By Madeleine Stuchbery
THE bare bones of the Inverloch Surf Lifesaving Club’s observation tower lay exposed and vulnerable thanks to the devastating effects of Mother Nature.
After weeks of king tides, lashing rain and howling winds battering the Gippsland region, a huge chunk of Inverloch’s coastline has been swept away, creating a perilously dangerous cliff at the Inverloch Surf Lifesaving Club.
Sand below the recently rebuilt and relocated tower has been completed washed away by high tides, leaving the wooden pylons exposed to the weather.
The vehicle access track leading to the beach, which is used by the surf lifesaving club, was closed by the Bass Coast Shire Council on Monday last week, after an inspection of the shire’s coastlines.
The council’s municipal building surveyor and a structural engineer assessed the structure for public risk and safety, and will make a further assessment later this week.
“At this point in time, the tower does not present a risk to the public, however we ask that the public do not enter the area around the tower and eroded dune area due to unstable sand cliffs,” the council’s manager Sustainable Environment, Deirdre Griepsma said.
“Council has had discussion with the Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning (DELWP), and are in contact with the surf lifesaving club to determine the future of the tower.”
Ms Griepsma said that this level of erosion was not foreseen, and the extent of the damage is unprecedented.
“At the moment we are still in the assessment phase,” Ms Griepsma said.
“Potentially repair may not be an option, but the observation tower structure was originally craned into position and has the potential to be moved to a new, safer location. But it is not a public risk at this time.”
Chris Malan from the Inverloch Surf Lifesaving Club said that the club is somewhat at the mercy of Mother Nature, and is now working closely with the council to resolve the issue.
Ideally, the he said the club would like the tower to remain on the beach for a variety of reasons.
“The benefit of having the tower on the beach is for optimal visibility,” Chris said.
“When we’re up in the tower, we can see all the way from Flat Rocks to Anderson Inlet.
“The reason for this is because Flat Rocks down near the RACV resort has a lot of visitors during the summer. While we don’t encourage swimming outside the flags, it’s important we can keep an eye on things.
“It’s important for us to be able to assist the public and to also keep an eye on our patrolling members.
“Inverloch beach has always been challenging from a weather perspective. Even during the summer, right through until past Easter, we get some terrible weather, so having that shelter is important for our members on patrol.”
Members of the club also use the tower as a first aid treatment centre.
“Whether it’s a board rider who has cut themselves or someone with a blue bottle sting, the tower is a good spot for us to administer first aid.
“I’m not sure where we are going to end up.
“There is the potential for the tower to be craned off the beach and taken to another location, but considering the amount of erosion, we’re running out of sustainable places to put it.”
The Bass Coast Shire Council is asking for assistance from the public by staying away from the access track until further notice.
The public access track to this area beside the lifesaving club building has been closed to the public until works can be undertaken to make this safe.
“We are expecting more severe weather in the next few days, including high tides and swells, which will continue to erode the area around the tower, coastline, and access track,” Ms Griepsma said.
“We have a dynamic coast line that is constantly changing. We live in Bass Coast because we love the environment, however it also presents us with ongoing challenges and we can’t hold back the tide.
“The Inverloch Surf Beach is a public beach and the council values the service provided by the club across the summer period.
“Council will work with the club to make sure these services can be provided for the upcoming summer period.”
The council is seeking a State Government grant to undertake works on the access track and have the track reinstated for summer.