DESPITE the unedifying scenes at the September meeting of the South Gippsland Shire Council, the Walkerville Foreshore Reserve Committee of Management will finally get the additional funds it needs.
After deferring a decision about contributing an extra $61,850 to the Walkerville North Foreshore Development Project the previous month, bringing its contribution to $192,500, the council voted 6:3 (Crs Hill, McEwen and Rich against) to provide the funding a month later.
Cr Alyson Skinner moved the motion to provide further support saying it had only been deferred until additional information was provided and this has since come forward.
“This is a very complex project because it involves multiple stakeholders,” Cr Skinner said, describing the issues associated with the works as a “very sticky situation”.
“It’s a very narrow section of coastline, its subject to inundation, there are very narrow road strips, and there’s houses that go right down to the roadway; so there’s lots and lots of different factors to address in this project, however today what we are looking at is increasing our contribution towards the civil component of a project that in essence is worth $900,000.”
Cr Skinner said the foreshore committee is a DELWP appointed committee and that the council had seen correspondence from DELWP saying they were very happy with the committee.
This is at odds with claims at the September meeting by Cr Andrew McEwen that the committee had significant governance problems, for which he has since apologised unreservedly.
Cr Skinner said the shire had also received correspondence from the Walkerville Ratepayers Association in support of the project and also from DEDJTR (the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources) which is the authority responsible for allocating grants under the State Government’s ‘Target One Million Plan’ to encourage recreational fishing.
A local anglers group had claimed the foreshore committee was misusing its $130,000 grant from DEDJTR to cut back, rather than increase boat trailer parking capacity, to the detriment of recreational fishing. But Cr Skinner said she felt the ratepayers would be very happy to see the council’s funding going towards the civil works.
“To clarify the situation,” she said, “it will actually be the council that is undertaking the roadworks. We’re not handing over money to the foreshore committee.”
Cr Skinner said the works were partly a local response to climate change and council had to start advocating up to State and Federal Government for them to accept the cost of issues associated with climate change.
And she rejected earlier comments made by Cr McEwen, Cr Hill and others, that Walkerville was “jumping the queue” by requesting additional funds. Rather, she said, it was council adapting to an opportunity to make the most of ratepayers’ funds by contributing to a larger project.
Cr Hill said he would be voting against allocating more funds for three reasons:
• 1. The council road is halfway through its life and doesn’t need work and is therefore a direct cost to ratepayers.
• 2. The foreshore committee has over $600,000 in its accounts and doesn’t need the council funding.
• 3. It’s not an equitable allocation of the ratepayers’ money when the 15-year plan for capital works spending on roads (including only $15,000 for Venus Bay) was going towards a sparsely populated area in the shire’s south, when Mirboo North was getting nothing in the next 15 years, apart from the Community Capital Works $400,000.
Cr Edwards said it was a small ask to protect the council’s own assets.
Cr Rich said it was a difficult decision for him, as a Walkerville resident, not to support the funding, given the excellent work of the foreshore committee over the years.
He took a swipe at alleged blowout in costs saying the committee had to make sure contracts are finalised before works start, although he said: “I don’t know if that’s the case”.
He also said that he’d heard that the foreshore committee had other projects they’d like to spend their own money on but as he didn’t know what those projects were he wouldn’t be voting for extra council money for the present project.
Cr Maxine Kiel said the shire would only be contributing $192,500 to a $900,000 project.
She said the shire should be applauding the efforts of the community committee for delivering such excellent value to the community.
Cr McEwen said he would be voting against the funding because of the lack of an overall plan for the fragile foreshore area which he claimed was being addressed in a piecemeal way.
He said the lack of a reef was leaving the shoreline subject to erosion and the ravages of climate change.
He claimed planning to date had been “fragmentary and not driven by a partnership of all stakeholders”.
He has fundamental concerns to committing more funds.
He said there remained unresolved questions including that the rockwall would simply transfer the erosion problems further down the beach, trailers having to be parked away from the boat ramp, and other issues.
He said the shire should review development across the whole coastline, and develop a true partnership agreement with DELWP in response.
Climate change along the coast is going to cost millions, he said, and council couldn’t afford to pay for it.