Speech: Update on Point Grey Dredge

This speech was first delivered to the House of Representatives on 19 October 2020

I'm a big believer in the principle of sovereignty. I've talked a lot about Australian sovereignty over the past year. It's simply the right and power of our country to govern itself free from interference. It's a principle that applies throughout all our lives, and in fact starts with the very building block of Australian society, the family. We respect the right and power of families to live and make choices for themselves free of government interference. In a free society, families are sovereign.

Sovereignty also applies to civil society and local and state governments. We respect the right and power of local and state governments to make decisions on matters that fall within their jurisdiction. So tonight I'd like to say this: sovereign local communities should have the power and right to preserve their shared environmental assets not just now but for future generations of Australians.

I am talking about the right of the Shire of Murray and local community members in my electorate of Canning to preserve Point Grey by opposing the dredging of the estuary by the developer Tian An Australia.

I spoke on this last year. The background is that Tian An Australia has proposed a major development on Point Grey, on the eastern side of Peel Inlet and Harvey Estuary, opposite the City of Mandurah, right in the heart of my electorate of Canning. Central to this development is a marina that could accommodate 300 boat pens. The marina would be the focal point to a village precinct and an overall urban development of 3,000 dwellings.

Currently, the site is natural vegetation and farmland. To access the marina by boat, a 2.5-kilometre, 50 metre-wide navigation channel would have to be dredged across the estuary to link the marina with the Dawesville Channel and the Indian Ocean. The dredge would have to be to a depth of 3.5 metres below sea level, which would result in the removal of 120,000 cubic metres of dredge spoil and the disturbance of some 15 hectares of estuary bed.

This development is opposed, for good reason, by members of my community. Local councillors, community members, businesses such as the fishermen who fish the estuary, Indigenous leaders and environmental groups have all opposed it out of concerns about the impact of this dredge on the estuary and the lifestyle of our region.

There are two primary concerns. The first is the environmental impact of dredging, spoil disposal and continuing maintenance. The second is the potential ongoing public financial cost of maintaining the channel, which will be put upon ratepayers through the City of Mandurah and the Shire of Murray. Most troublingly, the dredge will disturb and destroy sensitive ecosystems and stir up sediments, creating more Monosulfidic Black Ooze in the estuary.

This would threaten jobs in tourism and in commercial and recreational fishing, and the maintenance bill would be rather large.

Since my speech to parliament last year, Tian An Australia have challenged the council's due diligence on their proposal before the State Administrative Tribunal. Their appeal was lost in November, and the Shire of Murray council has since prepared an amendment to its town planning scheme that would remove discretion for a marina as part of the Point Grey development. Public submissions on the draft amendment close on 30 October.

Over the past several weeks I have received hundreds of emails from people concerned about the dredge. This builds on a petition I ran last year in opposition to the dredge, which received over 2,000 signatures in only a number of weeks.

I've assured those concerned that I will remain opposed to the dredge, as are my local Liberal colleagues in the Peel region. The candidate for Murray-Wellington, Michelle Boylan, is opposed to the dredge; the candidate for the seat of Mandurah, Ryan Burns, is opposed to the dredge; the sitting member for Dawesville, Zac Kirkup, is opposed to the dredge; and I, it goes without saying, am opposed to the dredge.

However, the decision on this proposed amendment by the council ultimately lies with the state government and the state minister for planning, the Hon. Rita Saffioti. The Western Australian Planning Commission must decide whether to endorse the plan, and the minister must decide whether to sign off on it.

So tonight my message to the minister is: 'Please listen to our community. We love our estuary and the lifestyle it  affords. Please do the right thing by our residents, businesses and environment, and oppose the dredge.'