New hope for Point Nepean
Over summer 2016 Parks Victoria began consulting with the community on updating the draft 2010 Master Plan for Point Nepean National Park and its Quarantine Station.
The new round of consultation followed the lapsing of the developer's lease on 64ha of the national park
The draft 2010 Master Plan was never finalised, the previous Coalition government instead preparing its own in 2013 as part of a push for major commercial development in Victoria's national parks.
The earlier plan was far more sympathetic to the natural and cultural heritage values of the park but it did have its weaknesses, especially the proposal for a new jetty within the local dolphin sanctuary zone.
The new consultation process aims to refresh the plan to ensure it sets the right tone for the use of the park.
After the first period of consultation, it is expected a draft 2016 Master Plan will be released for public comment in June and the final Master Plan by the end of the year. We hope it will be faster than this but at least the end is in sight.
You can also get further information by calling the Parks Victoria Information Centre on 13 1963.
What was wrong with the proposals?
There were many elements of the developer's proposal that concerned us. These included:
A 50-year lease (and possibly 99 years) with one developer maximised the risk of failure. It limited the opportunities from lease diversity and created an unnecessary layer of management.
Management control of the lease area was being given to Point Leisure Group, dismantling what the community had long fought for - a unified national park managed by Parks Victoria.
Taking Parks Victoria out of the park's management could have been the first step towards privatising the management of all national parks. Today Point Nepean National Park, tomorrow The Prom and the Grampians.
Such a long lease was effectively freehold and the lease could be on sold.
There were no details on future limits on the height or number of new buildings, or the possibility of subdivision, and alarm about the removal of third-party appeal rights to VCAT.
Public access would have been restricted to those who could afford luxury spas and hotels.
There would be extensive damage to threatened Coastal Moonah Woodland caused by clearing for spa pools, boardwalks, carparks and fire management
A proposed new jetty would protrude into the Ticonderoga Bay dolphin sanctuary. This jetty would damage critical seagrass habitat and impact on the resident Burrunan dolphins that are only found in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes.
Privatisation push comes unstuck
On 1 July 2015 the push to privatise a large section of Point Nepean National Park and hand it over to a property developer came unstuck with news that the 64 hectare lease had lapsed.
Although the contents of the lease remain secret, a key clause became known, stating that the continuance of the lease beyond 1 July 2015 was contingent on changes to the 2009 national park management plan and the Shire of Mornington Peninsula's planning scheme.
The amendment to the park management plan would have allowed for the destruction of threatened Coastal Moonah Woodland to build boardwalks and rock pools, while a 'Special Use Zone' in the shire's planning scheme would have, among other things, allowed subdivision.
Under the clause, if these changes were not in place by 1 July 2015, the lease would lapse and compensation of up to $1 million could be sought by the developer. These changes were not made.
At the same time the Andrews Government revealed the lease had lapsed it also committed to using the draft 2010 master plan to guide future planning at Point Nepean once a period of community consultation had helped refresh and strengthen its provisions.
What is VNPA's position?
The VNPA accepts that commercial activities such as cafés, restaurants or even accommodation may have a place within the 17 hectare historical Quarantine Station precinct at Point Nepean National Park. But this is significantly different to the major commercial development that was proposed by the property developer.
We will work to ensure Point Nepean National Park's natural and cultural values are properly managed and respected, and that inappropriate development is avoided both on the land and water.
We support planning and management at Point Nepean that:
New government, new approach
Before it was elected, the Andrews Government promised to rule out large-scale private development in national parks and to review lease arrangements for a hotel and spa development at Point Nepean National Park.
It also committed to:
- Protect Point Nepean for all Victorians and seek to ensure it remains open to all Victorians
- Review immediately the lease to determine its legal status
- Use any powers of the Parliament to disallow the lease
- Return Parks Victoria as the overall manager of an integrated Point Nepean National Park.
Subsequently, the Victorian Labor Government announced on 1 July 2015 that:
|We will look to refresh the 2010 draft Masterplan, ensuring it reflects current policy, community views, and future opportunities for the site'.|
The second and third commitments have been delivered and the review of the master plan provides the government with the perfect opportunity to deliver on one and four.