Breakwater for boats passes another hurdle

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Onto the hill: Frankston Coast Guard’s move from their old building to Oliver’s Hill is one step closer. Plans for a breakwater (inset) have been divisive. Picture: Gary Sissons

A BREAKWATER at Oliver’s Hill has moved one step closer to fruition after a motion was passed at the 19 November Frankston Council meeting.

The motion said that council would “note the proposed concept designs for a safe boat refuge at Olivers Hill and a Frankston Coast Guard building at Olivers Hill,” “commence consultation with the wider community and interested groups on the proposed works with the outcomes of the consultation to be reported back at a council meeting in February 2019,” and “note the draft preliminary environment and planning assessment undertaken by KBR which sets out the further technical assessments required to inform the environmental and planning approvals process for the project.”

The report undertaken by KBR was not released until the Friday before the meeting. The report acknowledges dredging would have to take place, and concluded a double arm breakwater would be needed at a cost estimate of $17 million with a 40 percent leeway.

The motion will see council seek $24 million, requiring $8 million each from state and federal governments and an “appropriate contribution” from the Coast Guard. Council have made an $8 million commitment of their own.

The KBR report outlined a number of findings, including that “due to sediment accompanying inflow into the safe boat refuge, maintenance dredging will be required to maintain the channels at the required navigational depth.”

Regarding impact on the sand, the report said “sediment transport volumes indicate that sand movement at the site is predominantly towards the north-east or away from the site. The presence of little or no sand and the inclusion of rock protection works in front of the seawall support this finding”. It also said “the lack of beach material at the Olivers Hill headland indicates that currently there is not a significant amount of sand being transported westwards. What sediment currently reaches the area will be further reduced by the breakwater.”

Cr Steve Toms criticised the process of the KBR report being released just three days prior to the meeting and moved a deferment to the next council meeting, which failed. He said that “Coast Guard and Frankston Beach Association didn’t have enough time to consider facts, nor did the councillors have the time to make an appropriate decision of this gravity.”

“Councillors are not aware of all of the facts surrounding this. There is a document that the Beach Association put out that I asked them to provide to the councillors that I’m not sure how many councillors have actually read. There is not enough information that the councillors have to be able to make a decision on this,” he said at the meeting.

“We can’t wreck the environment at the cost of progress.”

Frankston Council CEO Dennis Hovenden said “the process that has been followed has been highly appropriate.”

“It is appropriate that all the community groups got the information at the right time which was on Friday,” he said.

Cr Glenn Aitken opposed the proposal, relying on the use of a prop to emphasise his point. Cr Aitken has previously raised eyebrows by bringing in a jar of dog poo, and once a jack in the box to accompany his debate.

“Who will pay for ongoing dredging? Who will pay for ongoing works to the structure? Millions of dollars, the answer of course is the ratepayers of Frankston,” he said.

“Without any doubt a breakwater as currently proposed will impact significantly on the beach, that is a fact. Anyone who suggests that it won’t impact on the beach has been looking at a crystal ball for their information.”

Cr Aitken then brandished a small glass ball to illustrate his point.

Cr Kris Bolam argued in favour of the proposal.

“This proposal does three things. First it commits council to undertake necessary research to ensure there is no damage to the beach and the surroundings. It begins the consultation process that technically started last year but this formalises the process, and thirdly it allows council to make a formal pledge to a level of funding. I think the recommendation by the officers is appropriate,” he said.

“There are lives at stakes and we have a duty as a council to act, we should be starting that duty tonight by going with the officers’ recommendation.

“It’s a no-brainer. If lives are at stake and people are in trouble out at sea and they need assistance, it makes complete sense to consider this proposal.”

Cr Mayer supported the motion, but expressed concerns and noted that the vote did not mean that council was “pulling the trigger” on proceeding with the project.

“I’m also wary, I do not want to have it on my conscience that we were the council that ruined the beach. So I need to be satisfied that all the appropriate modelling has been done, and I’m not convinced at the moment that it has,” she said.

The final vote split the room evenly, with Crs Cunial, Bolam, Mayer, and O’Reilly voting for, and Crs O’Connor, McCormack, Toms, and Aitken voting against. Cr Colin Hampton was absent. New mayor Cr Michael O’Reilly was called into action for the first time in the top job, and used his casting vote to allow the motion to be carried.

Frankston Liberal candidate Michael Lamb was the only candidate across both major parties at both levels of government to make a commitment in the lead up to the state election. If pledges are not made from either levels of government, council’s $8 million will be withdrawn.

First published in the Frankston Times – 26 November 2018

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