Bikes to be banned from river diver­sion project

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Times News - Warren Hately

The muddy pro­cesses be­hind the Shire-led win­ter diver­sion project be­came even mud­dier this week as a pre­vi­ous coun­cil de­ci­sion was re­voked and new ones de­ferred.

How­ever, ad­vo­cates of the river­side trail project had a win, with the coun­cil rul­ing that no bi­cy­cles of any kind would be al­lowed on the path.

The win­ter diver­sion project was ini­tially a dual-use path fol­low­ing the Mar­garet River to the coast, de­signed as a sec­ond path op­tion for track walk­ers dur­ing the wet sea­son.

A mo­tion fore­shad­owed by Mar­garet River ward coun­cil- lor Pam Town­shend went be­fore mem­bers on Wed­nes­day night, with a pub­lic gallery of coun­cil watch­ers wait­ing for a break­through in the stalled and di­vi­sive project.

Con­ser­va­tion­ists and friends of the in­dige­nous com­mu­nity have ar­gued the nat­u­ral her­itage of sec­tions of the half-built track need to be pre­served af­ter the Friends of the Cape to Cape Track project grew to in­clude pos­si­ble use by moun­tain bik­ers.

How­ever, a coun­cil in­ter­ven­tion last year stirred fur­ther dra­mas with some con­flict­ing and re­dun­dant in­struc­tions mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for of­fi­cers to progress de­tailed en­v­i­ron- men­tal and Abo­rig­i­nal her­itage as­sess­ments of the river fore­shore which were “omit­ted” dur­ing the ini­tial phase of the project.

Wed­nes­day night’s de­ci­sion also in­structed of­fi­cers to seek to buy a land par­cel ad­ja­cent to prized melaleu­cas, nix­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Gary Ever­shed’s pref­er­ence for a world­class board­walk to be built through the swamp.

Coun­cil­lors unan­i­mously backed ban­ning bikes and the land pur­chase pro­posal.

“I think it’s im­por­tant we make a de­ci­sion to fi­nally keep bikes off the track,” Cr Town­shend said.

Keen moun­tain biker Peter Lane said the diver­sion was too dan­ger­ous for riders.

“It’s ridicu­lous to think it could be used as a dual-use path,” he said.

Cr Town­shend also sought to es­tab­lish a work­ing group to in­clude War­dandi ex­per­tise about the Mar­garet River but con­cerns coun­cil­lors in­volved in the group might rule them­selves out of coun­cil de­ci­sions be­cause of po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­ests trig­gered a de­fer­ral for fur­ther le­gal ad­vice.

A Shire-com­mis­sioned Abo­rig­i­nal her­itage as­sess­ment started this week and fur­ther de­bate on changes to the con­tract were dis­cussed dur­ing con­fi­den­tial de­lib­er­a­tions.

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