Opinion: coastal park could be tourism boost

Aaron Stonehouse, South Metro MLCSound Telegraph
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What’s the point of preserving our natural environment if people can’t get out and enjoy it? And why should we spend millions of taxpayer dollars — money from your pocket, and from mine — if there are viable, and indeed attractive, alternatives on offer?

Those are just two of the questions I’ve been pondering in recent months in regard to Point Peron. Now that the Government has bowed to public pressure, and taken the exclusive marina proposal off the table, what is the best way to ensure the largest number of people get to enjoy a sustainable environmental asset at the lowest reasonable cost?

I have received briefings from interested parties in recent months, from the departments of Planning and Transport, through to local councillors, and community groups, but one option that I believe is worthy of serious consideration is that being put forward by those advocating for the establishment of a Cape Peron Coastal Park.

Why don’t we go all-in, and establish the Grade A reserve that we were promised back in 1964?

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A network of walkways and trails running from Lake Richmond out to the tip of Point Peron, taking in the World War II bunkers and defensive batteries, while focusing on the natural beauty of the coastline has the potential to act as a real drawcard for Rockingham. A visitor centre could sit at the entrance to the park, at the junction of Hymus Street and Point Peron Road, on land which is already owned by the City of Rockingham, and would serve as an educational and community link between the Esplanade, the City foreshore, and the Grade A reserve adjacent to it.

That would take money, of course, but we’re not talking major mullah. The establishment of a new trail linking Lake Richmond to existing walkways around Point Peron, and taking in the beautiful Tuart groves in-between, could be achieved for as little as $20,000, for example.

Moreover, the establishment of a combination of static and mobile caravan park on the land that was cleared to make way for the now-defunct marina would allow the park to generate a steady stream of income on which to base these and future facilities.

Let’s take a conservative approach, and imagine a 200-berth caravan park, running at no more than 50 per cent occupancy throughout the year, and charging $40 per night. Even that would raise close to $1.5 million each year to go to park upkeep and maintenance. A realistic figure would likely be in excess of $2 million.

It would also ensure overnight and short-stay accommodation for tourists, who would in turn spend more time, and more money, along this stretch of coastline, while doing away with the need for a standard entry fee for those who simply want to walk through the bushland.

And ironically, all of this could be achieved while remaining within the stipulations of the original land grant made in 1964, which stated the area was to be used for recreational purposes, ahead of it being declared a Grade A reserve in perpetuity.

All the Government needs to commit is its time, energy, and goodwill. The seed money to set up the visitor centre, and the additional attractions could be reclaimed over the initial five or 10 years of the park’s existence, after which it would be an asset on the Department of Biodiversity and Attractions ledger, paying for itself, and generating additional local income into the bargain.

Uncertainty has dogged Point Peron for too many years. Now that the marina proposal is dead and buried, the people of Rockingham deserve some certainty moving forward.

Coastal Park status is not only achievable, it’s attractive from a range of perspectives. I believe it has the potential to add substantially to our amenities, while not draining State or local finances. And it could provide some of those local jobs for local people that Labor has been so keen to promote.

What I don’t want to see is a half-hearted attempt that leaves stretches of the Point untended and unloved. That benefits no one. If we’re committed to the future of Point Peron, we need to be properly committed, and from where I’m sitting the Coastal Park Plan has a lot to offer.

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