THE beach at Mount Martha north is quiet, even though there is no shortage of sand.
Beach box owners and other users of the leash-free area would normally be rejoicing, but the beach – shown as Hawker Beach on Marine Safety Victoria charts – remains partially closed.
The loss of sand of sand at the beach has long been a sore point of contention between beach users, Mornington Peninsula Shire and the Department of Land, Water and Planning.
With the shire and the government agreeing to only barricade the base of the cliff to lessen the chance of a major landslip affecting the Esplanade, Flinders MP Greg Hunt stepped in last year with a $1.5 million pre-May election offer to bring sand to the eroded beach from Mount Martha south (“Lifeline for Mt Martha North beach” The News 11/11/19).
The money does not seem to be required at the moment, but the beach was one of those closed by the shire in a bid to minimise the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19 (“Shire closes bay beaches indefinitely” The News 31/3/20).
The beaches have now been partially reopened, but for exercise only; groups of people remain banned and social distancing rules apply.
While the sand issue may have taken care of itself, hundreds of beach box owners are facing tougher rules from the shire.
Proposed changes to the shire’s 20-year-old Boatshed and Bathing Box Policy include:
- A ban on any more beach boxes to be built and no increase in size for existing structures;
- Licence holders must have public liability insurance of $20 million;
- Licensees limited to having one beach box;
- Existing water and sewerage connections must be disconnected;
- Graffiti must be removed within 14 days (or earlier if offensive);
- If licences are surrendered to council the bathing box will be demolished and the site opened for the public;
- The shire can sell licences cancelled through non-compliance with regulations.
The shire manages and leases out the sites of about 820 beach boxes along the Port Phillip coastline, 700 on Crown land and the rest on land owned by council, road reserves or abutting foreshore areas managed by council.
The remaining beach boxes are at Dromana, Capel Sound and Whitecliffs-Camerons Bight, where shire regulations do not apply, are managed by foreshore management committees.
The shire managed beach boxes are at Mornington (Fishermans, Mills, Scout, and Shire Hall beaches; Mt Eliza (Canadian Bay, Daveys Bay, Earimil North, Earimil South, Moondah, Ranelagh and Sunnyside); Mount Martha (Mount Martha North and South, Craigie, Hawker Fishermans and Shelley beaches); Portsea, Capel Sound, McCrae, Rosebud, Rye and Safety Beach.
A draft of the proposed bathing box policy was deferred (along with several other items including continued leasing of a “satellite” Melbourne office) when the shire cancelled its Tuesday 24 March meeting because of safety concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19.
However, if eventually approved by councillors, the draft bathing box policy will be exhibited for public comment for six weeks.