Esperance, located 720 kilometres South-East of Perth, may not be the biggest city in Western Australia, but it is blessed with the country’s favourite asset – clean beaches and clear waters.
A project to protect and restore the community’s central foreshore on a stretch of dramatic coastline therefore came as a shock to no one, particularly since the government designated super town’s population is forecast to more than double by 2050.
Today, the redeveloped Esperance Waterfront serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it aims to tell the stories of the town, covering indigenous, natural and early settler history, with the design team working with historians, local artists and graphic designers to interpret these stories.
These narratives are conveyed in “pause moments” along the waterfront’s landscaped pathways. Interpretive signage, shelters and public art highlight the important places, from the foreshore jetties and the distinctive flora and fauna, to ‘Sammy’, the adored resident seal.
“We also drew on local materials to reinforce the sense of place,” Hassell explains. “Esperance pink granite was used for walls and paving, and reclaimed jetty timber, including part of the original railway line that serviced the jetty, was used for benches, playground features and walkways.”
The new precinct is also intended as an attraction for both a local, family-oriented crowd and tourists. Community gatherings and sports activities, as well as food trucks and pop-up events, can be held on the vast lawn space, which is wrapped around the historic Tanker Jetty. Meanwhile, the open-air plaza on James Street offers improved access to the waterfront, stitching the precinct back into the town. These features make the town’s waterfront an ideal breeding ground for private investment.
The beachside plaza at James Street is marked by a striking Whale Tail sculpture
Furthermore, the redevelopment has solidified Esperance Waterfront’s foundation for the future. Its new seawall is designed to reflect the contours of the natural bays and headlands, which together with extensive planting of Indigenous trees and shrubs work to reduce the impact of erosion.
Over 63,000 new plants were grown, including over 1,000 trees to strengthen the foreshore and provide extra shelter.
According to the Shire of Esperance’s 2015 Waterfront Community and Tourist Satisfaction Survey, more than 85 per cent of locals said the redevelopment met their expectations. Ninety per cent of locals also claimed to use the foreshore every week.
“We are really proud of our new waterfront, which has truly enhanced the vibrancy of our town,” said Malcolm Heasman, Shire of Esperance President. “On any given day you can see people strolling along it, walking their dogs or simply enjoying the view.”