The VNPA has long supported the Save Bastion Point Campaign, a small, community-led group fighting to protect this corner of Victoria's far east wilderness coast from massive over-development of boat ramp facilities.
Mallacoota's Bastion Point is a treasured surfing break and traditional home to the Bidawal people. However, its cultural and environmental values are threatened.
The VNPA continues to support a low-key upgrade to the existing boat ramp and surrounding area without the need to include a 130m breakwater.
At the eleventh hour and against the advice of council staff, the East Gippsland Shire Council voted unanimously to support a State Government recommended new lower impact design called H2.
This is a major win for the campaign, but we are not out of the woods yet. There are no longer plans for a road on the beach and the carpark footprint has been reduced but a breakwater is still on the cards.
Government Review and H2 recommendation
The State Government set up the Bastion Point Project Control Board to review and compare the existing, large-scale development plans for Bastion Point (known as Option 3b) with an alternative, minor upgrade based on a proposal put forward by the Save Bastion Point Campaign.
The review was completed in March 2012 and the public consultation process is now closed (see VNPA's joint submission).
The government's review included a recommendation for a new alternative proposal called H2, which has a smaller environmental and cultural footprint compared to 3b in that:
- There is no requirement for a 100m road along the beach.
- It does not appear to involve major destruction of rocky reef habitat to create a channel.
- It does not involve as much loss of native vegetation.
- It has a less intrusively designed car park.
- Significant cultural archaelogical sites are not so severly impacted.
- There is minimal or no impact on the Broken Boards surf break (which would be subject to further coastal modelling).
These are positive design improvements and the VNPA acknowledges that H2 is a far better design option 3b.
However, one of the H2 design options includes a 130m breakwater (similar to 3b), and a jetty.
For nearly 20 years the people of Mallacoota, with support from the Australian and international communities, have been fighting a proposal to massively over-develop Bastion Point.
Their fight came to a head in 2009 when the former state Labor planning minister, Justin Madden, gave the go-ahead for the controversial plan.
This decision not only thumbed its nose at the government's own Environmental Effects Study (EES) panel report, which overwhelmingly recommended against the development, but also failed to adhere to the principles of the Victorian Coastal Strategy.
More than 85 per cent of submissions to the Environmental Effects Study's public inquiry strongly opposed the development.
In May last year, the Friends of Mallacoota group challenged the former minister's decision in the Supreme Court. They lost the case but Justice Osborn backed up the validity of the EES panel's findings, stating that building the breakwater to solve safety issues between boats, swimmers and surfers was akin to "...using a sledgehammer to crack a nut".
In July 2010 the East Gippsland Shire Council, proponents of the controversial development, voted five to three in favour of proceeding to the next stage of approval.
This decision was based on a flawed economic analysis and a design that did not include the option of upgrading the existing ramp.
The VNPA and the local community support the State Government's current review of the development and are calling on them to uphold the Victorian Coastal Strategy and implement a low impact upgrade based on the Save Bastion Point Campaign's alternative concept.
The Save Bastion Point Campaign - Friends of Mallacoota have been selected as finalists for the 2011 Keep Australia Beautiful Victorian Awards.
Write, email or phone Premier Ted Baillieu and Environment Minister Ryan Smith, reiterating your support for a low impact upgrade to the current boat ramp and that Option 3b needs to be scrapped altogether.
Premier Ted Baillieu, Office of the Premier, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne, 3000. Phone 9651 5000, fax 9651 5054. Email email@example.com.
Environment Minister Ryan Smith, Level 17, 8 Nicholson Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000. Phone 9637 8890, fax 9637 8880. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.