“What we wanted to build then was the best seaside village in Australia, which meets all of these objectives: cultural, social, environmental,” Mr Fini said.
Mr Fini said there would also be a visitor center for the Cape to Cape walk, with Smiths Beach at the north end of the trail, which hiking companies could use.
The action group Save Smiths Beach is concerned about several aspects of the project, including whether it aligns with the local town plan, its fire emergency plans and the relationship between tourism and residential land uses.
As with many small coastal communities in the southwest, there is only one road to Smiths Beach, which means there are limited exits in the event of a major bushfire.
Save Smiths Beach wants the developer to improve the access road and intersections and thinks the project relies too much on a fire.
Community facilities would be the evacuation point for the area, just as similar facilities were used during recent fires near Bunker Bay. Mr Fini said bringing running water to the site and already having a firebreak in place would help mitigate the dangers.
He said this “bunker” would have state-of-the-art security standards.
The project still needs to obtain environmental approvals and be assessed by the state bushfire authority.
It will soon be open for community consultation through the state’s temporary Development Assessment Unit set up to reduce planning red tape for COVID-19 economic stimulus projects.
The unit coordinates the processes and tasks the WA Planning Commission with approving projects instead of the state Development Appraisal Committees, thereby removing councilors from local government.
This unit itself is a bone of contention with the local MP and the town of Busselton who fear it will overrule local urban plans.
But Mr Fini said he believed most of the community was on board.
“It’s a big improvement over what’s currently approved,” he said.
“It’s a unique offering, and it’s going to set… a pretty high new standard nationally and internationally in what can be achieved when you deal with all of these things correctly.”
These first images of Mr Fini’s project come as a public consultation through the same state unit also opens on a $118 million five-star hotel on low cliffs in Gnarabup in the region of Margaret River.
This project, by Saracen Properties, is also the subject of a community campaign.
Preserve Gnarabup spokeswoman Beth Carless said the site was not suitable for development.
“It is a sensitive environment which is extremely important to the local community and to the existing local tourism industry,” she said.
The project, with a development envelope of 8.11 hectares, is currently being examined by the Environmental Protection Authority.