A WELCOME about-face by the state government has thrown a lifeline to the Mt Martha North beach renourishment project.
Beachgoers and members of the Mount Martha North Beach Group were jubilant last week when the government moved towards accepting Commonwealth funds to replenish sand eroded by winter storms and, possibly, erect a rock groyne to help hold the sand in place.
This comes after a crowded August meeting at Mt Martha Life Saving Club at which the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) confirmed it had accepted a recommendation to take no action to “save” the beach and that natural forces would be left unchecked.
This caused Flinders MP Greg Hunt and Mornington MP David Morris, who is also the state Opposition’s environment, climate change and bay protection spokesperson, to accuse the state government of “abandoning the beach and its beach boxes”. (See ‘MPs disagree with experts over beach’s survival’, The News 26/8/19).
It also put the state government at odds with Mr Hunt who had committed $1.5 million in Commonwealth funds towards beach renourishment works during the highly charged May federal election campaign.
Mr Hunt said last week the state government was now indicating it was willing to “reconsider its position” and would implement the replenishment program while developing a long-term plan. “I welcome this response to the clear and overwhelming views of the community and support of the Commonwealth,” he said.
A spokesperson last week said the state government was “working with officers from the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy on a funding agreement for the transfer of funds to Victoria”.
“We will continue to work with the federal government to ensure their $1.5 million commitment gets the best outcomes for the beach and community.
“We know how important the Mount Martha North Beach area is to the local community – that’s why we asked experts to undertake a detailed analysis on how we maintain it into the future.”
The spokesperson added: “At this point, no decisions have been made on how this funding will be spent.”
Any new sand pumped from a nearby beach before the end of the year is intended as an interim measure before more concerted efforts, including the building of a 35-metre rock groyne, are completed by mid-2020.
The groyne is expected to give the introduced sand a solid bulwark and prevent it from being blown or washed away. This will stabilise the beach and reverse the almost total loss of sand which has undermined the beach boxes and left them sitting unsightly – and unsafe – on their stumps.
Mount Martha North Beach Group chairman Alan Farquhar said the group was “very happy” with the federal and most recent state government commitments. “When [Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister] Minister D’Ambrosio said in August that they were wiping their hands of the project we never accepted that that was the end point,” he said. “We thought there would always be a solution.”
He insisted the beach rescue efforts go further than saving the bathing boxes. “If there is no beach there will be no beaches boxes – it’s as simple as that.”
The state government spokesperson said the Mount Martha North Options Analysis report, by an independent coastal consultant, provided detailed modelling of engineering options to combat coastal erosion.
“[It] showed that none of the options would restore sand or prevent erosion in the short or long-term along the entirety of the beach,” she said.
“The government had [previously] allocated funding to address erosion at Mount Martha North Beach, and if any of the engineering options in the report had been found to be feasible and effective, they would have been implemented.”
The spokesperson added: “We have no plans to remove beach boxes from Mount Martha North Beach.”