MT Martha residents have started a campaign to stop the former quarry in the town being sold for commercial development.
They fear Mornington Peninsula Shire is about to start moves to rezone and sell the quarry, which operated off the Esplanade at the corner of Stanley Cres and Fairbairn Ave from 1958 to 1985.
It is fenced off and used to store rocks earmarked as fill for erosion works at The Eyrie in McCrae.
In an arrangement that would be welcomed by community groups paying rent for using council property, Maw Civil was given free use of the quarry as a storage depot for rocks and soil removed from nearby roadmaking works.
The company subsequently won the contract to fix erosion problems at The Eyrie, allowing it to have the keys to the quarry for the past two years, a situation that was not lost on the 40 people standing outside the quarry at Saturday’s meeting.
“A council officer once told us it was unsafe to let the public in, but went quiet after we said the same ban should apply to the people who go fishing or climbing down the cliffs along the whole of the Esplanade,” meeting organiser Jenny Wadsworth said.
An environmental audit shows the quarry is home to 39 indigenous species of animals and plants, including 18 birds, three reptiles, three frogs and one mammal.
Some of the plants are protected under the state Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
Ten years ago councillors viewed the quarry as having one more lode to be extracted – money.
Seeing its value as several million dollars, the councillors thought its sale could finance extensions to the Mornington Library.
They saw the quarry as being a suitable site for high-density, multi-storey development up to the top of the cliff face, suitable for apartments or a hotel. Thwarted by public opposition and an incomplete environmental assessment, the shire put its sale plans on ice.
Money was found for the library from other sources.
But the prospect of making money from the quarry was never far from the minds of council officers or the council agenda.
The recent council elections gave no comfort to the (mainly) Mt Martha people who want to keep commercial development out of the quarry.
They were told by candidates and councillors that the quarry would be sold.
Last Saturday’s meeting was held to signal to councillors and the officers who come up with the magical “likely” sales figures that high-density development is just as unacceptable now as a decade ago.
This time, however, they have returned to the battle zone with a proposal to use the quarry as a centre for telling the history of the area.
“We’re gathering an array of people of like mind to protect the Mt Martha quarry from development,” Kate Michael said.
“We would dearly love this land to be given to the original owners, perhaps in a shared partnership to create a cultural environmental site that could highlight the story of the original owners of the land.
“They had a strong presence along the cliffs and up the stream lines of Mt Martha as there are many middens in the area. Also an indigenous cultural artefact – a three-centimetre long notched chert scraper – was found near the edge of the site on the top of the cliff.
“When we talk to people about this, very few have any idea of this history and we feel there deserves to be a greater awareness.”
The quarry is just around the corner from a landslide that required the drawing up of a cultural heritage management plan before it could be repaired.
It is also on a part of the coast recognised under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 as having cultural heritage sensitivity.
Representatives of the Bunurong traditional owners at Saturday’s meeting said they would back the history proposal.