Skipped over

AN environmental report which authorities relied on to approve a controversial sub-division in Bayswater made no mention that part of a thriving wetland would be cleared.

Documents provided to Bayswater councillor Chris Cornish under freedom of information laws show the WA Planning Commission approved the Skippers Row development after considering a report by consultants for the owner, the D’Orazio family. The report found there was no vegetation on the site worth preserving.

 • Bayswater councillor Chris Cornish says an environmental report on the Skippers Row sub-division didn’t cover the clearing of wetlands in a neighbouring block. Photo by Steve Grant

• Bayswater councillor Chris Cornish says an environmental report on the Skippers Row sub-division didn’t cover the clearing of wetlands in a neighbouring block. Photo by Steve Grant

Tortoises

However, the WAPC approval allows the D’Orazios to clear a temporary cul-de-sac on a neighbouring block which has a wetland that’s home to tortoises and four species of frog. That site wasn’t discussed in the environmental report, and the WAPC didn’t commission its own report.

Following the approval, the D’Orazio family started clearing a section of the wetland, much to the dismay of residents who’ve managed to convince environment minister Donna Faragher to put a temporary stop to all but the most necessary works.

Cr Cornish believes the WAPC, parks and wildlife, and the environmental regulation department blundered by failing to notice the impact on the neighbouring block.

“I can understand that the community is angry and want to apportion blame for this, however the most important thing is that lessons are learnt and to ensure that processes are put in place so that it can’t happen again,” he says.

Bayswater council has twice knocked back purchasing the wetland site, but is now mulling over putting an offer in to see if it can be rehabilitated to prevent the spread of housing next to the sensitive Eric Singleton bird sanctuary which it’s just spent $3 million restoring.

Cr Cornish says the WAPC also erred by ignoring advice from Bayswater planning manager Helen Smith, who’d urged a buffer to protect the bird sanctuary.

Attacks on fauna

Ms Smith had written to the commission alerting it to the council’s restoration efforts at the sanctuary, which had increased biodiversity and reduced the amount of nutrients heading in to the Swan River.

She said without a buffer the development could:

• impact nesting, migration, habits of birds and fauna populations due to the increase in artificial light and noise;

• increase weed infestation from garden escapees; and,

• lead to increased attacks on birds and fauna from domestic animals.

The WAPC knocked back the request saying an existing path between them was wide enough.

“City of Bayswater staff excelled,” Cr Cornish says.

“Unfortunately there are far too many government departments which make decisions without placing sufficient weight in the local government’s views, without placing sufficient weight on the views of the people who know the area and who represent those living in the area.”

by DAVID BELL

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