CONSTRUCTION of a shared pathway along Inverloch’s Surf Parade has been put on hold until more information is gained about the potential impact it may have on the coastal environment.
In a move that is sure to divide community opinion, the project will be delayed by up to nine months, with additional consultation expected to cost anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000.
The decision came after councillors debated the matter for over an hour last Wednesday night.
In the end, the push to temporarily put the brakes on the project, prompted by a motion from Cr Jordan Crugnale, won out in a close vote of 4-3.
This wasn’t the only major decision regarding the pathway made on the night, with councillors also agreeing to allow a significant amount of vegetation to be destroyed when the path is constructed.
There is now a live permit for council to remove over 7500sqm (equal to 0.753ha) between Abbott Street and Cape Paterson Road where the 2.4km will eventually be built.
However, council has confirmed no vegetation removal will take place until all points outlined in Cr Crugnale’s detailed follow-up motion have been addressed.
Before the start of any works, a number of ‘risk management’ steps will now be followed.
• an on-site meeting between a slew of stakeholders, including representatives from environmental groups South Gippsland Conservation Society and Birdlife Australia
• council seeking the services of a number of environmental specialists
• a request to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to review its initial advice.
Despite the cautious approach, Cr Crugnale insisted she is and always has been “100 per cent supportive of the path”.
“I am for the path and I want to see it done,” she explained.
“This isn’t about delaying the project, it’s about getting more information to better inform the design and better predict the asset life of this rather substantial investment.”
Several councillors commented on Inverloch’s shifting sands, expressing concerns over whether the $1.5m spent on the pathway is a smart move if there’s a chance it could be washed away along with the rest of the dune in the future.
“To spend $1.5m on an asset and not actually know the life of the asset is very irresponsible,” Cr Crugnale added.
Other councillors were divided in opinion over delaying the project and agreeing to vegetation removal.
Even Cr Phil Wright, arguably the biggest advocate for walking tracks and paths in the entire shire, was uncertain.
“It’s a difficult decision in terms of community benefit,” he said.
“The path is of great benefit to the community, but the (vegetation removal) is a great disservice.”
Speaking after the meeting, South Gippsland Conservation Society president, Dave Sutton, said he was disappointed councillors agreed to the vegetation removal, even if the project has been put on hold.
However, he also said he was optimistic about Cr Crugnale’s additional motion and he hoped SGCS and other stakeholders “might be able to get something positive out of it.”