Farewell 2021: a look back at all the news highlights of the year from the Busselton Dunsborough Times

Taylar AmoniniBusselton Dunsborough Times
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This stunning image by Tracy Cotton was selected in the Best Ever 100 Photos of the Busselton Jetty.
Camera IconThis stunning image by Tracy Cotton was selected in the Best Ever 100 Photos of the Busselton Jetty. Credit: Tracy Cotton/Busselton Jetty

2021 was supposed to make up for the stressful 2020, better than the last, but once again thanks to COVID-19 survival mode continued.

Snap lockdowns, skills shortages and horror crashes were just some of the grenades thrown at the Capes region last year. And just as it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, so came the money woes as the hotly debated Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre and Australian Underwater Discovery Centre saw massive cost blow outs due to COVID-19 construction costs.

Despite the bout of bad luck however, the region had plenty of moments to celebrate.

Much-loved Vasse MP Libby Mettam retained her seat to represent the region with pride, Busselton was named the top holiday destination in the State and Dorris Lowe marked a major milestone celebrating her 100th birthday.

Here’s what made headlines during the first half of the year:

January

The Cetacean design won the poll for the new Australian Underwater Discovery Centre as the world first project began to take shape.

Cetacean - the design for Busselton Jetty’s marine observatory.
Picture: Supplied
Camera IconCetacean was the winning design for Busselton Jetty’s marine observatory. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

Home security warnings amped up after terrifying home invasions increased throughout the month, including a 41-year-old being threatened and hit with a crow bar by a stranger in his own home.

Direct flights between Busselton and Melbourne were once again stalled with the return of the Victorian hard border amid COVID-19 outbreaks on the east coast. The flights never managed to take off this year due to pandemic interruptions but fingers are crossed for a February take off.

A summer spate of sharks visiting Busselton and Dunsborough beaches, including three sightings of the same great white shark in the South West, reignited the age old debate over how to best avoid attacks.

Election promises began to trickle in with the Liberal party pledging $10 million to complete the Wadandi track between Busselton and Augusta if they won the 2021 State election.

Libby Mettam has addressed the media after day two of hearings for inquiry into sexual harassment on WA mine sites. Picture - Justin Benson-Cooper / The West Australian
Camera IconLibby Mettam was re-elected to represent the seat of Vasse. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

A petition of more than 740 Dunsborough local signatures was handed to the City of Busselton in a bid to limit development on Geographe Bay Road, which proposes a four-storey building to tower over the town.

A 73-year-old Busselton man became embroiled in a $3 million Kalgoorlie gold sting, which saw him charged with stealing as a servant.

February

The first of WA’s 2021 snap lockdowns occurred, with the South West shut down for five arduous days.

Businesses labelled the lockdown “heavy handed” and warned millions of dollars would be lost if they continued throughout the year, having crippled the local economy, tourism and hospitality industries thanks to a week of cancellations with no Government warning or support.

A proposal for a $20m 62-bed private mental health hub was tabled, the first of its kind for regional WA, helping teens and adults with a range of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and more.

Chewbacca posing for a photo with a tourist at Busselton Jetty.
Camera IconChewbacca poses for a photo with a tourist at Busselton Jetty. Credit: Base Imagery / Youtube/Youtube

A callous “disgraceful and disgusting” arson was the cause of two fires which threatened homes in Yallingup and Indjidup.

Meth-addicted, axe-weilding man Benjamin John Elliot was sentenced to 22-years prison for murdering Busselton man Sam Riley. At some stage during a drug-fuelled evening in 2018, Elliot launched a sudden and unprovoked attack and inflicted 21 “chop like, deeply incised wounds” to the Busselton man’s head.

The 78-year-old grandmother, Ellen Mary Lonnie, who nearly killed a mother and her three children in 2017 thanks to her “gross lack of attention” on Bussell Highway avoided jail, but not a stern lecture from the courts.

March

Busselton Man, Morris Leonard Deake, faced court for the first time accused of indecently and sexually assaulting nine young men between the ages of 16 and 33 over the last nine years.

The “towering” four-storey development slated for the Dunsborough foreshore caused more ire from local residents as the Development Assessment Panel members voted for the application despite the City of Busselton rezoning the block from R80 to R60.

Noongar elder Dr Robert Isaacs with his new book Two Cultures, One Story, published by Magabala Books in Broome.
Camera IconNoongar elder Dr Robert Isaacs with his new book Two Cultures, One Story, published by Magabala Books in Broome. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr/Broome Advertiser

Bibilmum Noongar elder Robert Isaacs published his memoir, Two Cultures, One Story, hoping to break down barriers between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultures in the region.

Despite a landslide Labor win in the State Election, Libby Mettam retained her Vasse seat as one of the two surviving Liberal Members of Parliament and took on a slate of shadow portfolios as well as the role of Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Busselton vandals showed some disgusting and racist behaviour when they vandalised respected elder Mitchella Hutchins’ car with slurs and nazi swastikas before stealing and abandoning it in the bush.

The City of Busselton shut down ratepayers’ attempts to halt the Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre plans by rejecting calls for a referendum on the multi-million dollar facility.

Figures showed Busselton rentals were being snapped up quicker than anywhere else in the State, being on the market only 11 days on average, worrying locals, agencies and leaders the new data indicated the rental crisis would only worsen as the year went on.

APRIL

Flights connecting Singapore travellers directly with Busselton Margaret River Airport were floated by local tourism leaders as a way for the region to bounce back from the COVID-19 impact.

Cameron and Debby Mcleod were married in an underwater ceremony at the Busselton Jetty on Sunday.
Camera IconCameron and Debby Mcleod were married in an underwater ceremony at the Busselton Jetty. Credit: Supplied/Suplied/Suplied

A Perth couple tied the knot in Busselton in what is believed to be an Australian first, saying “I do” underwater in front of family and friends watching from inside the Busselton Jetty’s Underwater Observatory.

Beloved foreshore restaurant The Goose Beach Bar and Kitchen was destroyed after a blaze ripped through the roof leaving nothing behind but scorch marks and broken hearts.

Final designs for the Australian Underwater Discovery Centre, the world’s biggest underwater observatory at the end of the Busselton Jetty, were unveiled to great fanfare.

A devastating fire at The Goose Beach Bar and Kitchen will leave the business closed for at least a year.
Camera IconA devastating fire ripped through The Goose Beach Bar and Kitchen. Credit: Catherine Massey/Busselton Dunsb/Busselton Dunsb

In one of the most tragic car accidents of the year, teenage boys Buckley Spicer and Luke Hopkins lost their lives when their car, packed with seven teenagers including two in the boot, veered off the road and slammed into a tree.

Four sections of Caves Road had the speed limit dropped to 80km/h after years of lobbying to create safer roads in the tourist region.

Confusion and chaos swelled among the Capes when Perth tourists were given the green light to flock into the region despite Perth and Peel experiencing yet another snap lockdown.

MAY

Landowners across the region were left flaming mad as the City of Busselton proposed changes to its Bushfire Notice which included mandates to clear vegetation near homes and increased firebreaks.

Demi Licious
Camera IconDemi Licious at Busselton Pride. Credit: Carly Laden/Busselton Dunsborough Times

The three Dunsborough surfers, Alex Oliver, Liam Ryan and Jess Woolhouse, who saved the life of Phil Mummert in July 2019 from a monster shark, were rewarded for their bravery with gold medallions at Surf Life Saving WA’s Coastal Bravery Awards.

Busselton LGBT+ community called out Edith Cowan University for awarding Former Vasse MP and Busselton Jetty chair Barry House an honorary doctorate despite his history of homophobic comments during his time in Parliament. After repeated back and forths the university ultimately stripped the man of the honour.

The region’s business community was bypassed in State Government lockdown compensation, despite the massive losses experienced in the latest three-day pandemic snap shutdown of Perth and Peel.

Nine extra officers were deployed to Busselton Police Station, bolstering safety in the region.

Troy Buswell leaves the Magistrates Court today. Photo by Michael Wilson
Camera IconTroy Buswell leaves the Magistrates Court. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

The full extent of the labour crisis was laid bare at Vasse Felix when head chefs and business owners called an emergency summit revealing they were being forced to trade at 50 per cent capacity and shell out thousands of dollars in recruitment ads.

JUNE

Outrage and frustration rippled across the community when Busselton was floated as a potential location for a fit-for-purpose quarantine facility by the State Government. It was quickly abandoned within weeks.

###IDENTITY SUPPRESSED### Ryan ZABAZNOW   BHP rape accused leaves court this morning. Ryan Zabaznow The West Australian 21/07/21
Camera IconBHP rape accused, Ryan Zabaznow, leaves court. Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

The City of Busselton took its first steps in managing Airbnb’s and short stay rentals, releasing a draft law and policy to the community for feedback. The new rules floated included the reintroduction of exclusion zones, capacity limits and management regulations.

Ludicrous comments that it was cheaper to die than get a taxi in Dunsborough came from the community drawing harsh words from Dunsborough’s top cop for locals to “grow up” and take road safety seriously.

The focus on FIFO sexual assaults began in Vasse when mining worker, Ryan John Zabaznow, was charged with raping a woman on site at BHP’s South Flank mine. The charge was the first in a slew of accused men charged with similar acts and sparked an inquiry into mining giants and the workplace culture.

Pindan Group’s collapse threw hundreds of projects into disarray across the State, including the upgrades to Mitchell Park. However the day was saved when BCP Civil Construction stepped up to the plate, taking over the project and saving dozens of local jobs.

The proposed Busselton Perfoming Arts Centre for the end of Queen Street.
Camera IconThe proposed Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre. Credit: Supplied/Supplied/RegionalHUB

The future highly controversial multi-million dollar Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre was thrust into the hands of the community as the council agreed to reject all tenders and survey the community after construction costs blew out to $38m, $13m over budget.

Contamination fears swelled as a proposal to decommission Lennox Weir was tabled in Parliament.

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