30/07/2008 - 22:00

Go-ahead for $35m Coral Bay village

30/07/2008 - 22:00

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The development of Coral Bay has been stalled for the past few decades, but the wheels of change have now started to turn, with site works for a village housing up to 400 people due to start in the near future.

BENEFITS: First Acuity director Noel Bridge says the new Coral Bay village will provide employment and enterprise opportunities for the Baiyungu people. Photo: Grant Currall

The development of Coral Bay has been stalled for the past few decades, but the wheels of change have now started to turn, with site works for a village housing up to 400 people due to start in the near future.

The project's owner, the Baiyungu Aboriginal Corporation (BAC), hopes it will be the catalyst for a series of new developments to be undertaken by the group along the Ningaloo coast, including an eco-resort and a walking trail modelled on the South West's Bibbulmun Track, running from Exmouth to Carnarvon.

At an estimated cost of $35 million, the village will be among the largest projects undertaken in the region to date, funded through a mixture of debt, private investment, short-term rental income and government funding (part of the village will be retained as state housing).

Catering for Coral Bay's worker population of 230, which falls away to 170 in the low season, the village will contain about 140 house and land packages when complete.

To be built on crown land, the village will proceed in a staged development, of about 200 homes initially, with house-and-land packages available for lease from the BAC.

The lots will only be available to workers or business owners in Coral Bay.

For the BAC, which controls an area of 30 hectares, the village and resort that may come later will establish long-term employment links in the area.

Project director Noel Bridge, who runs Perth-based business development company First Acuity, said he was aiming to encourage Aboriginal participation in the project.

"We want to build a foundation for future generations to participate. We'd like to create the opportunity for people to take an interest in different ways, whether through training or ownership down the track," Mr Bridge said.

"It's a huge project for us and it fits with my agenda to encourage indigenous enterprise development."

In keeping with the coastal environment, houses will be designed with eaves and verandahs, and built on stilts.

While a provider is yet to be chosen, the BAC has held preliminary discussions with several players in the modular housing sector.

As the village progresses, it is likely other developments in Coral Bay, which have been held up to date by a shortage of worker accommodation, may move ahead.

Two of Coral Bay's four landholders, of whom the state government is one, are already embarking on minor projects.

Claremont-based caravan park and chalet operator Bayview Coral Bay is planning to build a new 36-room motel on part of its existing site.

The project has planning approval from the Shire of Carnarvon and is part of a WAPC-approved master plan for Bayview's 14ha property.

Meanwhile, Aspen Group is preparing an upgrade of the 34 rooms in its Ningaloo Reef Resort, bought last year for $15 million.

The state government's Ningaloo Coast Regional Strategy was adopted in 2004, governing all future development in the area.

Earlier this month, the WA Planning Commission released its action plan for Coral Bay, which includes a number of measures such as the Baiyungu walking track.

The BAC, which has 60 official members, also owns the pastoral lease for Cardabia Station near Coral Bay.

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