FORMER protestors against the Roe Highway extension have been left in tears after the McGowan government released concept plans last Wednesday showing most of the area west of Stock Road as residential development.
But at a community consultation session on Wednesday afternoon, Willagee Labor MP Peter Tinley said he didn’t expect the former road reserve to end up as wall-to-wall housing and said it would be up to Cockburn council to ensure plentiful green space when it took over the planning process.
The concept plan was released as a discussion point for a proposed scheme amendment to permanently remove Roe 9 from the Metropolitan Region Scheme, which Mr Tinley said was the government’s main objective.
“One of the things the government is not about is flipping this for dough – for yield,” he said.
“We won’t put a contiguous road through [and] we need to innoculate through private ownership, in part, a future government not of our persuasion from coming through and saying ‘let’s push this’ and ploughing through.
“We don’t ever want to see it again.”
If the former highway route is rezoned as “urban”, Cockburn council will take over the planning to produce structure plans which will lock in development and green zones.
Mr Tinley said it will then be up to him and Labor colleagues David Scaife (Cockburn) and Simone McGurk (Fremantle) to lobby the council to realise the community’s ambitions for the corridor, though he’s not expecting anything too radical.
“They’ll be a very brave City to go ‘oh yeah, despite all this extensive community comment we’re not going to do any of that, we’re going to do our own thing’.”
But that sparked a spirited discussion with Greens MLC and former Fremantle Brad Pettitt, who said the government was “handballing” responsibility to the council prematurely.
“You are handing this land over to the City of Cockburn without any controls or any sense of what you want to achieve,” Dr Pettitt said, adding he’d like to see a masterplan for the area before the rezoning takes place.
“That’s not the right place to start,” he said of the concept plan, “because you know if we start here, it’s also where we are going to end up.
“The experience of DPLH (Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage) and the experience of WAPC [WA Planning Commission] is that you’ll end up with a tweaking of this, you won’t end up with something which is fundamentally different.
“Perth doesn’t need more big houses on small blocks, it needs smart, diverse and more affordable infill connected with green space and this corridor has amazing potential to offer this,” he said later.
Members of the various environmental groups that formed an alliance to fight the Roe Highway extension as the Barnett government sent bulldozers through in January 2017 said the plan felt like a betrayal by the McGowan government after what they’d gone through trying to get them elected.
“Now that it’s finally sunk in, there are no words for what I feel, only tears,” said Cockburn Community Wildlife Corridor member Toni Collinge.
“I went to the community consultation on Wednesday and was shocked by what I saw,” said fellow member Maria Cadzow.
CCWC convenor Sally Marsh said the group met with the planning department on October 23, but they were given no advance warning about the concept plan or what it contained.
“We had expected some housing, but not the whole area,” she said.
“Five years ago this community came together to stop the destruction of the vegetation in the Roe 8 lands.
“Since then we’ve worked with others to restore the damage that was done.
“The community still feels the same way about this land and expects the corridor to be preserved.
“We didn’t fight for urban development – we fought for a wildlife corridor, and the Roe 9 lands are an integral part of the corridor.
Save the Black Cockatoos coordinator Paddy Cullen said the area was significant for Whadjuk Noongar people and included a massacre site, and is part of a global biodiversity hotspot with threatened ecological communities.
“Over 150 people were arrested in one of Australia’s largest civil disobedience movements and following this the incoming McGowan government promised to save the area,” Mr Cullen said.
“But the government has shown very little interest in saving natural areas in urban settings.
“The minister for planning never meets with environmental groups and this year threw out a proposed Green Growth Plan that would have seen large areas of Perth to Peel protected.
“Now they are ditching their promise to protect this corridor in an area that has one of the lowest canopy covers in the country.
“Research from Murdoch University shows that new housing projects are a killer with no black cockatoos found in new housing areas.
Friends of Clontarf Hill representative Christine Duckham said people helping to green the corridor were getting out into their local environment, experiencing the benefits of green space, biodiversity, physical activity, connection to people, responsibility to community, a sense of purpose and a sense of place.
She’s angry environmental consultants RPS are surveying the area for an environmental impact assessment, but their report won’t be made public until the consultation period for the scheme amendment is over.
“We are concerned that the RPS survey is likely to have a narrow scope, to avoid documenting the all-important ecological context of the corridor in this report,” Ms Duckham said.
She said the groups had asked for an extension of the consultation period, which they believe is too short anyway and deliberately timed for when people are getting distracted by Christmas preparation, but that had been knocked back.
by STEVE GRANT