The possible expansion of Coral Bay and the Abrolhos Islands will be examined by a new State Government committee set up to determine potential tourist development along the coast.
Potential development sites along the south coast will also be assessed by the Coastal Towns and Settlements Cabinet subcommittee, announced today by Premier Colin Barnett.
Mr Barnett said the committee would investigate the development and revitalisation of priority coastal settlements and examine future coastal sites, particularly on the south coast of Western Australia.
“I know that many Western Australian families have stayed at places like Coral Bay over the years and have fond memories of fantastic, low-cost summer holidays,” Mr Barnett said.
“Coral Bay is somewhere between a town and a settlement and has so much potential.
“We also enjoy a beautiful coastline, especially along our southern coast between Augusta and Esperance. I want to ask, what other areas could be opened up, and what do we need to do at these sites?”
Deputy Premier Kim Hames said the new committee would look at access issues, services, infrastructure, land tenure and any other issues preventing progress in target areas.
“Initially we will look at the governance and access to the established settlements at Coral Bay and the Abrolhos Islands, as well as the south coast,” Dr Hames said.
The committee will comprise Deputy Premier Kim Hames, Minister for Regional Development Terry Redman, Planning Minister John Day, Tourism Minister Liza Harvey, and Fisheries Minister Ken Baston and Local Government Minister Tony Simpson as required.
Mr Barnett said the time had come to have a “reassessment of coastal towns and coastal settlements”.
The committee’s three priorities would be the Abrolhos Islands, Coral Bay and the south coast between Augusta and the South Australian border.
“The objective is to fix some problems that we’ve had in some coastal communities but also look for future planning for future communities,” Mr Barnett said.
“One of the most fundamental issues is, does Coral Bay become a town or does it become a specialist tourist visitor location, if you like, the Rottnest of the Pilbara?
“Strangely perhaps, the Abrolhos Islands comes under the administration of the Fisheries Department. Maybe the time has come for that, again, to be treated as not only for fishing but also to open it up for visitors, for more tourist accommodation and the like.”
Mr Barnett said the Abrolhos was a spectacular set of islands and said it could become the “main tourist attraction for the Geraldton Midwest region”.
He also foreshadowed further development along the south coast.
“Perhaps 40 years ago people discovered the beauty and the attraction of the Margaret River region. And then perhaps around 20 years ago people discovered what the Kimberley has to offer.
“What has been forgotten and perhaps neglected is the South coast along the Southern Ocean. There’s about 1700km of coastline from Augusta through to the South Australian border.
“Much of that is covered by national parks. It is a spectacular, pristine coastline that perhaps has been forgotten and needs to be rediscovered and perhaps there is scope for more towns or more tourist accommodation along that coastline.”
Dr Hames said he had a year to present to Cabinet on options for the first three priorities. The first cabinet subcommittee meeting would take place within a month.
He conceded there had been a lot of debate in the past about whether Coral Bay should remain a tourist town or whether land should be made available for permanent residential accommodation.
“We don’t have a school and the children from Coral Bay have to go to other towns to get their education,” he said.
“The Abrolhos has been home to the fishing industry for a long period of time and no-one wants to take that away,” he said.
“They too would like to see more opportunity for accommodation on the island, for people to stay. Currently you can only stay if you’re a tradesperson.”
Dr Hames said the “management and governance” of the Abrolhos would be looked at to “see if we can provide better access to the public while preserving the rock lobster industry”.
He said no firm plans had been drawn up for the areas yet and no money from the Budget set aside.