Panel to decide $10m eco-tourism resort

By Robert Muir

The Joint Regional Planning Panel will hold a public meeting on May 9 at 12 noon in the Federation Council regarding the proposed $10 million eco-tourism resort at 803 Spring Drive Corowa 8.03 kms west of town.

“Anybody who has an interest in the health of the river should attend the meeting,” owner of the next-door property, Bongeroo, and vocal objector to the proposal, Robert Pearce told The Free Press.

“Anybody who is passionate about the river should apply to speak.”

Proposed as ‘Warrawidgee Island Conservation Resort’, the development plan has been devised by Warrawidgee property owners located on the edge of the Murray River on 316.2 hectares.

According to Habitat Planning’s Development Application (DA), the development is “a principally comprised tourist accommodation in the way of cottages, cabins, studios, tents and caravan sites.  

“Ancillary infrastructure includes recreation areas with swimming pools, a barbecue area, playground and extensive walking tracks on the island of Boiling Down Creek.”

As outlined in the DA report, an eco-tourist facility means a “building or place that provides temporary or short-term accommodation to visitors on a commercial basis, is located in or adjacent to an area with special ecological or cultural features and is sensitively designed and located so as to minimize bulk, scale and overall physical footprint and any ecological or visual impact”.

“An eco-tourism facility is defined as ‘minimal scale involvement’,” Mr Pearce said. 

“Here we’re talking about the population of another village or town, with 600 people and probably more than Urana,” he said.

“These are meant to be cleansing areas between the urban area and it clearly states this sort of development needs to be hooked up to existing sewerage and water infrastructure. We’ve seen no details of a sewerage treatment plant.

“If it gets approved, it sets a precedent for the same sort of thing all along the river. It goes against every aim out there as far as river management goes.”

Mr Pearce, who has lived his entire 60 years at Bongeroo, claims to know the area better than anyone but has not been spoken to by any planning panel member.

Warrawidgee was part of Bongeroo when Mr Pearce’s grandfather bought the property in 1910. It remained in the family ownership until 1973. There have been four subsequent owners.

“I’ve worked for all four different owners since it was sold and feel I’ve got more knowledge of the property than anybody else,” Mr Pearce said. 

“At the end of February my position was terminated. 

“It is a prohibited area – the NSW Environment Defenders Office advised Federation Council last October.

“This has gone on for 13 months.” 

The planning panel’s public meeting in the Corowa Shire Civic Centre will go a long way to finalizing the decision.

People wanting to address the panel must register their interest before 4pm on Tuesday, May 7 or email [email protected]