Private dollars key to Rotto future
Rottnest product manager Simon Harper at the Army Jetty site. Picture: Danella Bevis/The West Australian

The biggest upheaval of Rottnest in more than a century has been unveiled in a 20-year strategy that will see private operators run half the island's accommodation units and build a marina.

The plan also allows for a new light-industrial zone near the airport and new eco-tourism accommodation at Mary Cove on the island's isolated southern coast.

This would be the first time accommodation was allowed within the current boundaries of the A-class conservation reserve.

Rottnest Island Authority chairman John Driscoll said the strategy aimed to make the island more efficient, without reducing its charm. But it is also driven by the realisation that much of the island's accommodation is in disrepair and - in Thomson and Geordie bays, in particular - threatened by severe beach erosion.

"We could see units literally falling down or into the ocean over the next 20 years," Mr Driscoll said.

"Replacing them would be expensive, so we needed to find a different solution."

That solution is to hand over key stretches of accommodation to a private operator.

In exchange, the new operator would be allowed to develop other parcels of neighbouring land, making it a more attractive overall business proposition.

At Geordie Bay, this extra land would be the headland that overlooks it.

A private operator could develop a resort/hotel on the land that could include high-end accommodation, restaurants and a swimming pool.

With existing units in Thomson Bay South also earmarked for a private operator, it would mean the RIA would be responsible for only 167 of the island's 310 existing accommodation units. Other accommodation plans include an extension of Hotel Rottnest, new units behind the Lodge and a special designated area for staff.

Improving the economic appeal to a potential private operator is also the basis of plans for the new marina at the Army Jetty in Thomson Bay.

In exchange for building and running the marina, the operator would be given access to beach land immediately north of the jetty to develop short-stay holiday units, a restaurant or licensed cafe and charter or cruise operations.

The new buildings would need to be "low scale", built to a maximum two levels. But the plan says there is potential for a three-storey building "to mark the marina entry".

A marina would safely accommodate boats from 5m to 25m and provide facilities for charter vessels.

Under the plans, the number of tourism operators on the island could reach six.

Mr Driscoll said they would all effectively compete with each other.

The strategy said commercial services on Rottnest had generally been better provided by the private sector because it had greater access to resources and was more flexible.

As part of the strategy, a light-industrial back-of-house zone would be created south of the airport runway to house the island's power generator, wastewater treatment plant, a bus depot and a laundry.

Most of these operations are now located in the main settlement area, surrounded by accommodation units.

The plan for an eco-tourism venture at Mary Cove would require the specific approval of the Tourism Minister because it is outside the island's gazetted settlement area. The plan would allow tent-like accommodation overlooking the cove.

It would need to be totally self-contained.

Mr Driscoll said the strategy was an indication that Rottnest was open for business.

The strategy was released with the island's five-year management plan and is open for public comment for two months.

Other proposals include:

·Creating more than 50km of walking tracks around and through the island.

·Redeveloping the old quarry site (currently the location of the Family Fun Park) into an open-air amphitheatre suitable for public performances.

·Extending the campsite towards The Basin after relocating the sewage treatment plant.

·Redeveloping Kingstown Barracks for youth hostel-type accommodation.

The West Australian

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