What would you do with 250ha at Inverloch?

Inverloch residents Glenys Dale and Gil Powter chat with property powerbroker, Jason Yeap, himself a home owner in Inverloch about what might be possible on a 250 hectare site six kilometres east of the town, fronting Anderson Inlet. M073617

Former Victorian premier Ted Baillieu fields questions from the floor at a community meeting in Inverloch last Thursday night. M123617

The site of the subject land, purchased by Melbourne-based property developers the Mering Corporation, six kilometres east of Inverloch.

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Property developers from Melbourne, the Mering Corporation, have bought a 250 hectare parcel of land, zoned Farming, on the outskirts of Inverloch, at Maher’s Landing.
If the investors were able to get maximum yield from the land, you could get upwards of 14 residential blocks to the hectare.
Multiply 250 x 14 x the cheapest price for a block of land in Inverloch at the moment, at around $180,000, and you get a return of $630 million. This is no small beer.
However at a community information night at the RACV Inverloch Resort last Thursday, a slick affair arranged by the Mering Corporation and chaired by former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, there was no talk of houses at all.
Discussion and the questions that followed surrounded what might be possible at Maher’s Landing from an environmental, cultural and community facilities point of view, the community’s dividend if you like, not on how many home sites might be created.
And it must be said that there was excited interest in the whole proposal and what it might deliver in environmental and infrastructure benefits.
But it needs a large number of residential blocks to make it fly. No doubt about that.
How many?
It’s a question the Sentinel-Times put to the chairman of the Mering Corporation, Jason Yeap, one of Melbourne’s leading property power brokers.
What is the minimum and maximum number of blocks you have in mind for the Maher’s Landing site?
“We don’t have any. It’s too early for that,” Mr Yeap said.
“There will be accommodation and private ownership of land but what form that takes is completely open at this stage.
“Of course all investors want a return on investment.”
Speaking after meeting with some of the 200-plus who attended the event, Mr Yeap said he was impressed with the level of interest and the feedback he has already received.
“I am very pleased that so many people were able to attend and that we were able to hear direct from the community on both their concerns and needs,” he said.
“That was the very reason we chose to facilitate the initial consultation whilst in the very early stages of planning, as it was important to me that as many members of the community could share their thoughts before we formalise any plans, about how we can best use the land to benefit everyone in Inverloch,” Mr Yeap said.
“We are looking at a number of options including community facilities, tourist accommodation, cultural attractions and appropriate housing.
“However, when I decided to purchase the land, I promised that this would not be about developing for the sake of developing – this is something that I stand by as part of all the projects I have been involved with, but I feel it is even more important now.
“This is about giving something back to the Inverloch community and helping to create something we think is currently missing,” he said.
“Our aim is to create something that protects the environment, provides opportunities for sustainable growth, and helps to deliver something for the entire community. We have no intention to over-develop the land, or do anything that will negatively impact the look and feel of the town,” Mr Yeap concluded.

Bad start
The night started late and not too well for the celebrity MC, Mr Baillieu, who reported having a bingle in his luxury car, at Lang Lang, on the way to the community night.
But he quickly swung into politician mode, welcoming guests and introducing Mr Yeap OAM, property developer and patron of the arts.
Mr Yeap said he had purchased the site four years ago, after buying a holiday home for himself in the town.
“I can’t claim being a local yet but I really love being here,” he said, noting that he has been the major sponsor for the Wooden Boat Regatta for the past few years.
Adam Maher of Beveridge and Williams provide the planning perspective noting that there was a wide variety of environmental, flood, inundation, aboriginal heritage and significant landscape overlays that would have to be considered before any development could be proposed.
He said there was also the issue of acid sulphate soils, although new technologies made it realistic that this issue could be neutralised while eliminating the chance of material getting into the water.
“Normally we have a developer come to us and say this is what we want to build and make it happen. But this has been completely different. They’ve said they want to hear what the community wants first and then they’ll go and try to encapsulate that in the project,” he said.
He said the land was presently a degraded grazing property fronting Anderson Inlet and that there was a great opportunity to improve it from both an environmental and community perspective.
Already 5000 trees have been planted at the location and in each of the questions on the night, the potential for a significant improvement to the environment of the inlet and the land adjoining the inlet was stressed.
Several community speakers, including President of the Anderson Inlet Angling Club, June Laycock, stressed the need for an improvement in boating facilities, principally the boat ramps and safe access through the inlet.
President of the South Gippsland Conservation Society, Dave Sutton, spoke about the location’s shortcomings as a development site saying it was basically part of a wetland, adjacent to an important fish breeding area. He claimed that as sea level rose the site would be at further risk of inundation and that mangroves would disappear unless they had somewhere to go.
“I applaud the willingness to revegetate the area but I don’t see putting a village there, cannels or large boats there is going to improve it.”
He said access to the inlet was dangerous because it was one of the most dynamic inlets in Victoria.”
Mr Yeap said he was under no illusions about it being an easy project.
“I’d like to do something that is good for the community within the constraints of the land. If that can be achieved, the project can go ahead. If not, it will not go ahead.”
Several community members, including Inverloch Tourism Association President, Dom Brusamarello, welcomed the announcement, saying that if the environmental issues could be mitigated, there was the potential for a huge benefit in terms of boating and even cultural facilities.
“Think MONA Tasmania. Imagine if there was enough investment to develop a gallery somewhere on the land, by people interested in art.
“I would encourage you to think big, sensitive to the environment, but I really feel we have got a big opportunity here,” he said.
Nothing can go ahead unless the site is rezoned by the shire (or the state government if it calls the application in) from Farming to Residential.