Proponents of a controversial artificial wave park proposed for Perth’s iconic Swan River have claimed a victory in the Supreme Court after a bid by a community group to derail the $30 million project was thrown out.
Urbnsurf want to build the facility on four hectares of parkland in the well-heeled riverside Perth suburb of Alfred Cove.
According to the company, waves would range from 0.6-metre rolling, white-water waves to 2.1m powerful, barrelling waves designed for high-level performance surfing. It claims the facility would attract up to 300,000 visits per year and benefit tourism in the city.
But locals have raised concerns about the environmental impact of the project and the loss of access to the current bowls club and parklands on the site.
Urbnsurf signed a 30-year lease agreement for the land in April last year.
The Swan Foreshore Protection Association, a group representing mainly local residents, launched a challenge in the Supreme Court claiming the council failed to correctly advertise the proposed use of the land before signing the deal.
The group argued not enough time was given for respondents to lodge submissions and that the form of advertisement placed in the local newspaper was not adequate.
They argued the notice did not correctly name the group behind the proposal, referring instead to a parent company Wave Park Group, which wholly owns Urbnsurf.
But Urbnsurf argued it had dealt with the local government in good faith and on commercial terms and if their agreement was rejected on the grounds of “technical noncompliance”, it could potentially cause substantial public inconvenience for future dealings by any business with local councils.
Justice Jeremy Allanson noted in his judgement the language of the legislation was directed at ensuring community participation and accountability of local governments to their communities, and not whether a disposition was “legally effective”.
“Accordingly, while the public notices published by the City did not comply with s 3.58, in my opinion the failure does not affect the validity of the decision to enter the lease,” the judgment read.
Bid to sink park over financial liability fears
Urbnsurf chief executive Andrew Ross said it was a resounding win in an application that never should have been brought.
“The matter brought before the court involved a very technical, minor error by the City of Melville during the advertising process,” Mr Ross said.
He said in his opinion the legal bid was a waste of everyone’s time and had delayed construction until the later half of next year, pending approval by the Western Australian Planning Commission.
But Swan Foreshore Protection Association spokesman David Maynier, who lives near the development site, said the use of the parent company’s name on the advertisement was significant because he did not think the parent company listed would be financially liable if Urbnsurf collapsed.
“We are disappointed that the interests of a commercial developer have been placed above the interests of the community, in that … the developer negotiating with the city is guaranteed certainty at the expense of the law not being complied with,” Mr Maynier said.
He called on the Local Government Minister to intervene.
He also raised concerns about the environmental impact of the proposal, in relation to large volumes of treated water being used at the site near the Swan River.
An earlier decision by the Environmental Protection Agency found the project’s impacts on the air, water, land and social surroundings were not significant enough to warrant a full environmental assessment.
City of Melville chief executive Shayne Silcox said the council was diligent about ensuring conditional lease measures were in place to ensure appropriate assessments of risk.
“The lease agreement is transparent and represents no cost or financial risk to the City of Melville and has been available on the City of Melville website for many months,” Dr Silcox said.
The court ordered the association to pay other parties’ costs.