Pioneer Bay residents say ‘no’ to roads and drainage upgrade

THE Bass Coast Shire Council will be dragged kicking and screaming through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) next month, as more than 100 Pioneer Bay residents protest a multi-million-dollar roads and drainage upgrade.
The VCAT hearing comes after years of planning by council officers to seal the roads, add footpaths, and install kerb and channelling in the Waterline community.
But the Special Charge Scheme could come to a halt if VCAT sides with residents and puts the brakes on 227 ratepayers collectively paying $4.090 million for the works.
Nicole Collier, who’s leading the fight against the scheme, says it’s not just unaffordable – it’s totally out of the ballpark for most residents.
On Sunday, 15 Pioneer Bay residents voiced concerns at a meeting protesting the scheme; as well there are 107 signatures on a petition against the scheme.
Nicole will be up for nearly $30,000, while other residents’ costs vary between $13,800 and $52,100. But Nicole says they’re only estimates.
“They could be a lot higher. But they could also be less – but does anyone think the shire’s going to give us a refund? Our rates are increasing every year and we’ve got nothing to show for it and now the shire wants us to pay for this, on top of our rates. Actually, we did get our green bins last year, but we had to pay for that too.”
Residents also expect that after the upgrades are completed, house values will increase – which will also up their rates – and rental prices will rise.
Local real estate agents say property buyers from metropolitan areas are excited for the upgrade and property prices are expected to increase after the roads are sealed, although it will take time for the rental market to catch up.
While renters might have access to sealed roads, the small town still doesn’t have any shops and there will still be only one road in and out – Kallay Drive.
Nicole says the council’s made the Special Charge Scheme process confusing, and officers often contradict themselves in letters to residents.
More than 100 people have signed a petition calling for the scheme to be scrapped. But that’s just the beginning.
“Next week, I’m going to start contacting holiday home owners and land owners who aren’t here often,” Nicole said.
Last year, after the council told Pioneer Bay ratepayers of the estimated costs, around 23 per cent of the community objected to the scheme.
If it was 50 per cent, council would’ve been forced to dump the scheme.
“I don’t believe they’ve got their 50 per cent approval from residents,” Nicole said.
The Bass Coast Shire Council has an infamous history of Special Charge Schemes, including the eventual demise of one in Cape Paterson – which cost ratepayers $259,0000.
The council does offer residents payment options, including paying for it over 10 years. However, it is a loan, where residents are required to pay the interest the council would have to pay on the loan, plus one per cent.
Council is also contributing more than $490,000 to the scheme.