By Kirra Grimes
A $380 million residential and marina development proposed for Mahers Landing, near Inverloch, is off the table for now, with Bass Coast Shire Council resolving not to advance a necessary planning scheme amendment.
At Wednesday’s Ordinary Council Meeting, all nine councillors agreed with their planning officers’ assessment that a proposal from Mering Corporation – which included rezoning 253 hectares of zoned farm land abutting Anderson Inlet and not within any existing township boundaries, to make way for 1113 residential sites and a 200 boat marina – represented an “inappropriate intrusion onto the fragile coastal environment unsupported by any existing state, regional or local policy or strategy”.
As well as potential environmental impacts and the “urbanisation of the coastline,” councillors voiced concerns about creating a new settlement on land under threat of coastal inundation.
“I know it’s not wise to create a whole new settlement in an LSIO [Land Subject to Inundation Overlay],” Bunurong Ward Cr Julian Brown said.
“It’s one thing to have existing settlements within that; it’s another thing altogether for us to create a new settlement that is covered by that overlay. It just creates a massive problem for the future,” he said.
In voicing their opposition to the development proposal, Crs Pamela Rothfield and Michael Whelan made reference to the State Government’s Distinctive Areas and Landscapes (DAL) scheme, under which Bass Coast was recently included.
Cr Rothfield said, given the recent DAL declaration, the proposal was “monumentally absurd,” while Cr Whelan said protecting places like Mahers Landing, with its Aboriginal heritage and marine nursery, was “what the DAL is all about,” and that the development couldn’t be allowed to go ahead when it “takes the environment and chucks it out the window”.
Bunurong Ward Cr Les Larke said he’d received “a considerable amount of community correspondence” in respect of the matter, and, apart from planning considerations, his decision not to support the proposal was driven by “community sentiment”.
It’s not the first time there’s been strong opposition to development of the site, with the Links Group’s $700 million ‘Tarwin Cove’ proposal for the same location knocked back by then Planning Minister Mary Delahunty in 2003, due to conflict with state and local strategies for the coast.
What’s to become of the land now is unclear, with Mering Corporation not responding to requests for comment.
South Gippsland Conservation Society spokesperson Annette Read has suggested the land be donated back to the public domain and allowed to return to its natural state.
“We’d welcome [Mering Corporation’s chairman Jason] Yeap to donate it. It would be mangroves, if it hadn’t been cleared for farming,” she said.
The full planning scheme amendment application and planning officers’ report can be read at basscoast.vic.gov.au/about-council/council-meetings.