Re­newed calls for win­ter di­ver­sion

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Front Page - Taelor Pelusey A body­boarder helps a woman cross the Mar­garet River af­ter it broke through to the ocean.

De­bate on the stalled river­side win­ter di­ver­sion track has resur­faced with the open­ing of the Mar­garet River, as peo­ple face trekking along Caves Road or nav­i­gat­ing the cross­ing to reach the other side.

Ear­lier this month, Mar­garet River Dis­cov­ery Co’s Sean Block­sidge saw a woman weigh­ing up her op­tions at the river mouth, which had re­cently bro­ken through unas­sisted for the first time this win­ter.

The woman at­tempted the cross­ing, but ended up call­ing on help from a nearby body­boarder.

Mr Block­sidge told the Times the Cape-to-Cape win­ter di­ver­sion track could have pre­vented the sit­u­a­tion and taken walk­ers along a beau­ti­ful sec­tion of the river and into Prev­elly.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the 135km of Cape-to-Cape awe­some­ness has al­most zero op­por­tu­nity for walk­ers to see or ex­pe­ri­ence the real Mar­garet River,” he said.

“It’s ridicu­lous they still have to ne­go­ti­ate the haz­ards of the river cross­ing or walk­ing along Caves Road as cars pass them at 90km/h.”

Last month, Au­gus­taMar­garet River Shire coun­cil­lors voted to de­fer their de­ci­sion on a board­walk through Me­laleuca wet­lands, which would have formed part of the over­all di­ver­sion track plan.

An Abo­rig­i­nal her­itage sur­vey and fore­shore man­age­ment ac­tion plan were also or­dered, but no time­line was of­fered.

Mr Block­sidge be­lieved a “scare cam­paign” by “a very vo­cal mi­nor­ity” was over­stat­ing the pro­ject’s en­vi­ron­men­tal risks and said if trails could be de­vel­oped on sen­si­tive World Her­itage sites, he was cer­tain the same could be done in “lit­tle old Mar­garet River”.

How­ever, those ral­ly­ing against the plan say the ex­tent of en­vi­ron­men­tal risks is not clear be­cause there has been lit­tle for­ward plan­ning.

Neigh­bour Ray Swarts claimed the pro­ject’s ad­vo­cates were few and had vested in­ter­ests, while Mar­garet River En­vi­ron­ment Cen­tre’s Neroli Carl­ton said rush­ing the pro­ject would not only threaten the en­vi­ron­ment, but also tourism in the longterm. “They (tourism oper­a­tors) are not go­ing to be happy when this Mar­garet River re­gion, which is rapidly chang­ing, turns into sub­ur­bia,” Ms Carl­ton said.

“There won’t be much to mar­ket then.

“It’s a very short-term ap­proach to a long-term prob­lem.”

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