After a widely publicised Expression of Interest (EOI) process earlier this year, Council awarded the lease for Reserve 53801 to RAC Parks and Resorts (RAC) at the November Ordinary Council Meeting yesterday.
This Reserve was formerly run as a Youth Hostel, but had been vacant for some time when the Shire of Esperance took on the lease of the property in late 2020 to help our local community with worker accommodation during the COVID pandemic.
The State Government subsequently transferred Management of the Reserve to the Shire, with the power to lease for up to 21 years. The Use of the Reserve is ‘Tourism Accommodation and Caravan and Camping’, which has a limiting opportunity on how the site can be operated.
The EOI process resulted in only one submission, from RAC, with Council requesting a more detailed proposal to fully flesh out their vision for the site. RAC carried out a number of site investigations and due diligence works across the Reserve, and subsequently increased the proposed capital expenditure for their plan. RAC’s vision for the site will see an extension of their current Holiday Park, with internal roads to another 20 self-contained chalets, long vehicle sites suitable for larger caravans and buses, parking and a play area.
The possibility of retaining the existing building on the site was thoroughly explored, however due to structural issues, the amount of asbestos present, and the building’s location on the block, this will not be possible. RAC advised they are happy to assist with the relocation of the building, provided the relocation is for community purposes and will result in the building being repurposed to the benefit of the local community.
Shire President Ian Mickel was pleased with this result, commenting on the accommodation service provided by the Shire for the benefit of those with local jobs but nowhere to live, and businesses needing staff.
“Council are proud to have been able to support our local community and businesses through the COVID pandemic by providing this worker accommodation when it was so desperately needed,” he said. “This was a short-term solution in extraordinary circumstances, however I know our community don’t want the Shire to provide commercial accommodation services in the long term.”
“It’s time to hand this prime tourism site over to an organisation that has already shown us with the Holiday Park, the fantastic results they can achieve. The fact that they’re happy to contribute to the preservation of the old building as well is a huge win for the community,” he said. “Hopefully, one of our community organisations will take up the torch on this but if there is no interest from the community, there’s always the possibility of elements of the buildings being used in other projects of the Shire.”
Shire CEO Shane Burge commented that redevelopment of the site will offer ongoing assistance to the regional community.
“RAC prefers to use local contractors in construction where competitive and available, and hopes the site works and in-ground services will be sourced locally”, he said. “In this instance the redevelopment of this Reserve is estimated to be $7.5 million, so there’s definitely opportunity for local businesses there.”
“The finished extension to the Holiday Park will increase the amenity of the site and diversify our accommodation options, and of course RAC will continue marketing to its member base and wider population. This gives significant exposure to our town, and once travellers are here RAC works with local tourism operators, encouraging guests to enjoy the amenities of our region.”
“This redevelopment will make best use of a beautiful piece of the Esperance foreshore, making it available for the enjoyment of many. I can see long lasting benefits to our community from this proposal.”
RAC plans to start redevelopment of the site in May 2023, after the April school holidays. The Shire intends to use the building as worker accommodation in the meantime.
Now that Council have approved the Lease, the next step is to advertise intention to dispose of Reserve 53801, and once the consultation period has finished the Lease will go to the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage for approval by the Minister for Lands.
Mary Bidstrup (08) 9071 0626