EXCLUSIVE: A big blue house that since the 1950s has hosted many lavish parties is able to take on lodgers once more, but not before its movie producer owner was forced to address complaints and objections from several neighbours.
Erected between 1952 and 1953 by Mabel and Keith Perron, and first onsold in the 1960s, Blue Waters stood quietly for a generation until current owner David Cavanagh bought the art deco residence in 2006 for $1.25 million.
Over the next five years, Mr Cavanagh, pictured at Blue Waters, renovated the house, which is on the City of South Perth’s heritage list.
Perched beside Canning Highway in the southern Perth suburb of Como, Blue Waters’ tranquil name reflects the majestic views from its top-floor balcony over the Swan River.
But a recent report by City of South Perth urban planner Matthew Andrews asserts that “in recent years there has been a significant amount of noise complaints made in relation to activities” at Blue Waters.
“As a result of the complaints a compliance case was opened in February 2016 and the issue investigated,” Mr Andrews continues.
“It was found that the property was being used for commercial purposes including hiring out the dwelling for short term accommodation and for holding weddings, parties and other functions.
“The property has also been used as the set for multiple films and photoshoots.”
Mr Andrews’ report reveals that a notice was issued in March 2016 directing Mr Cavanagh to cease all allegedly unauthorised uses and return Blue Waters to its approved use of ‘single house’.
In 2016, Mr Cavanagh lodged a retrospective planning application to use Blue Waters as a residential building, bed and breakfast accommodation, ‘home occupation’, and for ‘civic use’, ‘religious activities’ and ‘tourist accommodation’.
Twelve objections, and two supporting letters were received to his plans.
In February this year Mr Cavanagh submitted an amended application seeking retrospective approval for a ‘residential building’ to be added to the existing ‘single house’ approval. One objection was submitted to the revised plans.
Then, on April 26, the city’s elected officials unanimously approved Mr Cavanagh’s revised application.
The approval is for a period of one year only, with Mr Andrews proposing that the use of Blue Waters be reviewed then to ensure the house is being managed correctly.
The retrospective approval means Blue Waters can be let out once again.
“We have a pretty clear management plan and conditions from the council, with emphasis around noise, parking and the amount of people allowed to stay,” Mr Cavanagh told Western Independent.
“We can have eight occupants and a reasonable number of visitors at reasonable times.
“When people come to stay, they can use it as they would their own house, so long as it is not disrupting the neighbourhood, basically.”
Mr Cavanagh stressed that “the house is a residential building, not a function centre”.
Blue Waters is now advertised on Airbnb for $298 under the catchcry: “Gatsby would live here”.
“It was a hub of society,” Mr Cavanagh said.
“The Perrons [through Keith’s billionaire brother, Stan] were one of the state’s first billionaires.”
Their cousin, Marshall Perron, lived at Blue Waters for a while as a young man, before eventually becoming a Country Liberal Party Chief Minister of the Northern Territory from 1988 to 1995.
“When I bought the house I always thought that this was a special place – not just for me,” Mr Cavanagh said.
“When people hear that I have it, it feels like a lot of people around Perth have a connection with it.”
The city’s heritage assessment says: “The house became both a social hub and a landmark for many years, outside which tour buses would regularly pause”.
On Mr Cavanagh’s watch, Blue Waters has hosted several fashion photo shoots.
It was the set for the The Reckoning, a 2014 crime/thriller film starring Luke Hemsworth and Jonathan Lapaglia, of which Mr Cavanagh was associate producer.
In 2011, Nova 93.7 hosted its Ultimate House Party at Blue Waters.
Mr Cavanagh said that not long after buying the house he approached the council to see how he could use it.
“They had a fairly good policy and said: ‘Well, if it is a heritage place and you are doing something good with it, we’ll consider a range of uses for the property’,” he said.
“They made it clear they would support an application for discretionary uses.
“I wasn’t quite sure how it would work, so basically I tried it out.
“Then, more recently, the council came and said: ‘Hey, you realise if you want to do that you should really have this type of use approved’.”
Mr Cavanagh said he was “very grateful” to the council for the temporary approval, and to his neighbours.
“It’s a privilege and it’s a responsibility, but also a nice opportunity,” he said.
“I feel it’s a good thing for Blue Waters to be used more widely like this, as part of the state’s living heritage.”
Photography: Jonathon Daly