Three months into operation of the Bastion Point breakwater, it appears the Inquiry Panel described well the upshot of East Gippsland Shire Council’s development at Bastion Point.
They forecast that there would be a modest increase in boating, mainly over summer months. Launching conditions at the ramp would be improved for boaters, but overall the safety situation at Bastion Point would be far worse with hazardous entry and exit from the breakwater, and encouragement of inexperienced boaters into the ocean.
The Panel forecast that with the small increase in boater numbers the facility was uneconomic; that was when Council said the facility would cost just $1.8 million! In the end, it cost around $8.5 million, composed of $6.5 million construction costs, and over $1 million each to Government and Council running ‘consultation’, studies, reviews, and the Inquiry. We don’t know the actual cost to ratepayers, as Council didn’t record their costs prior to construction starting.
The Panel recommended upgrading the old ramp. This would have led to better and safer launch conditions for a much lower economic cost, whilst preserving the amenity of the beach and the ‘Broken Boards’ surfbreak, which is now lost forever.
What usability would you expect for a 90% usability facility? The answer it seems, is more like 40%.
Council throughout the process insisted that a ‘90% usability’ facility was needed at Bastion Point. This was found to be unrealistic by the Department of Sustainability and Environment in their submission to the Inquiry, saying that this was based entirely on conditions at the actual ramp, and was not reflective of sea conditions. This has been exactly the case.
Gippsland Ports released a directive for the ramp before it was operational on 26 December 2014, that said the facility should not be used in winds greater than 10 knots. Using our Boating study data for 2011, we estimate that for 2011 there were only 40% of days that had windspeed less than 10 knots.
To our knowledge, East Gippsland Shire Council who operate the Bastion Point facility, have not placed any signage that publicises the Gippsland Ports safety directions.
The development was assessed as being safe by AMC consultants on the assumption that there was no breaking wave at the head of the breakwater. Yet this has not been the case. Even in moderate swells, a breaking wave is observed at the head of the breakwall. This has a high likelihood of broadsiding boats exiting or entering – see the photos of a boat narrowly missing a breaking wave when exiting the facility in February 2015.
Please see our facebook page for more photos of dangerous waves at the breakwater head.
Already there have been several accidents at the facility, resulting in extensive damage to boats and injuries.We are waiting on Council to find how many of these have been reported to relevant authorities. This contrasts with the old ramp which operated for over forty years, and despite Council’s insistence it wasn’t safe, was found by the Inquiry Panel to have had a relatively good safety record.
There have been anecdotal reports of the facility being used by 120 boats in one day of this summer.
Yet the AMC safety consultants based their safety study on there being just 30 boats using the facility at any one time. This clearly shows that the facility is operating well out of its design specifications for safe operation.
On windy days the boat trailer park at Bastion Point sits empty – a breakwater can do nothing about windy conditions. The Council made many predictions about the economic riches that would come from this facility. They said there would be over 3,000 new boat launches per year – based on a calculation method they could not explain. They also included economic benefits for the facility from the 1,200 recreational launches that already occurred at Bastion Point from the old ramp.
It was predicted by Council’s consultants that almost a quarter of Mallacoota’s residents would each eat over $800 extra of takeaway food per year as a result of their use of the facility – and Council assumed this was new money coming into the town. We were told by Councillor Mark Reeves that house prices in Mallacoota will rise. We hope Council is doing some monitoring to document if these benefits are in fact occurring, given the considerable expenditure of rates and government money to get to this point.
Within three months rocks have fallen off the breakwater, requiring repair work reported in the Snowy River Mail. This facility was meant to last 30 years (no capital maintenance was costed into the economic studies) and yet it has already required repairs from relatively minor storms.
Loss of Amenity
The aboriginal middens that were along the foreshore have now been covered with rubble, with only some edges of the middens now just visible outside the rubble. The Broken Boards surfbreak has been lost forever, for future generations of board riders. Bastion Point’s accessible rockpools have now been covered by a beach along the road. The loss of visual amenity forecast by the Inquiry Panel has been realised.
The project will be completed with the addition of a $447,000 dredge (see Ramp costs keep piling up) which will pipe sand to the beach where the old ramp was situated. The cost of the dredge is over double that originally costed in the Environment Effects Statement.
It is very unfortunate that East Gippsland Shire Council and local MP Tim Bull ignored not only the Inquiry Panel findings, but also the results of a Review that Tim Bull himself supported, that found that an alternative lower impact development at the site of the old ramp would have better outcomes, including economics and safety, and would preserve aboriginal middens and the Broken Board surf break.