Open Letter to The Hon. Peter Walsh, MP, Minister for Agriculture and Food Security.
This is a letter that I never thought that I would have to write. It is about the annual arrival of visitors to Venus Bay with a single purpose of harvesting of pipis and the effect that this activity is having on our small community as well as pipi sustainability.
Much has been said about the sustainability of pipis at Venus Bay, but little about the effects that pipi harvesting has had on the amenity and liveability of our tiny town.
My wife and I have lived at Venus Bay for over 10 years and each year the annual invasion of thousands of pipi gatherers seems to increase exponentially.
Originally, any objections to the activities of these visitors by the community were dismissed as racist. This complicated the issue and with it, any potential solutions.
For those who dared to venture out of their homes on Christmas Day, 2013, the beaches were packed with people digging for pipis. No other beach activity seems to attract the attention of pipi gatherers.
I drove past entries to Beach 3 and 4 and the roads were choked with cars, spilling onto Canterbury Road and Lees Road.
Cars were parked on both sides of the access road to the two beaches and No Standing signs were ignored.
As a member of Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) I found this situation intolerable and irresponsible with dire consequences should an accident occur.
Access by the CERT vehicle and ambulance would have been impossible.
Venus Bay roads were busy with cars in convoys looking for beaches, getting lost, stopping and seeking directions and executing dangerous U-Turns.
The beaches, car parks and any road leading to the five beaches were littered with rubbish. My wife and I regularly take plastic bags with us to collect rubbish on our walks.
These are the issues:
· Venus Bay is fortunate or perhaps very unfortunate to have beaches where pips can be found. Some members of our community collect them for eating or for bait, but in very small quantities.
· The visitors, who just happen to be of oriental origin, collect pipis in unprecedented and mostly uncontrolled quantities. They bring with them large families and children and are thus able to collect large quantities. Behaviour seen overseas indicates that without intervention, this activity will continue until this resource has been totally depleted.
· In the process of collecting they devalue this wonderful coast by their lack of respect for the environment, leaving rubbish and increasing congestion to an untenable level. This has an adverse effect on the enjoyment that this precious beach hamlet has to offer to residents and visitors alike.
My wife and I as well as many in the community, settled here because we value what Venus Bay has to offer. We enjoy the largely unspoilt environment, lack of traffic, almost unkempt streets that add to the charm of what is the essence of Venus Bay.
We accept that Venus Bay, like all holiday destinations, face the pressure of a large number of visitors during school holidays. But unlike other places, Venus Bay has to cope with a larger number of visitors with a single purpose of collecting pipis.
We, as well as many others, are reluctant to visit our beaches during this period. When we get there, we find the beach battle scarred and ugly. Any member of the Venus Bay community who is unable to walk and relies on car for transport would not find a parking spot during this period.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that visitors to Venus Bay who normally rent houses here are starting to look elsewhere. We are sick of the rubbish, crowded roads, car parks and beaches that have become almost inaccessible.
All areas are full of rubbish and we are seriously considering selling out or at least moving out of Venus Bay during this intolerable period.
There are solutions and these do not rely on scientific studies into pipi numbers.
There is sufficient anecdotal evidence that pipis have significantly reduced in size and numbers in recent time.
We have wasted much time in conducting surveys and yet the problem we face is primarily a social one.
There is another way to look at the sustainability of pipis. Imagine a very conservative estimate of 500 people, each collecting a legal two litres of pipis per person per day during the holiday period. That equates to nearly 30,000 litres of pipis over the holiday period and this is a very conservative estimate. Surely such a volume cannot possibly be sustainable.
The only solution that will alleviate the angst that this annual invasion causes Venus Bay residents as well as protecting the pipi population is to declare a total ban on collecting pips from December 1 to March 31.
This will enable pipis to regenerate not only in numbers but in size.
It will make Venus Bay far more habitable and relaxed because visitors will be able to engage in a broader range of beach activities or simply not visit if collecting pipis is their only purpose.
It would spread and reduce visitor pressure over a longer period of time. Catch limits as set by Fisheries would still apply and all aspects will be easier to police.
This is not just a pipi problem; it is a very serious social problem in Venus Bay.
I beg you, as the Minister responsible, to implement the above recommendation.
Peter Prysten, Venus Bay.