WA’s environmental watchdog has bowed out of the fracas surrounding a contentious proposal to build a wave park on the Swan River foreshore after claiming the development poses no “significant” environmental impacts to the site.
In handing down its decision on the proposed Alfred Park wave park on Monday, the Environmental Protection Authority said impacts to groundwater, surface water, vegetation and fauna habitat were “potential significant effects”.
However it was confident any impacts could be “adequately managed” through URBNSURF’s management and mitigation measures.
The EPA instead elected not to assess the project, despite a number of submissions calling for a public environmental review.
The decision not to invest more time in assessing the proposal means URBNSURF is free to submit a development application to the City of Melville.
Developer URBNSURF said the EPA’s decision was “vindication” after fending off what founder and chairman Andrew Ross said were “wild claims” about the project.
Mr Ross said many of the park’s opponents wanted to retain prime public land on the riverfront, and that “many of their points about possible impacts on the Swan River, the site being highly contaminated, and impacts on bird life are now known to be false or misleading”.
“Wave parks are being embraced by forward-thinking communities around the world, and URBNSURF Perth will complement our Sydney and Melbourne wave parks as a must-visit destination for surfers and non-surfers from all over Australia and internationally,” he said.
Mr Ross said he expected “local opponents” to appeal the decision.
And an appeal was likely, according to Swan Foreshore Protection Association chairman Clive Ross.
Mr Ross said the EPA was not holding URBNSURF to enough scrutiny, and had accepted the company’s word that it would address any environmental issues “without explaining how”.
“Until they actually provide evidence or a plan or strategy that is going to work, people can make bare statements and that what the proponent has done,” he said.
“The EPA has taken it on face value.”
Mr Ross claimed international agreements to protect migrating birds in the area had been ignored, and highlighted potential issues surrounding groundwater use and draining, noise, and lighting – saying the area was “going to be floodlit almost 24/7.”
The concern over noise and light was echoed by Alfred Cove Action Group spokeswoman Margaret Sandford, who took issue with the claim the park would not create any more disturbance than the Melville Bowling Club and community rugby club currently using the facilities at Tomkins Park.
Ms Sandford said the EPA’s decision was “disappointing”, given hundreds of submissions had called for a public environmental review, and said an appeal was in the works.
“For some reason the EPA have ignored the majority of submissions,” she said.
A lot of environmental issues stemming from the wave park would not be fully realised until the future, according to Mr Ross: “We will only know the impact of that down the road.”
Mr Ross said he had spoken to others in the area who shared the desire to appeal the EPA’s decision.
“It’s disappointing that the EPA are forcing the community to do their job and protect the environment,” he said.
Ratepayers have been vocal in their opposition to the project, which has aired rifts between them and the Melville City Council and chief executive, but allegations of “abuse of process” and a raft of special electors’ meetings have muddied the waters of the debate.