Coun­cil sets cidery project con­di­tions

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

Coun­cil­lors have put strin­gent con­di­tions on a pro­posed new cidery and fu­ture restau­rant amid a rally by re­gional pro­duc­ers to shut the project down.

Food pro­duc­ers in­clud­ing Cloud­burst Wines’ Will Ber­liner and Burn­side Or­ganic Farm’s Jamie McCall said the pro­posal was un­suit­able for pri­or­ity agri­cul­ture land.

Cr Felic­ity Haynes — who alone voted against the item at Wed­nes­day night’s Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River coun­cil meet­ing — said col­leagues were “miss­ing the point” green-light­ing the ven­ture.

“Do we want to have a restau­rant there or do we want to re­strict it to pri­mary pro­duce?”

A vis­i­bly frus­trated Shire pres­i­dent Ian Earl said coun­cil­lors had to sup­port en­ter­prise adding to the Mar­garet River of­fer­ing.

How­ever, con­cerns about limited lo­cal fruit pro­duc­tion at the mixe­duse cidery/win­ery and pro­posed restau­rant and cel­lar door un­der­scored de­bate.

Mr Ber­liner said the plan­ning ap­proval could un­der­mine au­then- tic­ity of the Mar­garet River wine brand. “This par­tic­u­lar pro­posal that I am ob­ject­ing to is do­ing it back­wards,” he said.

“This is the sort of at­ti­tude we have that is di­lut­ing the char­ac­ter of this area.”

For­mer Shire pres­i­dent Mr McCall lashed plan­ners for not cit­ing the Shire’s pol­icy on cel­lar doors, with ad­vice say­ing the bind­ing Lo­cal Plan­ning Scheme did not re­quire on-site fruit pro­duc­tion un­less coun­cil­lors im­posed the con­di­tion. Mr McCall said a min­i­mum 85 per cent lo­cal fruit was needed un­der per­mits to mar­ket wine from Mar­garet River.

“It sends a strange mes­sage to the com­mu­nity,” he said.

Un­der changes led by Cr Pam Town­shend, con­di­tions would force the de­vel­op­ment to grow in stages, with vine­yard and or­chard plant­ing the first step, fol­lowed by pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties, with cel­lar door op­er­a­tions per­mis­si­ble once fruit pro­duc­tion was proven.

Rep­re­sent­ing pro­po­nent Nick Mor­ris, plan­ning con­sul­tant Marc Hal­sall said his client agreed to the stag­ing and re­duc­ing fu­ture open­ing hours to 5pm.

He saluted plan­ners for their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the scheme and said on-site fruit pro­duc­tion would be un­der­taken by choice. “It’s not a re­quire­ment, as the Shire plan­ning depart­ment says, for all of that to be (grown) on-site,” he said.

Coun­cil­lors ques­tioned if the limited 5ha for vine­yards, in­clud­ing 1ha for an ap­ple or­chard, were enough to fuel fu­ture pro­duc­tion — though Au­gusta’s Kim Hastie noted the Shire was not asked to as­sess eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity. “I per­son­ally do not like the de­vel­op­ment,” he said. “De­spite my per­sonal view, I sup­port the out­come.”

Cr Haynes voted against the item be­cause she saw the agri­cul­tural com­po­nent as a box-tick­ing ex­er­cise to get a restau­rant ap­proved.

How­ever, Cr Earl echoed com­ments by Mike Smart that the small land­hold­ing, cre­ated by past ru­ral sub­di­vi­sions, left lit­tle room for vi­able farm­ing. “We have to give peo­ple the chance to get out there and have a go,” Cr Earl said.

Af­fected neigh­bours in­clud­ing Terry Hutch­ings feared a tav­ern on pri­or­ity agri­cul­tural land set a prece­dent and would in­trude on Burn­side’s char­ac­ter.

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