By Kirra Grimes

A LOCAL environmental group has urged the Bass Coast Shire Council not to let the marina development at Mahers Landing to proceed any further, warning of irreversible adverse impacts on an increasingly fragile ecosystem.
In a presentation to council at a recent Community Connections Session at Inverloch, vice president of the South Gippsland Conservation Society (SGCS) Dave Sutton highlighted the environmental values of the subject site, which borders the Anderson Inlet Foreshore Reserve to the south, and argued the proposed development would place a significant estuarine system at risk.
“SGCS will actively oppose this proposal to protect what is left of our rapidly diminishing biodiversity reserves,” he said, focusing on the impact on birdlife, and vegetation including grey mangroves, coastal saltmarsh and seagrass, which provide habitat and fish breeding areas/nurseries and also act as a long-term carbon sink, taking up and storing CO2 at higher rates than other types of plants.
“Natural systems and processes will be interrupted,” Mr Sutton said.
“Birds, including migratory birds, will no longer roost on the adjoining foreshore due to constant disturbance, noise, walkers, changed habitat and just the mere presence of people all the time.
“Mangroves and saltmarsh will be unable to migrate inland as the sea level rises due to climate change.”
Mr Sutton said the area was already suffering from the effects of ongoing coastal recession, with several small sandy beaches
used by wader birds lost, and mangroves and saltmarsh declining in quality and quantity.
“It’s very clear when you see the [subject] site that that’s where the inlet used to be and it wants to go back there,” he said.
Mr Sutton regarded the latest development proposal as “very similar” to the previous ‘Tarwin Cove’ plan, which, following opposition from community groups including SGCS, was subjected to an issues study by the then Department of Sustainability and Environment which found the cons outweighed the pros.
Then Planning Minister Mary Delahunty also wrote to Bass Coast Shire Council saying the Tarwin Cove project should not go ahead, as it conflicted with state and local strategies for the coast, and the proponents abandoned it before getting to the stage of lodging a planning permit application.
“Nothing has changed that makes this latest proposal any more palatable than the first proposal,” Mr Sutton said, suggesting council would be unwise to let things progress further.
“If a formal application is lodged for this development, vast amounts of community, council and state government time and resources will be spent on the processes that follow, and the highly likely outcome is it would be rejected,” he said.
With planning and environment policies now more sensitive to protecting the environment and to climate change impacts, Mr Sutton believed there was sufficient local and state policy to prevent the development on planning and environment grounds, pointing to the Bass Coast Planning Scheme, the
Distinctive Areas and Landscapes Program, the Marine and Coastal Act, and Regional and Strategic Partnership (RASP) funding for future planning around climate change mitigation and adaptation and strategic retreat from the coast, as examples.

More investigation needed
When asked about potential environmental issues last week, Mering Corporation’s development manager Allan Carlsson said these would “need a lot more investigation,” and that this would happen at a later stage.
“The legislation makes it quite clear what’s required, but they’re very expensive, time consuming reports to do, so this won’t commence until we get some idea council supports the process – not necessarily the project, but the process we have to work through before we hand it up to the [planning] minister.
“With their support for moving forward, then we’d undertake environmental studies.”
The developers were, however, committed to contributing to erosion mitigation strategies as part of their proposal, Mr Carlsson said.
“We’re offering to do a comprehensive report as to how that issue might be solved, which we’ll hand over the local and state government. And not just looking at this site, looking at the broader issue.
“If we move forward, we hope the report would make a major contribution to showing how the problem can be fixed permanently – not just a band-aid but a comprehensive response.”