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Penguin protection scuttles marina plans

THE $200 million Port Kennedy development south of Rockingham is facing fierce opposition from some of the region’s smallest and shyest residents.

A fragile white bait nursery may put paid to any plans for a marina, posing major questions about the future of the tourism development.

Research undertaken ahead of the construction of the first stage of Port Kennedy revealed that the colony of Little Penguins living on Penguin Island were dependent on the white bait originating from a nursery at Becher Point – the proposed site for the marina

If the hatchery is disturbed or destroyed, the Little Penguins will have to travel further to forage for food, placing unbearable pressure on the vulnerable chicks.

Freehills partner Konrad de Kerloy, acting for Pac-Asia holdings, the company currently bidding for the development rights for Port Kennedy, said it seemed unlikely the marina would ever be built.

“The marina is not going to happen in any way shape or form … it isn’t part of our proposal,” Mr de Kerloy said.

“Primarily, the research we’ve done has identified that it is a sensitive environment … it’s a fairly important white bait breeding area and, given that, it’s very unlikely we’d ever get approval for it.

“The company in administration is Port Kennedy Resorts and it’s the company assigning the project to a bidder. The Government is deciding whether to consent to the assignment.”

Dr Belinda Carnnell undertook research on the birds on Penguin Island as part of an environmental study ahead of the original Port Kennedy development.

“What we were supposed to do was a year pre-construction, a year during construction and a year post construction,” Dr Cannell said. “But we never got to do any more (after the pre construction stage).

“The research showed the birds spent most of the day foraging in Comet Bay, the next bay down from the Port Kennedy development.”

And further study, in conjunction with Fisheries Western Australia, showed the white bait the penguins consumed originated from a nursery at Becher Point – a sheltered point at the edge of Wanbro Sound earmarked for the Port Kennedy Marina.

“If the penguins have to forage further afield they won’t be able to make it back in time to feed the chicks and the chicks will die,” Dr Cannell said.

“The birds have to stay within 25 kilometres when they are chick rearing.

“Essentially if they have to go further afield it’s less likely that they’ll breed successfully.

“The penguins at Penguin Island actually appear to be a sub species, which means the colony has an even higher conservation status.”

Port Kennedy Resorts Pty Ltd originally won a government mandate in 1992 to develop a $200 million tourist resort south of Rockingham, including two golf courses, a 250-room hotel, about 1,000 short stay accommodation units and a marina.

In November 2000 the troubled company called in an administrator and the State Government issued a default notice, warning that if the project remained stalled, development rights may be lost.

The current State Government is considering whether it will accept a bid from Pac-Asia to take over the development rights from the embattled Port Kennedy Resorts.

PKR administrator Kim Strickland said the Government still was deciding whether or not to assign the project to Pac-Asia.

“They (the Government) are assessing the project and putting conditions on any approval,” Mr Strickland said.

It’s understood the Government maintains that any assignment of the project must include the initial details of the proposed development.

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