City of Greater Geraldton delays Whitehill Road reconnection in Drummond Cove

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian

City of Greater Geraldton councillors will not make a decision on reconnecting a section of Whitehill Road until the outcomes of proposed coastal protection works in Drummond Cove are clear.

In early 2016, high tides and strong swells eroded Whitehill Road, forcing the City to close the section between the John Batten Community Hall and Drummond Cove Road.

According to the Whitehill Road Realignment Survey Report, the City received a number of requests; either to reopen the road or keep it closed.

A motion to reconnect the road via Estuary Way, extending the road along the back of the coastal reserve to Drummond Cove Road, was tabled at the ordinary council meeting on Tuesday, July 24.

But Cr Steve Douglas moved an amendment to defer the determination until the City’s Coastal Hazard Risk Management and Adaptation Plan (CHRMAP) process is complete.

He said choosing an option now was “risky” for the City and community.

“This is a contentious issue but we need to sit back a little bit before finally making a decision,” he said.

“Choosing an option means we’re locking ourselves into an option that may not be the best in the future.

“The land between the coast and proposed option sits in a low-lying gully ... (this) locks the City into protecting it, which may not deliver the best environmental outcomes.

“Completing CHRMAP will buy us some time and allow us to better understand what the mitigating factors are.”

Whitehill Road on July 27, 2018, covered in sand and seaweed.
Camera IconWhitehill Road on July 27, 2018, covered in sand and seaweed. Credit: Mary Webb

In May, a survey about the future of Whitehill Road was sent to homeowners and landowners in Drummond Cove and Glenfield Beach estate.

It asked them if they wanted a road connecting the community hall and Drummond Cove Road and offered five possible routes.

The City received 372 responses with 78 per cent in favour of re-establishing road access and 40 per cent in favour of connecting the two roads via Estuary Way.

The option, estimated to cost $420,000, would have brought the road behind the forecast 2030 erosion setback line, running along the back of residential properties on Wave Crest Circle.

At the July agenda forum it was noted that residents had complained about the number of people illegally driving through the area since the road was closed.

Chief executive Ross McKim said the City had spent thousands of dollars to keep people out, only to see fences and signs vandalised.

But Cr Bob Hall said reconnecting Whitehill Road would not stop people accessing the closed area.

“It doesn’t matter what we do, those people will still do it,” he said.

“Unless someone is sitting at a guard post you’ll never stop that and putting in a road won’t solve the problem.

“We have to re-mediate the foreshore before the ocean goes any further, save the green belt and then bring it back and discuss.”

Councillors voted 11-1 to defer the determination, with Mayor Shane Van Styn voting against.

Mr Van Styn said waiting until the CHRMAP process was complete was a “serious misjudgement”.

City officers confirmed the council would have the option to reconsider the Whitehill Road connection if options became available.

According to briefing notes in the agenda, reconstructing Whitehill Road was not recommended as coastal protection works would cost $2 million to $3 million.

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