This is a letter that I never thought that I would have to write.
It is about the annual arrival of visitors and their families for the single purpose of harvesting pipis.
Sonia 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.
Objections to these visitors by members of this community have been dismissed as racist, which is totally incorrect but effectively complicates the issue and with it, any potential solutions.
The beaches were packed with people digging for pipis on Christmas Day.
No other beach activity attracts their attention.
I drove past entries to Beach 3 and 4 and the roads were choked with cars, spilling onto Canterbury /Lees Road.
There were cars parked on both sides of the road and ‘No Standing’ signs were ignored.
As a member of CERT [Community Emergency Response Team] I found this situation intolerable and irresponsible with dire consequences should an accident occur.
Access by the CERT vehicle and ambulance was impossible.
Venus Bay roads were busy with frantic drivers in convoys, speeding and looking for beaches, getting lost, stopping in the middle of the road and executing dangerous U-Turns.
The beaches, car parks and any road leading to the 5 beaches are littered with rubbish.
Sonia and I are fed up with having to take plastic bags with us to collect rubbish on our walks, should we dare to venture out!
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 comparatively small quantities.
• The visitors collect pipis in unprecedented and mostly uncontrolled quantities. They bring with them large families and children and are thus able to collect large amounts. It would seem that, if allowed to do so, they will continue collecting until this resource has been totally depleted.
• In the process of collecting they destroy this wonderful coast by their lack of respect for the environment by leaving rubbish, increasing congestion to an untenable level and in the process taking away the enjoyment from residents and visitors alike that this precious beach hamlet has to offer.
Sonia and I as well as many in the community, settled here because we value what Venus Bay offers.
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.
I do accept that Venus Bay, like many holiday destinations face the pressure of a large number of visitors at this time but unlike other places, Venus Bay is being exploited by visitors with a single purpose and to an extent not seen or faced by other holiday destinations.
We, as well as many others, simply avoid going to the beach during this period.
If we choose to brave the traffic, 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 be unable to find a parking spot.
Anecdotal evidence is that potential 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 inaccessible.
We are seriously considering selling out or at least moving out of Venus Bay for 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 in recent time.
We have wasted much time in conducting surveys and yet the problem we face is primarily a social one.
The only solution that will alleviate the angst that this annual invasion causes the 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 pips to regenerate not only in numbers but in size.
It will make Venus Bay far more habitable and relaxed because visitors may just engage in a broader range of activities or simply not visit if collecting pipis is their only purpose.
It may spread the visitor pressure on Venus Bay over a longer period of time.
Catch limits as set by Fisheries would still apply and all aspects will be easier to police.
I believe that what I have expressed reflects the general feeling of our community.
What we are experiencing is an annual frenzy of pipi collecting.
Our valued local representatives need to become more active and involved in this issue.
Perhaps one starting point would be to organise a public community meeting, that is well advertised, with all interested councillors and include senior representatives of Parks Victoria and Fisheries.
Solutions may follow from this but at the very least those who attend will be fully exposed to the community feeling in regard to this issue.
This is not just a pipi problem; it is a very serious social problem in Venus Bay.
Peter Prysten, Venus Bay