The Western Australian Planning Commission has supported the construction of the Penguin Island Discovery Centre despite staunch opposition from the City of Rockingham, local activists and residents. The WAPC supported a motion to conditionally approve the development plans put forward by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions which would see the existing facility bulldozed and a new one erected. Rockingham Council unanimously voted against the proposal at its March meeting and made a recommendation against the proposed centre to the WAPC in hopes to have the development plans reassessed after a range of environmental concerns were brought forward. The information centre, which is proposed to be built on top of the little remaining penguin breeding habitat as an elevated building, has received significant community backlash since Environment Minister Reece Whitby announced the centre in February. Community members are concerned about the impact on the existing little penguin population and their habitats as well as the disruption of mating season during the construction phase of the proposed centre. Rockingham councillor Dawn Jecks, who is an active advocate for the Little Penguin colony, led a rally last Tuesday for the ‘Save Rockingham’s Little Penguins’ campaign in a last ditch attempt to stop the project from going ahead. Ms Jecks said the rally was attended by locals who are determined to keep holding decision-makers accountable. “Supporters are struggling to understand why the Government is intent on ploughing ahead with a proposal that nobody except the Government and DBCA want,” Ms Jecks said. “It’s against the public interest on every measure. There is a sense of responsibility in the community that the penguins can’t speak for themselves so we must.” Ms Jecks also said DBCA had made no attempt to account for tourism impacts in its planning application or in its responses to the media on the issue. Mayor Deb Hamblin said that the city was disappointed in the recent WAPC decision to grant Development Approval to the proposed Penguin Island Discovery Centre. “This WAPC decision does not align with Council’s position, informed by expert scientific advice, which recommended further research being undertaken to evaluate the full impact of the construction of the new PIC and boardwalks, the demolition of the existing (Penguin Information Centre) and boardwalks, and ongoing visitation, on the Little Penguin colony.” “Council (is seeking) support from the Minister for Environment, Minister for Tourism and the Premier of Western Australia to delay the construction of the new PIC to allow a more thorough examination of the proposal and its potential impacts on the Little Penguins. This should include a review of all options, including those on the mainland,” Ms Hamblin said. In response to the WAPC’s decision, the Mayor has written to these parties seeking intervention in an attempt to align with the City’s position. A spokesperson from the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage said “the Development Application was approved consistent with the recommendation from the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage”.