PORT PHILLIP CONSERVATION COUNCIL INC.
Tel +61397890598, +61429176725                                                                           20 Hudson Avenue, FRANKSTON VIC 3199
Fax +61397898025                                                                                                                                             ggd@netspace.net.au
A0020093K Victoria                                                                                                                                  www.vicnet.net.au/~phillip
ABN 46 291 176 191                                                                                                                                                         26th July 2002 
  
 
Manager Statutory Planning 
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council 
Private Bag 1000 
ROSEBUD VIC 3939 
 

Dear Sir/Madam, 
 

RE: MARTHA COVE MARINA DEVELOPMENT- TASSELL'S CREEK SAFETY BEACH  

The Port Phillip Conservation Council (PPCC) Inc. is an umbrella organisation representing fourteen conservation groups around Port Phillip Bay. Individual membership is approximately 5000 persons.  PPCC Inc. has examined the current proposal for the above named development and has considerable environmental, social and economic concerns regarding the current development proposal. We write to seek your support for retention of Tassell's Creek in its natural form, importantly as the last remaining coastal open space and natural estuarine area on the Southern Peninsula.  

Our most recent meeting passed the following unanimous motion: 

"PPCC Inc. is opposed to the construction of the proposed groyne and breakwater at Tassell's Creek and the raising of ground level within the development by up to 12.5 metres above A.H.D. Accordingly, we request the Minister to refuse consent under the Coastal Management Act (1995), and that the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council reject the proponent's development plan." 

The current proposal will rely on an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) completed in 1992, undertaken on a quite different development proposal at Tassell's Creek, designed well over ten years ago. It also relies on a 1992 Planning Scheme amendment, with a 1999 Planning Permit issued as an adaptation of that 1992 amendment, at which time the current proposal was not before the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council. 

In the last ten years, with increasing urbanisation, the Peninsula has lost significant open space - we now have less than 5% of our original indigenous areas remaining. The 1992 EES reported that figure at 14%. Our knowledge of the importance of natural coastal systems, estuaries and wetlands in supporting species diversity and managing flood events has also increased, along with our knowledge of the inevitable effects of global warming. 

The failure of previous development proposals for Tassell's Creek over the years, and subsequent increasing urbanisation of the Peninsula has paradoxically revealed that the Tassell's Creek coast and wetland is a much more important resource than we thought it to be 10 years ago. It is now a precious piece of open space, supporting remnant, albeit small, indigenous colonies of flora and fauna. Significantly, one species, the swamp skink is now listed as Threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.  As a natural waterway if rehabilitated and well managed Tassell's Creek would provide significant habitat for the Swamp Skink and other indigenous species not yet threatened. It could also provide the most effective protection against future inevitable flood events.  

Clearly the project is in fact fundamentally changed. Some of our members were involved in the community opposition to the previous proposal and have documentation which confirms that a very different proposal underwent the Environmental Effects Study at that time. The following dot points summarise some of our major areas of concern: 

  •  The natural foreshore area surrounding the site will be extensively modified by the proposed development. Several boatsheds and the Safety Beach Sailing Club and Clubhouse are proposed to be relocated to another nearby foreshore location, thus imposing their deleterious effects on another section of previously undeveloped coast. This will cause a loss of amenity for all other beach users in the selected relocation area. Surrounding foreshore is already compromised, is narrow and generally overdeveloped and is in urgent need of revegetation, not further development. Port Phillip Conservation Council Inc. is committed to a policy of removal of these private, damaging structures from coastal Crown land. Consequently we request that you refuse CMA consent for the relocation of these boatsheds and clubhouse.
  • Tassell's Creek and a channel up to 4.5 metre deep and 220 metres seaward will be regularly dredged to create the Marina and waterway. 150 metres of prime public beach will be lost across the mouth of the newly constructed channel and groynes.

  • Only one groyne was proposed in 1992 approximately 40 metres shorter than current proposal. The additional breakwater (functional second groyne) included in this proposal was not included in the 1992 proposal. There will be significant additional adverse environmental and management consequences attached to the current groyne proposal, compared with those considered in 1992. Even the proponents' consultants are unsure of the long-term effects on the existing regime, especially the small remaining beach to the north of the proposed groynes. PPCC Inc. is appalled that the proponent can arbitrarily decide that a longer breakwater and an additional groyne could be included in this proposal without any further environmental assessments. Further studies must be undertaken to attempt to quantify the undoubted long-term effects.

  • Mornington Peninsula Shire Council intends to sell a parcel of coastal land to the proponent for inclusion in the development. PPCC Inc is opposed to any further private acquisition of coastal land. Private ownership of coastal land causes conflicts with public users of coastal land, and has caused untold damage to our coastal areas and is most usually an inevitable expense to government in the long term.

  • The proposed groyne is 220 metres long, and approximately 4 metres high RL. Its width at the crest is 10 metres and at RL 0.00 is approximately 22.5 metres. This is unacceptably physically and visually intrusive, detracting from the current scenery provided by the natural cove and backdrop of Mt. Martha cliffs. Residents on the slopes of Mt. Martha will suffer this constant intrusion into their lives.

  • The 1992 proposal had much less extensive inland waterways. The 'cascading canals' of the current proposal were not part of the 1992 proposal or EES.

  • The extensive banking around even the most inland of the canals is unique to the new proposal. Embankments of up to 12.5 metres AHD on flat land  were not part of the previous proposal. This introduces adverse social and environmental consequences for residents outside the development who will be forced to live near a 'walled' development.

  • The 1992 EES concludes that a view from a residence is fortuitous and should not be considered as intrinsic to a residence. However the EES goes to great lengths to discuss the importance of viewlines for motorists using the nearby freeway, concluding that although the then proposed development would not adversely affect motorists views looking towards Mt. Martha Cove, it was important to retain a sense of open space and rural landscape for motorists. It seems incongruous that motorists rural views were considered more important than those of permanent residents of Safety Beach.

  • Stormwater management arrangements, ongoing maintenance and costs for those dwellings and streets outside the development affected by the 12.5 metre high embankments is not adequately addressed in the current proposal. Disturbance to viewlines for residents abutting the embankments is not addressed at all.

  • The entire area is a recognised flood plain, and the local vegetation has evolved to accommodate flood events. The area will inevitably flood again as it has in the past, but natural systems to deal with flood events have been altered/removed.

  • Has the developer undertaken a study on the impact this development will have on changes to a future flood event, and can the impact of proposed changes be accurately predicted?

  • Construction of the 'levees' will alter the impact and effect of a flood in the area. It is highly likely that insurers will deny flood damage to residents once alerted to the predisposing conditions that have been created by the developer.

  • If the proposal were to proceed, residents should expect the developer to provide an indemnity to protect residences affected by floods arising from changes to natural watercourses, and any mismanagement of artificial waterways (inland canals and harbour) which may contribute to or augment a flood event.

  • Our most up to date science warns of the unpredictable nature of future weather events, but the certainty of rising water levels. The current proposal provides for the construction of hundreds of dwellings on flat or 'remade' land, even on concrete slabs. The prospect of future flooding for these properties is very real.

  • The current developer intends to remove ALL remaining vegetation from the site. The previous EES reported low numbers of significant terrestrial and avian species, but did concede that observations may have been undertaken at times when particular species would not have been expected in the area. It would seem logical, especially 10 years hence, with remaining indigenous flora and fauna having declined further on the Peninsula that a more timely and effortful report would be more appropriate and useful. Significantly, the EES does concede that the threatened Swamp Skink was found on the site, and speculated that the Glossy Grass Skink and Latham's Snipe, both of conservation significance may well use the area.

  • The current Environmental plan seems to be little more than a site management plan, and is in draft form only. A recent fauna study under taken by Biosis Pty. Ltd. was on display at the Developer's information day, however the attending consultant readily admitted that there had been no study of aquatic or avian species.

  • Ten years ago, the then proponents described the Tassell's Creek wetlands as  "of local significance" - being unable to find direct evidence that the EES had described the area as less than 'regional significance' for "water oriented birds". With increased development in the region in the last 10 years it seems highly likely that the area would now be regionally significant as a wetland. This should be tested.

  • The previous proponent described the then proposal as  "... a much enlarged marine habitat and wetland/woodland ecosystem". The current proposal does not incorporate a much enlarged wetland/woodland ecosystem. Significantly the EES did not agree with the proponent on this point, and stated that the number and diversity of marine species and water birds can be expected to increase at the expense of the terrestrial and freshwater species. PPCC Inc. suggests that the projected increase in marine birds would include a large proportion of scavenging seagulls whose opportunistic feeding habits attract them to marina developments.

  • The current proposal provides limited detail regarding the proposed management of Tassell's Creek flow downstream of the proposed development. It seems that redirection to the Bay via underground pipe may be undertaken as fresh water flow into the inland canals is considered undesirable. This means that natural downstream movement of fish and other aquatic species within the creek system will be effectively terminated at the development. Likewise, any marine species which relies on estuarine habitat for feeding/spawning will not be able to access Tassell's Creek. Local knowledge indicates that salmon spawn in the creek, and whiting breed at its mouth. There does not seem to be adequate information available on longterm effect on these natural events as a result of the proposed interventions.

  • Aquatic food sources for bird life and larger fish species provided by these natural processes will also be consequently detrimentally affected.

  • The new proposal has reduced public open space compared with the previous proposal. The 1992 EES suggested that an oval or similar amount of open space should be provided as part of the open space planning. The current proponent readily admits that the proposal will have less open space than that proposed over ten years ago.

  • A recent proposal for housing development on the Esplanade at the Mt. Martha quarry site would compound traffic volumes on Marine Dve/ Esplanade. Rather than continuing to consider proposals in isolation, Planners should consider the two developments in tandem with regard to their potential environmental and social impact on the area.

  • The current proposal confirms that over 8000 car trips per day would be generated by the development. This does not include the additional traffic generated by the marina and motel/restaurant. Since the previous proposal, traffic levels on Marine Drive, and the Esplanade to Mornington have increased significantly along with the explosion in tourism in the region. Traffic studies in the current proposal rely on data up to 20 years. 
These differences and alterations are major changes - and cannot be described as "fundamentally unchanged" when compared with the previous proposal now over 10 years old. 

Our membership believes that sustainable economic benefits are obtainable in the ongoing employment opportunities for restoration and maintenance of the natural estuarine and wetland area, the future promotion of the area as a significant wetland for migratory birds and a scenic marine and coastal area for the enjoyment of all.  Recent leisure studies have found that bird watching is the second most commonly undertaken leisure activity. We are experiencing the start of a renewed community interest in our environment and its unique inhabitants. It would be an outrage to destroy some of the last remaining areas of our unique region to construct an outmoded development for the dubious pleasure of the few.  

The social benefits derived from preserving open space have been confirmed in recent press articles and community action, which has emphasised the fact that urban dwellers require open space, and that in many areas opportunities for enjoying open space are limited or require extensive travel.  Tassell's Creek is the last remaining piece of coastal/estuarine open space on the southern Peninsula, and forms a natural 'open space barrier' between the increasingly urbanised Mt. Martha and Dromana. It presents an outstanding opportunity to commence an urban biosphere regeneration project, rather than a tired old 1990s housing development, of no intrinsic value to the wider community. Housing developments do not have an exclusive claim on community health and wealth generation.  

The current proposal and its underpinning approvals is borne of a time when we were somewhat more ignorant of the environmental and social consequences of our planning decisions, many examples of which still exist to our shame. As you have recently supported the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council in its proposal for the first global urban Biosphere, your support for retention of the natural systems at Tassell's Creek, would publicly confirm your commitment to the first urban biosphere.


Yours sincerely, 
 
 

Miss Olwen Bawden 
Hon. Sec. 

For  
Port Phillip Conservation Council Inc 

 26th July 2002