$10m river resort ob­jec­tion

The Free Press (Corowa) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAR­RYD BARCA

A state­ment of ob­jec­tion has been lodged against a de­vel­op­ment of an eco-tourism resort planned near Corowa.

The planned $10 mil­lion project has been pre­sented to a Joint Re­gional Plan­ning Panel for de­ter­mi­na­tion.

The Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil are still in re­ceipt of the ap­pli­ca­tion which was lodged in Fe­bru­ary this year, and is cur­rently still in the as­sess­ment phase by coun­cil.

To be known as ‘War­raw­idgee Is­land Con­ser­va­tion Resort’, the de­vel­op­ment plan has been de­vised by War­raw­idgee prop­erty own­ers lo­cated on the edge of the Mur­ray River and will be lo­cated on 316.2 hectares if ap­proved.

Ac­cord­ing to Habi­tat Plan­ning’s De­vel­op­ment Ap­pli­ca­tion (DA), “the de­vel­op­ment is a prin­ci­pally com­prised tourist ac­com­mo­da­tion in the way of cot­tages, cab­ins, stu­dios, tents and car­a­van sites”.

“An­cil­lary in­fra­struc­ture in­cludes recre­ation ar­eas with swim­ming pools, a BBQ area, play­ground and ex­ten­sive walk­ing tracks on the is­land of Boil­ing Down Creek,” the doc­u­ment states.

As also out­lined in the DA re­port, an eco-tourist fa­cil­ity means a “build­ing or place that pro­vides tem­po­rary or short-term ac­com­mo­da­tion to vis­i­tors on a com­mer­cial ba­sis, is lo­cated in or ad­ja­cent to an area with spe­cial eco­log­i­cal or cul­tural fea­tures and is sen­si­tively de­signed and lo­cated so as to min­i­mize bulk, scale and over­all phys­i­cal foot­print and any eco­log­i­cal or vis­ual im­pact”.

The two sec­tions of the resort in­clude the sur­face area from the Spring Drive en­trance through to the Boil­ing Down Creek and the is­land on the op­po­site side of the creek that is ac­cessed only by a walk­ing bridge.

The main ar­eas of the resort will in­clude other

fea­tures such as two pools, caravanning fa­cil­i­ties, a large view­ing deck and for­mal­ized walk­ing tracks.

The other hope from Habi­tat Plan­ning is to pro­vide river ca­noe­ing, bike rid­ing and other ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties.

Corowa lo­cal Robert Pearce, who is the owner of the di­rect ad­join­ing prop­erty known as Bongeroo, ex­pressed ma­jor con­cerns over the pro­posed eco-tourism fa­cil­ity.

“Our main con­cerns are po­ten­tial pol­lu­tion to the river and the ef­fect on the en­vi­ron­ment,” Mr Pearce told The Free Press.

Mr Pearce be­lieves that this pro­posed river resort could set a prece­dent for the fu­ture de­vel­op­ment along the whole length of the river.

“That is def­i­nitely not good for the river, what it’s classed as is strongly op­posed by the au­thor­i­ties,” he said.

“As far as the is­land goes, we have real con­cerns in the event of a fire, be­cause they are pro­mot­ing it as the fea­ture of the resort where peo­ple will spend the day on the is­land.

“And there are many spots down there that are al­most im­pen­e­tra­ble, and if a fire started, it would be al­most im­pos­si­ble to get back to the bridge, which is the only point of exit from the is­land.

“As far as the sew­er­age sys­tem goes, we have real con­cerns be­cause we don’t be­lieve they can sit­u­ate sew­er­age treat­ment plans in the po­si­tion they pro­pose over the high bank.

“It also poses the prob­lem that treated ef­flu­ent is go­ing to be pumped onto the pas­tures which in win­ter time when they’re sat­u­rated, will drain straight back into the Boil­ing Down Creek be­cause all of the drainage from the prop­erty goes into that creek.”

Mr Pearce said the stip­u­la­tions for a river front de­vel­op­ment states that such de­vel­op­ments should not be read­ily vis­i­ble from the river, neigh­bor­ing prop­er­ties or the road.

“In this case it’ll be clearly vis­i­ble, even if they put it where they’re propos­ing,” he said.

“But if they put it 100 me­tres from the high bank which is stip­u­lated in the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment plan, it’ll be com­pletely out in the open where there’s no trees at all.

“There is a stip­u­lated 100m set­back from the high bank of the river in the Corowa LEP, yet the de­vel­op­ers’ plans are show­ing de­vel­op­ment within the 100-me­tre mark of the high bank from Boil­ing Down Creek.”

Mr Pearce and his fam­ily’s first re­ac­tion when re­al­iz­ing the plans was one of hor­ror, sug­gest­ing there was “no way” a de­vel­op­ment like this could be al­lowed.

“Once we saw the ac­tual plans we were hor­ri­fied, be­cause ini­tially we were led to be­lieve they were look­ing at some­thing small and un­ob­tru­sive,” Mr Pearce said.

“But to put 600 peo­ple, which is nearly the pop­u­la­tion of Wah­gun­yah, into such a small area right on the edge of Boil­ing Down Creek, it can only lead to en­vi­ron­men­tal de­struc­tion.”

Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil Gen­eral Man­ager Adrian Butler told The Free Press the de­vel­op­ment is still un­der as­sess­ment and a fi­nal date for the de­ter­mi­na­tion has not yet been set.

“Due to the na­ture of the de­vel­op­ment, be­ing eco-tourism with a value greater than $5 mil­lion in cap­i­tal in­vest­ment value, the de­ter­mi­na­tion will be by the South­ern Joint Re­gional Plan­ning Panel,” he said.

“Coun­cil’s role is to un­der­take the as­sess­ment, in­clud­ing con­sid­er­a­tion of any sub­mis­sions re­ceived in the ex­hi­bi­tion pe­riod. The sub­mis­sions re­ceived are be­ing con­sid­ered in the as­sess­ment phase.”

Mr Pearce be­lieves the de­vel­op­ers just want to get the DA passed so they can sell out to the high­est bid­der, who would not take into con­sid­er­a­tion or care for the health of the river.

“Pro­tect­ing the river is for the public good and out­weighs the pri­vate gain of a few in­di­vid­u­als,” he said.

“There is noth­ing eco about pol­lut­ing the river. The amount of waste gen­er­ated by 600 peo­ple would be enor­mous.”

War­raw­idgee was orig­i­nally part of Bongeroo when Robert’s grand­fa­ther bought the prop­erty in 1910 and it re­mained in the fam­ily own­er­ship un­til 1973. There have been four sub­se­quent own­ers since then.

“I’ve lived my en­tire 60 years at Bongeroo and I have had ei­ther work­ing re­la­tion­ships help­ing or work­ing for all sub­se­quent own­ers,” Mr Pearce said.

“I feel that I know more about the prop­erty than any other per­son.”

An artist in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the pro­posed Mur­ray River eco-tourism resort in the north­ern half of the resort.

Lo­cal farmer Robert Pearce and his fam­ily are openly op­posed to a War­raw­idgee eco-tourism resort that has been planned and sent to the Joint Re­gional Plan­ning Panel. Robert (pic­tured) is the owner of the ad­join­ing prop­erty.

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