THIS week, contractors for the Bass Coast Shire Council will commence work on improving safety and amenity for motorists, locals and visitors along Surf Parade, Inverloch.
The accident profile of the area and the clear and present danger that exists to drivers and pedestrians means it ticks all the boxes to attract $118,000 in Blackspot Program funding from the Federal Government.
The funds will go towards the $149,000 construction of six traffic calming devices, including speed humps, designed to reduce speed and improve safety for pedestrians.
One of the main sites to be improved will be at the corner of Goroke Street and Surf Parade outside the Inverloch Surf Lifesaving Club.
Ultimately, there will be 11 such control areas on the road.
But, as we have come to expect from the Bass Coast Shire Council, it will be a half-cocked job.
And as a result, the safety of pedestrians and road users, on this dangerously narrow, busy road, will be compromised.
If it hadn’t been for the last-minute intervention of Inverloch’s own councillor, Jordan Crugnale, at the March council meeting, a small but crucial extension of the existing pathway, 70 metres across Ayr Creek, could have gone ahead at the same time as the ‘blackspot’ road works.
This path extension would have included a designated pedestrian bridge over Ayr Creek, and an extension of the footpath around one of the most dangerous corners on the narrow road.
Instead, this first stage of the path extension has been shelved for an indefinite period of time.
Adding insult to injury, funding that was to have gone to the actual construction of the path will now be used to engage consultants including a specialist in primary and secondary dune and coastal vegetation, an independent ecologist/botanist and a geomorphologist to assess the impact of the proposed pathway (including the access tracks and carparks) on the coastal foreshore.
Impact assessment had already been completed but Cr Crugnale has insisted on second guessing it.
The shire CEO, Paul Buckley, said the cost of this consultancy could be between $50,000 and $100,000 and take up to nine months to complete.
The council was going to use its own $150,000 contribution to the project to get the path started, in conjunction with the ‘blackspot’ works this week, while it waited for a government contribution to the first stage costing $600,000 (estimated path project cost to Toorak Road/Cape Road is $2.2 million).
But that’s not going to happen now.
Path a priority
The local community is understandably disappointed.
President of the Inverloch Tourism Association, Dom Brusamarello, said he feared the path project would now become another ‘dogs on beaches’ debacle.
He said it made sense that the path was done at the same time as the roadworks
“The Inverloch Tourism Association is very keen for the path to proceed. Primarily it’s a safety issue and has long been identified, through numerous public consultation processes, as far back as 1978, as one of the town’s top priorities.
“Every survey, every planning process for Inverloch has identified the path as important for safety reasons and for interconnecting areas of the town.
“We have already seen how well used the path is through to Cuttriss Street and this was to complete the route from Abbott Street west. The area is already heavily used by pedestrians but there’s the opportunity for it to be used for the Inverloch Park Run each Saturday, one of the most popular in the state, and by other groups and individuals.
“For the safety of residents and visitors, to link the community and for the amenity of the area, it’s an absolute must,” he said.
The project was also expected to enhance the natural beauty of the area.
Mr Brusamarello said he didn’t believe there was a problem with communication or consultation on the council but mainly with the decision making process.
Former local MP, Alan Brown, has also highlighted what he described as “the latest fiasco at Inverloch, namely the proposed footpath along Surf Parade which was referred off to consultants” with an estimated cost of between $50,000 to $100,000, to be subtracted from the funds available for the work.
“These figures show that our worst-ever council is not just out of control but it is consultant-mad” he said.
“It is beyond belief that at a recent council meeting the Councillors voted to send off to consultants a proposal to lay a concrete footpath on sand adjacent to an already existing and heavily used bitumen road in Inverloch.
“Following the dogs on beach fiasco at Inverloch, it is incomprehensible that council would enter another debacle but that is exactly what they have done.”
Council staff themselves are known to be bemused by Council’s decision to seek further consultants’ reports, undertake additional consultation after comment closed months ago and also to call on the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to review its own advice on the subject.
No progress, two months after the March meeting of council, has been made on appointing these consultants nor with scheduling “an onsite meeting between Bass Coast Shire Council and appropriate and relevant authorities, including but not limited to the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, South Gippsland Water, Central Coastal Board, Birdlife Australia, and South Gippsland Conservation Society, to discuss the proposed pathway and its potential impact on the coastal environment, including its relationship to other activities/uses including car parking and beach access tracks”, as insisted upon by Cr Crugnale.
Last week, when announcing the ‘Blackspot’ safety works, the council’s general manager, Infrastructure, Felicity Sist said “the design of the traffic calming devices takes into account the potential construction of a path along Surf Parade in the future”.
In fact, drafted at great expense to the shire’s ratepayers, the path is an integral part of the overall design plan for Surf Parade, improving both safety and amenity.
For the sake of 0.75 hectares of vegetation, along the entire length of Surf Parade, between Abbott Street and Toorak Road (Cape Paterson-Inverloch Road), the Bass Coast Shire Council has delayed the path.
The shire’s admin had hoped that the whole $2.2m project, paths and roadworks from Abbott Street to Cape Road, would have been completed within three years, via three lots of government funding.
How long it takes now is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, motorists using Surf Parade can expect localised closures and detours while the works proceed over the next five to six weeks, weather permitting.
Councillors, especially those who voted against the shire officers’ recommendations that the works go ahead, were contacted for comment but none was forthcoming.
Start made on busy beach intersection
MORE than 400 surf club Nippers and their families use the intersection outside the Inverloch Surf Lifesaving Club daily through the month of January to attend training.
Theirs is just one factor impacting what is one of the busiest beach intersections each summer around the Bass Coast.
This week, work will begin on speed humps and other traffic calming devices at the site, to greatly improve safety, particularly at the busy times of the year.
But thanks to a Bass Coast Shire Council decision recently to delay the footpath component of the overall Surf Parade improvement plan, visitors and locals alike will have to endure one, possibly two, three or more summers living with the present, highly dangerous situation on the road.