RESIDENTS have been watching the slow march of nature reclaiming habitat in what was once an explosive industrial site – the Mt Martha quarry.
Peregrine falcons use the exposed rock faces as nesting sites while white-faced herons prowl among puddles for tadpoles and frogs.
However, the fenced-off quarry is seen as an “asset” by Mornington Peninsula Shire, land that can be sold and developed.
Until a few months ago, the shire had allowed the quarry on the Esplanade between Mt Martha and Safety Beach to be used as storage for rocks and soil destined to combat erosion at McCrae.
But now it has been cleaned up and nearby residents fear the council is again about to try to rezone and sell the land.
Property and valuations manager Yasmin Woods on Friday said the shire had not yet “resolved the method of sale and is currently investigating development density before rezoning the land is considered”.
Quarrying was discontinued in 1987 and in 2003 the shire sought a rezoning for residential development.
Residents became alarmed and launched strong opposition under the banner of the Stanley Cres and Surrounding Streets Association. The association was formed in 1997 to fight a council proposal to levy properties for roadmaking costs.
The shire was forced to back down, although Stanley Crescent was surfaced years later when a real estate developer contributed toward its cost.
The association then turned its attention to the quarry, last November staging a rally outside its gates demanding that the shire turn it into a nature reserve.
In 2003 the association paid for a town planner to represent it at a state government-appointed panel hearing.
The panel recommended the shire abandon its planning amendment.
“The council refused to do this and that amendment has lapsed because the council did not act on it within the required three years,” association secretary Jenni Wadsworth said.
Members of the association say councillors do not seem to know what is happening.
At a recent meeting with the three Briars Ward councillors, they were given answers ranging from “nothing’s happening” to “it’s all decided and gone to tender” to “expressions of interest called for” and “we will keep a watching brief”.
Ms Wadsworth said shire CEO Michael Kennedy assured them that whatever happened “it won’t be something we’re unhappy with”.
“It is clear we need to keep alert and vigilant if we want to ensure that we don’t end up with inappropriate development in the area,” Ms Wadsworth said.
“Our wish is that it is retained as open land and restored as a low-key nature reserve with wetlands for birds and frogs.”
The association has set up a Friends of Mt Martha Quarry Facebook page and had been given a concept design for a nature reserve on the site by Jim Macarthur, of Ti-Tree Building Designs. The group will hold its annual general meeting at 2pm Saturday 17 August. For more information call Kate Michael on 5988 4390.