Perth developer defends Smiths Beach proposal, promising ‘fantastic new result’



Three hours south of Perth, serene Smiths Beach is a haven of natural beauty and wildlife.

Tourists flock here to enjoy the pristine and underdeveloped landscape while walking the Cape to Cape Trail.

However, the coastal stretch could soon be transformed into a 65-room, 61-residence hotel under a new plan from Perth businessman and developer Adrian Fini.

When Mr. Fini bought the site in 2014 with three other families, there was already an agreement to develop it. He said he wanted to improve this plan.

“We spent… two years developing a vision for the site,” Fini told the ABC at 7:30 am.

Site with history

Brian Burke was Premier of Washington State from 1983 to 1988.(

ABC News: Phil Hemingway


Smiths Beach is synonymous with one of the most scandalous chapters in Western Australian political history.

Lobbying around a development in Smiths in the early 2000s led to a Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) investigation involving former Prime Minister Brian Burke.

Mr. Burke was then charged with five counts of lying at the CCC investigation and acquitted of four of those counts.

Despite the approval of a development plan for the site, it remained intact for years.

Mr. Fini is behind several major developments in Western Australia, including the Old Treasury buildings in Perth’s CBD.

He said at 7:30 a.m. that the existing development proposal would not do the site justice and his plan would result in lower density and the preservation of better vegetation.

“We really want to get it right,” Fini said.

“What we’re trying to do is save Smiths Beach from the current approval and get a much better community and tourism outcome.

“I personally sat in front of the entire Busselton council… we spoke to over 200 people in the local community there.”

Generational struggle

A man sits on the grass near a beach.
David Mitchell is concerned about the percentages of commercial and residential zoning in the new proposal.(

ABC News: Phil Hemingway


The fight for Smiths Beach dates back decades to David Mitchell, whose family has lived there for about 40 years.

His father, Bill, led the initial anti-development protest years ago.

David Mitchell, who now heads the Save Smiths Beach Again action group, has a series of concerns about the new proposal, which has yet to be tabled, including the percentages of commercial and residential zoning, and that it will follow located much further west on the hill and closer to the beach than the approved plan.

“The point is that this developer wants to increase this [footprint] by 30% in an area that the EPA says should not be developed and is currently approved as a future national park, ”Mitchell said at 7:30 am.

Mr Fini said he listened to the action group’s concerns after consulting them on the plan.

“There’s obviously a small number of people, led by one person who lives on top of the hill. We’re doing what we think is, you know, the best practice in the world to get a fantastic new result,” said M . Finished. .

Mr. Mitchell himself organized community consultations with other local families.

One of his main concerns is that Mr. Fini is considering filing for approval under the new planning laws being encouraged by COVID.

“Ready to start projects” given the green light

A man wearing a white collar shirt under a navy colored suit jacket.
“We really want to do it right,” said Adrian Fini.(

ABC News: Chris MacGregor


In the middle of last year, Western Australian Planning Minister Rita Saffioti introduced a new bill, with bipartisan support, to urgently push forward so-called ‘dumped-in’ projects. “.

For an 18-month period, the WA Planning Commission (WAPC) would be the sole decision-maker for some projects, as part of a newly created state development assessment unit.

The process means developers can bypass the usual approval system that goes through the local council.

“Yes [Mr Fini’s plan] is so wonderful, why does he need to go through a short-lived process that allows him to bypass the local master plan? ”said Mr. Mitchell, who previously worked for Mr. Fini.

In a statement at 7:30 a.m., Ms Saffioti said the new approval process was “not about fast-track projects – it was about supporting economic recovery through large, well-designed projects with certainty of investment”.

Mr Fini said the process allowed for greater coordination of government departments and politicians themselves were not responding to requests.

In Western Australia, the memory of the WA Inc era is very present. The nickname refers to a series of deals made between big business figures and the then Labor government led by Mr Burke in the 1980s.

The McGowan government’s perceived proximity to developers became an election issue earlier this year.

Mr. Fini’s real estate development company, Hesperia, donated more than $ 50,000 to WA Labor last year, which he said was not unusual.

“Hesperia does not own the [Smiths Beach] to place. He is actually one of the many consultants on the project, ”said Mr. Fini.

“We donate to Liberal and Labor parties, we attend forums, lunches, dinners to make sure we are part of the process … so that we understand what governments think on both sides of the [of politics]. “

When asked at 7:30 a.m., given the history of the site, if he was concerned about a perception of bypassed local processes, Mr. Fini said he was not concerned.

“We had full discussions and presentations to the local council. There are no politicians involved in the decision-making process for this project,” Fini said.

To date, WAPC has approved 13 projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Controls and balances

Two men wearing coveralls on the grass near a beach.
David and Bill Mitchell’s family have lived in Smiths Beach for approximately 40 years.(

ABC News: Phil Hemingway


Richard Muirhead is the former head of the Western Australian Government’s redevelopment authority which oversaw major projects under the Liberal and Labor state governments.

He said at 7:30 a.m. he feared the new process would create an environment where important checks and balances would be left behind.

“Local governments tend to understand their local areas better than state government,” said Mr. Muirhead.

“You talk about cutting red tape, but really what you are doing is removing the checks and balances.”

Mr Muirhead said he was concerned about where the process might lead.

“It could go to the point where governments can almost handpick which projects they want to accelerate, it could go to governments claiming that they made these developments happen.”

Ms Saffioti said at 7:30 a.m. in a statement that no application had been made for a development at Smiths Beach to be determined by WAPC.

“The minister does not determine the requests,” she said in the statement.

“Any proposed development would be subject to community consultation and undergo rigorous evaluation.

“This would include the Environmental Protection Authority, local government, and regulatory authorities such as the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Water Corporation.”

An aerial view of a coastline, empty land and housing estates to the left
An aerial view of Smiths Beach.(

ABC News: Anthony Pancia


Ms Saffioti also said that local governments would have the opportunity to submit proposals.

A state government spokesperson said at 7:30 am that “meetings to determine important development proposals are open to the public and all agenda documents and decisions are posted online.” .

Mr Fini said at 7:30 am: “We will meet the highest standards ever delivered in any form of coastal village in Australia.”

The developer says he plans to file a request with the special unit by the end of the year.

Mr Fini said he would be happy to extend the public comment period on the project.

The Mitchells insist they just want to secure the best result for Smiths Beach.

“We are not against development. We are happy with development, as long as it is sustainable and does not go against the integrity of the landscape,” said Bill Mitchell.

“It’s a development sensitivity issue we’re talking about, and it has been for over 20 years. Nothing has changed.”

Watch this story at 7:30 am on ABC TV and iview.


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