Valley under threat

A FORTHCOMING review of the Swan Valley Planning Act has

raised the spectre of more residential development in the region.

The Act, initiated in 1995, was designed to retain the Swan Valley as a rural resource, preventing such development in other than defined areas.

However, land values are starting to outstrip the returns from the valley’s rural and viticultural uses.

A price of $55,000 an acre is now not uncommon and prices of up to $100,000 an acre may not be far off.

The area’s share of WA’s table grape market has fallen to around 80 per cent from the 95 per cent share it enjoyed in 1991-92.

The fall in wine production has been even steeper.

The region now produces 25 per cent of WA’s wine compared to Margaret River’s 40 per cent.

Once, the valley was WA’s biggest wine producer.

Former Shire of Swan president Charlie Zannino said market forces could force smaller viticulture operators out.

“If land costs around $50,000 per acre there is no way you can turn a profit from grapes,” Mr Zannino said.

The Swan Valley has great residential potential because it is close to the Perth CBD. More importantly for some professionals, it is close to Perth’s airports.

John Garland International principal John Garland said the Swan Valley also offered a unique lifestyle.

“The reason people are buying there is that it is one of the few places you can have a lifestyle with restaurants, wineries and horse properties on the city’s doorstep,” Mr Garland said.

This very selling point could, however, stop any plans to increase residential density in the region.

Mr Garland believes such development would destroy the land values.

“It would be a terrible thing if commercial development was allowed in. It would be like subdividing Kings Park,” he said.

SB Devenish & Sons state manager Simon Devenish said a lack of vital infrastructure such as sewerage, drainage and power could also stymie greater residential development.

Even the Ellenbrook subdivision is not yet fully connected to Perth’s deep sewerage system although a high pressure main for the service is in place.

“They might chip away at some of the areas allowed under the current SVPA but, again, the lack of infrastructure will cause problems,” Mr Devenish said.

“It really needs the WA Government to put the infrastructure in place and I can’t see that happening in the near future – maybe in ten or fiftenn years’ time.

“I see the integrity of the valley remaining,” he said.

BRANCHING DEVELOPMENT: Land prices are putting pressure on the Swan Valley’s traditional industries.

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