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Karridale’s Mindful Earth Sanctuary faces Shire of Augusta-Margaret River legal challenge

A contentious, self-described sanctuary in Karridale will face a legal test next week when the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River launches prosecution under local planning laws.

Mindful Earth Sanctuary owner Boh Morel will appear in Busselton Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday facing three charges relating to alleged unlawful construction of some buildings on the Chapman Road commune.

The charges come as Mr Morel admitted a French tourist received serious injuries while attending a festival at the Karridale retreat which left her with damage to her face and a broken arm.

Questions from aggrieved neighbours were also heard at last week’s Shire council meeting, with Ironmonger Road resident Laurie Fitzgerald demanding residents affected by noise and alleged antisocial behaviour be canvassed by the Shire for submission as part of next week’s court proceedings.

“Will council seek and/or include impact statements from affected ratepayers in the council’s prosecution of the matter to ensure that the full ramifications for ratepayers is conveyed to the court?” Mr Fitzgerald asked.

He also urged the Shire to seek prosecution of Mindful Earth for continuing to hold events even after intervention at the end of March when the Shire warned organisers and attendees the sanctuary risked breaching laws for a planned weekend-long wellness festival.

Addressing Mr Fitzgerald’s questions last week, Shire legal officer Ian McLeod said the court may consider the further alleged breaches as part of any penalty handed down for the prosecution already underway.

“The Shire is not prevented from commencing further prosecutions for offence(s) that have occurred after the commencement of an earlier prosecution, but while there is a prosecution on foot, it would only commence a fresh prosecution if the offending was substantial, separate and distinct in nature from the earlier offending,” he said.

Mr McLeod also pledged the Shire would contact aggrieved neighbours to gather their input.

Speaking with the Times, Mr Morel said he would plead not guilty to the charges.

But he conceded some structures were built without approval or meeting Shire regulations.

“We would never have got to this point if we had of went through the council procedures (sic),” he said.

“One, we didn’t have the money, and two, we would have not been able to create the things we have.

“When money arrives, it will be an easy process to get these permits. We can build toilet blocks, bathhouses, everything. We can get retroactive approvals. That’s the easy part.”

Mr Morel said commune residents were building a space bringing people from all across the world to experience sanctuary and healing.

But he wanted to include the existing Karridale community as well as future residents set to inhabit a new subdivision adjacent to the commune.

Mr Morel also previously said he would contest what he considered outdated camping laws applied to his property as part of the Shire’s crackdown.

Mr Morel said he was in contact with the French woman who claimed to be needing ongoing medical care after her accident at Mindful Earth.

The woman, who did not want to be identified, fell in a big hole while attending the event and was found bleeding and dazed.

Mr Morel told the Times “it was unfortunate” the woman was injured.

“Hindsight is beautiful thing and we could definitely have improved the fencing around the dam,” he said.

“She has a medical check-up this week in Perth and she will let us know the outcome and her way (as) she moves forward (sic).”

The Shire did not respond to further questions about next week’s prosecution.

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