Bastion Point has been destroyed
A large number of organisations and individuals formed a Coalition (Save Bastion Point Campaign) in 2004 to fight the East Gippsland Shire Council’s proposal for a large scale breakwater and boat ramp development (known as Option 3b) at Bastion Point, Mallacoota. Unfortunately we lost our fight to preserve Bastion Point when construction of the beach road and breakwater began on 11 November 2013. It was a crushing blow when ten years of campaigning and participating in public processes to find a better and safer solution to boating at Bastion Point, came to nothing with East Gippsland Shire Council beginning construction. Please see our Gallery to see the magnificence of Bastion Point before destruction began, and the Destruction Gallery as it has been destroyed.
The Campaign has achieved many objectives. An Inquiry was conducted by the Department of Planning and Community Development in early 2008, with 87% of public submissions opposing the Option 3b development. The Inquiry Panel of October 2008 unequivocally recommended against this development, finding it to be of no overall societal benefit. It found the development to be unsafe, uneconomic, detrimental to tourism, and not supported by coastal policy. It also found East Gippsland Shire Council had performed poorly in the public consultation process. Yet the Labor Government’s Planning Minister Justin Madden, desperate to stay onside with then Independent Member for East Gippsland, Craig Ingram, bowed to his behind the scenes lobbying for the Inquiry Panel results to be ignored and assessed in favour of Option 3b.
We challenged this outcome in the Supreme Court. Although the Judge found the Minister’s Assessment surprising – as he found the Inquiry Panel’s findings were extremely thorough and well considered – he ultimately found the Ministers actions to be legal. A poor funding case for the development was rushed through in the dying days of the Brumby Government, complete with massive mistakes in the economic case. A funding panel from the then Marine Safety Victoria (MSV) rejected the funding submission from East Gippsland Shire Council, finding that the economic case was poor and unconvincing. Yet, as with the Inquiry Panel, a Minister overruled MSV and granted funding weeks before the election.
The Baillieu Government, elected in November 2010, agreed to review the project and assess a lower impact Alternative Concept proposed by Save Bastion Point Campaign. The Review team found that the Alternative Concept, with the addition of a small breakwall at the site of the old ramp, was their preferred option, and they recommended it unequivocally to the then Minister for Transport, Denis Napthine. The public submission process for the Review found again that 87% of submissions did not favour Option 3b. Yet the Executive of East Gippsland Shire Council, led by Steve Kozlowski and Chris Waites, claimed that the Review Panel had rejected the lower impact options. They persuaded a majority of Councillors to vote to proceed with this development, and applied for Coastal Management Act consent to build Option 3b. Minister for the Environment, Ryan Smith, then gave approval for its construction, based on a very narrow interpretation of the Act, and relying on Justin Madden’s highly questionable Assessment.
It is extremely disturbing that East Gippsland Shire Council did not listen to the public during the ‘consultation’ process, but proceeded regardless. Millions could have been saved, a surfbreak and coastline could have been saved, and a far more environmentally friendly and safer boat ramp could have been constructed at Bastion Point.
Our Campaign will continue to monitor this development. We thank our supporters for their efforts in submission and letter writing over the years – East Gippsland Shire Council and Government (Labour and Coalition) received literally thousands of letters about this issue, again in a ratio of 87% opposed to Option 3b. We thank the Government professionals who remained true to their professions and to public interest in recommending a lower impact option. We also thank those Councillors who gave us their support and encouragement. To those Government Ministers, Councillors, Government and Council employees who put their blinkers on and rammed through this unpopular, unsafe and environmentally destructive proposal: we ask that you do better next time you work with a community, and never believe your own spin.
For further information see our Campaign Fact Sheet or view the 7.30 Report 4 Oct 2013, Surfrider Foundation Australia’s Broken Boards, Broken Dreams, or the Parker family’s Where do the children play?
See In the Media for the latest print media articles and letters on Bastion Point.