Archives - Reports

Reports reproduced here come from past AGMs of the Rottnest Society.

THE ROTTNEST SOCIETY AGM
22ND AUGUST 2011
CONVENOR’S REPORT:
Presenting a Convenor’s Report to an AGM without direct input from Sue Folks is a daunting task indeed.  Although Sue has not yet left for her new life in California, she is scheduled to do so by the end of this month. She sends her best wishes to all of us this evening.
I would like first to draw everyone’s attention to a very significant decision taken by the WA Government just a few months ago - the provision of substantially increased funding to the RIA budget on a recurrent basis. Having lobbied unsuccessfully for many years to have Treasury agree to allowing Community Service Obligations to apply to Rottnest Island, it is a huge win for the RIA and all the island stakeholders to have guaranteed additional money available for environmental maintenance and development. We understand that a total of $9 million will be forthcoming over the next four years, beginning with $1million this year. That is good news indeed.
RIMP progress
In looking at the progress of the Rottnest Island Management Plan [RIMP], however, some major priorities seem to be moving at a glacial pace. We are now almost half way through the life of the 2009-2014 Plan and there is no definitive feedback on Initiative 1 [Review of the Act] or Initiative 3 [Twenty Year Vision for Rottnest] – both of which had completion dates which have either past or are now due.  It is possible, of course, that progress is being made with no public involvement. If so, we [the users of the island] need to ensure that this does not continue. Any suggested amendments to the Act need scrutiny by and input from the community and, a “Twenty Year Vision” for the island should surely demand our involvement if it is to benefit the users. We note that a “strategic framing and economic modelling exercise” has been undertaken by consultants. Efforts to get information on what the consultants came up with have so far failed. This exercise must have been significantly important because its purpose was ‘to inform the Review of the Act and the Twenty-year Vision’.
Proposed Hotel at Longreach Bay
The saga of the proposed Longreach Bay Hotel development continues. Having lost a project partner last year, Pinctada Hotels and Resorts, the preferred proponent, was given a one month extension to come up with the appropriate funding arrangements. Having exhausted that period, they were granted a further three months extension, announced by the Minister in June. This delays a decision until the end of September and raises important questions of the viability of the development, not to mention the fairness of the whole process. As you are aware, the Rottnest Society is against the project. We agree that there is a need for additional accommodation on the island in summer, but it should be appropriate accommodation, affordable to the main users of the island, and in keeping with the traditional Rottnest ethos. It seems clear that the Government is committed to bringing this unsuitable hotel project to fruition and we are concerned about the nature of the negotiations. A letter I sent to the Minister, Dr Hames, in July, was replied to just a few days ago, but major questions I asked were ignored or inadequately responded to. This was particularly so in relation to an assurance we sought that the Government was not contributing assistance in cash or in kind to the Pinctada proposal.
You will recall that the public was invited to comment on a previous proposal for a hotel on the same site in January 2007. The preferred proponent at that time eventually withdrew from negotiations, but the results of the public comment process were never revealed to the community. We are concerned that this same lack of feedback might happen again and that many people who invested considerable time and energy in making a detailed response will again be ignored.
Camping Ground
The latest RIMP progress report refers to Initiative 10, where a study was to be commissioned to develop appropriate design for the current camping ground which would be proposed for upgrade to a permanent camp site. A previous progress report advised that a site for an eco village precinct including camping ground had been identified in South Thomson and there would be detailed analysis. However, the present temporary camping ground is located next to Caroline Thomson cabins and there is now no mention of an eco village.  It is this lack of reliable information that is so frustrating and encourages cynicism on the part of the public.
Welcome Developments
There are, however, some good things happening on Rottnest, one of which is the building of coastal walk trails and we’ll be hearing more about this from our Guest Speaker following this meeting. In April, four of our members attended a  Volunteer Workshop on the island and met with members of other volunteer groups to discuss strategies surrounding the celebration of  ‘A Hundred Years of Tourism’ – plans for bike races, a Festival of Sail, a Ball at Kingstown Hall, and other events.
Quarterly Meetings of Volunteer Groups
I must also mention the continuing volunteer meetings chaired by Paolo Amaranti, the CEO. These occur four times a year and are a very useful opportunity for exchanging views and finding out what other volunteers are doing.  
Weekend Plantings by Rottnest Society Groups
The Rottnest Society has been on two weekend planting exercises so far this year and has another planned for September – a weeding weekend We have been working on the replanting of the huge Parker Point dune blow-out and made significant headway on two weekends planting seedlings directly into jute with lots of nourishing rain around.  These weekends are very popular and our optimal group number of about 50 persons is almost always oversubscribed.
Issues for the Coming Year
Our committee is working on a number of issues which will require the formation of ad hoc groups during the coming months. These issues include the need to increase membership; more publicity in the print and electronic media; our own suggestions for appropriate development on the island, and to examine what amendments to the Rottnest Island Act might be worth considering.
Committee Changes
We lost our long-time Newsletter Editor, Carl Dyde, who has found that becoming a father as well as having new work responsibilities, is too demanding on his time. Carl was with us for more than six years and we sincerely thank him for all the input he made to the Committee and the wider membership. Our thanks go to Rose Robson who was co-opted to the committee for one year. Rose took over Carl’s role and edited three editions of the Newsletter. Unfortunately, other demands will prevent Rose from continuing on the committee in the coming year.  Beth Strang took over Sue Folks’ job of handling the bookings for our planting weekends – a labour of love considering that Beth’s motion sickness prevents her from ever going to the Island unless transmutation becomes a reality. Thanks Beth.  Grateful thanks are due to Trish Bevan and Jane Laurie who organise the planting weekends, allocate individuals to working groups, arrange accommodation details and collect all the money we have to pay the RIA.  As most of you are aware, Trish is also Sec/Treasurer of the society and is never out of a job.
In conclusion, the Rottnest Society’s raison d’être is to promote the island as a low-key amenity that is highly valued by and available to the WA community. Unfortunately there are forces at work both inside and outside government that do not subscribe to this view. We need all the assistance we can muster to protect what Rottnest means to us.
Eric Moxham, Convenor
August 2011.