Mills Beach Vegetation

Comments on the Application for a Planning Permit Mills Beach, Mornington, January 2013 by Mornington Peninsula Shire
Aim: To reduce the number of permit applications the Shire was having to ask itself to remove weeds and non-indigenous plants from along the foreshore.
RE APPLICATION P12/1251 relating to PMS Blocks 211200004, 211200005, 204939001

1. The following comments on this Application (due 31 January 2013) are made on behalf of Mornington Environment Association Inc., the incorporated non-profit community group which co-ordinates Friends groups working along the foreshore and cliffs covered by this proposed permit.
2. The Permit Application was examined by me on 29/1/13 and relates to Bushland Management of the bush behind the foreshore, on the cliffs (including Beleura and Red Bluff) and around the estuary of Tanti Creek.
3. There are descriptive paragraphs on the different Zones of vegetation but no detail relating to the Application area. The maps are at too small a scale to indicate details. The blue area of FMZ2 goes along the Esplanade and is shown at 1053 on the beach, but no details are provided. The zone LM4E is not visible on the coloured maps provided to residents. So how residents and MEA provide comments? The Total hectares are not shown on the map. There are parts of the area shown within a Fuel Reduction Burn including parts of the road reserve. There is no explanation of how these have been decided or whether or not they include burning along the Esplanade?
4. There is insufficient detail within the Application to agree that the Permit covering “Vegetation Management Works” should be granted. The Application provides some detail on weed removal and possibly fire control, but there is no overall Management Plan covering the permit area. The lack of such a Plan and “Bushland Project Plans” prevents groups and working bee Friends like us from making overall applications for project grants which address conservation and sustainability criteria or indeed, knowing how our current projects fit in with the Shire’s Vegetation Management Plan.
5. We concur that the requirement for individual planning permits to cover the removal of weeds can be time consuming, and possibly delay project work in the designated area. However, this Application lacks sufficient detail to be able to check what is actually proposed.
6. No mention is made of the need to remove non-indigenous large trees such as Slash pine or related species, nor Norfolk Island Pines, nor cypress species. All of these are well established along the foreshore adjacent to Esplanade, and on Red Bluff. We had already proposed to the Conservation Officer (J-A Tetteroo) that individual cypress spp. be removed from our current Community Action Grant area on Red Bluff, and we were told this was inappropriate. Several slash pines are well established further along Mills Beach in the Banksia Bushland area, also a current CAG with MEA. Again, we have been told these are not going to be removed. Does this Application now permit their removal?
7. We agree that the removal of pittosporum species along the foreshore and cliffs is most desirable and should be specified in this Permit application. Repeated attempts by our working bees to remove them or to get our contractors to remove them (especially when fruit bearing) have met with no response as an individual permit would have been required.
8. The Permit Application lists all the weeds of the Peninsula, but the ones of most concern around Mills Beach are polygala, pittosporum and mirror bush, with some creepers, garden escapes and non-local annual grasses. Including ALL the weeds of the Peninsula is a diversion and a list of the weed species of the relevant Permit area would have been far more useful. MEA is at present collecting examples of weeds to help workers correctly identify species, but a Shire list would be far more useful.
9. Fire has not been used as a management tool around Mills Beach but this Application shows fuel management zones and states “small ecological and fuel reduction burns may be conducted from time to time to assist with management objective.” Several ecologists and botanists, including Gidga Walker, have stated that burning Banksia woodland areas may not aid their recovery or seeding ability, and may encourage further growth of t-tree and ti-tree invasion to banksia woodland. As the Permit Application zone goes behind all the boatsheds on Mills Beach, an area which has not been burnt in living memory, any permit for fire management would need to outline precautions to prevent loss of infrastructure, or leaving many burnt trunks and branches (e.g. of ti-tree) which would reduce habitat for animals especially birds, look unsightly and perhaps encourage arson. Far more detail about this is required before a general Permit is issued. Tanti Creek Friends has already objected (in 2012) to the Conservation Officer about the removal of creek side vegetation along Tanti Creek under a fire management program. We have not seen details of that program either.
6. At the end of 2012, MEA, using a Coastcare grant, organised a workshop which resulted in 10 nest boxes being constructed and subsequently erected on large trees along the foreshore and up on Red Bluff to provide potential false ‘nest hollows’ for bats, parrots and gliders. All are attached to indigenous species (mostly banksia and sheoaks) but could be affected by removal of large trees nearby especially pittosporum. We consider that the retention of individual permits to remove weeds in the vicinity of these nest boxes would be more satisfactory.
7. The Shire has reassured MEA that they will continue to work with MEA and community groups on the habitat restoration of this area. There has been no attempt to consult with the community or community Friends’ Groups in the lead up to this Application – and this conflicts with the idea of open local governance, especially as the projects MEA has been undertaking reduce or remove the need for the Shire to fund habitat restoration in our major areas along the foreshore.
8. Insufficient information is supplied about the inclusion of Beleura Hill in this Application. We have never seen a Vegetation Management Plan for this hill, which has been the subject of large, expensive restoration projects to rebuild the path, provide drainage lines and replant some of the cliff. Much of the original damage was caused by drainage from properties above the cliffs, and despite constant appeals to the Shire, as far as we know, no resident has yet been charged for these works or had a special rate increase to cover the costs. Our Friends of Mills Beach originally started habitat restoration on this cliff and we now see it is included in this Permit but with no detail as to what “Vegetation Management Works” would be undertaken.
10. Conclusion: The Application has deliberately been left vague on detail to allow permits to be generally applied. Insufficient details have been provided on fire management and boundaries, the removal of large non-indigenous trees, specific understorey weeds in the area and the Zones on the undetailed maps.
Before the Shire grants this Permit Application, far more information is required (as noted) and consultation with the community groups involved would be considerate.

PS. The Shire refused to concede that MEA’s objections were relevant. The permit application (to itself) was deemed successful. (February 2013)