Minister steps in to restore beach

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THE state government has postponed building a rock wall at Portsea beach aimed at further preventing sand erosion, and will instead start repairing the existing sandbag seawall using its current design.

This follows a bid by Mornington Peninsula Shire to overturn a decision by the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning to build the rock wall which mayor Cr Bryan Payne slammed as “the final environmental nail in the coffin [which would] permanently destroy the beach”. (See “Restore our beach: council demands” The News 4/9/18).

Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio last week ordered the repair of the sandbags laid down in 2010, which, although not in itself paving the way for a return of the sandy beach, is hoped to give the shire and government departments time to develop a better long-term solution.

Shire officers attended a meeting to discuss the beach’s restoration with DELWP and the Victorian Coastal Council in June. Late last month the mayor hosted Greens leader Dr Samantha Ratnam and Greens Nepean candidate Paul Saunders on a tour of the site to illustrate the need for its restoration.

The beach was regarded as one of the best in the state and was praised by Cr Payne as a “major public asset of the community”. He acknowledged its restoration had become a “difficult and expensive problem to resolve”.

“It is important to recognise that coastal areas are not static environments and have to cope with variable destructive elements, such as wind, waves and a changing climate,” he said.

The cost of the sandbag repair is about $950,000. Cr Payne welcomed the minister’s announcement: “The council congratulates Ms D’Ambrosio on this action which provides an opportunity to develop a long-term strategic plan and allows time to gather and assess all known information and research,” he said.

“It will require team work and planning involving DELWP, shire, community and the relevant experts sharing all available information.”

Cr Payne said coastal erosion and degradation of beaches was a major issue for coastal councils. “We believe it is an issue which should receive a bipartisan policy approach, given the major environmental and economic impacts it can have on coastal communities,” he said.

“Coastal erosion can close beaches, either through a loss of sand, as at Portsea, or dangerous cliffs [such as Mt Martha north beach] which require closure for public safety.

“Ultimately, these impacts can filter through to the economic activity of coastal villages through a downturn in visitors.”

Cr Hugh Fraser said the Portsea Foreshore Advisory Group and Nepean Ratepayers Association had been “fighting for years” to have the state government restore the beach.

“President Colin Watson has assembled formidable expert evidence which has now persuaded the minister to revisit her earlier decision to construct a rock wall and to work through with the community what is required to restore the beach.”

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 11 September 2018

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