THE state government has provided just one third of the money needed to fix a track down a steep cliff in Mornington.
Barriers to prevent anyone using the track have been torn down and hundreds of walkers and joggers use the track each week to access Mills Beach from Kalimna Drive, officially known as the Caraar Creek Coastal Cliff Pathway.
Parts of the track’s bitumen covering have collapsed and sections of the exposed cliff are still subject to severe erosion.
Stormwater drainage from luxury homes above the track – blamed for much of the erosion – appears to no longer be a threat, but Mornington Peninsula Shire told the state government it would cost $200,000 to reinstate the track itself.
However, despite receiving just $50,000, the mayor, Cr Bev Colomb said she was “thrilled to welcome the state government funding towards restoration of the cliff pathway… Council received the full amount it asked for in its submission ($50,000), and congratulates the community for their input into lobbying for funding for this project.
“The council is meeting with the path community soon, and with the announcement of this funding Council will now consider the best options forward.”
Mornington Liberal MP David Morris said the government’s contribution “could most charitably be described as underwhelming”.
He has accused the Labor government of showing little support for the Mornington Peninsula and has asked for it to make a larger contribution towards fixing the cliff track.
Peter Nicholson, of the Cliff Path Steering Group, said it would be expensive to repair the track “because it’s so inaccessible to machinery and there is no rock at that point to put soil anchors into easily”.
“Bev [Cr Colomb] is right that the shire did apply for $50,000 from the environment department’s coastal safety/access fund. It’s not clear why this amount was asked for, but the application was done in a rush, and it was very good work by the coastal planner involved to find out about the grants and get a well thought-out application on one days notice,” Mr Nicholson said.
“The shire has been saying for some time they have been working to get funding, but I do not believe they have done that on any systematic basis and, if so, they certainly didn’t involve the Cliff Path Steering Group.”
A website (beleauracliffpath.com) established by the steering group to make sure the track does not remain closed says it was built “in 1915-22 by a small team of men with shovels and ponies”.
“Such a project could never be attempted now. With today’s land prices and engineering standards, there would be a $10 million price tag. This iconic Mornington asset has worked well for 99 years and it is unthinkable to lose it now.
“The three landslips over the last 12 years have been caused by storm-water and irrigation water released in an irresponsible way by a small number of houses on the cliff. This has cost the shire a lot of money, inconvenienced the public and threatened the future of the path. In recent years the shire has failed to enforce its own stormwater rules with disastrous results.”
Mr Morris said the government’s contribution amounted to “one quarter of the total cost of reinstatement”.
He said it was “extremely disappointing” the government had shown “next to no interest in supporting the Mornington Peninsula” since winning government from the Coalition, of which he was a member.
“But we are still here, we are not going anywhere, and we will continue to remind this government they were elected to look after the whole state, not just their own backyard.”
Mr Morris has asked Environment Minister Lisa Neville to provide $150,000 through her department to “… undertake sufficient works to stabilise the Beleura cliff path, repair damage from a landslip and get the track open and functioning again”.
Mr Morris said the track had been used for many years and had suffered “longstanding drainage issues, particularly from some houses in the area”.
When announcing the $50,000 funding, Ms Neville said it was part of $700,000 being used throughout the state “to improve public coastal access and public safety for Victorians”.
“These grants give critical support to committees that strive to improve public access and minimise risk by fully funding or part-funding these valuable projects,” Ms Neville said.
Money has also been allocated to: access to the northern end of Moondah Beach, Mt Eliza, $27,000; beach access from Whitecliffs to Cameron Bight foreshore, Rye to Sorrento, $ 6410; access and safety at Fishermen’s Beach, Mornington, $24,400.