300 protest Anderson Road boat ramp location
DISCUSSIONS between Phillip Island residents and the consultants behind a business case for a car ferry from Cowes to Stony Point have reached breaking point.
And it’s a sticky situation for the consultants, EarthCheck, after a protest was organised over the weekend to stop the Anderson Road boat ramp from being turned into a car ferry terminal.
Some residents are against any terminal on Phillip Island’s pristine beaches because it’s likely to require substantial dredging and could speed up erosion on the beach.
The protest must have caught the attention of someone high up at the Bass Coast Shire Council – because they sent out a press release at 1pm on Monday saying the Anderson Road boat ramp was not the preferred location – instead opting for the Cowes Yacht Club.
For this to occur, the Cowes Yacht Club would need to be relocated.
More details will be released when the shire unveils the draft business case next month.
But on Saturday morning, hundreds of people gathered on a Cowes beach near the Anderson Road boat ramp to sign a petition and tell local councillors that the beach shouldn’t be turned into a car ferry terminal.
The protest was organised by the ‘Save Cowes West Beach Association,’ which doesn’t have a view on the car ferry itself, but is against the terminal being at the Anderson Road boat ramp.
Speaking in front of around 300 people, including Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield and Cr Michael Whelan, association president Russell Craig-Brown highlighted a list of issues with the location, including the beach being a “community asset” and the “extremely rare” location of a north-facing sandy beach.
He said the terminal would be an eye-sore and would permanently reduce access to the beach for families, fishermen and walkers.
“It is taking the right of enjoyment to this community asset away from the community and giving it to the commercial operator of the ferry,” Mr Craig-Brown told the crowd.
“It creates a real danger of the erosion of sand from this beach, and all the other beaches between here and Cowes, from the dredging work that would be required.”
After his speech, he showed photos of a Portsea beach before and after dredging in the Port Phillip Bay.
“That beach has disappeared – it’s a community asset now lost to the community.
“Needless to say, the terminal would dwarf the boat ramp, and would have a substantial negative impact on car and boat trailer access and parking, and traffic in all the surrounding streets.
“It would create significant noise pollution as the diesel engine ferry travels along the beach coast from town to the boat ramp.”
The protest highlighted a bigger issue; no-one can agree on a place to put the terminal that is near the main street yet not impacting on the environment or beachgoers.
If it’s to be used by tourists, the terminal needs to be close to the main street and if it’s to be accepted by some of the Phillip Island community, it needs to be built in the middle of the Bass Strait where it doesn’t impact residents at all.
EarthCheck is fast running out of time to prepare a final draft business case for the car ferry. Yet Phillip Island residents still believe many of their concerns haven’t been addressed.
That view was reflected at an information session last year when EarthCheck staff avoided answering almost all of the community’s questions.
Mr Craig-Brown also highlighted many communication issues between locals and EarthCheck, arguing there should’ve been a mail out with information to all property owners on Phillip Island – or the minimum being all Cowes residents.
Mayor speaks out
The association was under the impression the Anderson Road boat ramp was the preferred location for the car ferry terminal.
But Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield was quick to dispel that theory.
“There are three or four locations… they all have issues,” she said. There is a very good chance we may never have a car ferry,” she said, to cheers and applause from the crowd.”
She said the draft business case would be released next month.
“We haven’t seen it yet. On the 21st, it will go to a council meeting and be accepted or adopted. It is a draft business case. That business case then goes out to the community and you have real information in that.”
She also tried to take the heat off herself and fellow councillors by telling the crowd it was the State Government who wanted to look into the possibility of a car ferry. The $25,000 contributed by the Bass Coast Shire Council, Cr Rothfield said, was simply to “have a seat at the table”.
She compared it to discussions around the Wonthaggi Desalination Plant – when council didn’t have much input.
The association argued it had minutes from a meeting between the Cowes Yacht Club and EarthCheck where an official told the club the preferred location was the Anderson Road boat ramp.
But on Monday, the council said the draft business case would state that the preferred site is the Cowes Yacht Club, with 10 to 14 sailings per day.
Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Pamela Rothfield, reinforced that the Cowes West beach site is not the preferred location.
“From recent discussions with the Phillip Island community, I think Phillip Island residents will be pleased to see that the area near the Yacht Club is the preferred location for a terminal,” Cr Rothfield said in a statement.
“It will be great for the community to have a look through the Business Case once it has been released, as it shows how each possible site was evaluated.”
The draft business case will be released on February 22.