THE illegal appropriation and locking up of public land could be costing Mornington Peninsula Shire millions of dollars.
The shire’s “encroachment task force” is compiling a list of known breaches by private property owners and also appealing to the public to provide details of other instances.
Some residents of Kilburn Grove, Glenisla Drive and Elmie Terrace, Mount Martha are upset about a wire fence and “land grabbing” along an access lane in the Sir Walter Burley Griffin-designed subdivision.
Other breaches have been identified throughout the shire, often where private properties adjoin reserves.
Cr David Gill said the appropriation of public land “are together costing the public many millions of dollars in unusable assets”.
However, at Balnarring Beach, Cr Gill says public access to the beach is being jeopardised by owners lawfully fencing their property boundaries.
“Sometimes fences are not just fences. They can just sometimes represent values above individual property rights,” he said.”
Cr Gill said the Esplanade at Balnarring Beach was washed away in storms in the 1960s, and the road reserve – theoretically in place – was now seen as part of the beach. “Property boundaries go to the edge of the old road reserve and also look like part of the beach and foreshore,” he said. “Most properties on this stretch have front fences set back to an old sea wall alignment rather than put fences out to their legal boundary on the sand dunes.
“Boundary fences on or next to beaches may one day prevent access along and to beaches. Is this the future we wish to allow to happen?”
Cr Gill blames the state government for ignoring the effect on the coastline of rising sea levels “perhaps because it is gradual and not seen as a priority”.
Cr Gill’s analysis of the situation at Balnarring Beach followed a council decision to reject his move for it to stop a fence being built on the sand dune.
He said property boundaries along the sand-covered Esplanade represented the front of properties and pointed out that fences “are not always allowed, especially front fences in some suburbs and subdivisions, so there are plenty of precedents”.
“My defeated motion at the last council meeting to keep a fence off Balnarring Beach was based on net community benefit including recreational values, landscape values and planning for sea level rise in this environmentally sensitive foreshore area; already water levels reach the property boundaries occasionally along this section of beach and deter walkers,” he said.
“The compromise decision by council to alter the fence permit application so that the proposed fence is set back some metres from the actual property boundary is still a brave and forward-thinking outcome that is an issue for us all to think about.”