A GROUNDSWELL of opposition to a new boat ramp at Rye flooded in to the Mornington Peninsula Shire council chamber last Monday evening.
Councillors, in front of a packed public gallery, voted down the shire’s own planning permit application for a fourth boat ramp after 175 written objections were lodged against the plan to build the $1.2 million ramp.
Numerous objectors addressed councillors at the meeting, held on 13 February, voicing their concerns about a rise in jet-ski use in the area and associated dangers to rare Burranun dolphins which frequent Rye waters.
Nepean ward councillor Hugh Fraser backed the construction of the additional ramp located on the north side of Point Nepean Rd near Rye pier. Fellow ward councillor Bryan Payne opposed building the new ramp in the form presented to council.
Polperro Dolphin Swims operator Judith Muir was one of eight objectors who spoke at the meeting.
Ms Muir said more vessels using the Rye boat ramp would lead to more dolphin injuries and deaths.
“We can no longer report jet-skis because we were threatened with sabotage of our boat,” she said.
The swim-with-the-dolphins tour operator said the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning did not have enough wildlife officers assigned to patrol the area.
“Jet-skiers that we’ve tried to have conversations with, at 100 kilometres an hour, tell us they can’t see a dolphin,” Ms Muir said.
“There have been two dolphin deaths from blunt force injury from jet skis.”
She said international researchers who have visited Rye “are appalled” at the lack of protection for the Burranun dolphins.
Cr Fraser argued the project should proceed as part of the Rye Recreational Boating Precinct Plan and council could “build on it” by improving nearby road access to the foreshore.
“This is a great start for the renewal of Rye,” he said.
Rye Community Alliance chairwoman Mechelle Cheers told the meeting that boaters and jet-skiers “are not the major foreshore user”.
“The alliance has always worked well with the shire but not over the extension of the launching facilities,” Ms Cheers said.
“There is a ruthless determination to expand the facilities regardless of the facts and the depth of community concern.”
Ms Cheers said there was congestion at the existing boat ramp on only a few days each summer.
Councillors voted down the planning permit application with a brief show of hands. No division was called so the names of the councillors who backed and opposed the new ramp were not recorded.
Objectors to the project said council had failed to consult the community about the plans to add the fourth ramp.
They noted the plan to build the $1.2 million ramp emerged as a capital works program project after council applied for a $588,000 boating safety and facilities grant from the state government.
Cr Payne moved a motion, unanimously backed by councillors at the meeting, to write to Labor Roads, Road Safety and Ports Minister Luke Donnellan to ask if the grant can be used to fund “other priority projects within the Rye Recreational Boating Precinct Plan” including a new jetty, repairs to the existing boat ramp, dredging around the existing facility and landscaping.
Cr Payne criticised the process for such a major project as being “most surprising” amid a lack of community consultation.
“The officers were going to pass this permit under their delegation,” he said.
“I had to call it in. Tenders were called before the approval – very strange.”
He said council officers had not informed councillors about any objections to the project at a councillor briefing session earlier this month.