– by Sarah Cole
With what is hopefully only unwitting negligence, the Rockingham City Council means to approve the construction of a luxury canal suburb at Cape Peron, handing over all control to private residential developer Cedar Woods.
The multi-million dollar canals, called Mangles Bay Estate, will appropriate reserved state land, contaminate the nearby ocean, and devastate the already struggling little penguin population of Penguin Island. “Some think it’s going to be another Hillary’s,” Dawn Jecks tells me. “It’s not true. We’re going to lose the area to private developers.”
Dawn is the acting spokesperson for grassroots campaign Hands Off Point Peron (HOPP). Through social media, public rallies, stalls, petitions, and volunteer projects, Dawn has been rallying the wider community for years to reject the canal plan. The HOPP campaign represents a firm stance of rejection of the canals, as well as seeking to educate people on the absurd amount of money the canals will cost to build and maintain, and the incredible damage they will do. While arguing that the development plans have no logical gain, HOPP also proposes an alternative for Cape Peron: a nature reserve and recreation area similar to the beauty and sophistication of Kings Park, full of cycling trails, parks, and cafes.
Yet it’s hard to find a willing ear for the proposal. It seems that accountability for the development plan in the local government is wanting. “No one’s doing their jobs,” Dawn comments about the council, calling the passing of accountability from one government tier to another “brazen slackness”. Frequent rallies at Rockingham City Council Chambers, planned monthly for the rest of the year, hope to have the effect of forcing the government to be answerable for the project.
HOPP’s website outlines the serious problems with the cape’s development. The shallow waters are naturally filtered by the sea, but sluggishly; without costly dredging and cleaning by the council, the pollutants from the canals will make the bay putrid. Discovering bodies of starved penguins, or penguins with cracked skulls, severed spines, and other injuries caused by boat propellers is already hideously common – such occurrences will only worsen with a marina built in the middle of their feeding grounds.
The WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) forbids infrastructure that will have such severe adverse effects on their surroundings, yet these policies are being dodged by Cedar Woods, and necessary questions are not being asked by the government. The land to be built upon is not actually the council’s property to give away. The land is crown land; it was given by the government to the people of the State of Western Australia to be preserved as parklands.
Cape Peron is entirely unique ecologically. It deserves preservation. Dawn emphasises that cape development would be stealing from all Western Australians, and was an issue that concerned all Western Australians.
“It’s our heritage and our land,” she says. “It’s not for sale. Everyone should be trying to prevent this.”
A show of numbers is vital for success. You can help just by attending monthly rallies at the Rockingham Council Chambers. All are welcome and encouraged to sit at campaign meetings, held monthly at Port Kennedy Community Centre. Click here for dates.
Featured image and penguin photograph: Eric Cole
Cape Peron image: Michael James