THE development company behind a proposed 1000-lot marina development at Mahers Landing has offered to fix Inverloch’s beaches and create a new family-friendly beach at Mahers Landing.
The Mering Corporation is also offering to dredge Andersons Inlet and build breakwaters to make the estuary suitable for boating.
And that’s not all. They propose to rehabilitate the Pound Creek wetlands and saltmarshes and the coastal foreshore, to construct a coastal trail from Inverloch to Mahers Landing, and to accommodate an Inverloch Heritage Museum on the development site.
The company has not yet formally submitted the project to council but a company delegation including chairman Jason Yeap - owner of a new holiday mansion in Inverloch - briefed councillors and council officers late last month.
The brochure shows the development includes a boat ramp, a dry boat store, tennis courts, a bowling green, swimming pool, gym and spa. A public commercial area is proposed to house an Inverloch Heritage Museum, a boating and aquatic club, a general store, café, shops and fishmonger
The Mering Corporation estimates development costs at $288 million, including $175 million for the subdivision, $39 million for marina works and $73 million for “community benefit works”. The value of the finished development is estimated at $380 million, with marina lots selling for up to $750,000, waterfront lots for $250,000 and marina berths for $100,000.
The brochure states that Mering Corporation is seeking “in principal (sic) support” from the council for “further exploration of the Mahers Landing Project opportunities”.
Project manager Alan Carlsson told the Post there would be regrets if the council didn’t support the plan and lost the potential community benefits.
“We’re asking Bass Coast Shire Council for their support to move this forward. We’re asking support for the process, not necessarily for the marina at this stage, but to support the process we would have to go through on the planning
“If we don’t get local council support we can’t go any further. We are saying to the councillors and council officers tell us what you want us to do.
“We’re spending a lot of money on very in-depth ecological studies to make sure we do something to improve that site, which is very degraded.
“People think oh yes, they’re in there to make a profit. Of course we have to make a profit
but the amount of community benefits we’re going to contribute …
“If the council don’t take up this offer, in a couple of years or longer we’ll look back and say gee, I wish we’d acted then.”
However, when the Post quizzed him for details of the $30 million coastal action plan, it turned out there isn’t actually a plan yet. Nor is Mering undertaking to fund the plan, even though it is listed under costs in the brochure.
Mr Carlsson said the figure was just something the consultants had come up with. “I don’t know if that’s high or low. I’m not proposing we contribute $30 million. That would be a big ask. Council and the State Government would be part of that.”
He said Mering was prepared to contribute $600,000 to $700,000 to prepare the plan.
It’s not the first time developers have been bewitched by the money-making potential of this piece of degraded farmland at Mahers Landing. In 2003 a developer proposed a project called Tarwin Cove, which included a golf course, housing and a marina. At the same time a 2000-lot development was proposed for the floodplain opposite Maher’s Landing, at Venus Bay.
In the light of strong community opposition to the developments, the then Department of Sustainability and Environment undertook a study of the many issues, pros and cons. The outcome was clear: the cons far outweighed the pros. Both projects were abandoned.
Because the site is outside the Inverloch settlement boundary and zoned for farming, the Mering Corporation would first have to apply to the council to amend the planning scheme. The council’s acting manager of strategy and growth, Donna Taylor, outlined an arduous process.
“They would need to provide some strategic justification as to why that zoning should change. Typically that’s in a range of assessments and studies: environmental, traffic, drainage. Officers then assess them. Once we’re confident we’ve got enough information we put a report up to council recommending approval or non-approval to commence the process.
“The approval of the planning minister is also required to even commence the process of an amendment.”
If there are unresolved objections, the matter goes to an expert planning panel appointed by the minister. They hear from the applicant, the council and any other community members before making a recommendation, which the council then considers before sending it to the minister.
While the road ahead is difficult, it’s not impossible, and the Mering Corporation has called in the big guns for support. Watsons Pty Ltd, one of Melbourne’s biggest commercial development companies, will handle the planning aspect of the project.
The company has a reputation for persuading councils to rezone farmland for housing, reaping windfall gains for its clients at the stroke of the minister's signature on a planning amendment.
At the recent briefing, Watsons director John Woodman reminded councillors that the company was responsible for the Martha Cove and Wyndham Harbour developments.
“We are not new at this,” he said. “We are not amateurs. We are not people that don’t know how to get a marina approved.”
Asked how councillors responded to the briefing, Mr Carlsson was upbeat. “Nobody asked any difficult questions, which meant we addressed the concerns raised at a previous briefing last year.”