As part of the process to achieve and maintain high standards of dwelling design, landscape and environmental standards for the Port Geographe Development, the vendor proposed the creation of an “association” of landowners. This was intended to “regulate and control” the covenants of the Development Guidelines, and the landscaping and maintenance of common facilities. (Link to Covenants and General conditions on development pdf).
Interestingly there was even the requirement that the purchaser “shall join and maintain the association”.
That “association” when it came to be the PGLOA, had no statutory powers of course, but was guided by the conditions and covenants of the Development Plan. PGLOA became a strong advisory and advocacy organisation, whilst still claiming it mandate to seek the enforcements of the covenants and the provisions of the development plan.
The PGLOA was formally incorporated in under its initial constitution in 2001.
The objectives then were:
Be a catalyst for community action and activity
Be a spokesman for the community on issues involving the residents of Port Geographe
Represent the Port Geographe residents and land owners, on all matters of general community issues, to the City of Busselton, Land Developers, Government authorities and other relevant organisations
Provide support, encouragement and guidance for any sporting, cultural and social groups wishing to promote any activity in the Port Geographe area
Promote the Port Geographe area as a dynamic family community with a relaxed and healthy outlook.
After several procedural amendments, and a re-write in 2015 to conform to the model rules of the Associations Incorporation Act 20, the objectives remain the same as originally stated.
The PGLOA became operational in February 2001 under the management of current stalwarts Bob Godridge, John Valentine and Steve O’Brian. It received a grant of $200 from the Busselton Shire for “establishment costs and small projects”.
In May 2002 PGLOA agreed with the Busselton Shire to a differential rating system to provide funds for the maintenance of the waterways and the proximal coastal features, to be funded 75% by Port Geographe landowners and 25% by the Shire of Busselton. A more detailed background to the SAR issue is given in another section.
Records for PGLOA are incomplete for the first five years. However in 2006, under the stewardship of Jeff and Gail Priest, regular newsletters under the banner of Waters Edge were produced and more structured AGMs were held.
The first decade was full of challenging issues for Port Geographe, generally related to the poor performance of the groyne system at the entrance to the port, and the recurring financial stresses of the developers. The PGLOA committee faced many challenges in order to meet its objectives, and addressed many issues in partnership with the Shire, the succession of developers, and the ever changing government departments. In those difficult years issues included:
Agreement on SAR
Timing, mechanics and funding of by-passing of seagrass wrack and sand
Dust suppression on un-developed land
The H2S scare
Appointment of marine safety officers
Landscaping of parks and gardens
The footbridge fiasco
Canal flushing and circulation in enclosed waters
Policy on mechanical boat lifters
Participation in coastal studies
The first by-passing occurred in the Spring 2003 and became a yearly problem for the next decade. These problems related to complex interactions of underestimation of material movements in the littoral zone, financial stress of developers, controversies on responsibility for funding, and the adverse impacts on residents outside of the designated Port Geographe area.
The PGLOA committee under Peter McClurg (2009-2013) grappled with these complex issues, in concert with the Council, many government departments, and other community action groups. These issues were made more challenging in August 2012 when the developer (at that time Saracen and Macquarie JV) went into voluntary administration, and eventually into liquidation when the liability for coastal management exceeded the value of the security bonds.
It was not until 2013, after the granting of State Government funding of $28M for the re-alignment of the entry groynes, that the issue was decisively addressed. Re-construction commenced in July 2013 and was completed in May 2015.
Background to SAR
Background to SAR
The Special Area Rate (SAR) has been levied since the first lots for the Port Geographe Development were rated by the Shire of Busselton in 1996/7. This was spelt out in the original Development Deed between the three proponents – the developer (then Axiom) , the antecedents of the current Department of Transport (DoT) and the then Busselton Shire.
By law, a SAR can be used only by the body that raises it (in this case the Busselton Shire/City), and used only for the designated purpose for which it was established, which in this case is for the maintenance of the Port Geographe foreshore and waterways.
The purpose of the additional rate was to pay for the future maintenance of the coastal (beach) strip immediately west and east of Port Geographe, as well as the entrance channel and associated waterways. This was to become a Busselton Shire/City responsibility once the project was completed by the developer. Because the developer went into liquidation in 2012, this handover never happened.
Under the terms of the development deed, a special fund called the Port Geographe Waterways Management Reserve Fund (WMRF) was established by Busselton Shire for the “benefit of the harbour entrance, harbour bed, canals, breakwaters, and groynes”. As at February 2002 the Port Geographe Waterways Management (SAR) Reserve had a balance of approximately $3.3M.
It should be noted that responsibility for the repair and maintenance of canal walls of residential Lots rests with the landowner.
It was further acknowledged in the deed that the Shire/City was to undertake sand and seagrass bypassing, after completion of the development. It was intended that the money in the WMRF should build up to more than the cost of one year’s bypassing to cover some of this cost.
With the construction of public boat ramp facility by the original developer, which is now used by the general public to navigate via the Port Geographe waterways to Geographe Bay, the then Shire of Busselton initiated a community contribution to the WMRF taken from the total general municipality rate of the Shire. This amount was 25% of the total SAR collected each year from Port Geographe landowners.
In 2003/4 the Shire (now City), opened a new reserve fund called the Port Geographe Development Reserve (Council) into which the 25% municipality contribution was redirected. Then in 2013 the City abolished the community contribution. Following representations from PGLOA this contribution has since been reinstated. This separate fund had about $155,000 in February 2022 comprising the community contribution and augmented by the return of developer’s bonds.
In 2014 after the successors to the original developer (a party to the original Port Geographe Development Deed) went into administration and eventual receivership, Busselton City and Department of Transport (DoT) developed a new Port Geographe Management Agreement for coastal and waterway management. This was to apply after completion of the reconfiguration of the port entrance. Significantly it did not have the further involvement of any developer.
PGLOA as an interested party, unsuccessfully sought to re-negotiate the terms of the SAR during the development of the new management deed. Our submission to the City is referenced here (PGLOA Report on Special Area Rate Jan 2014).
PGLOA continues to believe the SAR should be directed to the betterment of the precinct and the benefit of the residents.
Coastal management at Port Geographe includes four main issues:
Seagrass wrack accumulation on Western Beach.
Maintaining navigation depth in the Entrance Channel.
Water quality in the canals and Lagoon.
Erosion at Wonnerup Beach.
Geographe Bay contains some of the largest seagrass meadows in Western Australia. Just like a forest sheds leaves, seagrass sheds leaf material. If you live next to a forest you must expect to get some leaves in your yard. Living next to seagrass meadows, some seagrass wrack on the beach is a normal part of the environment.
In the absence of manmade structures like groynes, breakwaters and jetties, the seagrass wrack in Geographe Bay accumulates on the beach in May through to July and then starts to disperse. Some remains and is an essential part of the coastal environment as it assists in binding the sand.
Accumulation of seagrass wrack up to several metres thick, on what is now referred to as Western Beach, occurred prior to the construction of Port Geographe. The wrack dispersed naturally and was not regarded as a nuisance. With construction of the breakwaters at Port Geographe, the natural dispersal process was impeded.
The original breakwaters at Port Geographe were design to form a sand trap with sand to be bypassed to Wonnerup Beach by dredge, pump or trucks. An unintended effect was trapping seagrass wrack which no longer dispersed.
In 2011 a study was undertaken and a new alignment for the breakwaters selected to better allow for natural bypassing of seagrass and sand. The realignment was constructed in 2013/14.
For the new alignment to allow for the natural dispersion of seagrass wrack, the bay west of the Western Breakwater needs to be filled with sand to form an arc from about Morgan Street to about 80m from the tip of the Western Breakwater. During the period from 2014 until 2022 the arc of sand was still developing, and had not formed sufficiently for natural dispersion of seagrass to occur. The formation of a sandbar near the tip of the Western breakwater is evidence that the final arc is close to being achieved.
In 2021 extensive mechanical intervention was undertaken to accelerate seagrass wrak dispersion and the summer of 2021/22 had a beach with good amenity.
When seagrass suspended in turbulent (high energy) water reaches placid water (low energy) the seagrass settles. Water, with suspended seagrass, is carried into the entrance channel of Port Geographe by an incoming tide and settles partly blocking the channel. This must be removed by dredging. In 2021 the arrival of the dredge was delayed, and the entrance channel became partly blocked, causing a problem for keel boats trying to exit the marina. A similar problem of settling seaweed also partly blocked the entrance to the Lagoon.
These seagrass banks in the entrance channel and Lagoon are not just a navigation problem. They inhibit water exchange from the canals to the ocean. Key to maintaining good water quality in the canals is dredging of the main channel in early September. The entrance to the Lagoon is too narrow for the large dredge and a mini-dredge or long reach excavator will be required for that area.
Erosion at Wonnerup Beach is a more difficult problem to solve, but it must be recognised it is very localised. So far it has been tackled by construction of a seawall, construction of groynes, dredging sand from an offshore spoil bank, dredging sand from the Port Entrance and hauling in sand by truck. The results have not always resulted in good beach amenity. PGLOA has encouraged further studies to find a long-term solution.
Submission to Port Geographe Technical Working Group
Following public meetings expressing concern about the performance up until 2018 of the Port Geographe breakwater reconfiguration, it was agreed that a technical working group be convened by Department of Transport and Busselton City, to examine the issue.
PGLOA made a submission which is largely based on its own technical review of Western Beach in 2018. In essence we believe the realigned Western Breakwater gives all indications of future good performance and the beach will reach dynamic equilibrium within a few years and facilitate natural bypassing of seagrass wrack.
2018 Report on Western Beach
PGLOA released its own review of the trial sea-grass management program conducted jointly by the BCC and DoT in October 2018. The report draws on the scientific and engineering expertise within the PGLOA and is technically based on observational data and quantified sediment dynamics deduced from time-series imagery of historic shorelines, before and after breakwater reconfiguration
As part of the 2018 review by PGLOA, historic shorelines for Western Beach were mapped, see Figure 3 of the report, a larger version of which can be viewed here.
Figure 3 Historic shorelines of Western Beach
Notwithstanding our view that the coastal process will equilibrate over a reasonable period of time, it is becoming increasingly evident that the channel will require annual or even bi-annual dredging.
It can reasonably be inferred that the Busselton City Council intends that the circa $380k annual contribution from the WMRF that holds our SAR money will be destined to channel dredging in perpetuity. The question why SAR ratepayers are the only local sector paying for dredging of a public port remains unanswered.
PGLOA has an interest in coastal management, not only because it is the key signature of our precinct, but more importantly, because Port Geographe landowners are in part financing these activities through the SAR contribution to the Waterways Management Reserve Fund. Interest is heightened by the fact that the extent of the designated Port Geographe Coastal Management Area (PGCMA), to which we are contributing, extends well beyond the SAR catchment zone.
Following the completion of the Groyne Reconfiguration Project in May 2015, Department of Transport (DoT) has the ongoing responsibility for the performance of the coastal features. DoT provides periodic updates on the monitoring and maintenance works.
The initial update of 2015 by DoT gave the first indication of a much improved natural by-passing in the first winter. Notwithstanding this, in late 2015 DoT undertook a substantial sand-nourishment program.
Quantitative measurements of post-winter wrack accumulations by DoT in the previous three years gave volumes in the range of 115,000m3 to 150,000m3.
The update for 2016 – a year of moderately strong storms – showed a residual wrack of 15,000m3. Significantly it also showed an encouraging accumulation of sand on the Western Beach, together with pockets of depletion at Wonnerup Beach, and accumulations of wrack and sand in the port channel. No sand trucking was undertaken that year, but dredging was required in the port channel.
The 2017 update noted a post-winter wrack build of only 12,000m3 and further accretion of sand at the Western Beach. There was further build-up in the port channel, again requiring dredging, and pockets of sand depletion at Wonnerup. The latter influenced DoT to undertake a major importation of sand all along Wonnerup Beach in the Autumn of 2018.
Images of Port Geographe courtesy Department of Transport
The 2018 update noted a large (unquantified) accumulation of wrack after a winter of strong storms. The wrack had compacted, and a steep face had developed on the seaward side. It was deemed to be hindering the natural movement of sand along the shore line and slowing the build-up of sand in the elbow of the western groyne. Consequently the City and DoT jointly committed to mechanically move some of the wrack in an effort to enhance the sand movement.
The 2018 update also found an immediate requirement to again dredge the channel. Dredged material of high wrack content will be pumped offshore, whereas material of high sand content will be pumped off the eastern revetment to assists the down-drift nourishment of Wonnerup Beach.
Post-winter wrack accumulations after groyne re-configuration are much less than prior to groyne re-configuration
More sand is arriving at the Western Beach than is naturally by-passing
Some of the sand that is naturally by-passing is accumulating in the port channel
Channel dredging will likely be at least an annual requirement, and possibly bi-annual.
Deposition of dredged sand may be enough to nourish Wonnerup Beach.
Overall the re-configured groynes are performing well
The coast-line in the immediate vicinity of Port Geographe is progressively equilibrating by natural long-shore littoral-drift processes.
It is noticeable that the DoT updates are not as yet estimating natural sand-volume movements. The necessity for large-scale “nourishment” at Wonnerup remains un-quantified. There is some evidence that pockets of so-called “erosion” on Wonnerup Beach are due to overfill, as shown in this image. But overall this part of the Geographe Bay coastline is accreting at a fast rate.
On the basis of the DoT reports, the PGLOA committee has adopted a view that no further works of a by-passing nature should be undertaken along the coastal strip for which SAR money is used, until natural processes have come to a new equilibrium, as identified by the annual reviews by DoT. We consider this will take about four years after groyne re-configuration. However we also advocate the merit of artificially assisting the natural build-up of Western Beach against the western groyne.
We all must remember that, because of its proximity to one of the largest seagrass meadows in WA, the entire Geographe Bay coastline has been plastered with seagrass wrack for at least five thousand years. The location of wrack can, depending on weather conditions, be both static and dynamic, with material arriving and passing in just a short time. This is strikingly evident with the inconvenient accumulations of wrack in the vicinity of the iconic Busselton Jetty after the storm of mid-May 2018.
Notwithstanding our view to let coastal process equilibrate over a reasonable period of time, it is becoming increasingly evident that the channel will require annual or even bi-annual dredging. We understand the same dredging contractor is engaged for Mandurah, Halls Head and Port Geographe, and this is an annual cycle of works.
It can reasonably be inferred that the Busselton City Council intends that the circa $300k annual contribution from the WMRF that holds our SAR money will be destined to channel dredging in perpetuity. The question why SAR ratepayers are the only local sector paying for dredging of a public port remains unanswered.
PGLOA maintains a watching brief on parks and gardens in the area, and ensures a close liaison with the Busselton City.
Following the completion of the landscaping associated with the fore-shore re-development, PGLOA submitted a report to City entitled Infrastructure Defects at Port Geographe – Maintenance Issues – Duty of Care. This led to the production of a significant report entitled Pride in our Community dated 23 March 2015. This report identified areas of opportunity and neglect outside of the foreshore redevelopment.
In May 2017 we were advised of additional landscaping in response to Pride in our Community for the FY 2017-18. (see link to 170522 – BCC Landscaping Projects FY17-18). These will involve landscaping of the footbridge approaches, a BBQ facility on the western side of the port entrance, restoration of median strips, additional parklands, and most importantly, deep water bores for reticulation. We are pleased to say that some of the items identified in 2015 were taken up by the City.
With the resurgence of residential construction PGLOA has releases an updated version entitled Pride of Place 2018 , which looks at new initiatives along with some forgotten items.
Back in 2015 we noted that a sum of $560,000 resided in the Port Geographe Development Fund (PGDF). Today it is swelled to around $1.455M with the return by the Administrator of bonds placed by the previous developer. PGLOA understands the PGDF will improve maintenance and renew unfinished parks and gardens and general amenities in the Port Geographe precinct.
We continue to remind everyone that our Special Area Rate (SAR) is not applied to parks and gardens, as it is in other SAR areas in the City, but goes to waterways and coastal management around a major community asset which everybody can use. We believe this is untenable in the long-term.
Our long-running campaign over the unfairness of the SAR has resulted in the City reinstating the community contribution of 25% of the SAR collection. That contribution now goes into the PGDF for broader community issues in Port Geographe. While this is welcome it does not offset the need for a fairer collection system towards coastal and waterways maintenance.
The 2018-19 City Budget allocates $886,000 to new landscaping in the precinct. To what extent this budget allocation is an increment above what we would expect from normal entitlements from standard rates, is not clear.
This new report is issued to the City of Busselton and the landowners of Port Geographe.
We expect it will help focus and expedite the priorities perceived by the ratepayers of Port Geographe.
Layman Road through the tuart forrest and Wonnerup is the second major entry to Busselton from the north. It is a designated tourist route. Layman Road as it enters Port Geographe precinct should therefore present an attractive entry statement for visitors. The present entry statement has promise but is depreciated by the avenue of Casuarina trees that are unsightly, damaging and dirty.
PGLOA has initiated a tree replacement program, and is in consultation with landscape professionals from the City of Busselton and Aigle Royal to design a more suitable avenue.
Officials & Committee 2021-22
Chairman Geoff Cocks
Secretary Peter Brinsden
Treasurer Simon Denney
Committee Darcy Buckle Ray Clarke Emma Dickson Dennis Gee Bob Godridge Ron McDavitt Michelle Pownall