The fate of the 85-year-old Esperance Tanker Jetty appears to have been sealed after WA Heritage Minister David Templeman issued a permit to allow for its deconstruction this afternoon.
Under the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990, the section 64 permit will allow for materials to be salvaged from the heritage-listed jetty and incorporated into the new 400m structure.
The permit was issued on Wednesday, June 26, under the condition that the replacement jetty be built with the same alignment as the original, at least 400 metres in length, that construction be completed within 24 months and that the tender for construction be awarded prior to deconstruction.
While he could not confirm when deconstruction would officially begin, Shire of Esperance chief executive officer Matthew Scott said the shire was confident the project would be completed within the specified timeframe.
Mr Scott said he hoped the outcome would put an end to the friction in the community over the issue.
"This is a great outcome and something all agencies have been working together to achieve for the Esperance community," he said.
"Honestly, the community have had enough of the accusations and the issues that have boiled up and most just want to move forward."
Is this showmanship?: Cr Parsons
The move came just hours after the Shire of Esperance council passed a motion not to consider any alternate proposals for reconstruction following a presentation from Friends of the Esperance Tanker Jetty chair David Eltringham.
In an eleventh-hour bid to push for a timber reconstruction of the 1934 design, Mr Eltringham gave the council the group's proposal and costings and said it had nothing to lose by forwarding it to the state's Heritage Council.
"I would like this to be considered in light of the motions being moved this evening by councillor Payne," he said.
"What have you got to lose? It's only fair that this be forwarded to the Heritage Council and the Heritage Minister for consideration."
Councillor John Parsons questioned the timing of the presentation, which came less than an hour before councillor Shelley Payne moved motions for council to forward the Friends' proposal to the minister and Heritage Council, and to engage in a dual tender process.
"I am confused as to why we have received this today and that your motion goes hand-in-hand with it," Cr Parsons said.
"Is this showmanship?"
Councillor Payne refuted the claims and said the presentation was based on advice from Shire of Esperance chief executive officer Matthew Scott, who stated the proposal needed to be received formally to be considered.
Councillor Dale Piercey spoke to the motion before councillor Lara McIntyre moved a motion that she no longer be heard, the first time the motion has been moved in more than eight years.
In speaking for the motion, both councillor Payne and Piercey pleaded with council to consider the proposal.
"If motions need to be rescinded, so be it," councillor Piercey said.
"It will not kill us to admit that we may have been wrong.
"I would ask that council consider this motion in the interest of good relationships with the community and putting an end to the friction."
Councillor Payne expressed her disappointment with council, saying she believed the process had not been open and transparent.
"If there are competent marine contractors that can provide a timber reconstruction at a price within our budget, they should be allowed to tender and their proposals should be considered, especially since a timber reconstruction is the preferred option of the Heritage Council," she said.
"I don't feel I have seen a transparent process, with many competent people offering to speak to the council about timber reconstruction and them all being rejected.
"The feasibility study was rejected, too.
"We are so lucky to be one of only three local councils in WA out of 139 to have a heritage timber jetty.
"I'm disappointed in my fellow councillors that they don't realise just how lucky we are and lack the foresight to see how we could have a great heritage outcome like Busselton, giving this heritage asset the respect it deserves."
Councillor Payne said she believed it was critical that the Heritage Council see the Friends' plan to understand that the preferred option of reconstruction was prudent and feasible.
The motion was lost 2-7, as was a second motion from councillor Payne pushing for a dual tender process after Mr Scott confirmed the federal funding was received based on the current replacement design and did not allow for major variations.
Instead, councillor McIntyre moved that council continue with the current approved and funded design and not consider any alternate proposals to send a clear message to the community that the council would not waste more time and money on the project.
"I'm almost at a loss for where to start, there were so many mistruths," she said.
"I respect that the Friends and some councillors may never embrace this design.
"We have been asked what we have got to lose by considering this design - money, time, funding and the respect of our community."
Both councillor Parsons and Ron Padgurskis echoed councillor McIntyre's sentiments and agreed that council should move forward.
Shire president Victoria Brown said she had been appalled by the misinformation and that the project could be put in jeopardy.
"I am absolutely appalled by the gobbledygook I have heard this evening," she said.
"I cannot believe that we are putting in jeopardy this community moving forward with a fully approved, fully-funded design.
"We are in step four of that replacement process - every hurdle we are jumping over because this council wants to put this to bed.
"Councillors, we have been called on to lead - let us lead.
"There are other projects that need our attention but the oxygen is being sucked out of them by this one."
The motion was carried 7-2, with councillors Payne and Piercey against.
Earlier in the week, the Environmental Protection Authority announced it would not review the environmental impact of the jetty's deconstruction, despite receiving 102 submissions calling for some level of assessment.
Mr Eltringham confirmed the Friends of the Esperance Tanker Jetty would appeal the decision.
Former Heritage Minister Albert Jacob placed a conservation order on the structure back in November 2016 to prevent its immediate demolition, called for by the Friends of the Esperance Tanker Jetty.