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Light on horizon for aged care

THE State Government’s announcement it is supporting plans to rezone bushland in Kalamunda, earmarked as suitable for an aged care facility, has been met with a mixed response from the community.

This week Planning Minister Donna Faragher announced the State Government would support rezoning almost 11ha of land on Wilkins Rd from parks and recreation to urban, through an amendment to the Metropolitan Region Scheme.

Walliston resident Tim Colegate noted while the support was not an approval to rezone the land, it was was a disappointing announcement.

“There is no recognition of the environmental and social values of this reserve, be it the trees and birds, the stunning wildflower displays, the black cockatoo habitat, or simply a place to go for a walk,” he said.

“If this development goes ahead, it will result in the destruction of 10ha of community bushland reserve to build a retirement village with only a small fraction of the area designated for aged care.

“Furthermore, this decision will place seniors and the elderly in the path of potential bushfires carried on the easterly wind.

“I ask the Shire of Kalamunda to show how vulnerable people can be quickly and safely evacuated from the proposed development in the case of bushfire roaring up the eastern slope.”

But Kalamunda MP John Day said environmental and bushfire management issues had been carefully condidered.

“Potential risks were considered by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services which approved a fire management plan,” he said.

“The Environmental Protection Authority considered the amendment and decided it did not require assessment.”

Mr Day said rezoning of the site to urban did not mean all of the land would be developed.

“I expect that a significant part of the vegetation will be retained following detailed planning and design development,” he said.

Lesmurdie aged care advocate Iris Jones said the announcement was a positive step, however the initiative had a long way to go.

“The news on Wilkins Rd is good in that it is the first light on the horizon in delivering more aged care beds in the region for many years,” she said.

“However, let’s not break out the champers just yet, as the initiative has a long way to go still to get over environmental hurdles.

“So let’s not count the chickens before they are hatched.

“It is still years away.”

Mrs Jones said even if the Wilkins Rd development went ahead, the shire still needed more aged care beds to meet demand in the area.

“Hall & Prior have raised the funding required to get going on their planned aged care facility in High Wycombe,” she said.

“This is excellent news as this one has been on the cards since 2006.

“The drought has certainly broken.

“But as any farmer will tell you, it takes more than a shower of rain to flood the creek.

“The ministers can’t rest on their laurels just yet. They need to finish the job.”

Mr Day said he had held discussions with other existing aged care providers in the Shire recently and there were promising signs regarding expansions.

“Collectively, the operators of Parry House (Amana Living), Villa Maria (Mercy Health) and Valencia Nursing Home have approval from the Federal Government for an additional 210 beds,” he said.

Before Wilkins Rd can be rezoned to urban it must be tabled in Parliament where it will be subject to a disallowance motion for 12 sitting days – the last time a scheme amendment was disallowed was 2007.

By Sarah Brookes

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