THE Rottnest Island Authority refuses to say whether it jumped the gun and gave a developer approval to clear native vegetation before it checked with the state’s environmental watchdog.
The Prendiville Group has applied to build private accommodation for 211 staff from the Samphire Rottnest hotel (“Outrage over Rotto units,” Herald, August 20, 2022) and its development application explicitly states the RIA “approved … a clearing permit”.
That’s angered the Rottnest Society, which says the proposed site contains valuable mature vegetation and Prendiville shouldn’t have been given approval before the clearing was run past the state Department of Water and Environment Regulation, nor pre-empted the public consultation period.
The Herald asked the RIA whether it had approved the clearing, but got a series of non-answers – even when we went back and asked directly: “Is the development application correct in stating that the RIA has ‘approved the area and a clearing permit?’”
The authority would only state that it “is applying” to DWER for a clearing permit on behalf of the proponents, which is something of an update from its website which still has it in the ‘to do’ list.
“Permission (a permit) to take flora is also required to be granted by RIA under the Rottnest Island Authority Regulations 1998,” the authority’s response to the Herald continued its dance around the actual question.
“Required Environmental Protection Act 1986 approvals will need to be obtained prior to development proceeding. The current public consultation process is being undertaken to inform RIA’s determination of the development application.”
The Herald had more luck with other areas that concern the Rottnest Society, such as whether additional staff living on the island would put more pressure on the authority’s own budget through increased infrastructure needs.
“The island’s infrastructure has been, and continues to be, enhanced following significant investments by the state and federal governments in recent years to support growing visitor arrivals to the island,” the spokesperson said.
“The staff housing proposed is largely replacing existing ageing staff accommodation and transferring the responsibility for provision of such housing from RIA to the larger island businesses.
“This strategic approach is outlined in the Rottnest Island Management Plan and will contribute to the sustainability of the island.”
The authority has also put the behaviour of staff in Samphire’s court, amidst the society’s concerns they’ll turn the accommodation into a party venue that may disrupt other island visitors.
“Island businesses (who are the ‘tenants’ under the staff housing leases) are responsible for ensuring their staff (being the occupants of the properties) comply with the terms and conditions of the leases,” the spokesperson said.
by STEVE GRANT