“The wall of silence is deafening”

“The wall of silence is deafening”

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Beleaguered property-owners battling
Rick Henderson, Melissa Zappelli and her daughter Soraya address the crowd on Sunday. Photograph – Richard Polden.

Beleaguered property-owners battling the reclassification of their land addressed a gathering of concerned locals and activists in Harrisdale on Sunday, voicing concern over the protection of local wetlands.

Representatives from Wildlife Care WA, Western Australia Seabird Rescue, Darling Range Wildlife Shelter, Saving our Snake-necked Turtles and Wetlands Conservation Society Inc joined the placard-bearing crowd, as speakers responded to an incident earlier this month where trucks were ordered to stop dumping sand in a nearby lake.

The incident was the latest development in a stoush that has property owners desperately seeking answers, after an environmental survey completed at the behest of property developers reclassified their land as wetlands.

The reclassification, which owners are fighting, potentially devalues the land or opens it up to seizure without compensation.

Melissa Zapelli, whose parents live at the location, said at the same time her parent’s property was incorrectly classified as a wetland, three existing wetlands were opened up for development.

“This began as fight to save Mum and Dad’s lot from inaccurate wetland classifications applied by the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (DBCA),” Ms Zapelli said.

“Our land is not wetland. This position is supported by science and an enormous amount of data collected by our environmental consultant.

“At the same time as wetland classifications were applied to our land, wetland classifications of three small lakes on the land behind us were lifted.

“These wetlands have been designated for development and will be filled with over four metres of soil and totally destroyed if the structure plan is not stopped.

“They are precious remnants of Balannup Lake and home for many species of waterbird, turtles, bandicoots and other fauna.

“It is our position that the land behind us has always been wetland and should be protected with Conservation Category Classification

“The application of wetland classifications to privately-owned land occurs behind closed doors.

“The Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions is a WA State Government Department.

“I have written, emailed, phoned and had meetings with several elected State Government Politicians.

“There has been no help and at the moment the wall of silence is deafening.”

Later this year it is expected the City of Armadale will consider a structure plan for the development, and property owners are hoping the properties in question will ultimately be omitted from any approved development plans.