THE failure of a plan to fence off the Pillars cliff jumping spot at Mt Martha is likely to see increasing numbers of visitors to the natural attraction.
Although dedicated through various policies to increasing tourism, Mornington Peninsula Shire has been trying to lessen the numbers of people visiting the Pillars.
Nevertheless, it is a major attraction without signposts, steps or safety barriers.
Alcohol bans, parking bans, warning signs and restricting access have all failed to lessen the steady beat of feet to the cliff top.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has now pulled the plug on the shire’s biggest weapon – a fence.
The department and the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio have told the council that a fence is not in line with government policy.
In January, the mayor Cr Bev Colomb issued a news release stating that the shire wanted “wherever possible … to encourage visitation to the many wonderful parts of the coastline and inner hinterlands offered by the peninsula, but the Pillars has become an unwanted attraction to many local residents and the shire has sought to take action”.
The shire also threatened to “commence the process of handing back the committee of management responsibility to DELWP for the Pillars section of the Mt Martha foreshore between Ellerina and Bay roads.”
With both options now off the table, the shire might be forced to concede to the Pillars is an attraction that’s not going to go away and facilitate, rather than frustrate, those wanting to jump from rocks into the bay. Residents have known about and used the Pillars for decades and may also have to accept the spot is public property.
Councillors at the shire’s Tuesday 12 September meeting accepted a recommendation from coastal planner Jeska Dee that they seek clarification from the minister and also prepare to try to manage traffic and use of the Pillars in much the same way as over the 2016/17 summer.
As well as installing extra wooden bollards along the Esplanade the shire is asking South East Water if parking can be restricted near its pumping station close to Deakin Drive.
Parking has already been restricted in nearby streets, with police and council local laws officers booking hundreds of vehicles for parking infringements over the past summer.
A ban on alcohol which extended several blocks inland from The Pillars also technically prevented residents having a drink on their nature strips.
Meanwhile, other entities are cashing in on the popularity of The Pillars, with many visitors arriving by public transport; buying goods at local shops; social media sites; and even a badge (retailing for $13) to show that the wearer has visited the attraction.
For its part, the shire has received a $30,000 “public access and risk” grant from the DELWP and will continue to develop a “long term management plan” for the area.
This plan will include “consultation and feedback with the community and key stakeholders”.
Ms Dee’s report to councillors did not mention feedback from the thousands of visitors who will be sure to be at the Pillars in coming months.