By Madeleine Stuchbery
THE vision of a tranquil, permanent village feel for Inverloch is being challenged by the harsh realities of consistent growth in the population.
The town has a population that’s closing in on Leongatha’s, yet it has just one school.
It could be argued the town is under-resourced, but that’s the way many locals like it.
Barry McIlroy, who after owning a holiday house in Inverloch for years, permanently moved to the area three years ago.
He speaks highly of the quiet, community vibe that drew him to the town in the first place.
“Inverloch is a beautiful, quiet, clean community. Its people are friendly, and there is a real warmth to the town,” Barry said.
“We may not have the same resources as other towns in the shire, but there is a strong, diverse group of people who are passionate about making the most of what there is here already in town.”
Yet the town is getting bigger and bigger, regardless of whether people like it or not.
Both the Bass Coast Shire Council and the Census conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics anticipate a leap in population size from 4960 recorded in 2011 to 5451 at the 2016 August census.
“No one wants the town to become any busier, and the parents I speak to love the quiet beauty of the town,” principal at Inverloch Primary School, Wendy Caple said.
“Inverloch just seems to be continuing to expand. The town is so quiet, and has that real village feel to it, so you hardly notice all the people who live here.”
As principal of the only primary school in Inverloch, Mrs Caple acknowledged the growth in the town, and the staggering difference in resources when comparing Inverloch to Leongatha.
“Inverloch is certainly lacking in childcare facilities in comparison to other towns, such as Wonthaggi and Leongatha,” Wendy said.
Leongatha currently boasts a healthy array of primary schools, secondary schools, and early child care services.
Meanwhile in Inverloch, the primary school has an enrolment of around 400 students, housed in buildings built for only 250.
Approximately 13 per cent of all households in the Inverloch-Pound Creek area are comprised of couples with young children.
Inverloch is also the faster growing of the two towns: between 2006 and 2011, the population of Inverloch jumped by 820, with further growth predicted in the coming years.
And it’s not just the Census figures predicting further expansion of the town.
A Township Character Study prepared by Hansen Partnership for the Bass Coast Shire Council in March 2014 demonstrated that growth for the Inverloch area is inevitable.
The character study defines Inverloch as an attractive coastal town, with its popularity as a tourist destination a key component of its character, which has led to growth in the permanent population, with the town experiencing ongoing pressure for tourism, commercial and residential development.
Among the recommendations made in the study were suggestions that consideration be given to undertaking dedicated neighbourhood character studies for Inverloch, with a view to inform the implementation of the new residential zones and the potential introduction of precinct specific Design and Development Overlays.
This ‘dedicated neighbourhood character’ work is yet to be undertaken for Inverloch and as a result, the council has been unable to contain the pressure for either higher density or more intense development of residential sites with a resulting impact on the character of the town and also a loss of vegetation.
In the meantime, those who want to retain the ambiance of the town can only watch the as the realities of expansion and growth upsize Inverloch.