MORNINGTON PENINSULA COMBINED PLANNING SCHEME AMENDMENT C161 AND PLANNING PERMIT CP09/002 YARINGA BOAT HARBOUR
Mornington Environment Association Inc. (MEA) is a community environment group, based in and around Mornington. As we are one of the only environmental groups in the northern part of the Mornington Peninsula, we consider that we have a responsibility to comment on proposals not located in Mornington Township itself. Our February general meeting of members and the executive considered it important enough to voice our concerns about some aspects of the proposed Yaringa Harbour Development, the subject of the Planning Amendment.
In this case, we are particularly concerned as the Amendment and the original proposal have similarities to the major campaign we ran between 2008-11 in relation to the proposed rezoning and development from the Mornington Yacht Club to create a marina and so-called ‘safe harbour’ in Mornington Harbour. MEA opposed a marina and so-called ‘safe harbour ‘proposal for Mornington and many of these proposals for Yaringa sound distressingly familiar to us. At the conclusion of the Panel hearing in 2011, the Shire established a Stakeholder Group to provide ongoing contact with, and evaluation of any proposals. The harbour is now virtually protected by the restored pier; no further infrastructure is planned; the Shire and MEA itself were congratulated on their actions regarding this.
In brief, MEA has a number of concerns:
1. Amendment: We note that this amendment has been prepared by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, which is the planning authority for this amendment. The amendment has been made at the request of Western Port Boat Harbour Pty Ltd, the owner and operator of the Yaringa Boat Harbour. We noted the amendment inserts a new Schedule to the Special Use Zone in the Mornington Peninsula Planning Scheme (‘the Planning Scheme’), to enable an inland expansion of the existing harbour and the use and development of the land for the purposes of tourist accommodation. It also applies the Environmental Audit Overlay to that part of the land previously used for boat building and maintenance.
2. Government change: We question if the implications of a change of state government late in 2014, after this development proposal was made public, have been considered in this Amendment. There has been a change of Minister responsible. Roz Franklin (Mornpen Shire) stated 29/5/14 “the Minister for Planning decided that he would not be the planning authority and that role has therefore been taken up by the Council. The Council has recently sought authorisation from the Minister for the preparation of the amendment and has since been advised that more time than the usual 10 days is required for the Minister’s decision. The Minister’s decision on this matter is still awaited”. This statement was made before the change of government, and the appointment of a new Minister for Environment, Water, Land and Planning. MEA has not been able to ascertain if the new Minister, at present reviewing a number of Planning decisions made by her predecessor, would still devolve her responsibilities to the Mornington Peninsula Shire.
3. Re-Zoning: The re-zoning allows tourist accommodation, and the whole project would replace an existing small development which we consider appropriate for this area.
This subject area includes crown land, i.e. it belongs to the people; its loss and damaged state may be regretted long after the current Council and residents are gone.
This proposal is for a canal estate and a marina; the Victorian Coastal Strategy (approved 2014) does not encourage the building of any more of these in Victoria. We understand that the PPWCMPA Submission will include their concerns in relation to the “targets described in the Regional Catchment Strategy for native vegetation, native animals and marine water quality.
4. Concerns over results of studies:The MornPen C161 Explanatory Report Exhibition states “The amendment is informed by a range of specialist studies on the environmental sensitivities of the site and surrounding areas including, but not limited to: Flora and Fauna, Coastal Acid Sulphate Soils and Water Quality. The layout and design of the proposed development incorporates a range of measures that are aimed at minimising the loss of remnant native vegetation. Where the removal of native vegetation cannot be avoided, offsets will be established in accordance with the Victorian Government’s ‘Permitted Clearing of Native Vegetation – Biodiversity Assessment Guidelines’.”
MEA has examined some of these studies.
i) The hydrology Report
This was prepared in June 2012 by Aurecon is based on a number of questionable assumptions, vis: That the lock system proposed will be sufficient to permit high tides to do the water circulation, though Aurecon admits a detailed water mixing study has not been conducted. Aurecon assumes that because the water body is smaller than Patterson Lakes and Martha Cove, then the high tide movement will be sufficient to avoid the possibility of algal blooms. Aurecon does not refer to the Gippsland Lakes, in the same Gippsland bio-region, where algal blooms and toxic inflows are relatively common, despite the Lakes being swept by rough seas and not being an enclosed body like Westernport.
In addition, ongoing weekly monitoring and audits will be required to monitor water quality. Will the Shire be responsible and pay for these?
Further, when we review ”Design Amenity and Movement Map 2007099MPSite 0009.05B”, and Figure 2 “Proposed Site Features”, the canals leading to BH9 and BH7 are angled so that the tidal push would have to be large enough to allow water circulation 12.3 times a month.
Westernport is a valuable recreational, fishing and biodiverse area. If the water quality of this canal estate is suspect, and flowing into the northern end of Westernport, there is a likely impact on the mangroves and salt marshes that form such an important of the ecology of the whole Westernport.
ii) The Fauna and Flora Report also causes our members great concern.
Some may consider salt marshes, swamps and bush to be of little significance but the vegetation in this area – and on Crown Land, (thus belonging to the people) is one of the last remaining remnants of valuable habitat and diverse richness, forming corridors across the Peninsula and to the north. There are two bioregion endangered vegetation communities, Sedgy Swamp Woodland and Swamp Scrub. There are potential habitats for state significant flora species (detailed by the Submission of WPPC 2015), several EPBC Act listed flora and 24 other flora species considered regionally significant within the Gippsland Plain bioregion. The proposed action is a Controlled Action under the EPBC Act. Though the small fauna studies did not reveal the presence of the New Holland Mouse, the Southern Bandicoot and the Orange-bellied Parrot, and other listed birds that cannot be a guarantee that these species will not be there or move in and through the areas.
iii) Ramsar Site: This is Ramsar site, and Australia, Victoria and the Shire have responsibilities to preserve the habitat under the Ramsar convention, and the international CAMBA, JAMBA and KAMBA migratory bird conventions. Why should a developer expand into valued, world recognised biodiverse areas and challenge world conventions? Terrestrial and sea birds have been listed by WPPC and the proponent’s Environment report and we repeat, we remain concerned that all these species will be at risk.
iv) Ecological risks: In brief, there are likely to be direct impacts to ecological values within the Study Area of the Amendment. These are likely to include removal of the state significant Swamp Scrub and Sedgy Swamp Woodland considered endangered in Victoria; depletion and fragmentation of remnant native vegetation (including 18 Large Old Trees (LOT) located within patches, and 11 scattered Large Old Trees and 13 Medium Old Trees proposed to be cleared) covering over 3.4 hectares. There is likely loss of wildlife corridors (yet, these corridors are being encouraged by the Shire via the Biolinks Program involving Devilbend Foundation and local Landcare groups), and likely increases in weeds, with inappropriate landscaping increasing the potential for weeds. There is the potential for marine exotic species including the Northern Pacific Seastar on boat hulls to spread through the canals and surrounding land.
v) No guarantees appear to be provided in the Amendment for monitoring, checking long term changes and how the Ramsar area is being protected. These are required under the EPBC Act and its final report. The Final Environment Public Report of 2013 (Ecology and Heritage partners of Somerville) again was prepared before this Amendment was made public. The report lists all the major fauna species , and suffice it to say, MEA remains concerned that such a large development in what is basically a relatively pristine area, WILL affect the biodiversity of this northern end of Westernport.
We understand that destroyed vegetation, as explained, will be offset by land on French Island, purchased by the proponent. We understand this block is now up for sale, so are the ‘net gain’ rules for offsetting not going to apply for the Shire?
vi) Disturbance to acid sulphate soils is of special concern. These soils are not a hazard until they are disturbed. However, the widening of the new channel, the building of the tourist accommodation and associated infrastructure, the digging for the canals themselves and maintenance dredging will disturb the soils and their substrate. Disposal of dredged spoil is going to require ongoing monitoring to meet the EPBC Act requirements.
5. Loss of Ambience: Little mention is found in all the Papers, Attachments, EPBC report and Shire materials of the risk of changes to the ambience of this area – the loss of peace and quiet, the calmness of areas used by birds with an occasional yacht; and the lack of general development in the area. Even the existing small industrial boat premises are not a major intrusion. Why should a private developer take over areas of Crown Land which has to be re-zoned to cater for his personal interests?
6. Need for tourist development: We have been unable to ascertain how the expressed need for 180 apartments for tourists, increases in the dry stacking up to 1000 boats, a conference centre for 240 patrons, food and drink premises for 120 sets, and up to 14 staff dwellings has been considered as essential in this development. The existing restaurant is excellent, but there are frequently times when it has barely a dozen patrons. Where is the need for all this expansion explained? MEA feels it is not good enough to say employment will rise – by how many? This re-zoning Amendment is required because existing Zoning does not permit tourist accommodation but the existing water and land use does not appear to indicate such a demand.
MEA remains concerned that the Shire is about to embark on approving a canal estate and marina in an internationally recognised valuable biodiverse area and will allow development in a potentially acid sulphate soil area, as well as allowing potentially destruction of valued swamplands , sedge land and woodland, all under threat on the Peninsula.
Much monitoring – and expense – will be involved to ensure us and ratepayers that this proposal, and the loss of Crown Land, will be worth it. Will the Shire be able to assure us that our international obligations in this sensitive area are being met? Will the northern end of Westernport be sufficiently protected under the proposed controls and monitoring audits? Will there really be an increase in tourism and long term jobs in a rather isolated area of the Peninsula? Or will the Shire be seen as adding to the environmental vandalism of other government bodies?
Note: MEA may also be contacted through email email@example.com, mobile 0417986077.