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 that much better and safer launch conditions would have been created by upgrading the old ramp, 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, had no formal reports of any accidents ever having been recorded for the facility.
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 (they are only aboriginal rubbish tips according to Councillor Ben Buckley). 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 which will pipe sand to an as yet unspecified area of the beach. 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 proposed, that found that an alternative lower impact development at the site of the old ramp would have better economics and safety, would preserve aboriginal middens and the Broken Board surf break.
The Bastion Point boat-ramp/breakwall, causeway road covering the beach, the jetty, navigational aids, lighting, large boat trailer/car park development and associated infrastructure are now complete, and the facility is expected to be operational from the 19th of December 2014.
It is a sad ending for our campaign. We now have a permanent scar on the Mallacoota Wilderness Coast. It says a great deal about how Planning documents such as the Victorian Coastal Strategy, the Mallacoota Foreshore Management Plan, the Significant Landscape and Heritage Registers, Coastal Landscape Design and other key documents are ineffectual when applied in practice. It is also a gross failure of our democratic processes.
We are most grateful for public support and it has only been with your help we did all we could: of that we can all be proud. We have been amazed at the contributions made by so many individuals and organisations such as Victorian National Parks Association, Surfrider Foundation Australia, Australian Conservation Foundation, Save the Waves Coalition and Environment Defenders Office (now Environmental Justice Australia).
Time will tell whether the development will achieve any of its supposed benefits – and if so whether these can ever outweigh the environmental, social, cultural and economic costs that have come with it.
We have posted some pictures of the completed facility on our Facebook page. Line marking had not been completed when the photos were taken.
The ABC posted this article.
Thanks to our supporters for their concerted efforts and commitment over this long and difficult campaign.
The weekend of 5 May 2014 saw huge seas pounding the unfinished breakwall, pulling rocks from the core. The photos put paid to the fallacy promolgated by East Gippsland Shire Council that there will be no breaking waves at the head of breakwater. The Independent Panel warned this could lead to loss of life when boats exit the breakwater.
In the Snowy River Mail, Council have downplayed the damage caused by the storm, and repeated their mantra that they have consulted on this project – when the reality is that any consultation has shown 87% oppose the project, and Council have circumvented this to build the facility exactly as they always wanted.
The Snowy River Mail here also carries reports that the Mallacoota Life Saving Club and State Emergency Service have been ignored in their need to boost rescue capacity in the event that the facility attracts as many boaters as East Gippsland Council hopes – they project 3,000 new launches per year if their ‘Buchan report’ is to be believed.
Many will be attracted out to sea by a facility billed by Council as having 90% usability – again the Independent Panel Report found this would likely lead to catastrophic circumstances.
Obviously Gippsland East MP Tim Bull has ignored the Independent Panel report. He says the facility is all about safety, but East Gippsland Mayor Mark Reeves says its about increased property prices in Mallacoota. Meanwhile, multi-millionaire commercial abalone licence holders have had a pile of infrastructure built for free, courtesy of taxpayers and to be maintained by ratepayers.
Weeks beginning 17 and 24 February saw the start of construction of the breakwall. Doubt remains as to the length of this wall – Council documentation states it is 130 m long, yet GPM Construction who are constructing the development state it is 150 m long – see here.
Week 14 beginning 10 February saw continued loss of beach and reef. See Australian Surfers Continue Push to Save Bastion Point, and letters to The Age. See Destruction Gallery for progression of beach loss and photos below.
After 6 weeks of abated destruction, the big machines are back ruining Bastion Point. This destruction has received international attention – see Paradise Lost from Save the Waves Coalition. Meanwhile the Campaign has received an award from the Surfrider Foundation of Australia for its exceptional effort in support of Surfrider Foundation protecting waves and beaches – see Snowy River Mail article. See photos of week 13 destruction below.
See the new YouTube clip that reveals how behind doors lobbying has circumvented public consultations and Government Inquiries and Reviews, to lead to the destruction of Bastion Point. Catch Bob Brown’s message on the authorised vandalism at Bastion Point here.
The week beginning 16 December saw the complete loss of the beach to the headland, with it covered in rubble. See Destruction Gallery. It is yet to go around 0.5 m higher. This comes in a week when the Mayor wrote to a supporter saying “It is very dissappointing that the Save Bastion Point Campaign continue to publicly portray such a negative view of what Council sees as a significant improvement to ocean access boating at Mallacoota”.
If only they had worked with the community to achieve better ocean access, as well as preserving the beach, and the surfbreak, which the Department of Transport found could be done, and was recommended. See Julie Parker’s Double Standards in the Bairnsdale Advertiser.
The week starting 9 December saw loss of almost all the beach to the promontory from which the breakwater will protrude, see Destruction Gallery. Heavy seas pounded the coast as shown in this Post’s photos, showing swell that boats exiting the so-called ‘safe ocean access’ will meet broadside as they exit the breakwater. Plumes of silt were washed into the seas, with scant action taken by the Environment Protection Authority.
Week 4 starting 4 December saw the continuing destruction. See our Destruction Gallery, and an ironic picture as a boat is retrieved safely from the current ramp, amidst the beach carnage. See In the Media for a catch up on media over the last two weeks. Sediment has been washing off the beach road onto the reef, as shown in photos…
Week 3 of destruction, starting 25 November, saw further covering of the beach in crushed rock. See the 7.30 Report segment that aired on 22 November, and see our Destruction Gallery for sequential photos.
Week 2 of destruction began at Bastion Point on 18 November. We have created a Destruction Gallery to track destruction of the beach and headland. Please contrast this with our Gallery of Bastion Point as it was before this project started. Please see Chris Johnstone’s article in The Age and letters in response on 20 Nov 2013. See Julie Parker’s YouTube of Week 2 destruction and Burying our Beach. The Guardian carried Save our Surf: Battlelines drawn and The Fight to preserve our Surf Break by Jenny Mason. As a last for Week 2, see our Media Release: Protests over coastal destruction at Bastion Point escalates, and YouTube of a rally against East Gippsland Shire Council held on 22 November.
Eighty protestors were asked to move by police from Bastion Point beach today as heavy construction equipment rolled in on 11 November 2013. See our 11 November Media Release on the first day of destruction. Please like our facebook page for daily updates of destruction. See our 12 November Media Release and Youtube vision of a protester close to being crushed by an excavator. Please see also see Media Releases from Surfrider Foundation Australia and VNPA. Media ReleasePlease sign our Letter to the Premier to halt this!
Last week Friends of Mallacoota received a Community Environmental Recognition Award from Environment Victoria, at their 2013 Awards night on 23 October 2013.
Environment Victoria recognised the achievements of ten remarkable groups and individuals from around the state who’ve made an outstanding contribution for the environment through community action.
Friends of Mallacoota received their award for their tireless work in opposing an inappropriate ocean access boat ramp proposal at Bastion Point – see the Environment Victoria Media Release here.
June Drake and Jenny Mason are shown receiving their award from Amanda Nuttall, President of the Board of Environment Victoria.
The ‘consultation’ process for the Environment Effects Statement for the ‘Option 3b’ breakwater and beach road development at Bastion Point is exposed by the 7.30 Report on ABC, 4 October 2013. Watch the 7 minute segment here. See our Media Release.