FORTUNATE the backers of the proposed ‘Waratah Way’ shared trail between Sandy Point and Waratah Bay.
Their submission to the proposed 2015-2016 South Gippsland Shire Council Annual Budget was one of the very few to be approved by Council at the Special Meeting of Council last Wednesday.
Much to the delight of Cathy Giles from the Sandy Point Community Group, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, a majority of Councillors agreed to what was requested, voting to include up to $20,000 in the Budget for the trail “to fund investigative work that includes undertaking a cultural heritage assessment, title boundary assessments, preliminary design and scoping work”.
Cr Lorraine Brunt’s was the lone voice in opposition to the motion, which was moved by Cr Kieran Kennedy and seconded by fellow Coastal Promontory ward councillor Mohya Davies.
“What’s the use of having a Paths and Trails Strategy if projects such as this, which are not on it, are allowed to jump the queue?” wondered Cr Brunt.
Her argument fell on deaf ears, as did the advice from council officers, who suggested in their report to Council that providing funding for the request would be premature as Council is yet to revise the Paths and Trails Strategy or assess the suitability of the trail for inclusion in the revised strategy.
A walk would be magnificent, said Cr Kennedy, arguing that local coastal areas face an inundation of visitors and there is a distinct lack of infrastructure to cater for them. He insisted the term to be used was “manoeuvring” and not “jumping the queue”.
Cr Davies said that it was an oversight not to have had the shared trail on the Paths and Trails Strategy in the first place. She argued that there was strong support for it from the Sandy Point and Waratah Bay communities, as well as from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), and the path would be well used. She said it was a question of “creating the sort of useable infrastructure this shire needs”.
Crs Jim Fawcett and Bob Newton both expressed some reservations about approving a project which was essentially being allowed to “jump the queue” but said they would vote for it anyway. Cr Fawcett said he was also concerned about the lack of documentation, but he would put aside his concerns because “we do need to do something for our coastal areas”.
Cr McEwen said he was a supporter of the initiative and would vote for it. His reasoning? Council, he said, was saying “no” to predominantly all the Budget submissions, and to say “yes” to something would show that the S223 submission process worked.
When it came to the vote, whatever the reasoning on the part of each Councillor, the backers of the proposed shared trail got their way.