A CONTROVERSIAL wave park in Alfred Cove has been killed off by the McGowan government.
On Thursday lands minister Ben Wyatt informed proponent UrbnSurf that the state government would not allow the facility to encroach onto a section of state-controlled land, effectively bringing the bid to an end.
Mr Wyatt said UrbnSurf had previously indicated it needed the crown land to make the project viable, although it was less than 10 per cent of the whole footprint.
“While I admire the enthusiasm of the developers we must remember that it is land owned by the community, and without local support it is impossible to justify locking future generations out of the space which was designed for public recreation and constant use,” Mr Wyatt later said.
The minister said the government was open to working with UrbnSurf to find a more suitable location that did not take up a high-value, riverfront area.
Alfred Cove Action Group chairperson Margaret Sandford told the Herald she needed some good news after the protracted fight against Melville council over its decision to grant UrbnSurf a ground lease for Tompkins Park.
Just last weekend ACAG and Melville Bowling Club members were involved in a tense and often heated stand-off with council rangers who’d been ordered to pull down a large sign criticising mayor Russell Aubrey’s role in evicting the bowlers from their current premises on the park.
“You beauty,” was her emphatic response when told of the minister’s decision.
“This is a very wise and a very sensible decision of the state government,” Ms Sandford said.
“It is also in the developer’s benefit as well, because it is better to have the decision now than to go through the process of putting in a development application, which would have meant more expense.
“My understanding is that the minister had said the state government would wait until the development application had been submitted before making a decision.”
Federal Tangney Liberal MP Ben Morton’s office also picked up on Mr Wyatt’s change of heart, saying the decision could have been made last year.
“I had the impression from the last state election that Lisa O’Malley MLA and the Labor party were committed to stopping this project,” Mr Morton said, adding that in the interim he’d seen nothing that suggested that’s what they would do until Thursday’s announcement came out of the blue.
Melville Bowling Club president Tim Smith said the state government had been listening to the community.
“I hope Melville council takes notice and realises this has been hard fought for by the community, not just the bowling club,” Mr Smith said.
The former East Fremantle mayor now wants the council to put off the club’s eviction and work with all sporting groups across the city to come up with a new plan.
“They have dodged a bullet – this wasn’t a good deal for the city,” Mr Smith said.
Melville council acting CEO Mick McCarthy wasn’t saying much after the decision, only that the council would “engage with the state government as necessary with regards to the negotiations”.
But Alfred Cove ward councillor Guy Wieland was more forthcoming, describing Mr Wyatt’s decision as “pretty sad”.
Cr Wieland said the minister’s decision would rob the city’s legion of surfers, and their families, of reliable waves that didn’t require a long drive to the coast.
“You go to any town, or any suburban area in any major city and you’ll see families accessing sporting facilities in their local area for cricket or soccer, and people don’t seem to realise that technology has caught up and put surfing into that same space.
“Can you imagine if parents had to drive for a 40-kilometre round trip so their kids could play hockey each weekend – it just wouldn’t happen.”
Cr Wieland also dismissed arguments about preserving open space, saying from his experience people flocked to areas where there were community facilities while straight grassed areas and bushland were relatively deserted.
He said if the wave park had not been a success, the council could simply have filled the pool area, planted grass and created fields for other sports, and would have picked up some free facilities like change rooms along the way.
UrbnSurf boss Andrew Ross hadn’t returned the Herald’s calls before deadline.
by STEVE GRANT