CONTINUED erosion and loss of sand on beaches has raised questions over the time being taken to draw up a Mornington Peninsula Coastal Strategy.
Councillors allocated $175,000 in the 2021/22 budget and a further $50,000 in the current year but have been told the strategy is still more than two years away from completion.
Cr Anthony Marsh told council’s 2 May public meeting that he was “pretty curious” about how the money had been spent.
“If it takes four years to write a strategy we’re probably better off putting that money into tangible outcomes, and whether that’s fixing access or amenity on the beaches,” he said. “Is it appropriate that we spend four to four and a half years to write a document which will guide the tasks and actions and things that we do to implement that when most of us won’t be here unless we run for another term?”
A notice of motion unanimously adopted by council instructs council officers to report on 30 May on the progress of the coastal strategy and “what tangible actions are proposed … to improve the amenity, access and infrastructure along the” peninsula’s coast.
The same motion also commits council to lobbying the state government for money “for mitigation and adaption works” on beaches that have been hit by climate change, including Shire Hall, Mount Martha (North and South), Rosebud, Sorrento and Portsea beaches.
In providing background on the meeting agenda for his motion, Marsh said “council spending and advocacy efforts concerning protecting and restoring coastal assets have historically been inadequate and urgently need to be addressed”.
“The Mornington Peninsula Coastal Strategy was initially funded several budgets ago and must be prioritised with tangible outcomes.”
Earlier in the meeting councillors received a 1500-signature petition asking the shire to “take action to stop erosion at Shire Hall Beach, Mornington”.
Marsh said 10,000 signatures on two other petitions called for action at Portsea and Mount Martha North beaches and “were worth noting” because they showed “significant desire from our community for us to invest in keeping one of our greatest assets accessible for generations to come”.
Cr Despi O’Connor said the peninsula’s 192 kilometres of coastline “is so important to all of us. It’s part of our DNA, it’s part of the reason that we live here”.
She said engineering solutions to beach erosion “can have unintended consequences, as has been caused by seawalls around the bay”.
Sea levels were predicted to have risen by 24 centimetres between 1990 and 2050, leading to increased erosion and flooding in coastal areas.
O’Connor said sand dredged “only weeks ago” from the boat ramp at Mornington and moved onto Shire Hall Beach “is starting to move already”.
“How many millions have already been spent on our beaches, replenishing sand, dredging a boat ramp, rebuilding piers and jetties? $1.5 million for Mount Martha North beach in February 2020, and most of the sand was washed away before it even got to the beach.”
Cr David Gill said governments and insurance companies were “trying to avoid what is happening because it is so costly to do anything about deteriorating beaches, but we have to try”.
“We’ve got to be smart about how we go about it. Careful not to waste money, I’ve seen that happening,” he said.
“You can’t [get insurance] coverage for climate change, tides, water rising from creeks, declared flood prone areas.
“Without beaches, what are we on the peninsula? They’re our icon.”