By Michael Giles
HOW much of the $600,000 set aside in the 2014-15 Bass Coast Shire Budget, for the first stage of a “2.5m wide concrete” bicycle path along Surf Parade Inverloch, will now be soaked up by bureaucracy and consultancies is anyone’s guess.
But the signs are not good.
Last week the shire published a 113-page set of tender documents, seeking the appointment of consultants to undertake a ‘Geomorphic and Botanical Investigation between Western Street and Cape Paterson-Inverloch Road’ that almost not one wants.
And that includes the government.
At its September 2015 council meeting, it was revealed that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP); given the opportunity to review its earlier decision not to oppose the construction of the pathway, said this:
“The planned construction of a shared path would not usually trigger the need for a Coastal Hazard Vulnerability Assessment and based on the proposal submitted, DELWP does not consider any further assessment or action necessary… after reviewing all aspects of the proposal, I am satisfied that the issues raised by DELWP have been appropriately considered by BCSC and all recommended conditions have been included on the Notice of Decision to issue a planning permit”.
In other words, the shire’s own technical staff got it right.
They had considered all appropriate conditions around the construction of the path when recommending it to council back in March this year.
But that wasn’t good enough for the council.
They wanted to second-guess the technical ability of their own highly paid officers, and even when the key government agency came back and said such a report wasn’t necessary, the council still decided to go ahead at last month’s meeting, on a 4:3 vote; Crs Crugnale, Drew, Rankine and Wright in favour, and conduct a further investigation.
The tender documents published last week are the result.
They provide some insight into the highly scientific nature and exhaustive scope of the investigation.
Whatever the consultants charge the shire to undertake this work, an open-ended amount at this stage, it will come out of whatever’s left of the $600,000 project cost.
Their tenders must be submitted by Wednesday, October 28. It will take that long to read the paperwork.
The purpose of the investigation is listed in the tender documents as “to assess the impact of the proposed pathway, including access tracks and carparks to the Inverloch foreshore”.
But it goes much deeper than that.
Among the outcomes the council is looking for is to be “better informed on the contemporary coastal processes and possible impacts of climate change scenarios” and be “able to make a more informed decision on placing intergenerational assets along the Inverloch foreshore”.
The council would also like the consultants to identify areas within the study area, from Western Street to Cape Paterson-Inverloch Road, where vegetation rehabilitation might occur.
Although, how the scope of the study area has now been extended beyond Abbott Street to Western Street (where a concrete path already exists) is a mystery to key community organisations like the Inverloch Tourism Association.
Among the objectives of the investigation are:
• Review the geomorphology and ecology of the study area
• Review the contemporary coastal processes of the study area
• Undertake a regional exposure assessment of the study area
• Review of the potential short and long term coastal recession and aggression
• Undertake a Coastal Hazard Risk Assessment of the proposed works, carparks and access tracks within the study area
• Provide an opinion of the construction impact of the proposed pathway, including the removal of 0.17 hectares of vegetation along the path alignment, to the Inverloch coastal foreshore… etc.
The council undertakes to pay the consultant’s invoices at the completion of each stage of the investigation but it is not spelt out when the final report should be submitted.
It seems a forlorn hope now that the sentiment expressed in the council’s motion of March 25, 2015, “as a prudent management initiative council resolves to defer the Surf Parade Path Project for a short time…” will hold up. It could be many months before such an investigation is completed.
It is also unlikely, given the response from DELWP, that council’s call for a government grant towards the cost of the investigation will be heard.
The Inverloch Tourism Association (ITA) has previously objected to the use of pathway funds to “micro manage localised concerns of coastal erosion at Inverloch as opposed to seeking separate funding to consider the broader issue of Bass Coast Shire coastal erosion”.
And this week, it has expressed further frustration, through its president Dom Brusamarello, who is at a loss to say why the investigation is needed or why the study area has been widened to Western Street.
“We usually try to work in with the council but this has gone too far,” Mr Brusamarello said.
The association has also expressed its concerns for safety in the Surf Parade area as a result of delays to the path and the installation of chicanes, while raising the problems with the project’s design, specifically inadequate parking.
The council does, however, have the usual get-out clause if the cost of the contract proves to be prohibitive: “Although the Council is committed to proceeding with the project/service, it is not bound to accept the lowest or any tender”.
Many will be hoping it finally sees reason and exercises the option.