MOST of the 175 or so Sandy Point residents and property-owners at a public meeting held in the coastal township on Saturday November 2, 2019 clapped to support keeping Sandy Point’s current caravan and camping park where it already is.
The Sandy Point Community Centre was packed with local people concerned by the South Gippsland Shire Council’s proposal to build a new camping and caravan park on a shire-identified and -preferred site on farming land west of the town.
The new park would replace the existing, privately-owned facility that is currently the subject of an application to allow further sub-division.
Saturday’s public meeting was convened by the Sandy Point Community Group (SPCG) and was the second time shire planning officers had come to hear from the community on the council’s “investigation into the future of a caravan and camping ground in Sandy Point”.
Shire council acting director of development services Paul Stampton and strategic planner Lyndal Peterson had previously conducted a drop-in question-and-answer session on the issue at the community centre on Thursday October 3, 2019, which was attended by more than 60 people.
The drop-in session was criticised by many of those present as being more of a “fait accompli” presentation rather than genuine talking with the community about what many people at that time considered to be a quite new and significant idea.
An internal shire report entitled Sandy Point Caravan and Camping Ground Site Investigation, commissioned in 2018 and presented to the council in June 2019, looked at potential alternatives to the existing Sandy Point Caravan Park on Beach Parade.
The report looked at four sites around Sandy Point; the present caravan park, southeast of Manuka Street, north of Ash Avenue and Harbour View, and farmland west of Telopea Drive and Wattle Court, the latter of which was recommended as the preferred site and was adopted by the administration panel acting as the council at its June 2019 ordinary meeting.
Sandy Point Community Centre designer Rob McGauran was invited by the SPCG to facilitate the meeting, which began with shire acting director of development services Paul Stampton confirming that he had been asked to attend a second meeting following the October 3 drop-in session to learn more about the community’s views.
SPCG member Peter Slifirski told the meeting that he had calculated there were about 2500 beds available for accommodation in Sandy Point through various booking and real estate agencies.
Mr McGauran spoke about the Victorian Government’s requirements for environmental, bushfire and land subject to inundation overlays to be added to municipal planning schemes around 2016, and that according to the new overlays the council’s mooted west and north park sites could be subject to flooding and the east site subject to bushfire.
He said that Sandy Point was unique in that from nearly everywhere in the present township it was a 500-metre or less walk to a patrolled beach and the shops, and that the council’s preferred west site on farming land and beyond the existing town zone.
“The SPGC will collate all submissions we receive on the proposed caravan and camping park issue and everyone is welcome to make a submission either through us or directly to the council,” he said.
“We want to make sure the council is fully informed of the breadth of the community’s views.”
Mr McGauran summarised the opinions the SPGC had heard so far, including that the proposal was not consistent with the shire’s planning scheme, and that environmental issues had not been sufficiently addressed including the effects on local flora, fauna, water supply and groundwater.
He mentioned that an economic study was needed as a new caravan park well away from the town centre might lead to duplication of services and the diminution of trade and viability at existing town centre businesses.
Mr McGauran referred to prospective increases in traffic at the western end of Sandy Point including Ned Neale’s Lookout, a possible loss of amenity to landowners closest to the proposal and that the State Government was wanting to avoid the overdevelopment rife along the Great Ocean Road in the South Gippsland region, starting in the Bass Coast Shire.
Comments from the floor of the meeting included concerns about increased water consumption and how to deal with a dramatic rise in effluent treatment requirements in an area already known to flood.
Several people at the meeting asked why the council could not intervene and redevelop the existing caravan park, either by negotiation with the current owner or by compulsory acquisition if needed, in order to keep caravans and camping right in the centre of town.
One person said the issue of the caravan park had been going on for a long time and that they believed the majority of the meeting had “no interest in moving the existing caravan park at all”, to a spontaneous outburst of applause.
A Waratah Beach Surf Life Saving Club member said that the number of people who would stay in up to 100 caravan sites and 100 camping sites on the proposed western site would be “using a non-patrolled beach” and that there was “a growing population of non and poor swimmers using beaches.”
Another person remarked that the council’s internal report was flawed, while others were worried that there was no clear indication as to who would build, own or run the future caravan and camping park.
An audience member also commented that he and a number of other local people had received the strong impression that the owner of the faming land identified as the preferred site for the new park did not wish to sell the land for such a purpose, and that the council had indicated to the community that the owner supported the plan.
Mr Stampton responded briefly to a number of the audience’s comments, saying that “compulsory acquisition was very improbable”, and that while he and his staff would prepare a summary of the submissions received, the administration panel members would “read every submission” lodged on the issue.
Mr Stampton said “we decided to approach the Sandy Point community because of the comments we have already received” to take a further look at the matters raised, and that a report to the panel would follow, with the panel to make the decision either to go on with the plan or to “abandon” it.
SPCG committee member Phil Cornwell urged people to send their comments directly to the council, either by filling in the online survey at www.oursay.org/southgippsland/sandypointcaravanpark or by letter or email by Friday November 8, 2019.
Mr Cornwell said people were welcome to let the SPCG know what they think, too, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or on the SPCG’s Facebook page.
The SPCG will seek a meeting with the administration panel after it has submitted its “consolidated response” on the issue to the council and will encourage the council “to consider a partnership with the current caravan park.”
The SPCG also wants to “develop and reinforce an understanding of the township’s boundaries and the unique nature of Sandy Point.”