not only in established areas.”
The state’s peak environmental advocacy group, the Conservation Council of WA, however, said the policy change was a critical measure to support climate change adaptation.
“Western Australia’s coastlines will be severely impacted by sea level rise and increasingly severe storm events, so it is critical that we have coastal planning policies that avoid placing inappropriate developments in high-risk areas,” CCWA director Piers Verstegen said.
“This does not only concern risk to private assets – our coastlines and beaches belong to all of us and they need to remain accessible for everyone to use and enjoy in the future.”