Gascoyne shack owners, shire come to blows over demolition push

Tom ZaunmayrMidwest Times
Carnarvon Blowholes shack.
Camera IconCarnarvon Blowholes shack. Credit: WA News

Tensions on a remote edge of WA are reaching boiling point as shack owners on the Gascoyne coast clash with local government over the future of their patch of paradise.

The blowholes shacks 70km north of Carnarvon are the centre of a long-running dispute between owners and the Shire of Carnarvon which is due to culminate this year in demolition of the shacks.

In their place, the Shire of Carnarvon wants to establish holiday homes and camping sites as set out in the 2014 Blowholes Reserve Management Plan.

Blowholes Protection Association president Shane Aylmore said tourism facilities and the shack community could coexist.

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“Over the years we have had about eight attempts I can recall to formalise it,” he said.

“We get close then someone in the Shire says we can put a caravan park here, and it all falls over.”

Shack owners have been lobbying to uphold a 2012 decision by former Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls, whereby owners could keep their shacks so long as they were rebuilt to comply with modern standards.

The Shire handed management of the reserve to the State Government in 2016, but rescinded that motion last year to enable it to progress plans to open the site up for tourism.

Shire of Carnarvon chief executive David Burton said removing the shacks to get started on the redevelopment was a priority.

“The owners of the shacks do not have tenure of any sort and are not able to modify or improve them in any way,” he said.

“A Reserve Management Plan was prepared in 2014 and signed by the then Minister for Regional Development.

“The Management Plan provides for the future development of the reserve which includes the demolition of the shacks currently located on the reserve, establishment of alternative holiday house sites, and camping sites.”

Mr Aylmore said owners wanted to fix their shacks up, and would be happy to allow tourists to use them.

“Instead, we are forced to have these pieces of **** we cant fix, when all we want to do is make the area great,” he said.

“It is where families go to camp and it is just that kind of important cultural thing where I grew up doing it, my dad did it, I want my kids to do it.”

The Shire expects to demolish the shacks by July this year and introduce new tourism facilities by 2022.

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