McGowan on Point Peron
In an act of political escapology that would be worthy of Harry Houdini, Mark McGowan is now trying to paint himself as being opposed to canals at Point Peron, in spite of the fact that he is on record as being one of the key players who got the proposal under way in the first place.
You would think that, as a lawyer, Mark would have remembered that the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) of 1992 gives the public the right to apply for access to a broad range of documents held by government departments and ministers. Departments like Planning and Infrastructure, and ministers like Alannah MacTiernan, who wrote to Mr McGowan in December 2003. But before we look at her letter, a copy of which is reproduced below courtesy of the Hands Off Point Peron (HoPP) campaign, let's remind ourselves of the events that led up to their correspondence. Back in 1993, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) submitted a report rejecting attempts to construct on off-shore marina at Point Peron, citing the unacceptable impact on local sea grass as the reason for its decision. That decision put paid to plans for a marina for ten years.
Now, fast forward to 2003. In April of that year, Labor Premier Geoff Gallop set up a Rockingham Planning and Development Taskforce, and named Rockingham MLA Mark McGowan as its Co-Chair. Over the following months, McGowan made "frequent representations" to the Planning Minister, in favour of a new proposal which would get around the EPA ruling by dredging a series of canals, and situating the new boating facilities inland, away from the vulnerable sea grass. In fact, Mr McGowan was such a successful advocate of the new proposal that, in December 2003, Alannah MacTiernan agreed to commit the first instalment of taxpayers money - $250,000 - to allow a private development company, Ceder Woods, to being to seek planning and environmental approvals
More than ten years later, with almost weekly protests in the local papers, and not one spade's worth of work having been undertaken on the Point Peron site, Mr McGowan has obviously realised that his canal proposal is not as popular as he had once hoped it might be. Oh, he has the Yacht Club on side, but that is only to be expected when you stop to remember that they stand to gain a spanking new club house out of the deal. But polling among local residents remains at best divided, and at worst strongly against the environmental vandalism that the 2003 McGowan proposal would cause.
So, like any good musician faced with a hostile audience, Mark has changed his tune. After a couple of years of silence, during which he may have hoped his previous role would be forgotten, Mr McGowan is now advising local residents that he is "not supportive of the construction of canals" on the Point Peron site, but remains "supportive of ... boating facilities and housing that is environmentally sensitive." BUT, we hear you say, the claims McGowan makes in this latest letter flies in the face of (a) the EPA ruling - we already know that we can't have boating facilities on the Point Peron site without digging canals, and (b) effectively deny his earlier, proven involvement in the project. Further, it suggests by default that he would favour building a private housing estate on what was always slated to be reserved land, whether or not the promised boating facilities eventuated.
To my mind, Mr McGowan has some serious soul search to do in this issue, and needs to answer the following questions:
1) Does he support the rezoning of a large portion of Point Peron to allow for residential building on land which was gifted to the people of this State on the
clear understanding that it would never be used for residential or commercial purposes?
2) Does he acknowledge, as shown in the 2003 correspondence between his office and that of the then Planning Minister, that he was a major proponent of the current proposal, on which he now appears to have gone cold?
3) Will he, in support of his stated aim of encouraging local tourism, clearly and categorically state, on the public record, that he is in favour of rejecting the Ceder Woods proposal (which he himself has described as being "a risky venture and an
unnecessary burden on taxpayers") in favour of a Cape Peron Coastal Park?
Efforts to get straight answers to these and other simple questions have fallen on deaf ears of late, leading me to believe that Mark is simply trying to be all things to all people - a supporter of boating facilities for the yachties, a friend to the big developers, a conscientious environmentalist, and a friend to ratepayers. The sad truth however is that you can't be all of these things at once, and anyone who tries is at best naive and at worst deceptive. As far as the Member for Rockingham is concerned, we must leave it up to the voters to decide which category he falls into come the March election.