Smiths Beach lobbyists deem new developments fire plan ‘inadequate’ for bushfire-prone area

Headshot of Breanna Redhead
Breanna RedheadBusselton Dunsborough Times
An artist’s impression of the Smiths Beach Project.
Camera IconAn artist’s impression of the Smiths Beach Project. Credit: Supplied/RegionalHUB

Lobbyists protesting a $280 million coastal village development in the State’s south have slammed the project as “fatally flawed” two weeks into its public consultation.

Smiths Beach Development Project is a plan to construct a hotel and residential block at the popular spot, between Dunsborough and Margaret River, which would include 61 homes, a 65 short-stay rooms, 36 camping spots, a tourism information centre, community hub, surf lifesaving facility and public amenities.

The developers have lodged the plan with the State Development Assessment Unit, with public consultation launched two weeks ago.

The project’s main protesters, Smiths Beach Action Group, has used the comment period to again publicly slam the project, this time pointing the finger at its bushfire management plan.

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The documentation put out for comment online identifies a fire refuge bunker with a capacity for 869 people as part of its design, however, the total development is proposed to hold 1357 people.

This is only about more than 60 percent of the development’s proposed capacity, leaving more than 400 guests and staff at risk should an emergency occur.

Key lobbyist David Mitchell said the described the design as “inadequate” given peak occupancy times will be in the middle of summer when bushfires are most likely to occur.

“The developments BMP is fatally flawed as it increases the risk to human life,” he said.

“How is it that the proposed fire refuge bunker directly places over 450 people in direct danger to life as its design doesn’t cater for the full occupancy of the development.

“A fire refuge bunker has never been approved in WA as a fallback to a high-risk evacuation strategy. . . the State Development Assessment Unit must enforce the fire laws of this State that protect life and property.”

In addition to the bunker’s inability to hold maximum occupancy, the documents also revealed it as having the lowest fire rating on all buildings on the property, including the sewage plant.

As the design in situated in such a high-risk fire area, Mr Mitchell is urging the SDAU to reject the proposal until a safer design is identified.

“This proposal doesn’t meet the fire mitigation requirements of a residential and tourism development and only increases the threat of bushfire, increases the risks to people and property ,” he said.

“Why has the SDAU allowed such a fatally flawed proposal get this far?”

A spokesperson from the Smiths Beach Development Project responded to the comments saying the SBAG is “fearmongering”, admitting the bunker design reflects the same approach seen in the Meelup bushfires earlier this year, when Bunker Bay Resort was used as a community shelter.

“We are disappointed by the attempts of the Action Group to use fear tactics to prevent better visitor and tourism facilities at Smiths Beach which will deliver a long-term benefit for the local community,” they said.

“If they have constructive criticism then they should use the consultation process to provide their feedback, like the many other people interested in our coastal village vision.

“We believe most people will focus on the many opportunities for the community that will be delivered through the coastal village proposal, and one of them is the creation of the most bushfire safe location to visit and stay in the South West.”

Public consultation will close on September 8.

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