Good g-reef: Showdown to sink marina plans

A large group of Ocean Reef residents lined the beach at the site of the development with "Save Our Reef" sign.
Residents gathered on the beach set to be filled. Photo: Save Ocean Reef Association.

Residents from Perth’s northern suburbs are preparing to battle the State Government over the approval process of the controversial Ocean Reef Marina development.

The DevelopmentWA-led project is set to replace the existing harbour with a large commercial and retail marina, 750 boat pens, enclosed beach and ocean pool, as well as land for 1000 new homes.

Save Ocean Reef Citizens Association president Jeff Fondacaro said the community was looking at ways it could challenge the State Government and the marina project.

“The group is trying to get a few bucks together to try and have some legal impetus and find the right avenue to challenge the whole project,” he said.

“It’s virtually a David and Goliath battle.

“We’ve come in very late, and if we had all of this information two or three years ago, I reckon we could have mounted a pretty good case.”

A petition with more than 1000 signatures was submitted to the State Parliament’s Standing Committee for the Environment in August, with the hope that the committee would investigate the development process.

Mr Fondacaro said the group formed when the proposed plans for the marina were revealed to the public, as the scale of the development caught residents by surprise. 

“There’s a whole lot of people moulded into this organisation just by default, a lot have become accidental activists really,” he said.

Concerns with the project include the scale of the housing development, destruction of parts of the protected marine reserve and bushland, as well as the impact it may have on these environments.

DevelopmentWA general manager John Hackett said the development went through strict EPA assessment, which concluded there wouldn’t be a significant impact on the marine environment.

ECU’s Marine Ecosystems Research Centre deputy director Kathryn McMahon said, however, the development would “definitely” impact the valuable marine and coastal environments.

“What is very frustrating is that the policies and legislation that are in place to protect the environment, and the incredible biodiversity and ecosystem functions this environment supports, can be overturned or amended,” Associate Professor McMahon said.

“There is certainly a place to question the ability to erode environmental protection measures that are in place to protect the environment. 

“The Ocean Reef Marina is a valid case for this where some of the highest levels of environmental protection have been overturned to enable this development to proceed.”

Mr Fondacaro said another concern was the impact of climate change on coastal erosion and rising sea levels.

“We’re in the year 2020, we understand the issues of global warming and climate change and all of those things,” he said, adding that it was “mind-boggling” to think of building homes at sea level in 2020.

A Department of Water and Environmental Regulation spokesperson said DevelopmentWA had taken necessary considerations into account for the impact of climate change in the marina’s design. 

Associate Professor McMahon said destroying a part of the marine reserve reduced its ability to control coastal erosion and may also increase the damage of storm surges.

The location of the new marina, as it looks now.