‘We do not need to be a Gold Coast’: suburban Perth residents deny ‘nimbyism’ amid high-rise splurge

‘We do not need to be a Gold Coast’: suburban Perth residents deny ‘nimbyism’ amid high-rise splurge

More high-rise is coming to Perth’s suburbs whether you like it or not, according to communities who have already lost their fight against the multi-storey apartment towers.

Take Karrinyup in the northern suburbs, for example, where local residents in flat suburban homes say their views of the Perth city skyline have been replaced with a noisy construction site and all the dust and traffic that comes with it.

The West Australian government says high-rise has to be part of the infill mix if Perth is to absorb 3.5 million people by 2050 and curb urban sprawl.

But, it’s a hard sell for those who find themselves living in the shadows of unexpected high density.

Karrinyup has morphed from a coastal suburb to having one of Perth’s biggest and busiest shopping centres.(ABC: Jon Kerr)

Privacy, traffic top residents’ concerns

For Karrinyup’s many elderly residents, including Trisha Cole, the neighbourhood is not what it used to be.

group of people sitting and standing around a table with lots of paperwork
Trisha Cole (far left) is among the Karrinyup residents fighting against the “overdevelopment” of the area. (ABC News: Claire Moodie)

“There’s no privacy any more but the worst way it has affected me is the volume of traffic,” she said.

“Mainly trying to cross the road, that’s the worst thing in my life.

“I have actually stood in the middle of the road and put my hand up each way.”

The 88-year-old lives in a house on the edge of the state’s biggest shopping centre, Karrinyup, which has expanded significantly in recent years.

Now, designer apartment buildings are springing up on the centre’s fringe, offering a combination of “urban convenience” and “suburban tranquillity”.

An aerial view of a suburban neighbourhood
An aerial view of the footprint of the Karrinyup shopping precinct in context with the surrounding suburb.(Supplied: Landgate)

The developer, Blackburne, says most of stage one has already sold and mainly to local residents. 

But for Ms Cole who lives opposite the construction site and shopping centre, there has been little respite from the noise in recent years. 

More high-rise on the way

Two 14 and 24-storey luxury apartment blocks, also in the shopping centre precinct but yet to be built, have been given the green light.

The project, called West Village, was approved last year by a Joint Development Assessment Panel (JDAP) after the local council, the City of Stirling, rejected it, pointing out the area was only zoned for four storeys, not 24.

A render of an apartment and entertainment precinct.
West Village was approved by a planning panel.(Supplied: West Village Karrinyup)

Ms Cole and her neighbour, Lynne Noack, were among close to 200 residents who attended a meeting with the JDAP last year, where they presented their objections to the development.  

“We were very professional, we had researched extremely well, we had our data,” Ms Noack said.

“Were we listened to? No. I personally felt we were treated with contempt.”

But, was this just a case of nimbyism?

A dictionary displaying the definition of Nimby - not in my backyard
Nimby — the ‘not in my backyard’ mindset.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

Ms Noack vehemently rejected that notion.

She said while a community survey of 400 people had found close to 90 per cent of local residents opposed the development, 96 per cent were willing to accept up to eight storeys.

“Development is necessary, housing is necessary,” Ms Noack said.

woman standing with hand on hip in front of shopping centre with car passing
Lynne Noack says the community did not reject high-rise outright.(ABC News; Claire Moodie)

“Eight storeys, we could accommodate that … but anything that is in excess of 12 or 15 is not acceptable.”

Residents were listened to: developer

Both Blackburne, and the state government, insist the local residents were listened to during the consultation process.

Blackburne says it also ran its own independent consultation, where local residents were invited to presentations, as well as question and answer sessions.

“Our developments are designed with existing and future residents in mind,” the company’s statement said.

A street directory displaying the road layout of a suburb
Karrinyup residents say local roads are under pressure by the major developments in their suburb.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

“This means we engage the best consultants in the industry to prepare the necessary technical reports to assess things like traffic.

“The analysis showed that this development would not have any material impact on the traffic experience in the area.”

But, try telling that to Ms Noack who already finds it difficult at peak times to get out of her driveway due to “enormous” traffic from the shopping centre and is convinced the local roads won’t cope with the extra cars from 250 new apartments.

homes and foliage in the foreground, with multi-storey construction site across the road
Karrinyup residents say they are tired of the dust and noise from the new development.(ABC News: Claire Moodie)

She also claims the intersection from her road onto the main thoroughfare, Karrinyup Road, has become an accident black spot.

Main Roads was unable to provide recent figures, but confirmed there had been 34 crashes at the intersection in the five years to the end of 2021, mostly before the shopping centre redevelopment was complete.

Karrinyup experience mirrored in other suburbs

WA Ratepayers and Residents Association spokesperson Simon Wheeler said the experience of residents in Karrinyup was not isolated.

Mr Wheeler, who ran as a candidate in the last City of Stirling election, claims high-rise was being steamrolled through across the suburbs, despite huge community opposition.

portrait shot of Simon Wheeler with development in the background
Simon Wheeler says Karrinyup residents were not alone as multi-storey developments continued to be rolled out across Perth.(ABC News: Claire Moodie)

“This could happen anywhere absolutely … it’s happening in Nedlands, it’s happening in Fremantle, it’s happened in South Perth, and coming soon to your next door,” Mr Wheeler said.

“Right now, the JDAP can approve anything they want, literally anything and there’s no oversight, there’s no right of reply.”

A high-rise building in the backdrop of smaller density housing
Smaller density housing pictured against the backdrop of a high-rise building in Mount Pleasant.(ABC News: Claire Moodie)

Under the JDAP process introduced in 2011, a panel of five people, including specialists and local councillors, appointed by the state’s planning minister, make decisions on major project proposals.

Critics argue that recent reforms to JDAPs and the state’s planning system will take even more power away from local councils and communities.

Under the new system, developers can also use the process for smaller infill projects, instead of going to a local council.

Minister rules out third-party appeal rights

Mr Wheeler has called for third-party appeal rights so councils and residents can challenge JDAP decisions.

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