TIME and tide, as they say, waits for no one, not even COVID-19.

So, while the pandemic has been blamed for delaying the completion of the Coastal Hazard Assessment study by the Government-appointed Inverloch ‘RaSP’ group, the erosion of the dune system along the Inverloch Surf Beach has continued unabated.

It may even be accelerating around the ends of the 500-tonne rock wall, at the western end of the beach, according to project leader for the South Gippsland Conservation Society, Philip Heath, who expressed particular concern this week about the referred damage being caused to the Wreck Creek estuary.

Bass Coast Councillor Leticia Laing will also be highlighting the community’s concerns about the delays at council this Wednesday, backing calls for “low-key measures such as dune renourishment, wet sand fencing, dune revegetation and sandbags” while the technical assessment work continues.

“There’s no guarantee, even after the hazard assessment work is done, that the major response works will be funded anytime soon,” Cr Laing said.

“I don’t want it to get to the point where we see the water lapping at the edge of Surf Parade before something gets done,” she said.

As Cr Laing said this week, concern about inaction on erosion at Inverloch Surf Beach was widespread in the community.

President of the Inverloch Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, Warren Cook, agrees.

But he says community anger is also rising about the delays, the lack of leadership and the lack of focus on the problem at Inverloch.

“I’ve withdrawn from the community group (stakeholder reference group) and others have too. They see it as a farce,” Mr Cook said this week.

“They’re fed up. While they’re delaying reports and talking about anything but action on the problem at Inverloch, we’ve watched 70 metres of the beach being lost.

“You’re talking about protecting a billion-dollar asset here and it’s not just about the beach and the surf club. It’s about protecting housing and the low-lying parts of the town.

“There needs to be a sense of urgency injected into this and a refocusing on the problem at Inverloch, not up and down the coast, here at Inverloch! That’s what the Inverloch RaSP group was set up to do,” he said.

It’s clearly getting to the stage now where the timing of the response to the on-going beach erosion at Inverloch will be hi-jacked by the community.

The South Gippsland Conservation Society (SGCS), for one, isn’t happy with the delays.

And they said so at a recent Stakeholder Reference Group meeting, a group that includes local interest groups (or used to), providing feedback to the government-appointed Inverloch Regional and Strategic Partnership (Inverloch RaSP) group which has responsibility for the Inverloch “Cape to Cape Resilience Project”.

“The Victorian Government’s Cape to Cape Resilience Project team recently advised that the Inverloch Coastal Hazard Assessment, a key technical study, has been delayed until at least late-March 2022,” the powerful SGCS advised its members recently.

“We expressed our disappointment with this at a recent Stakeholder Reference Group meeting. We also indicated our view that the study needed to place greater emphasis and urgency on identifying measures to address the shoreline erosion that has occurred at Inverloch Surf Beach since 2012.”

The group has announced that it is pushing ahead with the ‘Rally Round Our Dunes’ at Inverloch on Wednesday, January 12 next year, an event that’s likely to attract hundreds and hundreds of people at the start of a big election year – Federal and State.

Mr Cook said his club was already activating its huge membership to attend.

“We’ll have Channel 7, Channel 9 and all the media there,” he said.

Philip Heath, Cr Leticia Laing and Warren Cook have all acknowledge that the interest and concern in the plight of the Inverloch Surf Beach goes well beyond environment and conservation.

In the Stage 1 community engagement report on the “Cape to Cape Resilience Project”, put out by the Inverloch RaSP group last month, it notes 2000 visitors to the project website and a return of 180 surveys, listing the following issues of importance:

* Recreation: Opportunities for walking, cycling, surfing, boating, swimming, relaxing

* Native flora and fauna: Including preservation of habitat for key species and managing threats

* Landscape: Coastal views, sandy beaches, land and seascapes, including peaceful settings and small-town character

* Healthy ecosystems: Functioning coastal and marine ecosystems, with bio-links and connectivity

* Heritage and unique history: Both Aboriginal heritage and European history, including stories, special sites and specific assets

* Safe access: All abilities and safe access for everyone to enjoy the beaches and foreshore of the region.

But even expanding the focus from what was essentially an Inverloch problem to a “Cape to Cape Resilience Project”, described as a long-term coastal hazard adaptation project “to plan for managing future changes to coastal areas between Cape Paterson and Cape Liptrap”, rankles with many who say it dilutes expected action on the on-going erosion problem at Inverloch.

“Wreck Creek has emerged as a hot spot, and also an area between the western end of the rock wall and Flat Rocks, where 80-year-old coastal Banksias are being undermined and are falling into the sea.” Mr Heath said.

“They’re the only thing holding the dunes together at that point,” he said.

“We’re not critical of the work being done by (consultants) Water Technology. It’s important work that will form the basis for a future strategy, not only here but elsewhere, but we’re looking for short-term action now, to hold the line, while not producing unintended consequences, until the long-term response is worked out.

“They’ve said late March for the hazard assessment, but it could be later, then they have to consult with the community, design and finally fund the long-term response.

“That could take years,” Mr Heath said.

In its recent newsletter to SGSC members, the conservation group said its ICRP team was continuing to highlight the beach erosion that is occurring along the Wreck Creek and Flat Rocks coastline to the government-appointed working group.

But noting that the recently announced delays further emphasised the urgent need for short-term, dune re-nourishment works to hold back on-going erosion while the studies continue.

“Around 10 metres of vegetated dunes have been eroded since the study was announced in 2019,” the SGCS said.