A FENCE stopping access to The Pillars rock jumping platforms at Mt Martha is to be built before summer.
Mornington Peninsula Shire mayor Cr Bryan Payne said the situation at The Pillars “is out of control and the only option is to close it off permanently”.
The shire will also declare a 200 metre exclusion zone for boats and water craft out from the cliff face.
The move seemingly defies directions from the government in 2016 not to build a fence.
The latest decision to build a fence followed legal advice which stressed the shire could be “liable” if someone was killed or seriously injured while at The Pillars.
“Given council’s awareness of the danger of the site, its resultant decision to close the site, and its failure to do so, it is considered that council’s risk exposure is currently high,” the advice from Macquarie Local Government Lawyers stated.
Macquarie urged council to seek indemnity from the state government “against any liability, losses or claims” made by members of the public “in connection with the use of The Pillars”.
The lawyers said “all necessary and permissible actions” should be taken “to safeguard the use of the site, noting that the placement of directory signage alone will not suffice”.
The shire has not outlined how it will police the new rules, including the ban on water craft, or if similar potential liabilities exist elsewhere, including mountain bike trails at Arthurs Seat.
In 2016, the shire stepped up moves to discourage cliff jumpers at The Pillars (alcohol bans, parking bans, warning signs) but abandoned an earlier decision to build a fence after it was opposed by the government and Aboriginal Victoria.
Since then The Pillars has become more popular, with real estate agents using its close proximity as an incentive to property buyers.
In what appears to be a bid to politicise the issue in the lead-up to the Saturday 24 November election, Cr Payne last week said shire will invite “representatives of all political parties” to inspect The Pillars “where an increasing number of young people risk death or serious spinal injury by cliff jumping”.
“The council [on Tuesday 9 October] voted unanimously to close the site as a result of major legal advice which raised serious liability questions for the council and ratepayers,” Cr Payne said.
“Over the last three years through social media, the problems at The Pillars have increased dramatically. This site is not set up to support a high level of visitation and basically the Victorian government, Parks Victoria and the local community have lost control of the situation as a public safety and law and order issue.