CELEBRATIONS were under way last week following the news that Flinders pier will be restored and plans to demolish it scrapped.
The community fight to save the pier began last year when 300 people gathered at Flinders village hall following the announcement by Ports Minister Melissa Horne that the old wooden first 180 metres would be demolished.
A sub-group of Flinders Community Association, Save Flinders Pier, was formed, and so began a relentless, David and Goliath-style battle involving 45,000 supporters to try to turn the decision around.
Twelve months of campaigning, money raising, and media coverage ensued, with the state government last week allocating $1.5 million for immediate repairs to the deteriorating timber section of the Flinders pier.
The money was part of $18 million in last Tuesday’s budget to restore piers and jetties across the state.
Association member Charles Reis said the community was ecstatic after a tough fight to prove the importance of the much-loved community asset.
Reis said there were so many reasons to restore the pier, including its historical importance and its use as a place for the community to fish, swim and relax.
He said he believed respected environmental campaigner Sir David Attenborough‘s advocacy for the wooden jetty added impetus to the campaign and helped persuade the government to look at alternatives to demolition.
Attenborough and a film crew had been to Flinders to film the threatened weedy sea dragon several years ago, and on hearing of the demolition plans last year he wrote to the association offering support. His letter stated that if he had an opportunity to draw public attention to the threat facing the “most wonderful creature” he would do so.
Another recent development in the pier’s favour was the executive director of Heritage Victoria recommending that the pier and the historic telegraph complex be included on the state’s heritage register.
The pier is one of the oldest and longest in Victoria, first built in 1864. Since then, it has been re-aligned and had pylons and treads replaced to keep it safe and operational.
However, during the past decade it has fallen into disrepair due to lack of maintenance and a wooden substantial section has been closed to the public.
The water beneath the pier is home to the weedy seadragon which feeds among the sea grasses. The weedy seadragon attracts divers and researchers from around the world, with Attenborough once observing that of all the creatures in the shallows of Southern Australia, “none compare to the beauty of the weedy seadragon”.
Nepean MP Chris Brayne said he believed the pier should be listed on the heritage register, but “even if it is not listed, this pier will be restored”.
“Flinders pier is an important part of the Mornington Peninsula and holds significant value to locals and visitors alike,” he said.
“Rebuilding the timber inner section will reinstate a much-loved community asset.”
Brayne spoke at the first Save Flinders Pier Town hall meeting in June 2021, which he said was standing room only.
“Now, almost a year later, this beautiful icon is saved,” he said.