Long-time Pioneer Bay property owner Pat Van inspects the old creek running close to the boundary of her property that has brought both her and many neighbours so much grief over the years. G230215
IF BASS Coast Shire Council’s infrastructure department is looking to implement a road and drainage scheme in a township with minimum fuss, they apparently need look no further than Pioneer Bay.
Currently second on the shire’s priority list for a user-pays special charge scheme, the small town has suffered major drainage and flooding issues for decades.
Residents say dirty water sits stagnating in open drains all year round, with most rarely maintained or cleared by council workers.
And in stark contrast to the attitude of residents in other areas which have been the target of such schemes in recent years, Pioneer Bay property owners don’t want the council to dilly-dally – they want their upgrade and they want it now.
In fact, they’re hoping the scheme currently being investigated for Sunset Strip, which is at the top of the list, ends up falling over due to objections so council officers can concentrate on Pioneer Bay faster.
“We’re hanging for it,” Pioneer Bay Progress Association president Zena Benbow commented, a sentiment which was echoed among several residents the Sentinel-Times spoke to.
Frequently the main topic of conversation at local ratepayers’ meetings, the long-promised upgrade has been on the cards for years.
“It’s always spoken about and I’ve only come across one resident who is opposed to it,” Ms Benbow added.
Even those with properties situated along Kallay Drive – which was temporarily sealed for seven years before it was controversially turned back into a gravel road – are crying out for a scheme to go ahead.
Many residents are at their wits’ end after decades of drainage neglect.
One property owner who has been waiting longer than anyone is Pat Van, who resides at the bottom of Sonia Crescent in the second oldest house in Pioneer Bay.
“The house has been re-blocked twice in the last 40 years due to flooding,” Pat explained
“And it’s due for it again – the house is sinking.”
Pat’s woes are shared by others in Sonia Crescent, where an old creek runs along the town’s northern boundary, just metres from back fences.
Another Sonia Crescent resident, who preferred not to be named, said flooding along the road was so bad in one instance four years ago that water inundated her living room.
Dial the costs down
While locals say they’re ready for the infrastructure upgrade, they believe their patience should be taken into account when the shire calculates costs during the design process.
And they have another message for the council – ‘keep it simple.’
“We just want sealed roads and our drainage issues finally addressed,” Ms Benbow continued.
“We’re not interested in extras that might result in higher scheme costs, such as footpaths or pretty landscaping – we just want the basics.
“We don’t need elaborate landscaping plans.
“(Council) should be doing their due diligence and making sure Melbourne Water contributes to this scheme as well because our drainage issues have been going on for so long.”
Kerb and channelling works similar to what was completed in nearby Coronet Bay a decade ago is exactly what the doctor ordered, residents say.
Another Sonia Crescent resident, Simon Mumby, said council should also take into account that the upgrades should have been completed years ago.
“But it has kept getting put off and the prices are going up and up,” he said.
The current estimated cost of a special charge scheme for Pioneer Bay, as detailed in a council report last October, is $4.8 million.
It is the cheapest of five schemes currently on the priority list, all of which total $50 million.
The other four schemes are for various estates on Phillip Island.
Bass Coast Shire Council is currently reviewing its overall Urban Road and Drainage Policy, with a new report expected in March.
Council acting infrastructure general manager, Cohen Van der Velde, said the draft policy, which was out for public comment until last month, does not suggest a change of priority to Pioneer Bay’s place on the list.
“In regards to the adoption of the Urban Road and Drainage Improvement Policy having an effect on Pioneer Bay, as officers we are not in a position to pre-empt the decisions made by council at a formal meeting,” Mr Van der Velde explained.
“The draft policy has been advertised for public comment and any public comments will be need to considered by council prior to the adoption of a final policy.
“If council was to adopt the draft policy as was advertised, there would be no effect on the Pioneer Bay project.”
Mr Van de Velde further confirmed the shire is currently working with Melbourne Water on a strategy for broader drainage issues affecting the area.
“Council is working with Melbourne Water on possible solutions that they may be able to be implemented in conjunction with an urban road and drainage improvement project, to ensure an integrated approach to drainage in this catchment area,” he said.
Asked whether significant complaints concerning drainage in Pioneer Bay had been received in the past year, Mr Van der Velde said: “There is a history of drainage issues in the Pioneer Bay area and as a result both council and Melbourne Water receive requests to address these issues from Pioneer Bay residents.
“This is one reason why an upgrade of drainage in Pioneer Bay area is a priority for council.
“The number of requests is generally related to the number of significant storm events that are experienced over the course of the year.”
The council has previously confirmed that it will start the consultation process with Pioneer Bay residents once a decision is made on the Sunset Strip scheme.
A new report and decision on that particular project is expected in February.