IT WOULD have been a win-win. Phillip Island Nature Parks would have been given 40.6 hectares of land adjoining an important RAMSAR Wetland area and the owner of the land, approval for a three-lot subdivision.
But last week, the Bass Coast Shire Council took a hard line on rezoning land outside the town boundary, east along Settlement Road at Cowes and dismissed the officer’s recommendation to allow the amendment to go ahead.
A comprehensive officer’s summary, together with a 24-page report by Water Technology, found, among other things that:
“The proposed amendment seeks to transfer 40.6 Hectares of land to the crown for conservation purposes which will enhance the protection of environmental, cultural and landscape values of land in proximity to the RAMSAR-listed Rhyll Wetlands.
“The subject sites are mostly covered by the Land Subject to Inundation Overlay and are subject to coastal inundation. The proposed net creation of one residential lot is a minor increased impact beyond the existing use and is considered to be offset by the reservation of land for conservation purposes.”
Cr Stephen Fullarton said the proposal to create three Low Density Residential Zone lots while setting aside more than 40 hectares of reserve was “a suitable solution” after many years of negotiations.
Cr Bruce Kent agreed, saying there were already two dwellings on the three allotments.
“Rezoning 40 hectares from Rural Conservation Zone to Public Conservation and Resource Zone is a great outcome for the community,” he said.
But Cr Michael Whelan did not agree.
He said the land was outside the town boundary, was subject to flooding, adjoined a RAMSAR wetland and should not be developed.
“If ever there was an area that was significant, this is it,” he said referring to the declaration of Bass Coast as a Distinctive Area and Landscape.
“I’m very concerned as well,” said Cr Pam Rothfield.
“To say we should agree because it has been around a long time is not the right way to go,” she said.
Cr Geoff Ellis said the council’s approach required some common sense because without the rezoning to Public Conservation, it would continue to be grazed by cattle.
The opportunity was, however, lost.
The council officer’s report went on to say:
“The proposed amendment supports nature-based tourism by preserving the sensitive Rhyll Wetlands and transferring 40.6 Hectares of higher ecological value land to the crown to be managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks which provides publicly accessible nature-based tourism.”
Did the council get it right? What’s your opinion?