MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire will increase pressure on the state government to help pay for the repair and ongoing maintenance of the 100-year-old Beleura cliff path at Mornington.
The request will be included in calls for help in tackling challenges across the peninsula caused by “coastal erosion, geological instability, severe weather events and climate change”.
“As a local council with limited resources, we don’t have the ability to tackle these issues alone. It calls for a state-wide approach,” the mayor Cr Simon Brooks said.
Closed for more than a year over safety reasons caused by a series of landslides, the path has received minor repairs – costing the shire more than $500,000 – for more than a decade.
The cost of making the path safe in the wake of the latest landslides has been estimated at $1.5 million.
Brooks said there had been no indication that the government intended to repair the path, which sat on a “mix of private property and Crown land belonging to the state”.
Long criticised for not having a long term solution and seemingly ineffective control of drainage from private properties above the path, the shire last week said its next steps – including discussions with the state government – would be guided by the results of a geotechnical report.
Brooks said the cliff was “not safe to use” and urged that it not be used “in its current state”.
The $57,000 report by Stantec Geotec was commissioned by the shire and released last Monday (1 December), one hour before a public meeting attended by more than 300 supporters of the path being repaired and reopened.
Peter Nicholson, one of the organisers of the meeting at Mornington Yacht Club held by the Save Our Cliff Path group, said the release of the “overdue” report had been a surprise (Call to keep up pressure to fix cliff path, The News 31/10/23).
He said the report recommended that an audit of all drainage systems by carried out, including irrigation, with a view to upgrades.
It also recommended community education programs be rolled out on the “correct” use of irrigation systems, with a focus on properties adjacent to the cliff.
Nicholson said the council’s infrastructure manager Derek Rotter was asked at the meeting about drainage failures but replied that the shire had “no power to tackle drainage and irrigation problems on private land”.
He said conclusions in the Stantec report “are basically a toned-down version of what the Friends of the Beleura Cliff Path have been saying to shire in documents and in person, and in committees, for the last 10 years”.
“We regard the report as a total vindication of our position and lobbying of the shire for the last 10 years.”
Nicholson said he had spoken with the “very technical and very long” report’s “well-regarded geo-tech expert” author who “has good grasp of the issues of the cliff and has worked hard to stay within the limitations imposed on him in the terms of [confidential] reference”.
He said it would be “interesting to see which recommendations [the shire] accepts and which they try to bury”.
An “excellent report” in 2003 “simply sank into the quicksand and nobody ever looked at it again”.
“It disappeared so deep that you cannot easily obtain it from the shire. This time round they will have us looking over their shoulder,” Nicholson said.
With Liz Bell