|The Hon. Mary Delahunty
Minister for Planning
Department of Infrastructure
80 Collins Street
MELBOURNE VIC 3001
Dear Mrs Delahunty,
RE: MARTHA COVE MARINA DEVELOPMENT- TASSELL’S CREEK, SAFETY BEACH
The Port Phillip Conservation Council Inc. (PPCC Inc.), Inc. is a federation of an umbrella organisation representing fourteen 15 conservation groups around Port Phillip Bay, with individual membership of approximately 5000 persons. PPCC Inc. considers that the proposed Martha Cove development would have specific negative environmental impacts as a result of the development of coastal and estuarine land earmarked for sale and lease to the proposed developers. PPCC Inc. has written to the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council and the Minister for Environment and Conservation, Hon. Sherryl Garbutt MP, to lodge an objection to the proposal and to request that she refuse the necessary consent under the Coastal Management Act 1995. This letter is attached for your information.
PPCC Inc. has examined the basis on which you confirmed the existing Environmental Effects Statement (EES), and has formed the following view:
The existing Minister provided his approval for the previous proposal in a specific and limiting form.
The unique circumstances upon which the existing
Minister relied no longer exist, as your remarks in your 23rd May 2002
letter to the Shire’s CEO,
In support of this view, PPCC Inc. provides the following comments:
You wrote to Mornington Peninsula Shire Council on 23rd. May 2002, endorsing the existing EES. Reference is made to that letter in information provided by that Council, in which you are partially quoted thus:
"....Given the existence of a current Planning Permit which reflects the 1992 Minister’s Assessment, the fundamentally unchanged nature of the project and the existence of statutory mechanisms to address new or modified requirements, I am satisfied that the existing Minister’s Assessment remains valid as a basis for the project and its approvals."
Hon. Andrew McCutcheon, the existing Minister for Planning and Housing, wrote to the then Shire of Flinders on 3r. January 1992. This letter accompanied and endorsed, with qualifications, the Assessment and Panel Report of January 1992. You rely upon this letter to confirm the existing EES. Of particular note is paragraph 4, which states:
"I have assessed Martha Cove proposal on its merits and unique characteristics including the provision for sorely needed boating facilities, especially a safe haven in the south-eastern part of Port Phillip Bay. On balance, I have supported the proposal because it capitalises on a unique opportunity to provide boating facilities without causing unacceptable environmental effects. I would not have supported the proposal if it did not contain these facilities."
Clearly, the Minister would not have supported the development if it had not met the (then) perceived need for safer boating facilities in the Bay; that is, provision of a safe haven in the south-eastern part of the Bay. The Minister reinforces this sentiment further in paragraph 5 (dot point 2) where he states:
"The provision of boating facilities in Tassells Creek catchment will
require readjustment of the urban boundary. I have only considered endorsing
The existing Minister provided his approval for the previous proposal in a specific and limiting form, largely on the basis that a safe harbour was needed in the south-eastern part of the Bay. We wish to advise you that alternative safe haven facilities now exist within the south-eastern section of the Bay, and more are planned, including:
Blairgowrie Boat Harbour has recently been completed, and specifically
provides safe haven facilities in the southern part of the Bay.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council has allocated funding for construction of a longer jetty, with 45 degree structure seaward, and improvements to the existing boat ramp at Safety Beach. The proposed design of the new jetty is to augment to the existing jetty to the north of the ramp so as to create safer launching and retrieval facilities for boats. This soon to be upgraded facility is only a few hundred metres away from the Martha Cove proposal.
Blairgowrie Boat Harbour is a multi-million dollar construction, which in itself has caused considerable loss of amenity for all beach users all year round. Part of the justification for its construction was the provision of a safe boating haven in the south-eastern part of the Bay. Now that this facility has been created, in spite of much public opposition, it should fulfil the perceived need for a safe haven in the south eastern section of the Bay. Plans outlined above for more boating facilities in the area provide further evidence that the grounds for confirmation of the existing EES are no longer valid.
PPCC Inc. also notes your justification that the project is fundamentally unchanged in nature, however we believe that our membership believes there are substantial differences between the current and previous proposals. These differences are outlined in the attached PPCC Inc. submissions to Council and Hon.Sherryl Garbutt, Minister for Environment and Conservation.
We ask that you also consider the following points:
There is a paucity of accurate statistics to
defend the supposed ‘sorely needed’ extra boating facilities in the southern
Peninsula, or indeed
The vast majority of the public does not sorely need such facilities, only those few who wish to pursue boating activities.
No supporting statistics on boat ownership or predicted future usage are provided in either the 1992 EES or the current proposal. Statements about the ‘sore need’ for more boating facilities rarely seem to have supporting evidence, but rely on anecdotal stories such as "waiting too long at a boat ramp to launch my boat." How long is too long? Does this person have more rights than the person who wishes to walk or swim along an increasingly rare section of undeveloped Bay coastline? How many ‘boaties’ are there compared to those people who wish to have serenity when they visit or live on the coastline?
Patterson Lakes and Hastings Marinas have never had occupancy rates anywhere near capacity. Statistics on Marina occupancy rates around Port Phillip and Westernport Bays should be critically examined to determine actual demand for Marina accommodation.
There is no readily available accident, rescues or storm incidence data to support the construction of extensive breakwaters, groynes and dredging for the creation of a safe harbour, which will create permanent damage and loss of amenity for countless residents, beach users and tourists.
The current proposal provides wind and wave data for the area. It is noted that the wave data records year-round dead calm at 28%, with waves at 0-0.4 metres for the vast majority of the time. In summer, when most boating occurs, this trend is even more so, with more calm (30%), and more waves under 0.4 metres.
Wind data in summer especially is also largely below 7.5 m/s. How long do storms last for on the Bay? Is it safer to stay put during the unlikely event of a severe storm rather than endangering the lives of yourself or those who try to assist you by attempting a charge for the shore? Around the clock weather reports are readily available anywhere, anytime, and should be required to be observed, as has long been the case with aviation weather information. There is no comparable provision of airstrips every 100 km or so across our continent in case some ignorant or improvident aviator is unable to continue because of weather difficulties, and there is no reason why that principle should not apply to those going boating. In stark contrast to 1992, the use of marine radio, and mobile telephones, both of which are readily usable all around the Port Phillip coastline, and the registration of power boats and the licensing of those in charge of them, with the associated education of the licence holders, and the ability of the government to identify and send notices and information to the licence holders, has created a much safer system for boating and weather awareness, and sensibly used can greatly reduce the perceived need for large artificially sheltered anchorages as opposed to relatively low-impact boat ramp retrieval.
There must come a point where natural systems cannot continue to be modified, overdeveloped and engineered to cater for the remote possibility of an incident that could have been avoided by the use of readily available information, equipment, consideration and common sense.
There is an alarming paucity of meaningful and convincing data to support the introduction of such expensive long term environmental and social changes.
We do know for a fact that 150 metres of prime public beach will be lost forever across the mouth of the newly constructed channel and groynes in the current proposal.
Critical decision making by government is necessary regarding how many facilities are needed, and how much environmental damage should be tolerated to provide these facilities. Currently it seems decisions have been made in favour of an unquantified number of boating persons with non robust, unjustified arguments.
In view of our members concerns, PPCC Inc. requests that you review the information now available to you, and intervene to request a full EES on the current proposal for Martha Cove. The EES should include a detailed investigation of the actual current need for a safe haven in the south-eastern section of the Bay, and alternative facilities currently or soon to be available.