COASTAL communities have been exploring with South Gippsland Shire Council the impact of seasonal population explosions.
“Council wants to be on the front foot,” said social planning officer Vicki Bradley, who has followed up surveys of various coastal communities (Walkerville, Sandy Point, Waratah Bay, Yanakie, Port Welshpool, Venus Bay and Toora) with a series of community meetings. Ms Bradley said that in general the survey results for each community tallied with the views expressed in the follow-up meetings. The last meeting was held last Thursday in Melbourne for the benefit of holiday house owners.
The aim of the meetings was to discuss key issues raised in the surveys and look at possible solutions with a view to developing recommendations for Council to consider. Any new infrastructure will be considered with an eye to Council’s economic development strategy.
“It’s important that we have input from those who bear the brunt of these impacts when the population swells dramatically and stretches the capacity of local infrastructure and services,” said Ms Bradley.
Around 5000 surveys were distributed by mail over the summer, with a further 500 or so handed out at the Sea Days Festival at Port Welshpool and other community events. Ms Bradley said she was very pleased to receive around 800 responses. “The majority came from non-resident ratepayers – they are typical of the population of most of these coastal communities.”
At Walkerville and Waratah Bay people commented that they liked the beaches, the peace and quiet, the beauty of the natural landscape and views, the general friendliness and the isolation.
One of the major concerns at Waratah Bay was emergency management, specifically how to evacuate a town with only one road out if there was a bushfire. Other issues included: beach access, car parking, pedestrian/cyclist safety, littering and weeds, and upgrading the toilets. Most considered services and infrastructure were adequate. Solutions offered included reducing the speed limit between The Gap and the residential area to increase safety and holding community working bees to combat weeds in the dunes.
Key issues identified at Walkerville included dogs, noise, boat access, increased traffic and speeding in residential streets, and parking at Walkerville South.
Some respondents were happy with the level of services and infrastructure in Walkerville. Others felt most services and infrastructure were inadequate, finding the lack of rubbish and
mail services unusual. The need to grade gravel roads more than once a year was suggested
by more than one respondent. The transfer station costs and opening hours were raised, with some respondents satisfied with current services and others requiring increased services or a rubbish collection. There were also a range of comments regarding Council rates charges in relation to services provided.
At Yanakie the issue of greatest concern was the increase in campers at the Yanakie Hall leaving rubbish, making noise and limiting the use of the park by locals. The land at the front of Yanakie Hall has become a popular free camping place for visitors in campervans over the summer period in particular.
Most respondents consider services and infrastructure meet their needs for most of the year.
Suggested solutions included: community working bees with Parks Victoria to clear rubbish and weeds in dunes; proceeding with the Yanakie Hall Masterplan which outlines a range of refurbishments to improve the toilets, parking, playground, rotunda and tourist information; signage to limit overnight camping around the Yanakie Hall; and monitoring camping at the end of Red Bluff Road to maintain access to the beach in summer.
Rubbish management was the greatest issue identified by Sandy Point respondents. More than half the respondents spoke about green waste collection and the distance (too far) to the transfer station at Walkerville or Foster. Respondents wanted a green waste collection or a green waste bin. Many respondents in Sandy Point want sewerage, as in Waratah Bay, whilst others think that septic tanks are fine, though there are issues with planning restrictions, with many saying that new building codes are not septic friendly. A number of respondents commented about the location of bores in relation to septic tanks as restricting building in Sandy Point.
A lack of mobile telephone reception has been identified as an emergency management issue, particularly in times of fire danger.
People like the peace and quiet of Toora, the beautiful beaches in the area, the sense of community and the relaxed environment. They say that it is well serviced and has a good outlook to the Prom in the south and the hills in the north. At the follow-up meeting to the survey, there was a lot of discussion about free camping at the Franklin River Reserve, which is a contentious issue in Toora. Many expressed support because of the boost the campers bring to the local economy. Another issue discussed was the rail trail, with some advocating improved signage on the rail trail extension to encourage rail trail users to stop off at Toora.
Permanent residents of Port Welshpool felt the current services and infrastructure are adequate most of the year but there needed to be an additional boat ramp for summer and a hard rubbish collection. Road maintenance and drainage in the town were issues raised by non-resident ratepayers. The reopening of the Long Jetty was identified as benefiting the town by bringing more people to the town. Some respondents considered the town needed a decent restaurant and coffee shop and broadband internet. The majority of suggested solutions involved repair and reopening of the Long Jetty.
At Venus Bay respondents identified the main issues over summer and public holidays as being beach access, limited car parking, rubbish management, busy roads, increased crowds and pipi collectors. They suggested limiting pipi collections times or even banning it at certain times of the year or putting a five-year moratorium in place. They also suggested parking restrictions, resident parking permits with fees for others during peak times, parking patrols, a beach bus, reduced speed limits and removing rubbish bins.
The survey results are being presented to other agencies this month, including Parks Victoria, Fisheries, Victoria Police and health service providers. Ms Bradley will then prepare a report and a draft will go on public exhibition in August. The final document is scheduled to go to Council in November.