24/09/2008 - 22:00

Highway plan worries winery

24/09/2008 - 22:00

Bookmark

Save articles for future reference.

Major independent Western Australian winemaker Stella Bella has raised rural property rights as a key issue in a battle with the Augusta-Margaret River Shire over a diversion road that could cut through one of its vineyards.

Stella Bella management says the proposed realignment of the Bussell Highway threatens one of its oldest and most important vineyards

Major independent Western Australian winemaker Stella Bella has raised rural property rights as a key issue in a battle with the Augusta-Margaret River Shire over a diversion road that could cut through one of its vineyards.

Stella Bella and the Margaret River Wine Industry Association have raised alarm bells over a proposed realignment of the Bussell Highway, which is part of a future strategy to provide for urban growth of Margaret River and relieve downtown traffic congestion.

News of the broader strategy earlier in the year, which was reported in WA Business News, unsettled some vineyard owners, especially Voyager Estate's Michael Wright, but failed to cause much concern from many in the industry or WA Wine Industry Association.

But more detailed road alignment information has been a cause of major concern for Stella Bella, which believes it is a threat to one of its oldest and most important vineyards, a 25-year-old site of more than 40 hectares east of the town, which it claims would be sliced in two according to plans it has seen in local media.

Such a disruption would make it unviable, the winemaker claims.

Invoking the right to farm, Stella Bella managing director John Britton may have unique timing on his side, with Nationals WA holding the balance of power in the state and its membership known to be hot on this issue.

"It is about our right to farm. All we are trying to do is protect our vineyards," Mr Britton said.

But Augusta-Margaret River acting CEO Wayne Prangnell said the shire supported local farmers and vineyards' right to farm, and that was not an issue in this case.

"This is not a right-to-farm issue," he said. "This is about a road realignment around the town. I think that is a claim to put a bit of pressure on the council."

Mr Prangnell said the road realignment was in the early stages of a very thorough and wide-ranging consultative process that had to be fair and equitable to all landowners.

"I think people are trying to make a lot of noise to influence the outcome of the process," he said.

Mr Prangnell said the council had met with Stella Bella to provide for its concerns, pointing out that the alignment had been adjusted to take it as far as possible to the side of the vineyard in question.

''We are working with them to try to find a solution," he said.

In March, WA Business News highlighted the growth of development at Margaret River by revealing news of the 264ha Margaret River Estate - a proposal that was aiming to be sensitive to the area but still had some in the wine industry concerned.

That is swath of land that cuts across the Bussell Highway to the south of Margaret River's township and has been earmarked as a potential growth corridor as the town faces the prospect of almost trebling its population within 20 years.

The development reflects the projected growth in the area and brings the Margaret River sprawl closer to a host of well-known wineries such as Leeuwin Estate, Xanadu Norman Wines, Voyager Estate and Watershed Wines.

Augusta-Margaret River Shire is preparing to accommodate between 7,000 and 13,000 people, compared with 4,415 in 2006.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options