Making policy on the run: breaching the Rottnest Island Act

Written by Convenor February 2012  •

Since the collapse of the painfully protracted negotiations over the proposed Longreach Bay Hotel, there have been a number of announcements in The West Australian newspaper concerning other development plans. These emanate from the Chairman of the RIA, Laurie O’Meara, apparently with the approval of the Minister for Tourism, Dr Kim Hames. They include the following:

            A proposal to spend $1million on upgrading and greening the island
           golf course and to lease it and the country club to a private operator.

           An order by the Minister to the RIA to “crank up” plans for a new
           marina at the south end of Thomson Bay, and to investigate the
           feasibility of a seawall to protect and accommodate more and larger

           A plan to privatise the running of Rottnest’s holiday accommodation as
           part of a “ twenty year vision  for the island.

None of these proposals was included in the Rottnest Island Management Plan [RIMP 2009-2014] under which the island is to be managed. None of them is in accordance with the RIA’s own planning guidelines. None of them appeared in the Task Force recommendations from which the current RIMP and its predecessor emerged. Not one of them has been subject to public scrutiny. In other words, the RIMP and the planning guidelines are being ignored and, if the RIA and its chairman go ahead with these proposals, all members should be aware that their actions are in breach of the Act.

It is becoming increasingly clear that policy for the island is being made on the run and that the Rottnest Island Business Council is centrally involved in decisions which are aimed at maximising profits for business owners. Legitimate complaints by WA families about not being able to afford to holiday on Rottnest are being ignored by the government and countered by advertising and press comment by the Rottnest island Business Council.

The sad truth is that no one, including the press, is asking questions. Editorial comment by The West Australian favours privatisation and, in the absence of any opposing views, the government can claim they have the support of the public.  

It is time to act if the special character of Rottnest is to be maintained and enjoyed by WA families.

Eric Moxham