The following is the transcript from the presentation Mr Jeff Nottle presented to the Planning Panel at Hastings on the 24 June. It addresses issues associated with the proposed Boat Harbour development at Yaringa.
Dear Planning Panels
Our committee is a subcommittee of the Phillip Island Conservation Society. Our committee has considered the proposed planning scheme amendment and have outlined below objections to the current proposal.
Our Committee would like to support some of the objections lodged and support the grounds as outlined by other groups including the Mornington Environment Association Inc. and Peninsula Speaks Inc.
Our objections are based on those comments and our outlined below.
From the Ecology Partners flora and fauna report shown below:
"Potential direct impacts to ecological values within the study area include:
• Removal of the state significant Swamp Scrub and Sedgy Swamp Woodland considered endangered in Victoria;
• Decreases in population sizes of local flora species including the depletion and fragmentation of remnant native vegetation within the region;
• Fragmentation and loss of native vegetation connectivity (i.e. wildlife corridors) within the landscape which is likely to be important for flora and fauna survival and migration;
• Possible introduction and further spread of exotic weed species through construction activities and garden plantings;
• Loss and/or disturbance of suitable habitat for a range of national, state and regional significance;
• Loss of suitable foraging and shelter habitat for common fauna species; and,
• Direct mortality of locally common fauna species within the study area at the time of construction.
Indirect effects on adjacent areas, such as Mornington Peninsula National Park, are also possible if construction activities are not appropriately managed, and these include:
• Further introduction of environmental weeds into the adjacent area of Coastal Saltmarsh, which occurs directly to the west of the study area, as a result of inappropriate landscape plantings; and,
• Soil disturbance which could increase the spread of weeds in the study area and beyond within areas of coastal vegetation around the Somerville area.
• Any loss of ecological values should be viewed in the overall context of ongoing loss,fragmentation, and deterioration in the quality of remnant vegetation throughout the Mornington Peninsula"
"There were several survey limitations, including:
The short survey period meant that uncommon species may not have been observed within the study area.
The survey was conducted in mid-summer which means many annual species may not have been observed within the study area.
While the objective of the assessment was to document terrestrial flora species and communities in the study area, and to identify potential impacts of the proposed development, an assessment of the interaction of species over a longer survey period was beyond the scope of this study.
The short duration of the survey that potential migratory, transitory or uncommon fauna species are likely to have been missed"
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.
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.
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.
The Fauna and Flora Report
This 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.
This is a 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.
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; There is likely loss of wildlife corridors 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.
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.
Our group 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?
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.
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?
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?
What is the basis of the calculations for the large number of people expected to be employed at the site?
Conclusion and questions
Our committee is 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 appears necessary and 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?
An expanded Port at Hastings would mean further dredging of Westernport in addition to the dredging required for the proposal.
Q 1Who will be responsible for restoration works for the coastline following dredging?
On the basis of the content of the Clarke Expert Witness Statement the following questions need to be addressed.
Q2. It would appear that the purposes of Schedule 1 to the Special Use Zone are not being met. The purpose includes providing a location for port and industrial uses that are depend upon or gain significant advantage from the natural deep water channels in Westernport. The entrance channels to Hastings have been previously dredged and the current application envisages further dredging from the proposed marina to Westernport.
How can the purpose of the land be met as the approach channels and entrance to the marina are not natural deep water channels in Westernport?
Q3. Do you believe the existing Westernport port limits will need to be altered to allow ships to swing around and manoeuvre if the Government decides to build a container port at Hastings?
Jeff Nottle Chairman