NEWLY-elected Mornington Peninsula Shire councillor Susan Bissinger has floated the idea of sea baths as being the ideal solution to restore the eroded Portsea front beach.
Cr Bissinger says building sea baths similar to those along the NSW south coast would end the need for costly sandbags.
The loss of sand at the once-fabled beach since the 2009 bay dredging is like an open sore and the substitute sandbags – replaced and repaired at a cost so far of $2.5 million – are at best a stop-gap measure that limits cliff erosion but will not restore the sand.
Cr Bissinger thinks something more farsighted is required and that a sea baths – perhaps like those at Bronte, in Sydney – could fit the bill.
She says the baths structure would stop erosion, attract tourists, provide a focal point for swimmers and be a “positive addition” to the southern end of the bay.
“It must be a continual source of frustration for DELWP (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) to see the incredible amounts of money being spent over the past decade on reports discussing the decimation and restoration of the Portsea beach, and yet still have no solution in sight,” Cr Bissinger said.
“Perhaps it is time to stop looking to try and fix the cause and provide a solution that will halt erosion and benefit the community, tourists and visitors alike – maybe a sea baths.”
DELWP says it “remains open to consider emerging proposals if new evidence [is] presented”.
Other sea baths at the southern end of the bay have come and gone, the most recent being the Sorrento baths which were wrecked in a storm in the 1970s after being built in 1875 by the town’s entrepreneurial developer, George Coppin.
“NSW is the perfect example of how these structures work – my favourite is the Bronte sea baths, but there are about 100 others along the NSW coast and 35 in Sydney alone,” Cr Bissinger said.
She said the baths would provide “a solution that will work and doesn’t look like a quick fix – rather a purpose-built attraction”.
“Ideally, the state government would fund the project as money is so cheap at the moment.”
DELWP regional director Port Phillip Stephen Chapple said investigations carried out since 2010 to limit erosion at Portsea had looked at sand, rock, seawalls, offshore breakwaters and dredging. He admits that “no option has been identified that is cost or technically effective in managing coastal hazards at Portsea front beach while meeting community expectations of restoring the beach condition”.
The department considers the sandbag wall, installed as “temporary protection of the foreshore” and repaired last year, remains an “appropriate response to the coastal conditions and wave climate”.
Cr Bissinger’s suggestion comes while the Victorian Marine and Coastal Strategy is being developed which will include the government’s priority actions over the next five years. It will be interesting to see whether building sea baths at Portsea is among them.