THE Augusta-Margaret River Shire is at the centre of another bitter fracas as tourism and viticulture compete for land use in the South West.An application, lodged by local resident Tony Saw, is seeking the Shire Council’s permission to rezone a rural property to allow for 32 strata titles for residential development and a tourism complex.The deadline for public comment has been extended until February 13 before the shire makes any decision.The shire is already deeply embroiled in a conflict over a development on the beach at Gnarabup.Denis Horgan owns Leeuwin Estate, one of the region’s best-known vine-yards.Mr Horgan is concerned that residential development on rural land will jeopardise the future of the Wine industry in Margaret River and WA.Uncertainty about the future viability of the region is likely to discourage investment and, ultimately, hurt not just the wine industry, but also the lucrative tourism market, according to Mr Horgan.“The industry is very concerned. If it can happen on land adjacent to Leeuwin Estate there’s the capacity for it to happen anywhere,” he said.It’s not just the future of the wine industry, residential uses and viticulture are simply not compatible, according to Mr Horgan.“We use tractors and lights at all times day and night,” he said.“A winery operates 24 hours a day and seven days a week.”Mr Horgan said more than 1,000 objections had been lodged with the Augusta-Margaret River Shire.Mr Saw claims Mr Hogan is opposed to any rezoning because he wants to retain the large rural blocks in the region.“It’s an archaic district planning scheme,” Mr Saw said.“The situation is we’ve got this shire which has had problems and we’ve had total chaos.“The new council are totally ignorant of the whole (planning) process.”The proposed development is for a little village on less than 25 per cent of my land which is more than one kilometre away from Leeuwin Estate, according to Mr Saw.“We’re proposing a green title freehold sibdivision of 24 residential lots,” Mr Saw said.“If anyone lives here they will sign a covenant to say they won’t complain.”Michael Wright, who owns Voyager Estate in Margaret River, supports Leeuwin Estate in its bid to uphold the zoning set out in the town planning scheme.Mr Wright has serious concerns about the future of viticulture in WA and Australia if more stringent zoning regulations are not developed.The Shire Council has to decide if rural activity is the priority in the area, Mr Wright said.There are also issues of pollution, including groundwater contamination, to take into consideration if residential development is allowed in close proximity to vineyards.“Some kind of curtailment needs to be considered. Viticulture is the mainstay of the area and the thing to remember is residential development is becoming a problem,” Mr Wright said.
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