THE Rottnest Society has condemned an “outrageous” proposal to build private accommodation for 211 hotel staff on the island.
The Prendiville Group, through its offshoot Garrett Hospitality, wants to build 60 dorm-like rooms housing two workers each, 28 units for supervisors who might have to share, 14 managers’ units with two bedrooms, and five mini homes for executives who’ll get a couple of bedrooms and their own lounge and kitchen, as well as views across Government House Lake from a verandah.
The accommodation will be for the company’s Samphire Rottnest hotel, while the plans show a slightly smaller area nearby has been earmarked for Rottnest Lodge staff in the future.
Describing the proposed flat-pack modules as more Pilbara “mining camp” than Rotto flavour, Rottnest Society acting president Ian MacRae said one of their biggest concerns was that it would involve flattening 1.35 hectares of bushland.
Mr MacRae was angry Prendiville’s development application says the Rottnest Island Authority has already given a permit to clear the site, but the RIA’s own website says it is yet to put in an application to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.
“[The society] objects to the RIA acting in a cavalier fashion to sign away 1.3ha of mature Rottnest vegetation,” Mr MacRae said.
“It demonstrates that the RIA is not taking consultation seriously as it treats the development as a fait accompli.”
Mr MacRae said the development threatened to send the island back to the ‘70s when partying staff were responsible for anti-social behaviour and rowdy behaviour that was disruptive to other visitors.
“This proposal is absolutely against what the Rottnest Society was told when the extension to the Rottnest hotel was proposed over two years ago,” he said.
“The Samphire Rottnest hotel has 80 rooms, yet it now requires 108 units to accommodate 211 staff. This ratio of staff to room of 2.64:1 is excessive and nowhere justified. Are we to assume that the operation is that inefficient, or have the developers another motive for seeking more staff housing than they need?”
Mr MacRae said the society was also concerned that the development would set a precedent for the island’s other commercial operators to start claiming their own spaces for staff accommodation.
The RIA’s management plan for the island does flag on-site staff accommodation, but Mr MacRae said the proposed Samphire development was not what the society had imagined would eventuate from that document.
Fremantle free-diver, marine scientist and artist Tania Douthwaite has been volunteering with the society for more than a decade and says any further destruction of the island’s natural beauty was “soul-destroying”.
“The only Samphire community that should exist on the shores of Government House Lake is the native one,” Ms Douthwaite said.
“The proposed site of the housing estate is already home to a range of flora and fauna iconic to Wadjemup – Rottnest Island.
“This natural vegetation is quietly enjoyed by the native plants and animals that abide there as well as the numerous locals – passing cyclists and naturalists – who take time out from their busy schedules to unwind in a natural setting on this low-key holiday island. It should not be bulldozed to make way for private accommodation that is only accessible to the few.”
The authority wouldn’t directly answer whether it had given the developer its approval to clear vegetation, despite a couple of attempts.
“RIA is applying to DWER for a clearing permit under the Environment Protection Act 1986 for the proposed development area as owner of the land, on behalf of the proponents,” a spokesperson said.
“Permission (a permit) to take flora is also required to be granted by RIA under the Rottnest Island Authority Regulations 1998.
“Required Environment Protection Act 1986 approvals will need to be obtained prior to development proceeding.
“The current public consultation process is being undertaken to inform RIA’s determination of the Development Application.”
Consultation’s open until Wednesday, August 31; send comments to consultation.rottnest@ dbca.wa.gov.au or sign the Rottnest Society’s petition at: https://chng.it/hBWRWYbJjC
by STEVE GRANT