A sensitive bush will be cleared to make way for the road to Andrew Forrest’s eco-resort
About six ecologically sensitive bush CWMs, including parts of the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage area, will be cleared as part of a plan to build a road that will help Tattarang, the private equity firm of the billionaire miner Andrew Forrest, to develop an ecological resort by the sea.
- The existing road separates the land of Tattarang from the ocean
- The new road will turn its seaside resort project into a veritable seafront
- Part of the bush to be cleared is home to rare underground animals and plants
The plan is outlined in Main Roads WA’s application for federal environmental approval to construct the new road through the relatively unspoiled, semi-remote wilderness that stretches out behind Lighthouse Caravan Park in Tattarang, near Exmouth.
Supported by $ 6 million in funding from the federal and state governments, this new 2.8 km alignment of Yardie Creek Road will replace the existing road, which separates the trailer park from the sand dunes and turquoise waters of the coast of Ningaloo.
Main Roads also plans to build a new access road to the historic Vlamingh Lighthouse, from where you can view sunsets and sunrises, off the realigned Yardie Creek Road.
Mr Forrest’s private investment firm, Tattarang, plans to turn the trailer park, nestled on the hillside of Vlamingh Lighthouse, into an $ 85 million eco-park, which it says is “a way environmentally responsible with an emphasis on minimizing environmental impacts “.
New road needed to improve safety, promoters and minister say
Tattarang’s investment manager John Hartman, as well as Transport Minister Rita Saffioti, both said the new road was needed to improve safety and create local jobs.
But Main Roads’ claim also includes a report from an environmental consulting firm that says the new road is part of the eco-resort project.
“Main Roads Western Australia is proposing to undertake a diversion from Yardie Creek Road as part of the redevelopment of Ningaloo Lighthouse Caravan Park,” the Ecoscape report said.
The Main Roads app highlights some of the environmental impacts of the 2.8 km single-track road project along one of Western Australia’s most famous stretches of coastline.
This would involve clearing up to 12 hectares of national heritage land, including 0.4 hectares of World Heritage area on the Ningaloo Coast, on the Cape Range Peninsula.
“The [development area] is characterized by remnants of native vegetation and is relatively undisturbed, ”says the request.
The new road would traverse elevated sections of the Cape Range landscape, renowned for its limestone ridges, gorges and plateaus, while the existing road is built along a stretch of flat land near the sand dunes.
“The road will follow the natural topography as much as possible, but some areas will require excavation or filling to provide suitable slopes for the road,” the demand says.
Caves housing rare species could complicate construction
While the Ningaloo region is best known for its internationally renowned reef and marine ecosystem, the land landscape has also been protected, in part because of what lies below.
“Cape Range is known to have diverse ecosystems, endemic flora and fauna, and complex subterranean karst formations supporting rare and endemic subterranean fauna,” said the request.
The request says Main Roads has yet to conduct studies to determine if there are underground caves or underground fauna, but was ready to make changes if important features were discovered.
“For example, Main Roads is investigating alternative construction methods in areas of rocky terrain that do not involve the use of explosives,” he said.
“The main objective of such alternatives would be to limit the generation of noise and vibrations in areas where significant geological values may be present.”
The application to the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment contains only preliminary plans for the project.
The minister has not yet decided whether the project could have a significant impact on matters protected by federal environmental laws, including world heritage and national heritage places, and requires further assessment.
But the app said the realignment would contribute to the “sustainable development of the area” and move the flow of traffic away from “elevated pedestrian areas associated with tourist attractions and accommodation areas.”
Few people in a remote part of the coast
It’s unclear exactly what would cause this high pedestrian traffic, given the area is known for its remoteness and low population density.
Before the coronavirus pandemic stopped international travelers, Exmouth County says it was attracting an average of 153,000 visitors a year.
Tattarang has no plans to increase the number of people staying at the resort, according to plans submitted to the WA Environmental Protection Authority.
Main road data, up to date to November of last year, shows that the most recent safety incident on the road in November of last year was a car hitting an animal in January 2019.
The realignment of Yardie Creek Road has received strong support from all levels of government.
Last year, the federal and WA governments agreed to provide joint funding of $ 6 million to relocate the road, as part of a package of ‘go-to-go’ road projects to stimulate the economy and create jobs during the uncertain first months of the coronavirus pandemic.
No date for the start of work has yet been set
But a year later, the project seems far from ready.
Main Roads WA confirmed that there is still no final route for the road, that an estimated cost has not been finalized and that environmental, geotechnical and Indigenous heritage approvals have not yet been requested. .
There are many different interests at stake, with the current road on Shire land and the proposed realigned road to be built on land owned by Tattarang, the WA government, and Exmouth County.
Main Roads spokesman Dean Roberts said his department is still working with Tattarang and the county to come up with a final design and an agreed cost.
“It is too early to determine a start date for the work,” he said.
“Main Roads is in the process of drafting an agreement between Exmouth County, Main Roads and Tatterang regarding the funding and scope of the work.”
Last year Mr Hartman told ABC Perth the company hoped to start construction on the redevelopment later this year or early next year.
But development plans were only submitted to Exmouth County this month and will be explained by Tattarang at a council meeting on Thursday.
Mr. Hartman and the county refused the CBA’s request to see the plans.
“The redevelopment will make a significant contribution to the local economy by boosting tourism opportunities and creating construction, tourism and hospitality jobs for the region,” Hartman said.
“The Ningaloo Lighthouse project promises to be an icon of Western Australia – sustainable and thoughtful development with the ability to create jobs and boost investment confidence in local businesses. “
Tattarang submitted its environmental plans for redevelopment to WA’s environmental regulator, the EPA, in March.
He noted that although his plans took into consideration the realignment of the road, the project was “not contingent on completion”.
EPA President Matthew Tonts said the EPA is reviewing public submissions and has yet to decide whether it needs a more in-depth assessment.